Although 1 in 4 Americans suffers from some sort of mental illness, the stigma associated with mental illnesses prevents many from seeking treatment or confiding in friends and family. To help lessen and eliminate the stigma, Project 1 in 4 aspires to raise awareness and inspire sufferers of mental illnesses. The eleven cartoons below illustrate with some humor familiar struggles and chagrins of a variety of mental illnesses from mania to bipolar disorder to depression. Mental illness can hurt and be scary, but how we think about this does not have to be so unapproachable. The cartoons aren’t intended to make light of mental illness, but to make it easier to talk about it.
Here are 11 of the 51 cartoons so far.
1. Sometimes you can feel so good you can convince yourself that your mental illness is behind you. But what you, your family, and your friends find out soon enough is that it was literally behind you, waiting for an opportunity to take control.
2. When your mental illness takes over, you do and say things that in your right mind you would not risk doing otherwise. This can feel scary or incredibly liberating.
3. There may be days you feel invincible and convinced that you can do anything you think of doing. The impossible seems possible.
4. Even with all the evidence of a wrecked life in front of you, you may still be convinced that you don’t need help or that accepting help is a defeat.
5. You may seem flighty or unfocused or ditzy and it may seem like you can’t finish what you started, but it’s actually because you have too many thoughts competing for supremacy. You can be smart and capable, but your mental illness trips you at the starting line or the finishing line.
6. You are exhausted from all the thinking, all the emotions, or the medications, so you are too tired to enjoy social gatherings. Just getting together can, too, be exhausting if it means pretending everything is all right for everyone.
7. Whether it is the medication or the mental illness, sleep deprivation can be a constant aggravation. You can get short tempered or forgetful or ill because you can’t get the sleep you need desperately.
8. You might think the odds are in your favor even when they obviously are not. You may see that starving yourself is hurting your health, that staying up night after night is ultimately bad for you, or that having a gun in the home is risky, but your mental illness is louder and shouts everyone else’s advice down.
9. Your friends like you when you are happy and charming, so when you suddenly become mean spirited or depressing, they get frustrated and might just say you are a jerk. You lose friends because they don’t know what to expect from you and don’t like your quick personality and mood changes.
10. Sure, everyone sees things differently, but you see things that are not even there. Large insects climb the walls of your clean apartment, the cracks on the sidewalk open up to be chasms. Your wife of 35 years is suddenly the serial killer you saw on the news the night before.
11. With public awareness increasing and the stigma lessening, reaching out to others and getting the support from family and friends you need becomes easier each day.
For 100 days, the organizers of Project 1 in 4 will present pictures from their Instagram account, so you can follow along daily, share, and show support. Their hope and desire is that the awareness spread by these approachable, accessible, and simple cartoons will ultimately lessen the stigma of mental illness. So reach out and show some well-mannered love and make supportive comments after taking the time to educate yourself on the pervasiveness of mental illness. No one should feel alone or that they don’t deserve support.