When Pranita Kocharekar, a renowned artist, wanted resources on understanding her mental health better, she had to reach out to a therapist. Today, she is trying to simplify what a mental illness may look like via visual communication to help spark a curiosity within oneself. “I'm trying to destigmatise mental health and make it appear very normal (as it should be)”, she says. “Acknowledging a problem is definitely the first step to curing it”.
People today have to be encouraged to indulge in art of any kind - like drawing, reading, writing or journaling. Everybody has a bit of a creative side to them and igniting this part of oneself while letting the thoughts rest has a great impact on expressing it rather than stifling uncomfortable thoughts.
“I have anxiety and have dealt with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and depression. I used art as an escape tool. I have made comics about mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, Behaviour-Driven Development, etc.”, says Akshara Ashok, a student and an illustrator, who feels mental health is as important as physical health. She wants to let people know that they're not alone in this. “A lot of people are scared to talk about it. It's okay to feel like this. It's okay to seek help. So, I use art as therapy at times, it is also a good tool to soothe yourself”, she adds.
There are also many artists with mental illness who have used art for a living and have established themselves. “Art for me is life. It is a skill and talent I have and also a means of dealing with the layers of chaos my mind has. Art itself alone be considered therapeutic practice that will help all. It can also bring out our inner demons making us feel even worse than before. Some therapists might not know how responsible they need to be when such a medium of therapy is applied to those at the high end of a mental illness spectrums”, explains Reshma Valliappan, artist and an activist who was awarded with Ashoka and Ink Fellow in 2014.
Reshma resorted to art in 2004 when her medications for paranoid schizophrenia didn't work as much as expected and instead gave her worse side effects, Reshma says. Today, she teaches creative processes as a way to deal with external and internal violence.
Padma, a psychologist says, “Art is a medium where people can express their thoughts and emotional aspect through their talents. Art therapy is used for diagnostic aspect and as well for treatments”.