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Best Of Tumblr: 8 Artworks That Break The Stigma Around Mental Illness

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Rohini Banerjee and Shambhavi Saxena for Cake:

In the fourth installment of our Best of Tumblr series, we’re looking at artworks that address the subject of mental illness. The artist community on Tumblr has time and again shown its sensitivity to these depictions, many of them approaching it from personal experience, or by listening carefully to those who live with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, body dysmorphia disorder, and the like.

We tend to minimize the seriousness of these illnesses when we fling around remarks like, “I’m so OCD, I just arranged my books,” or “eat more, you look anorexic.” Moreover, we used the word “crazy” to de-legitimize people when we don’t agree with their ideas, when we think they have no right to hold a place in “sane” and “respectable” society.

Ableism – the systematic and systemic way in which we marginalize people who function differently from the imagined ‘mainstream’ – is alive and well, but it’s not something we ought to condone. The following tumblr artists are challenging ableism by starting a conversation about mental illness, by saying that it exists.

You are not your mental illness by Rhyan Abbott

Through this awareness poster, 20 year old Canadian artist Rhyan addresses the way people are reduced to their mental illnesses. Often, we fixate so much on a person’s disorders that we – wittingly or unwittingly – make those disorders their defining characteristic, when they are in fact so much more than that!

Three panels by gil-estel

Mood disorders can make even the smallest tasks seem insurmountable. The anonymous physics and French student, who goes simply by the Tolkein inspired name ‘gil-estel,’ depicts in greyscale panels, with increasing somberness, what it feels like for many living with a mental illness.

Real Monsters by zestydoesthings

zestydoesthings - ocd

Toby Allen’s love for fairy tales and mythology is evident in the ‘Real Monsters‘ series, where mental illnesses are imagined as actual monsters. Narratives are built around each ‘character,’ and what effects they have on people. Allen’s art project, which defines and realizes a condition which many people still suggest can be cured with ‘a positive attitude.’ The point being made here is that depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and such are real forces to contend with.

helpful by britishmuffin

This self-proclaimed ‘hamster king’, also known as Muffin E. Goodness, is a British artist. Prior to this comic, they also did one titled ‘promises,’ about how it can be difficult to keep the promises you make when your mental illness gets in the way of delivering what you intended to, but this in no way indicates a lack of affection or even an inability to care deeply.

depression by sylvie-swamp

Sylvie Reuter’s colourful panels slowly devolve into black as she depicts the way mental health issues can become all-consuming for a person living with them. This powerful comic depicts a mental disorder as an ever-present and ever-growing entity, much like a wound that not tended to. And after all, what is one to expect when most people fail to treat disorders like any other medical emergency?

People Who Don’t Get Mental Illness by icantdrawbutidontcare


This anonymous tumblr artist, who is recovering from mental illness, is popular for their comics about struggling with not just mental health, but also the stigma surrounding mental health. This particular comic deals with that stigma, and displays of neurotypical privilege when people refuse to acknowledge mental illness as a genuine ailment and pass dismissive comments such as these.

We Speak by alimarko

Ali Marko is a Colorado-based graphic artist who works for a mental health non-profit, and as part of her activism surrounding mental health awareness, created this tumblr blog cum art project called ‘We Speak’, where she brought together the experiences of ten different women suffering from various mental health conditions. Not just limited to these ten women, she also invites other bloggers to share their experiences. This is truly some groundbreaking achievement in breaking the various stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental health patients.

Untitled art by Dr Monkey’s Retro Scan Emporium And Lounge

The artist behind this piece is self-described as “Atheist, anti war, anti capitalist, anti gun.” As the caption says, it’s a tribute to the artist’s sister who lived with schizophrenia. Even though we’ve had plenty of time to alter  attached evolve perceptions about it (schizophrenia was first talked about in 1910), this particular illness is perhaps the most misunderstood of the lot.  The stigma against talking about mental illness often means individuals don’t get the treatment and support they require, which can even be fatal.

On that note, we must mention Ohio based queer bisexual ‘comicker’ K. Copeland, whose longish piece, ‘I am diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia,’ which is well worth the read . These and other art works are crucial to our understanding of the experience of mental issues, and also the ways in which societies, healthcare systems, and other institutions can respond to them. In fact, Tumblr as a platform already has some mechanisms in place! The website offers this message to a user who searches for “eating disorder”:


It does the same thing for all other related searches, and the message alters slightly to provide helplines and information pertaining to “depression,” “self harm,” and more. How’s that for being involved?

To read our previous posts in this series, click here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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