• Charlie Sandles

The Unfiltered Truth- Illustrating Mental Health Disorders


© Courtesy of @camelia.pham


Five artists accurately depicting the struggles of mental health through their artwork.


The medium of art is becoming a recognised form of psychotherapy for individuals who struggle to address emotional issues that manifest as confusing or distressing. A wide variety of individuals can benefit from art therapy, such as those who suffer from emotional, mental health or behavioural issues, neurological conditions, learning or physical disabilities/ illnesses. Whilst it isn’t a method that can be used to diagnose health issues- be it mental or physical- there are many artists who have utilised art as a means to physically represent their problems.

Many mental health advocates have explored the power of illustration as a tool to educate individuals, in addition to its capabilities in allowing those who suffer to express their emotions and thoughts. Some examples of this work are explored by artists and shared on Instagram to spread awareness of the signs and symptoms of specific mental health disorders, as well as shed light on the reality of such debilitating mental health disorders.


Hábito-Beatriz Castro


Based in San José, Costa Rica, Hábito-Beatriz Castro is an illustrator, designer and feminist. Her work explores several motifs, including the empowerment of women and the overwhelming reality of life, emotional neglect and the importance of mental health. Her appealing colour palettes, exaggerated silhouettes and thoughtful captions reinforce the messages behind her illustrations, and as such, she personifies these emotions for all to understand.

Not only does Castro validate your feelings of isolation and being troubled, but she effectively communicates the hold mental health issues can- and do- have on our lives. Consistently she exposes the reality of how seemingly simple tasks become mammoth to those suffering from mental health issues.


© Courtesy of @habito.cr


‘I knew I was getting mentally bad and did nothing about it, so if you have the chance and realize that you’re not okay, please ask for help as soon as possible’


Phie

Representing her journey and knowledge of eating disorders in a respectful and honest way, Phie utilises illustration to create tonal artworks with meaningful, reinforcing statements such as ‘eating disorders do not have a ‘look’’ and ‘losing weight is not worth your life’. Based in the UK, Phie is an illustrator and graphic designer who uses her platform to honestly expose the journey of ED- how it isn’t something that one can just simply grow out of, and in doing so, she is able to connect with those who have experienced (or are experiencing) the same as her. The beautiful illustrations with abstract colours and shapes are engaging and communicate positive reinforcement whilst not diminishing the seriousness and debilitating effects of ED.


‘Disordered eating is so normalised in our society that people think it’s healthy to be constantly scrutinising one's weight or appearance. But that’s not your life’s purpose. Your body is not the problem. The problem is the structure and society that made you think it was’.

© Courtesy of @_design.bee



Matilda

A more informative style of artwork is explored by Matilda, a Swedish based artist and mental health advocate. In her work, she explores several mental health conditions and successfully communicates to individuals with varying understanding of the different signs, symptoms and effects of mental health disorders. Whilst sharing her journey with mental health, Matilda opens up and reveals the thoughts and emotions she experiences as a result of her mental health disorder(s). As a creative, she is able to utilise illustration as a form of communication with her 491k followers, and as such, provides an unfiltered, realistic view of the way in which mental health sufferers act, think and perceive events.


© Courtesy of @crazyheadcomics


Working through my traumas through creative expression and self- compassion has helped me grow a lot, but I still have work to be done’.


Camelia Pham

In Pham’s ‘Psychology Series’, the Vietnamese artist, illustrates themes of depression, isolation and love to expose the reality and complexity of the human psyche. In a very alternative way, Camelia uses her illustration to incite conversation about the traditionally taboo subject of mental health. Although for some quite intrusive, Pham successfully exposes how imposing thoughts can represent a deeper, more serious psychological issue- her use of colour and negative space is visually arresting and prompts individuals to appreciate the composition and content of the artwork.

The accompanying captions to Pham’s work further the meaning of the illustration; Camelia almost uses this space to explore her thought process and provide a commentary of her emotions of viewpoint on themes such as morality, aspiration, relationships and identity.


‘Accept your past, own your mistakes, master your story’.

‘Your passive aggressive acts can cause destructive and dysfunctional relationships, which will soon reflect back on how you treat and view yourself’.

© Courtesy of @camelia.pham


‘Feels like swimming in the shadow of ambiguity and self-doubt’.

Peach Canvas

Using illustration and art as a form of therapy, explores mental health issues from Autism and OCD to PTSD and ADHD. Her use of minimalism is effective and engaging, as it prompts viewers to accept the realities of mental health and the emotional journeys sufferers are forced to reckon with. The words captioning the illustrations invite individuals to converse and share their experiences- at their own will- to debunk the myths and prejudice views of mental health. The artwork style is legible for a wide audience, reinforcing accessibility for all whilst also highlighting the reality of mental health’s grip on people of any background.


‘PTSD is real. It is personal and deep. It can scar worse than all the wounds that bleed’.

© Courtesy of @peach_canvas



Several resources are available for those suffering with mental health issues, and if you are struggling, please reach out for help. These organisations include Mind, Samaritans, Beat and other mental health charity organisations.