Since 2001, the Mental Health Foundation has run Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues and promoting the message of good mental health for all.
The creative industries have their fair share of mental health problems, and this year – as in many others – artists have taken to Twitter and Instagram to share artwork that captures their experiences of mental illness or acts as a support to others suffering. We spoke to five of the artists who have used their artwork to capture their experience of mental health issues. (See our best mindfulness apps (opens in new tab) to help bolster your mental health.)
Click the icon in the top-right corner of each image to see the full-size version.
Cat Finnie is an illustrator based in London, UK. She likes to create concept-driven digital art, often bringing in elements of the surreal. Finnie created the above illustration especially for Mental Health Awareness Week.
"This image is based on the idea of opening up about mental health," she explains. "I wanted to capture the idea that depression can feel like being under your own personal cloud. I hope people can relate to my image and know that they're not alone."(opens in new tab)
Shawn Coss is an artist from Akron, Ohio, who creates work with a focus on mental Illness. The drawing above – entitled The Glass – was created on a flight to a comic convention last year.
"I had been toying with the idea for a few months but wasn’t sure how to execute it. Apparently the turbulence and humming of a jet engine was enough to start pumping my creative energy, and I went to work," explains Coss. "That year was a wonderful year in terms of self-discovery. Learning to embrace my own battles with depression was liberating but terrifying. The overwhelming response, though, has made it easier to open up. In the end, we’re all humans, and we’re all looking to connect with one another."(opens in new tab)
Holly Chisolm is a designer and illustrator who started making comics as a form of journaling after she was diagnosed with depression in December 2016. For this year's Mental Health Awareness Week she decided to post a new comic each day.
"Weirdly enough, this was a tough week for me emotionally, and I found myself grateful that I had decided to do daily comics, because they keep me grounded and help me process through things," she says.
Chisolm notes that many people don't realise that mental illness can actually affect your physical health, rather than being a purely emotional issue. "My happiest moments are when people message me asking questions, because there is a lot of fear and confusion about mental illness," she continues. "I hope my comics can help people question their assumptions about what it means to be depressed, and perhaps even spur those who need help to get it."(opens in new tab)
Sanda is an artist based in Croatia who shares her work under the artist name Broken Isn't Bad. Her black-and-white, line-based, minimalist drawings.
"My art has always been a salvation for me personally," she explains. "Through it I want to inspire and encourage others to pursue their dreams and live their life passionately, to find that invincible power which connects them with their inner self, to accept all their beautiful imperfections and create a positive relationship with themselves."(opens in new tab)
Toby Allen is a freelance illustrator working on games and children's books. His Real Monsters project aims to spread awareness about lesser-known or misrepresented mental illnesses, and help reduce the stigma surrounding them.
"The Anxiety monster is based on my own experiences with the illness," he says. "It helps to put a face to something very invisible to the outside world."
Stefanie is a designer and illustrator based in Graz, Austria. Sharing her drawings on Instagram has helped connect her with others struggling with their own mental health issues around the world.
This sketch represents the depths you have to delve to in order to confront your demons and improve your mental health, perhaps in a therapy setting. "Putting up a fight with your own monsters is incredibly hard, but it is so worth it," she comments. "That is why people struggling with mental health issues might be among the toughest you'll ever meet."
07. Hannah Daisy(opens in new tab)
Hannah Daisy is a London-based artist who also works with the NHS. The illustration above is part of a series exploring what ‘self care’ means. She aims to emphasise how boring tasks most people would take for granted can become difficult or even impossible to those who suffer mental illness, chronic health problems or other disabilities.