The brain, in its infinite complexity can be a really scary and hostile place – yet so are some of the most beautiful habitats on Earth. The mind can be an island of paradise or an erupting volcano. And that’s okay. Because sometimes paradise experiences the most destructive of storms, and in time, a volcano will lie dormant and grass will grow.
Mental health is a prominent issue, in fact, according to the World Health Organisation – one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. This is why it is critical for us all to better understand mental illness and begin to break down the stigma surrounding it, because there is a good chance that at some point in your life you will experience it – personally or through someone close to you.
Last week’s Introspect exhibition aimed to break down the stigmatic walls surrounding mental health, displaying truly moving and intensely creative artwork born out of individual experiences. Each display facilitated access into the immensely broad scope of mental illness, in a multitude of forms. Some of the pieces were near disturbing, portraying the sheer fright and helplessness that suffering from a mental disorder can entail. Carrying around this great weight of not feeling quite like yourself can be backbreaking. And many suffer in silence, feeling completely suffocated.
The art being displayed conveyed certain deep emotions that really connected me to the experience of the artist. And this made me realise that as such a complex issue, the feeling surrounding mental illness can be something which we find difficult to express. The artwork within the exhibition was an emotional outlet, and is a part of a much wider movement to de-stigmatise mental illness. This can only become reality through better understanding and the basic and necessary acceptance that, for a hell of a lot of people, this is a natural part of life – and that’s totally okay!
People find mental illness such a difficult topic to deal with due to its complexity, and perhaps this is why I found the artwork so profound. I realised that in everyday life, even with regards to what sometimes seems like the simplest of situations, it is always difficult to really, truly understand what is going on inside someone else’s head. Understanding can sometimes be difficult, but that does not mean it’s impossible. Acceptance within society is what allows us to progress hopefully towards a better world.
While it is one thing to accept something, it is another to actually know how to deal with it. By no means are we all trained psychologists, but they are in fact out there. Professional help is available and if you ever feel that you may need it, never hesitate to act. All aspects of your health are important and should never be neglected. You wouldn’t ignore an aspect of your physical health that was impacting upon you, so why would you ignore your mental health?
Always know that you are not alone. Although friends may not be qualified to deal with mental health issues, being supportive and listening can mean the world to someone who is struggling. Dealing with mental illness is a matter of care and trust and if we can reflect such values in our personal lives, then perhaps we can make wider society a more caring and trusting place.
Although the darkness and isolation in some of the work really impacted upon me, I was struck by the way that illness was presented as a process in some of the pieces. They showed that in fact over time these issues can be overcome. So, accept that it’s a problem. Accept that it might happen to you or someone close to you, but most importantly accept that things can and do get better for sufferers. You are never alone.