Expressive Arts & Recovery

Summary of Presentation

This special luncheon panel on using the arts to promote awareness, fight stigma and enable recovery is a response to the White House call for a National Dialogue on Mental Health. Each panelist, with inspiring demonstrations of their artistic productions, presented on how the arts have so powerfully assisted their recovery.



Jason Insalaco_smallJason Insalaco began his recovery in April 1995 following a drug-induced manic episode that led to his dual diagnosis of bipolar I and alcohol/drug addiction. Since that time, he has self -published a book “No More Crutch” which is a collection of poetry, feelings, and thoughts from early recovery. He also is producing videos, and speaking publicly about his personal experience with mental health and addiction issues.  Currently, Jason serves the mental health community as a trained presenter and speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI’s) In Our Own Voice (IOOV) educational and advocacy program. Visit his website:


Mike Veny_smallMike Veny is a drummer, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, and has been able to parlay his love of music, and of drumming in particular, into multiple successful career paths and charitable endeavors. Mike is the founder and owner of FastDrumSkills.Com, MusicLessonBusiness.Com, and SupportMusicEducation.Com. Mike is on the Board of Directors for the Fender Music Foundation and a member of the NAMM Foundation’s SupportMusic Coalition, which seeks to strengthen community commitment and support for quality music education in schools.
As a person who struggles with mental health challenges on a daily basis, he is committed to sharing his experience. He is a mental health speaker at mental health events throughout the world.


Jacquese Armstrong_smallJacquese Armstrong is a poet, writer and the volunteer coordinator of the Expressive Arts Poetry Program for NAMI NJ. This year and a half has been challenging for her mental health: two partial hospital stays, 2 medicine changes and 2 lost jobs because of her mental illness. She will stress how art has been a great coping mechanism in her life. It has been a stellar year for writing and poetry with ten poems and two essays published in 2013 and a short story in 2012. Jacquese’s work can be seen most recently in SZ, Anchor Magazine, Black Magnolias Literary Journal, Blackberry: a magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal and Vintage Script.


Celina Gray_small

Celina Gray, Panel Moderator, is a graduate of Brooklyn College and the Juilliard School of Music. Celina currently serves on efforts that include New Jersey Veterans Services Enhancement Coalition, Monmouth County Suicide Prevention Task Force, Bergen Community College Wellness Planning Committee, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services Suicide Prevention Committee, and the New Jersey Youth Development Council.

She is currently the Acting Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA).

In her previous position as Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma, Celina developed, implemented and oversaw the Council’s signature statewide mental health and anti-stigma public awareness campaign, “A Community Effort,” working with community partners across New Jersey and beyond, to help change the conversation about mental health.


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