Using illustration to dispel the mental health stigma

These drawings depict one artist’s experience with her own well–being, and shine a light on the often isolating experience of mental health issues

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Internet Love - Zoe-Emma
“Internet Love”Illustration by Zoe-Emma

She may have only started putting pen to paper just under a year ago, but illustrator Zoe-Emma finds sketching out her mental health and how she feels day-to-day a natural process, despite the fact that many may view the subject as taboo. “It’s my inspiration and what makes my work and myself. The multiple eyed character represents mental health itself. The other character is the sufferer; he is very unique.”

While open, honest conversation about the realities of living with these issues are still few and far between, the 20-year-old artist hopes to initiate openness and a move away from the lonely fog that mental instability can often bring. One of the most widely circulated ‘reasons’ mental health is not taking as seriously as our physical well–being is because mental health conditions can't be seen – and although her work is somewhat abstract, this is one issue that she hopes to combat through her art.

“Many can shame the conditions due to not fully understanding the effects they cause. This can result in someone with mental health problems to feel isolated and discriminated against. Just because it isn’t always visible on the outside, you can’t dismiss that it’s the same for the inside. It’s important people can understand the real facts behind mental health in order to put a hold on myths like these being spread.”

The resulting drawings act as a physical touchstone for both those suffering and those who find it too challenging to understand these problems without a physical depiction. But, despite a willingness for more and more young artists to speak up and normalise their experiences with mental health through the work they produce, does Emma believe any concrete change is occuring?

“I’d like to think so; I’ve seen many mixed opinions online about the subject, but lots more people are now coming forward in a positive light about mental health, which is great and exactly what we need to see. If anything, I hope the viewer feels a connection with one or both of my characters and is able to understand them in their own way.”

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