By Taylor Broderick 
BELLEVILLE – The Canadian Mental Health Association for Hastings and Prince Edward County  is using colouring books to help adults struggling with anxiety.
Adult colouring books are becoming more and more popular and the local mental-health association is taking advantage of this popularity by incorporating colouring into a therapy program. It runs on Friday afternoons between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the association’s offices at 41 Octavia St in Belleville.
The mental health association’s executive director, Sandie Sidsworth, said she suffers from depression and anxiety and finds colouring gives her the chance to relax.
“I find having the chance to ground myself, take a breath and focus on something for a while, allows me to regroup and move on with the rest of my day,” Sidsworth said.
The program is called Colouring and Conversation. The only enforced rule is to stay away from trigger topics, such as politics, because a lot of people there are dealing with high anxiety.
“The ability to come somewhere and just relax, do something that takes them out of their anxiety without re-enforcement triggers is just a wonderful thing to watch,” Sidsworth said. “People are just mostly sitting here, fairly quiet and just colouring.”
Sidsworth said there were so many requests for another colouring therapy program; one that runs on the weekend so the people who work during the week could more easily attend.
In mid-January, the association is launching Sunshine Saturdays. It’s meant to help individuals dealing with seasonal affective disorder . This program will run until the end of March between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturdays.
“It’s a low-cost program. It doesn’t demand a lot of time from staff and yet it fills a real void in the mental health community,” she said.
Scott Readman, a 48-year-old from Belleville, said he’s always been an artistic person but only recently started colouring on a regular basis. He’s even started drawing his own pieces of art.
“I have been using the books, but I’ve always been a doodler and it’s inspiring me to draw my own,” he said.
Readman has been suffering for nearly 30 years with Crohn’s disease. He said he had four operations and has been on a disability pension for the last five years. He sees colouring as a way to escape. Right now, he colours on his own but is considering attending the group colouring session.
“I guess the main reason I have gotten into them more of late, is from the plague I’ve been inflicted with since I was 19 that has just gradually wore away at me,” Readman said.
Besides struggling with his own illness, Readman also helps his autistic six-year-old son try and live a happy life each day.
“I don’t have a lot of energy most days but, it’s tough for me to sit still … colouring inspires me. Keeps me sitting still to get much-needed rest and it makes me feel good creating something,” he said. “Little escapes make all the difference these days.”
The program is free and open for anyone who wants to come and relieve some stress or anxiety.