Drawing Alongside My Brother’s Schizophrenia

Joan Boxall

Illustrated by Stephen A. Corcoran

How do you establish trust and meaningful connection with a sibling who suffers from schizophrenia? In a desperate attempt to rekindle her relationship with her estranged brother Steve, Joan takes him to art therapy classes at the Art Studios, part of the Vancouver Recovery Through Art program. This marks the beginning of a remarkable journey into the healing power of art.

Schizophrenia had already done its worst, confounding Steve with voices, hallucinations and delusions. At fifty-five, Steve was in the burn-out phase of schizophrenia with a hunger for creativity. Joan’s efforts to connect with him through art soon become the vehicle of change. Over the next eight years, Steve progresses both artistically and personally. Together, Steve and Joan explore their art, drawing upon their own resources as they learn to trust one another. Steve’s artwork provides a glimpse into his perspective, at once both troubled and beautiful. His paintings and drawings are eventually displayed in two solo exhibits at Basic Inquiry Gallery. He attended what would become his final solo show shortly before his death in 2013.

One in five North Americans experiences a serious mental health crisis; DrawBridge: Drawing Alongside My Brother’s Schizophrenia offers a path of hope for the afflicted and for their advocates. In memory of her brother, Joan has established the Stephen A. Corcoran Memorial Award at Emily Carr University of Art and Design to assist students coping with mental health issues.