Cuddle-puddle project aims to boost mental health with 'Human Weighted Blanket'
A Montreal artist is working to address what he calls a “secondary pandemic” caused by isolation during the city’s lockdowns.
Artist Joshua Oliver, also known as Red Jay, is behind the Human Weighted Blanket project, aimed at alleviating loneliness and stress caused by the pandemic, offering hugs, cuddles, and massages to participants.
“I realized there would be a secondary pandemic of, not rapid, but intense mental health deterioration from isolation and loneliness,” said Oliver. “That’s kind of where I really where it sprang from,”
One woman, who joined the group of four therapists in the cuddle-puddle, moved to Canada during the pandemic and was impacted by the isolation of social distancing.
“I didn't have friends or family,” said Niloofar Nikbakht. “It was hard for me, and I could feel it sometimes that ... when I was faced with problems in life here ... I missed hugging.”
Oliver says he’s also struggled with anxiety -- something he noticed again during one of Montreal’s COVID-19 lockdowns. He says he wanted to help those suffering in silence with his project.
“It’s okay to be isolated or lonely, the world is collectively feeling that,” he said.
Sunday marked World Mental Health Day, and Oliver’s project was just one of several installations in the city calling attention to mental wellbeing.
You might have seen one of The Douglas Foundation’s large toy blocks stationed around Montreal.
The foundation's Laura Fish says one in three Canadians is affected by mental illness in their lifetime.
“That means, for me, its personal,” she told CTV News. “That means I've held a friend’s hand as she lost a husband to suicide. That means I've watched other friends really struggle with mental illness, and because mental illness touches everyone, and because we don't know enough, its super important to take action.”