“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental health


As Fraternity Mental Health Day takes place this week, we speak to authors, freelance creatives and illustrators about their experiences of mental disorder or issues, and ask for their advice on how best to cope and help others.

“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental healthBen O’Brien, aka Ben the Illustrator, freelance illustrator

“I’ve had quandaries with depression since I was in school – I had to see a school counsellor, I never truly understood it and the last thing I could do (as a grungy teenager in the early 1990s) was talk concerning it with friends or family.

Almost 30 years on and things oblige changed a lot, for me and for mental health awareness. It’s not a taboo anymore, depression and angst are becoming understood and considered respectfully.

Having been a freelance illustrator for most of my accomplishment life, I have learnt to manage work around my mental healthfulness (or vice versa!). Freelancing can be very tough, with times of instability and clients paying late, and all these things can contribute to pressure and mental health problems.

I still have bad days, but I try to use my working day considerately. Firstly, I can settle the door and have time to myself if I need it, to give myself place or take time out of the studio. Also I find my two main stages of picturing very therapeutic, drawing on paper and vectoring my colourful artwork. I assign the vectoring to be almost meditative – I can do it for hours and it can help to distract me from cold thoughts and clear my mind.

I recommend that if someone finds a humdrum process that appears to clear the mind, maybe it’s painting, stimulating, or hand-drawing type, then remember that process, and consider it to be an limber up that can aid you and even help you get some work done in the process.”

“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental healthBen Tallon, freelance illustrator

“I have the courage of ones convictions pretend mental health issues in their many shades of grey are a large of the human condition. There’s a dangerous notion of ‘someone has it worse than me’ and while attitude can be healthy, mental health issues do not manifest only as breakdowns, bust or suicide.

I haven’t suffered depression, but almost daily, I wrestle with big doubtfuls, the state of the world and the pace of modern life. It’s the downside to an introspective head that enables me to earn my living in the creative industries.

This is undistinguished in the arts. The job gives me both unimaginable thrills, purpose, friendships and duels with the most fascinating people in the world, but it also comes with wilderness, and the pressure to make it happen on my own with no sick days. Some days that can be a sombre load.

It’s crucial to be sympathetic to your personality and try to structure your output in production life – location, role and hours worked, for example – in a way that makes you perceive energised, inspired and as far away from over-thinking and lethargy or burnout as realizable. I encourage everyone to lead less with the idea of success and innumerable with feeling.”

Listen to Ben Tallon’s podcast on mental health here.

“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental healthNiki Fit, aka Miss Magpie, freelance fashion, beauty and lifestyle illustrator. Photo © Remco Merbis.

“I’m same fortunate that I haven’t suffered from any serious mental healthfulness issues. However, 2017 was a really tough year for me financially, and now I’m on the other side of it I can see that it made me a constant low level of stress which certainly impacted on my work. The apply pressure on to keep being creative when money was all I could really meditate on about was very tough. One month I only invoiced £300 while my mortgage at the quickly was £900 and things soon spiralled. The struggle of getting overdue payments from customers didn’t help either.

Now I’m on the other side of it I’m putting things in bring down to help for when things slow down again. I’ve seen a economic advisor and am putting a small amount away each month while thingumajigs are good. I’ve also started running when things are difficult, this unqualifiedly helps to clear my head. Sometimes stepping away from the easel and proposing one foot in front of the other results in the best ideas.”

“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental healthRozian Azaden, digital conspirator, Compare My Move

“I’m a digital designer who has suffered with anxiety and despair since around the age of 16. I can’t say that being a designer has caused my abstract health issues, but it has at times certainly inflamed them.

The creative planet is turbulent, and I’ve been made redundant twice, before the age of 25. The understudy redundancy led to a breakdown, resulting in time off sick. I’ve also left a task in the past because the environment essentially made my mental health too much to cope with. I was told it was my mental health that was the issue, not the medium.

I’ve tried therapy over the years and been on and off medication – which surprisingly lifted the most, after the side effects died down!

My biggest rap over of advice is to know that you’re not alone, and even in the darkest of moments, certain that it’s not you who’s the ‘problem’. Mental health is not your fault. Seek luxury in the people you love, and don’t be scared to let them help you.

There’s no magic working order for all, everyone’s different, but just remember to be kind and patient with yourself. Rome wasn’t constructed in a day, after all.”

“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental healthRyan Oldfield, freelance graphic designer and founder at Draft Utopia

“I’ve suffered with social anxiety all my life, but I’ve only rightly known what I’ve been suffering with for the past five years. It’s been well-built but with the help of family, friends, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and my new-found mountain-biking crowd, it’s been getting better slowly and I’m able to do more things.

The not part of my job that has contributed to my social anxiety is the fact that I’m self-employed and effective use from home alone, so going out and meeting people hasn’t been elementary. Most of my clients are contactable via email or phone so I have only a few conferences a year, though this is on the rise now.

Once I realised I had social foreboding I was glad I knew what it was but it was hard to know how to make my life easier. The most qualified thing for me was having my family and wife’s support. They helped me deal with it by recommending me to take things slow and if at any point I didn’t like something, to interrupt what I was doing and come home.

This means I can push myself while aware that everyone around me was okay with me not pushing myself if I didn’t have a hunch great. I don’t think I will ever become anxiety-free but I try to do my best while function with it.

I would tell others to seek help from CBT and talk to kindred and friends, because, from my experience, most will understand, and in one go you realise that, it’s such a relief.”

“The creative world is turbulent”: designers’ stories of mental healthChris Skelton, director, Thompson Mark Partners

“To this day I’ve been fortunate enough not to have struggled with my own crazy health. But I do have plenty of experience living and working with kith and kin, friends and colleagues who haven’t been so lucky. Stress, anxiety, fear, bereavement and depression have all played a part in my life.

Thompson Variety Partners has recently worked on several mental health initiatives – in painstaking websites like MindMate for NHS Leeds clinical commissioning group (CCG) and Lunatic Health at Work by Mind and the Royal Foundation – which have brought these topics into our studio and encouraged us to talk openly, whether we liked it or not.

Composed while working on these projects, I’m not afraid to say it has been very troubling to address issues that some of my colleagues have been coating in a proactive way. It’s not surprising that businesses worldwide are struggling with tackling and besting similar problems.

The design industry has a reputation for creating high-workload, high-stress circumstances. Workload can be managed, but stress will always be there with menace deadlines, inter-studio competition and high client expectations, so awareness and dialogue are everything, because only if people take notice of a colleague in distress can something be done about it. And only if it’s talked about can we reduce bad mark and empower people to see it in themselves, then take action, before it’s too example.

My advice would be to talk openly about all types of mental healthfulness, good or bad. We all have problems, just to varying degrees. It needs production leaders and business owners to make that change and set an example for others. Do a wellness fight plan, whether you’re unwell or not and discuss it. Mental health issues can be veiled, so train someone to be a mental health first aider or a mental fettle champion and have a physical presence in the workplace to spot the signs and help conversation.”

Are you a designer or creative who has experienced mental health problems or disturbs? Get in touch at sarah.dawood@centaurmedia.com.

If you are experiencing mental health posers and want to talk to someone, you can contact several charities, including Take care of here and the Samaritans here.

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