PALM BEACH, Fla. — An art exhibit on display now offers insights into the lives of people living with bipolar disorder.
The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation was started by Ryan's parents, Dusty and Joyce Sang, while mourning their son at the cemetery.
"Our son was very creative. He had bipolar disorder. And when he first started to present, he was probably 5 years old," Dusty said. "Even today, it takes up to 10 years to get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And he passed away in 2004 at the age of 24, and he actually passed away at the height of his life. He had just gotten engaged."
The foundation raises money to support artists who start a conversation to remove stigma, and it raises money for science that aims to offer an earlier diagnosis.
The couple said their son created a vast quantity of work in his young life, starting in childhood.
"He had created enough work of someone who was 50 years old when he passed away, between his music, his art, and his writings," Joyce said. "We were amazed at what we found, and the writings on the wall there that he wrote when he was 15, we didn't find them until after he had passed away. And they were in a little tiny book. And we blew them up because we thought they were so meaningful."
Their son's writings are included in the show currently open at the Surovek Gallery on Palm Beach.
"My favorite is, 'I wonder how long forever is because I already have plans.' And so he was a brain on fire and that's very true of high-functioning creative people who have bipolar disorder," Dusty said.
Joyce had the idea to start an international competition for artists with bipolar disorder. The juried selection process offers the selected artists a grant. Ryan was raised in Palm Beach, but the organization now has an international reach.
The items from artists with bipolar disorder at the Surovek Gallery are in a wide array of mediums, but they offer insight into lives and experience.
"And so when people come in here they don't know very much about bipolar disorder and they see the creativity that these people have, it truly helps to break the stigma of this illness," Joyce said.
The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation hopes research for early-onset bipolar disorder will unlock keys for other families so they don't suffer. It specifically aims to find an empirical, biomarker test for Bipolar Disorder for early detection and intervention.
"Ryan was our only child. The foundation helps to keep him alive for us," Dusty said.