As creatives, I think we have a unique gift as storytellers to elevate narratives to a greater experiential level, to make quieter stories louder, to speak for people who have difficulty speaking up.There are so many individual and collective narratives out there that are suppressed, silenced or just not talked about. And one of them I’ve encountered again and again in my surrounding life is the story of mental illness. But even though depression, anxiety, PTSD, and all these conditions seem pretty common, mental illness remains an obscure and misconstrued story. And I realized one reason was because it just isn't talked about enough.
So I started asking and opening up more conversations with different people - asking them what it actually felt like to have depression, what people said ignorantly that was hurtful, what people said that was helpful, ways they took steps towards recovery. The narratives that emerged were not as hopeless and depressing as I thought a story of mental illness would be because mixed in the stories of depression, panic attacks, self-harm and body-shaming were also stories of community, vulnerability, growth in self-confidence and healing.
As an artist, I wanted to help share these stories. Starting on the smaller scale, my goal with this project was to create something short - with easily digestible snippets of these larger stories.
The zine seemed to be a really good format for this project, since it’s short and usually a pretty casual and easy read. It wasn’t anything that felt too heavy or intimidating to flip through. And I wanted this project to be a low barrier way for people to begin to see into a bit of what it’s like to have mental illness.
But the main limitation I found with a zine was its shareability and accessibility. With print design, the limitation with shareability always comes with the number of copies printed but also nowadays just peoples’ lowering interest towards printed content because so much more content is constantly being supplied through the Internet through an infinitely scrolling screen.
I wanted to experiment and see if there was a way to create the zine experience on the web, but not like just slapping a pdf on the Internet but also adapting the zine to a digital experience that’s more immersive and interactive. At the same time I wanted to make sure to preserve the simplicity and more raw, cut-and-past and personal feel of the zine.
So this is what was produced after these past few months! I’m (not) OK is an interactive zine taking readers through 5 short snippets of 5 different individuals’ experiences with mental illness - mainly depression and anxiety.