In the light of Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to create some work that challenged and provoked attitudes towards mental health. There are a lot of 'labels' placed upon the people who experience mental illness, and that in itself is part of the problem because it feeds into the stigma that having a mental illness is somehow a weakness. It makes it harder to reach out for help.
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK - 84 take their own lives every week. Samaritans charity report receiving a call every six seconds. 1 in 10 mothers experience post natal depression. In a survey of over 1000 illustrators, 70% reported experiencing mental health issues. It is vital that we change our attitudes to it.
I want mental health problems to be normalised so that people have no problem about getting help. Instead, mental illness is often still seen as something taboo, leading to sufferers battling through alone, covering up issues that are never really dealt with. Often the very 'weaknesses' we experience are strengths that have simply gone into overdrive. For a lot of people mental illness is a life long battle – it is not something to be taken lightly, but the more we open discussion about our experiences, the less stigma surrounds it.
For this project, I created 'labels' for old medicine bottles to reflect the labels often placed on people who experience anxiety and depression, but with the added twist of what these 'symptoms' are when they are at healthy levels. I added text on the back of each bottle to offer advice for people who experience these things in extreme.
There seem to be a lot of extremes in the way we speak about mental illness – people are either 'weak' or they're incredibly 'brave', and both labels can be unhelpful in breaking the stigma that surrounds it and normalising it. I ended with a label on being courageous to challenge our notion of it - it is not battling on through on your own, it is asking for help when you need it.
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