The state of mental health in India and the awareness around it is saddening. The stigma attached to it and the ostracisation of those with mental illnesses have only fuelled more ignorance and added to the existing misunderstanding of the issue. However, there are a few individuals who are trying, in their own little ways, to bring about a change and hopefully, contribute to a more informed and inclusive society.
Sonaksha Iyengar, an illustrator, writer and artist took up the 36 Days of Type Challenge on Instagram, to start a conversation around the topic of mental health. She felt that the alphabet was ideal for making people go back to the basics and start their learning from scratch, about a topic that is such a taboo in the country. Of course, working on such a sensitive and vast issue meant doing your own homework first. From reading up psychology manuals to meeting support groups and people battling mental illnesses, Sonaksha had to do quite a bit of research herself before she could educate others. “I wanted to provide a safe space to people having mental illness and acknowledge that their pain is real even though it may seem invisible”, she tells us.
She turned to art as a medium of expression as she believes that it has the power to make the issue at hand seem more comprehensible. “Despite being a writer, I find it hard sometimes to express myself in words but colors, on the other hand, have the power to break through any kind of silence. I feel like a combination of the two need to be used to get the message across to people.”
Her illustrations portray mental illness as something that is not ‘just a phase’ that one can ‘get over’ or can be used as a tool for ‘seeking attention’. From people thanking her for being able to best highlight the problems faced by them to many even admitting to their ignorance of the mental health as a reality of life, the response that Sonaksha has received for her typography series has been overwhelming and much-needed.
If you scroll through her Instagram, you might also come across many mental health related ‘reminders’ and ‘affirmations’. In fact, Sonaksha often shares her own struggles with not just mental health but other important topics like self-care, body image, and body positivity as well. She does this through a range of self-initiated projects and by working with different organisations. As for the future, Sonaksha wants to continue working on developing safe spaces for difficult conversations and spreading the message of kindness through her work.
You can check out her Instagram page here.
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