International Helath Humanities Network Blog
Outsider art can refashion how we think about mental illness
From Victoria Tischler - co-founder
Organisations such as MIND work tirelessly to raise awareness of mental health problems and real progress has been made in destigmatising mental illness through campaigns such as Time to Change and Black Dog.
But some mental illnesses suffer more from bad public perceptions. What of the more stigmatised and often chronic conditions such as schizophrenia, dementia or personality disorders? What of those who cannot cope with independent living, are incarcerated, or living alone in abject poverty? Those with unwashed hair, overweight through medication and poor diet, unable to engage in nurturing, intimate relationships. Can we fashion a new understanding of mental illness that will improve their lives?
I work with people at the sharp end of mental health care – those deemed too ill or too risky to live in society among us. People in institutions, who cannot cope with real life, who have lost touch with reality. Amid these severe dysfunctions, complex problems, rejections and repressions, one thing that remains is creative vision which reveals itself with a boom or very quietly.
Some without speech create grand visions on paper. Others repent their sins on canvas. Those with forearms covered in self-inflicted scars sit quietly and intently carve complex symmetrical patterns into printing materials. The severely agitated sit transfixed as they paint.
This creativity can offer a different way of thinking about mental illness – both in mental health campaigns, potential therapies, and maybe via fashion.