September 10, 2015 is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year, the theme is ‘Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives’. According to United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO), there are more than 800,000 reported cases of suicide every year, with many more unsuccessful attempts. It is the second leading cause of death among the youth.
Mental illnesses significantly increase the risk of suicide. Despite the exponential rise of medical research, pharmacological developments and digital communication, mental illnesses are still considered a taboo universally, with misinformation abound. Hence, creating dialogue on mental health and spreading awareness is imperative to preventing suicide.
The internet has become a means and expressions of coming out and fostering discussion about mental health. A big obstacle faced by patients of mental illness is expression and empathy. Often the medical descriptions and symptoms do not explain how suffering from a mental illness actually feels like, what the inner world of a sufferer is like.
Taking up the baton, where the medical industry and mainstream media fail, are a bunch of creative people sharing their experiences with mental illnesses, therefore reaching out to vulnerable people all over the world. Comic strips and graphic novels, using rich visual metaphors and irony, have emerged as popular media for explaining the seemingly inexplicable.
Here are some of the most prominent comic strips on mental health to be found online.
1. The Awkward Yeti uses hilarious dialogue between various organs of the body to show the incoherent workings of the body and the resulting confusion. This comic strip elaborates on the experience of anxiety and Depression.
2. Blogging star Allie Brosh’s hugely popular and breathlessly funny blog, Hyperbole and a Half, has accounts of her experiences with Depression. The popularity of the blog also turned into a book. These is a two-part series on the progression of her Depression and how it temporarily changed her personality. (Part 1/Part 2)
3. Controversial online comic the Oatmeal did a strip on how mental illness is perceived in the world, in comparison to other health problems. This extensively shared strip went viral online.
4. Depression Comix effectively delves into the inner life of people who suffer from mental illness, especially how it affects their social life around them. Check out this all too common phenomenon of social exile.