Toronto Private Hospital Art Show attracts record 26 entries | photos

THERE was a critical moment during the design phase of her painting when Tamara Fitzpatrick opted to go with a black and white rendering of the bullet casings in her confronting self-portrait.

"I was originally going to do it all in colour," Ms Fitzpatrick, 27, said.

"But then I made a major design change."

The bullet casings represent traumatic incidents from Ms Fitzpatrick's childhood. Incidents that she received ongoing treatment for.

By giving the casing the black-and-white treatment, Ms Fitzpatrick condemned those traumatic incidents to a bygone era.

"It compartmentalised things for me. Putting them in black and white helped me to realise that the trauma can be packed away and confined to the past, while I move on."

The painting, Facing Metamorphosis, was judged winner of Toronto Private Hospital's Mental Health Art Show on Wednesday. The show featured paintings created by participants in the hospital's in-patient program for people dealing with mental health challenges.

Ms Fitzpatrick, of Adamstown Heights, said she enjoyed exploring the theme of this year's show, 'See Me'.

A veteran of eight years in the air force, where she worked as an electrical engineer, Ms Fitzpatrick said she had come to understand the many forms that trauma could take.

While physical events such as car accidents or assaults were widely understood to be traumatic, trauma could also be discreet, she said.

"Trauma can be so many other things, and it can be something that other people might not even notice has happened," she said.

Ms Fitzpatrick said she hoped to become an art teacher and professional artist.

She endorsed art as a valuable way to embrace mindfulness for anyone seeking respite from their troubles.

"When you're there with your pencils and brushes there can't be any other distractions," she said.

"It really takes you away from the world for a while."

The hospital's art show is in its sixth year.

Allied health manager at the hospital, Lisa Innes, said a record 26 entries were submitted to the show this year.

The art show is held in Mental Health Week annually.