Published on March 2nd, 2018 | from CAMH

Resiliency, recovery and art

Sean Patenaude (right) came to CAMH five years ago seeking treatment for addiction and depression. The addictions program connected him to an occupational therapist who asked, “What did you used to do to make yourself happy?” After thinking for a long while he responded: “photography.”

The occupational therapist connected Sean to Workman Arts, a partner organization that offers artists living with mental illness and addiction issues a space to practice their art.

“I took an architectural photography course at Workman and the first assignment was to take pictures around my home. That assignment started my road to recovery,” Sean explains. “Rather than focus on what was not working in my life, I was able to focus on something that makes me feel alive.

“The Workman staff encouraged me to take my art seriously. I started to feel the power of wearing the label of artist rather than addict.”

Over the years, Sean remained actively involved at CAMH and is now the Coordinator for Risk Management and Administration. He also co-facilitates the PhotoVoice program for clients in the Addiction Medicine Service that incorporates photography into recovery.

At Workman Arts Sean teaches courses and helps others on their road to recovery. This year, Sean entered Workman Arts’ annual Being Scene juried exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel and was thrilled to discover that his photograph was chosen for the catalogue cover. The image is a compelling pigment print titled ‘Forever Yonge’ that captures the experience of a panic attack at Dundas Square.

“Recently, I started experiencing panic attacks. One day while visiting a friend who lives near Dundas Square I started feeling symptoms and decided to focus on the one thing that has always been able to take me out of difficult moments – photography,” Sean says.

The result is a compelling series of photographs that piles billboard images, ads and signage on top of one another in a frantic collage (pictured at top).

“The photograph represents what it feels like to be in a panic attack but it is also represents the resiliency and recovery I have found through art.”

The 17th annual Being Scene exhibition runs from March 1 – 25 at the Gladstone Hotel and features over 130 artworks produced by artists navigating issues of mental health. For more information visit

To see more of Sean’s work – and the work of many others – explore the Workman Arts artist profile page.

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One Response to Resiliency, recovery and art

  1. Helios says:

    CAMH, thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again.

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