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Blaine Fontana's mural at 108 SW Stark St.

Most Portlanders spent the last two weeks of the year huddled next to their radiators, hiding from snow, ice, rain, and whatever last-minute hell 2016 might bring. But not everyone stayed home: celebrated local artists Rather Severe (Jon Stommel and Travis Czekalski) and Blaine Fontana spent the latter half of December on the streets of Portland, creating larger-than-life tributes to folks struggling with depression. 

One of the city’s most prominent muralists, Fontana covered a building at Southwest 1st and Stark with vibrant teal, yellow, and red, as well as the phrases “out of the shade” and “depression is hard to put into words.” “As a survivor of depression, this project was near and dear to my heart,” Fontana wrote on Instagram. At 60-by-51-feet, it’s the largest mural Fontana has ever created.

Stommel and Czekalski’s massive mural spans 4,000 square feet, wrapping around a warehouse on the corner of Northeast Wiedler Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. According to Rather Severe’s Instagram, the project was finished around 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. “The painting conditions were pretty rough at times,” they wrote, “but I think braving the weather reinforced the message of the FindYourWords.org campaign, which aims to break the stigma of talking about depression even when it's difficult to find your words.” 

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Rather Severe's mural at 1601 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The Find Your Words campaign was launched by Kaiser Permanente to remove stigma around depression and mental illness. Given the prevalence of mental illnessnearly 20 percent of American teens and adults experience mental illness every year, and roughly 16 million adults had at least one depressive episode in 2016—Find Your Words encourages folks to seek help with depression and suicidal ideation. 

Rather Severe’s colorful mural reads, “I gave myself time.” “It's a vulnerable but uplifting phrase that emphasizes that living with depression is a consistent effort,” they explain. “Healing doesn't happen overnight, yet depression will not beat me." 

For more information on how to seek help with depression, visit FindYourWords.org.

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