Let them see it
Since 1990, the first full week of October has marked Mental Illness Awareness Week in the United States. This gives mental health professionals and advocates, as well as people from all walks of life, a chance to further discuss and understand the mental disorders that affect so many of us.
According to 2015 statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some 43.8 million American adults—about 18.5%—experience mental illness in a given year, and 10 million of these are serious experiences. About 21.4% of Americans aged 13-18 and 13% of children ages 8-15 will experience severe mental health problems at some point in their lives.
Everyone is familiar with the terms: Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD—so why are we so afraid to talk about these problems or, in some cases, acknowledge them?
Since 2009, October has also marked “Inktober,” an annual celebration of art started by Jake Parker that encourages artists to do one ink drawing a day. Though Inktober comes with a prompt list to help inspire participants, artist Shawn Coss decided to deviate from the norm and focus all 31 of his pieces on a specific theme: mental health.
Now, he’s transforming the taboo and often-hushed topic of mental illness into stunning ink illustrations and personifications for all the world to see.
Coss describes his art style as “quite dark and free [….] skeletal or demonic of nature [….] In all of Shawn’s work there is featured a dark variant of some creature or a form born of darkness itself. Contrary to the conclusions that may be drawn on first glance I feel like this is both intended and appropriate. Intended as it is the natural style that prominently features in his work and appropriate as it conveys a message that regardless of subject there is always an unseen darker side. It is refreshing to see an artist tackle such concepts in regularity without prejudice and without adhering to social restrictions or conforming to the current popular culture. The integrity of the content created is both inspiring and to be respected.”
Needless to say, mental illness is a perfect topic for him to address through his work. Here are some of the highlights from his drawings so far this Inktober.
Insomnia is a short- or long-term sleep disorder in which people have trouble sleeping. Though it can occur independently, it often coincides with other problems such as stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, or medications taken to treat a number of issues.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 40 million Americans will experience insomnia in a given year.
Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder
What does its lengthy title mean? Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder, or DSED, is an attachment disorder exclusive to children between nine months and five years of age.
Often related to ADHD, DSED is a troubling pattern in which a child will actively approach and interactive with unknown adults and strangers without exhibiting the proper caution or fear. This can also mean touching, being touched by, or leaving with the unknown adults, thus making DSED a dangerous disorder if the child is not being carefully watched or taken care of.
In its most stereotypical form, OCD is associated with an individual’s uncontrollable urge to clean or keep things neat and organized. However, obsessive-compulsive disorder can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as through tics or certain rituals in which a person with OCD needs to repeat an action again and again. OCD is closely related to anxiety issues, and people suffering from it will often not understand that their compulsive thoughts or actions are not rational.
Some 2.3% of people are expected to be affected by OCD during their lifetime, and a significant percentage of them will consider or attempt suicide.
See more of Coss’s powerful ink drawings ahead…