Over the past year as many of us have hunkered down in our homes, our primary escape has been the internet to tackle boredom, share our days in lockdown and for some, to open up about their mental health challenges. Scroll through social media apps and you’ll find a whole community of artists illustrating the complex subject through relatable and digestible comics with a loyal audience.
With equal parts humour, vulnerability and honesty, these comics help foster a feeling of acceptance and understanding around mental health, especially in a country like India where the stigma persists despite the uptick in conversations around well-being. Young Indian artists and illustrators have gained a prominent following on platforms like Instagram where they aim to normalize conversations around mental health by sharing their lived experiences in its rawest form and the many facets that come with it.
So, what motivates these artists to open up about this deeply personal subject and make the discourse around mental health more relatable? We reached out to three illustrators to ask them:
Sravyaa Attaluri, 25
My art has always been about the pursuit of retaining daily happiness. I was in therapy for clinical depression and anxiety when I started a 100-day challenge to draw and post on Instagram. I wanted to use this opportunity to illustrate my daily emotions. Halfway through, I realized that other people started connecting with my art and it helped them feel less alone.
I knew there is a need to encourage people to have open discussions about mental health, especially after seeing extreme reactions to my art. People either loved my art and felt compelled to share or were shocked and upset to see dark and taboo topics like chronic depression and anxiety depicted.
As my mental health fluctuates, so does my art. I remind my viewers that I am just an artist recording my experiences through artform and that I cannot promise to always make a certain type of art but I can promise to be honest about my experiences.
But I am so glad that people are able to relate with my experiences and feel validated. A lot reach out and share their personal experiences with me as a result, and go on to follow some of the self-care routines I share.
Sreejita Biswas, 33
It was around 2017, I was recovering from some very severe trauma and I couldn’t write anymore. I picked up drawing because I didn’t know how else to creatively express myself. With the years, the correct diagnosis and treatment, I did get back to writing. But I continued making comics about mental health.
A lot of misinformation exists out there. It is important to spread awareness so that people can be empowered to identify and fight this. And while it’s a good thing that people are finally talking about it, the discourse has its cons too, mostly in the form of influencers who want to speak on behalf of people who are actually facing mental health challenges. Yes, allies are important, but does that mean they speak louder than those who need to be heard?
I never used to be interested in webcomics as such but I had an idea one day and as a creative I had to make it. I started off with dark humour. Once I did, I found it to be a great way to express emotion and thoughts using metaphors. So I kept going.
It is important to further the conversation around mental health in India because it is so stigmatized. Especially by the older generation that seem to think of millennials and Gen Z as “weak” for not hiding and talking openly about their mental health sans them who just struggled all their lives and called it strength. Mental health shouldn’t be taboo and I’m glad we’re going the way we are.
People constantly tell me how my comics have given them strength during hard times and as someone who didn’t have that personally, the fact that I can reach so many people is almost overwhelming and I’m very glad I have the capability to help anyone in any way possible.