Illustrating Mental Illness to Build Awareness

Sometimes words just can’t describe a feeling as well as a picture can. Art has always been a vehicle for emotion, and illustrating the feelings of mental illness can resonate and help communicate with others while giving the artist a ways to express themselves.

These works are often difficult to look at: they express emotions such as pain, anxiety, aloneness, and despair, to name just a few. For the artist, they often make the harsh consistency of their thoughts easier to bear. For others, they often express their feelings and experience so much more clearly than words ever could. For some, they demonstrate a shared experience, and also demonstrate that people experience mental illness differently.

Illustrations That Meet Mental Health Stigma Head On

Examples of this type of work range from minimalist pen-and-ink drawings and simple comic strips to full-blown color illustrations. They also range from touching to monstrous to vibrantly illustrative of how a mental illness can make the sufferer feel. On the whole, they illustrate the range of experience of mental illness and provide a better understanding can help remove the stigma surrounding it.

Illustrations that Capture the Stark Reality of Mental Illness

A part of the annual InkTober contest, where artists from all over the world take on the challenge of creating one ink drawing a day for the entire month, Shawn Coss has opened up a serious conversation about mental illnesses and disorders. The result is a series of drawings that capture the stark reality of mental illness for many. The difficulty in depicting these conditions is that it can be very subjective, and not everyone experiences the same symptoms, something Cross acknowledges. But for some, these drawings illustrate the reality of their inner life.

Moving, Touching, and Laugh-Out-Loud Funny (because they are so real)

Stacey Bru’s Anxiety Comics zine illustrates anxiety in a way that everyone can relate to: as a small, shapeless form that follows her everywhere and makes her doubt everything about herself. It is the simplicity of the drawings that really demonstrates the complexity of anxiety disorders. It also shows how obsessive, disastrous thinking can be perceived as comforting and familiar, making the disorder harder to diagnose and treat. Many people can relate to anxiety and depression as beings that follow sufferers around, and these depictions help those who want to learn more about how it feels to live with anxiety disorder.

Refuting Common Assumptions about Mental Illness

Based on her own experience, Sonaksha Iyengar’s series A to Z of Mental Health illustrates what it’s like to live with a mental illness in a way words just can’t. She intends them to inspire honest conversations about the importance of mental health. Those who suffer with mental illnesses are often told to “get over it,” and these illustrations create an awareness that refutes common assumptions about mental health, illnesses, and disorders. Awareness is the first step towards kindness and empathy, and this series highlights aspects of mental illnesses that can be difficult to understand.

Mental Illness Illustrated as Monsters

Illustrator Toby Allen reimagined mental illnesses as real monsters to give them a physical form. It helped him think of them differently and made his anxiety more manageable. When something has a physicality, it can also have a weakness. His depictions can help those in the throes of mental illness realize that they are not alone and that their illness can be managed. The easily relatable artwork provides a talking point for family members and loved ones who might not realize what is like to have a mental illness.

Haunting Drawings of Life with Schizophrenia

Diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 17, 18-year-old Kate Fenner began drawing her hallucinations as a form of self-expression and therapy. After she draws everything her hallucinations make her see, hear, and feel she uploads them on Instagram to help her deal with her illness and to create awareness. She wants everyone to understand that mental illness can affect people from all walks of lives. She hopes her artwork will raise awareness and to help others dealing with the same illness know that they are not alone.

Something new I'm working on. • • • • • • • #art #artist #artwork #illustration

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We’ve Come a Long Way, But Still Have a Way to Go When to Remove the Stigma

Although we are talking about mental health more openly than ever, there are still many stereotypes and misconceptions that surround the issue. For example, the idea misconception that mental illnesses are not as serious as physical conditions, or that you can be a “little” OCD if you like to keep things organized. Humorous, emotional, and real, these illustrations take us farther down the path toward removing the stigma surrounding mental illness.