“There’s a large problem where mental health is still stigmatised in Ireland. We need to open the conversation now to begin to resolve this problem within our country.”

Aine Marry, an Art Student from Dublin, has used her talent to share her mental health challenges in a beautiful, thought provoking, witty and poignant way. Her cartoons and paintings, all of which she shares on Instagram, show the internal struggles she has experienced with “D” and “A”, who are often seen sitting on her shoulder, or whispering in her ear. She told us more about her work, and how art helps her express herself in an empowering way.

My Instagram, at first, was solely created as a means of posting and archiving progress of the development of my practice throughout my final year in college. I wanted to document my work as an artist and attempt to create a name for myself. Having received positive feedback due to posting about mental health; I then realised that I was dealing with something much larger than my own practice and had the ability to address a very serious modern day issue. This led me to become more vocal about my issues and led me to post my drawings and paintings more frequently as I knew that I now had an audience that was willing to listen.

To be quite honest, I was absolutely petrified about publishing my first post. I know what the world is like nowadays and how negative social media and the internet can be. I have dealt with mental illness since I was ten years old so to me it is nothing new. To the people I grew up with, this information would be something of a shock perhaps; I was very good at hiding what I was going through and nobody had any knowledge of my struggles apart from a select few friends and family members. I come from a very small town where everybody knows everybody, so sharing such intimate content online was intimidating as I knew people I went to school with or knew me in the town would have had no indication of what I was going through and I was unsure as to how they would react. I was also weary of sharing such blunt and honest content, knowing that my family members would be able to see, especially my parents. I never wanted my family to think that this was preventable or that it was their fault and I didn’t want them to feel guilty when looking at my art. It is what it is, and they have been a great support network for me throughout the years.

I had an incredibly positive and supportive response. My friends and family have expressed a great deal of love and pride towards what I am trying to achieve with my art. Larger circles of people I know from my town, college, school and simply online, have also been extremely supportive of my work and its message, which is sometimes overwhelming and I’m genuinely so humbled to have received such positive and empowering feedback.

I have actually received a large amount of emails and messages from strangers on Instagram where people have thanked me for sharing such intimate content and being brave about speaking out about mental health. To know that people are looking at my work and finding solace within it and being able to relate and empathise with it is the most humbling thing to me. As an artist, I of course, would love for my work to do well and for me to be successful, but there is something so much more rewarding in knowing that you’re actually helping people get through something and reminding them that they are not alone.

Posting my artwork on Instagram has helped me an enormous amount. Prior to creating my page, I never exactly spoke about my mental health issues and therefore I was almost ignoring them. Not speaking about them gave them the power to control me fully, and it made me feel ashamed of who I was as a person. Having begun to speak bluntly and honestly about my issues I have begun to take control of them. While of course, yes, I am still very much in limbo with my mental health issues, that being anxiety, depression and eating disorders, I have improved greatly since speaking out about my mental illness. My work is an artistic and emotional outlet for me. Having the ability to project negative and damaging thoughts or feelings onto the page or canvas gives me the ability to remove myself from the situation and recognise my problems for what they are; which in turn has made them easier for me to deal with.

I don’t feel like mental health is being dealt with or talked about in the slightest. There is a large problem in this country where mental illness is still stigmatised and ignored and that needs to change. I don’t feel like it is given the attention it so necessarily deserves. People suffering with mental health issues are not being given the treatment they deserve and are being ignored. This type of illness is just as damaging and lethal as any other and the sooner we begin to recognise this and to treat the people suffering the better. It is imperative that this issue is addressed before things begin to worsen. We need to open the conversation now and begin to resolve this problem within our country.

My advice for anyone dealing with mental health is to talk to someone. I know that term is tossed around a lot when talking about mental health, but as someone who suffered in silence for years, I can say with utmost confidence that the greatest thing you can do is talk to someone. Find someone you trust and tell them what you are thinking. It is absolutely okay not to feel okay and it is most definitely okay to share this information with someone else. You do not have to try and fix yourself or deal with this alone. There are people out there that want to listen. There are people out there that want you to be okay. We all have to look after ourselves and each other and nobody should have to deal with mental health issues by themselves. Please speak to someone.

Aine Marry has recently just completed a joint degree of Painting and Visual Culture at the National College of Art & Design. You can see her artwork at the NCAD graduate show until June 18th.
View Aine’s artwork in the gallery below, or follow her on Instagram here. 

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