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Mahdis Nikou candidly expresses how art helps her to put out her thoughts and feelings.

How does art help you cope with your mental health?

I use art and illustration as a tool to express my thoughts and feelings. Knowing there are people out there that find my art relatable to them definitely brings comfort to me and reassures me that I'm not alone in experiencing those thoughts and feelings. This itself can be a massive help for coping with bad days.

What aspect of mental health/illness do you focus on in your art?

I tend to focus on depression and anxiety more often as those are what I've had the experience of living with at some point in my life and also witnessed it in close family members and friends too.

About my illustrations

1. Anxiety: in this piece, I've illustrated anxiety as a big cat trapping me inside the house and stopping me from stepping out of my comfort zone to experience life and its adventures.

2. Overthinking: In this piece, I've illustrated overthinking as a form made out of lots of little thoughts, covering my eyes and blinding me to see the present moment.

Why is creating art about mental health is important for you?

I think mental health should be normalised and talked about more. As a person who grew up in a family where mental health was a big issue that was never spoken about and someone who has gone through rough times myself, I feel like this topic should be spoken about more openly and with transparency. Mental health is just like physical health and whoever is affected by it should be able to ask for help and support without feeling judged or overlooked. Just like when someone breaks a bone, naturally they'd take time off to heal and they'd most likely to ask for support from close friends and family more openly without feeling embarrassed. A person who's suffering from any kind of mental illness should be able to do the same without shying away from it so that she/he could heal from it quicker with more ease. I think making art about mental health could help normalise this massive issue that's affecting 1 in 4 people (according to Mind: McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey ). I also think by creating art about mental health, you can help those who are suffering from it. Art can create comfort and proof we're not alone.

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