Our Mission Statement

Circle of Friends cultivates a community founded on acceptance by empowering those with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges through creative self-expression in Arts.

Our Environment

In the United States,

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.-43.8 million, or 18.5%-experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.-10 million, or 4.2%-experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

Our Work

Circle of Friends for Mental Health, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, exists to give all human beings who face mental health challenges, homelessness or addiction, a fresh chance to find their identity and a reservoir of healing through art programs in visual arts, music, writing and drama. Our programs serve as a natural enduring catalyst to aid people in their recovery. The people we serve have wide-ranging needs, and come from diverse cultural, social and economic backgrounds.

Our Impact

Art is one of the most powerful tools through which we can explore our inner voice and ultimately open our eyes to the voices within one another. While creativity is an important component of art, our programs unearth not only the creative voice, but also the deeper dimension of full expression of self.

Our Impact, “healing through the arts” is based on our belief that healing and thriving can happen by building safe warm spaces for artistic expression within our communities. These spaces nurture and embrace our ‘circle of friends’ – volunteers, staff, mental health facilities, communities at-large, and those we teach and whom teach us – our artists.

Art also serves as a platform for opening up dialogue to increase awareness about the stigmas which socially stratify people living with mental illness, addiction and homelessness; and for generating solutions to overcome these stigmas. Awareness and solutions spread on the ground, through art programs, community partners, and events such as our Charity Golf Championship, Stampede over Stigma Run, art exhibits and other fundraising ventures.


Our History

Circle of Friends for Mental health was founded in 2002, to help people with mental health challenges enhance the quality of their lives through opportunities for artistic self-expression. Ideas were elicited from the art community, Dr. Sarah Nash Gates of the University of Washington, Community Psychiatric Clinic leaders, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) personnel, Kirkland Arts Center artists, and even a jazzy group called the Raging Granny singers.

An interested representative group met with the Director of Keystone Residential Facility, a mental health facility in Seattle. The Director told the group that “People would like to give holiday gifts but they have no funds to purchase them.” Artist members of the group responded, “We could make gifts.”

Three sites were chosen for gift making nights as a pilot project. Tables were set up where participants designed and painted T shirts, created cards and made scarves. Raging Grannies sang, cookies arrived and a party broke out! Everyone in this pilot agreed that the enthusiastic response revealed an unmet need. Thus, weekly art classes were started.

Today, art classes are being held in as many as eight locations weekly. Art classes and exhibits, poetry readings, photography, creative writing and drama, along with the annual holiday gift making event, constitute the growing life of Circle of Friends for Mental Health. And with this growth, we have expanded our reach to serve not only people with mental health challenges, but also those who are homeless or suffer from addiction.