“Looking” into mental health …

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Julia A. Clayton
May 28, 2019
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I wouldn’t describe myself as a visual learner.[1] I also wouldn’t say that I’m much of a visual arts enthusiast.  But I am a voracious devourer of creative social media content.  Blogs, memes, videos splicing together vintage Freddie Mercury clips with Kayne West’s butchering of the song Bohemian Rhapsody so that it looks like Freddie is laughing at the attempt . . . you name it, I’ve probably watched it.

Over time, I’ve uncovered some astounding art and visual content conveying people’s struggles with their mental health.  The way these creators can distill what they are feeling and experiencing into an image gives tribute to the phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words.”

Here are some visual art and comics that I’ve found quite profound.  Images that reveal the depth of people’s mental health experiences in ways ranging from painfully poignant to humorously releveling, and often both simultaneously.  Please also share your sources of those with a “gif” for capturing mental health issues in image form!

The Lily by The Washington Post

The Lily is a platform for casting light on “national news, politics, gender equality, health, film, fashion and more.”  Its Instagram feed regularly features the work of women cartoonists. Their art is often very personal and very analytical about their mental health struggles.  Here are a few examples.  And check out the Lily for its page dedicated to anxiety and coping with it.

https://www.thelily.com/

https://www.instagram.com/thelilynews/

https://www.instagram.com/sagemcoffey/

https://www.instagram.com/dianaschoenbrun/

https://www.instagram.com/aipng/

The Oatmeal

Cartoonist Matthew Inman draws some seriously funny sh*%.  And that’s probably the simplest way to describe his comics, which can be vulgar and extremely irreverent but always hilariously funny.  When you finish with the comics about babies, cats conspiring to kill you, and why working from home is both awesome and horrible, browse the longer form offerings such as “You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you” which talks about the ways the human amygdala effects our processing of information, and “It’s going to be okay.”  His cartoons are not about mental health issues per se, but more often than not, the comics touch on deep personal feelings, especially human anxieties.

https://theoatmeal.com/comics/plane

https://www.instagram.com/theoatmeal/

PostSecret

PostSecret describes itself as “an ongoing community art project where people mail secrets on postcards.”  The “secrets” submitted by people from the U.S. and around the world cover pretty much every human thought or experience imaginable, and many address issues surrounding suicide.  Every Sunday, blogger Frank Warren publishes a new round of postcards.  He has also published books of collected secrets, installed a collection at the Smithsonian, and speaks on college campuses about secrets being “walls or bridges.”

https://postsecret.com

https://www.instagram.com/postsecret/

Hope you get a kick out of these as much as I have.  Again, please share any sources you find that touch on our mental health struggles in visual form.  And that way we can share with others.  After all, we are not alone and it’s important to be reminded of that on a regular basis.

[1] The statements and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author, as a private citizen, and someone who happens to also be a public sector lawyer.  Any attribution, association, or assumption of adoption by the aforementioned author’s employer is inappropriate, inapposite, and downright incorrect.