In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week we are sharing with you a piece written by a very talented individual that we are fortunate to have in our circle
The Art of Change
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time – Thomas Merton
This first week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. It’s a week dedicated to spreading awareness of mental health issues, and a time to help dismantle the stigma surrounding mental illness.
People often tell me that the stigma surrounding mental illness isn’t what it used to be – years ago. And I think this is, for the large part, true. Attitudes surrounding mental illness have greatly improved as the mental health movement has propelled forward. And people generally are more understanding of mental illness than they were years ago.
But stigma is still a barrier, and a source of discrimination and conflict today. Over a hundred years after the birth of modern psychiatry, people still view mental health issues with hesitancy, distrust, skepticism, and general closed-mindedness.
People often ask me why I think stigma still exists, despite so many breakthroughs in our progressive understanding of mental illness. And I think there’s a few reasons for this.
Firstly, change happens slowly. This doesn’t just apply to social change or changes in attitudes… but in all areas of life, change is a slow progression. It’s a series of small steps that grow incrementally larger and continue indefinitely. That’s just the way it is. Nothing happens overnight.
Secondly, I think that stigma is engrained in our culture. Look at today’s art, for example. The reality is that much of today’s art relating to mental health seems to draw inspiration from older, more archaic cultural references. Horror films, for instance, are often able to effectively tap into historically misinformed mental health attitudes. And it isn’t just the horror genre of art that does this well. A lot of art, whatever its form, seems to draw inspiration from creative glamorization of mental illness.
When it comes to art, I’m a firm believer that there is no right or wrong. After all, art is expressionism through creativity, and is not necessarily grounded in the artist’s reality. I like to see art as an illusion of truths. By this, I mean that an artist can create a window into their life, but rarely are these glimpses entirely reality based.
Recently, however, there’s been a shift in the artistic representation of mental illness. Artists working with themes of mental illness are now trying to draw more sympathetic and understanding sentiments from their audiences. And their art plays a huge role in dismantling stigma in the artistic communities.
On the personal side of things, I’ve always been struck by the power of art. And I still marvel at how a simple anthem can propel an entire generation through periods of radical change. This is one of the reasons I, myself, create art.
I’m a storyteller. I tell stories through visual art and writing. And it is my hope that these stories can inspire and offer hope to those who may be going through hard times. Because I know that art may have saved me when I was struggling.
Art has the power to evoke. It has the power to motivate. It has the power to unite. But only if used responsibly. And it’s up to us, as artists to harness our creativity and talents to do good in this world.
I’ll end on a very relevant Spider-Man reference:
“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Art is power. And it can be a driver of great change.
I think, if anyone can change things, it’s the artists of the world. Because whatever you may give us, we get you something out of it (John Lennon reference).
It’s what we do.
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