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Visuals that shed light on mental health

As tomorrow is World Mental Health Day I wanted to share something of my personal experiences, tips for mental wellbeing and some of my work that helps communicate mental health in these different contexts: young people, healthcare, self-confidence, arts and health.

Everyone has their own worries and traumas to carry and deal with them in different ways. Personally I have experienced traumatic events in my teens, taboo of bipolar conditions in my family and perfectionist anxiety and mild depression ebbing and flowing throughout my adult years. I know what bereavement is like after losing my father to cancer many years ago and I am also the kind of person prone to introspection and getting lost in thought. 

This is not a list of all bad things: these challenges have made me face different fears, learn what coping mechanisms are right for me (hello, nature and exercise) and realise the importance of building mental resilience – which I’m still no master of by a long shot. Being introspective makes me want to understand people better and have empathy for different viewpoints – this really helps with thinking about different creative approaches in my work. Otherwise, practicing constant acceptance and looking ahead is important and I have found CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) useful for anxiety as well as humanistic and existential approaches great for bereavement and general life anxiety. Regular yoga works like engine maintenance for my mental health as does walking outdoors, be it in a park or a forest, on a field or a hill.

Illustrations for mental health topics

I have been very grateful to work with projects about mental health. ‘Baker’s Dozen for Mental Resilience’ (now renamed “…for Wellbeing”) was created by Dr Mark Stacey and Dr Andy McCann as a training tool for healthcare professionals. They asked me to illustrate the 13 tips and design a booklet with an added reading list and this resource has been used not just in the NHS but also in the Fire Service that we did a custom booklet for. I often find myself browsing the booklet to see if there’s anything that I could pick up and practice – these tips are no magic bullets but require regular practice to have an impact. Have a look at their resource website and see what you might find useful!

Another project close to my heart is the redesign of the T4CYP newsletter, a co-produced project from the NHS CAMHS/ED in Wales and young people who are part of their national stakeholder group. We recreated the style last year and it was very successful in capturing a feel that fitted what the young people wanted: something less childlike and more like a handmade zine. This year’s newsletter follows the same style with a slightly different colour scheme and it will be out shortly as an interactive pdf. 

Following on work that relates to children and young people, I worked on a more serious side of wellbeing and care with Dr Sophie Hallett on her research ‘Keeping Safe?’ about children and young people in care and their risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE). This was a tough topic to get right in illustrations but after a collaborative process with Sophie we decided to create a discussion toolkit for professionals. This card toolkit features illustrated prompts on the front and on the back key points from Sophie’s research and questions and prompts to see how it can relate to working with young people. It was such a pleasure to be able to make illustrations that have a direct impact in helping professionals work better with complex situations at hand. 

Another recent piece of work were these visual case studies of HARP Covid-19 Sprint Challenge from Y Lab and Cardiff University looking at how arts can support people living through lockdown. I had the pleasure of telling the story of each project in a visual template from aims and objectives to key learning points. The experiences shared are quite inspiring and promising ground for further exploration as the Covid-19 impact continues on people’s lives.

And finally, if you’d like to work on self affirmations, check out my blog post about Self Love Surgery, a pop up event I organised with Emina Redzepovic couple of years ago. We had colouring templates, cupcakes, affirmation booth with pep talk soundtrack and a reading corner. You can download the colouring templates as pdfs too.

I’d be really interested to hear if these works resonate with you and why not share your own experiences and tips on social media if that feels comfortable with you. Let’s reduce the stigma around mental health and promote healthy ways of coping, especially during this episode of the pandemic. 

You can get in touch with me via email, inquiry form, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn or you can book in a call if you have an idea to discuss. I hope to start conversations about project ideas with you and in the meantime – look after yourself and people around you.

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