Written by: Ameera Khurram
All my life, I have been denied.
Disowned, disgraced, and deprived.
My skin color has stripped me of opportunities and chances.
Standing out among the masses.
And while you stand safely on the ground,
We are tossed into the hungry waves of the sea until we drown.
And while you bask in the glow of the world’s spotlight,
We are shunned away to wither in pure darkness.
But somewhere inside this inky pool of misery, there is a spark.
Adding to the kindling, ablaze in my heart.
Those hurtful words they spat at me feeding the flame.
Growing wilder, raging harder, until they are no longer tame.
Shifting, shrouding, snaking.
What emerges is fierce and bold.
This time, the fire isn’t red or gold.
This time, the fire is a seething shadow.
The Charcoal Flame, no doubt.
You want me silenced, left unspoken.
And though you will try, I won’t be broken.
We all walk on the same ground.
We share the same planet, wrapped in clouds.
Yet, we have let our pride build walls of division.
Walls so tall and thick that they have obscured our vision.
So all people of colors and characters shall come together, the only solution.
To watch these walls burn and build a substitution.
A New Revolution
Sometimes, we must let things burn to let something better rise from the ashes.
Together, we will heal, sealing our wounds, cuts, and gashes.
While tongues of white-hot flames flicker, black ones will dance with them, too.
And our beliefs will stand solid and true.
Let us forget about our past prejudices, judgements and greed.
For all that matters is the way we lead.
We have been blinded for far too long.
But each of us matter, we all belong.
This blog post is the fourth of a four-part series collaboration between Inspiration Fine Arts & Magnify Wellness.
Written by: Mikaela Brewer & Sandhya Maddali
Over the past few weeks, we’ve explored the intricate connections between mental health, mental illness, creative expression, psychology, and art therapy. Notably, the use of artistic, emotional, and spiritual expression in healing enhances biomedical views rather than contradicting them. In many medical settings, patients focus on their illness, symptoms, and identity with illness. Creative work enables them to broaden their relationship with the entirety of the experience and healing process through imagination and sense-making.
The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as (2013),
“an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”
Art has the power to heal — it can be used to improve self-esteem, promote insight, reduce conflict, improve sensory-motor function, enhance social skills, improve cognition, cultivate emotional resilience, and foster self-awareness.
Importantly, art practice isn’t considered art therapy unless it is designed by an art therapist, who is uniquely licensed to craft therapy pathways alongside complementary therapy, psychology, psychiatry, and other clinical methods. With that said, building a mindful art practice can be immensely beneficial because it can encompass any form of creativity — you can shape it to map your needs.
In our final piece of this series, we hope to outline a few ways that you can incorporate creative practices into your mental wellness routines. Visual arts, music, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing have been clinically and researched-backed, and we will explore each in more detail below.
Visual arts can be beneficial toward mental health in a wide variety of ways. They promote increased creativity and provide a cathartic outlet for strong emotions. By providing a way to express these feelings, visual arts can help understand and deal with the feelings more effectively. Visual arts can also help improve brain function and have been linked to a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We’ve listed some forms of visual art below:
Music is also an effective outlet. It can function as a general mood-booster because listening to happy, upbeat songs can improve one’s mood. Similarly, making music can provide a cathartic release for any negative emotions. Music has also been found to significantly reduce anxiety and stress. Playing an instrument can also improve focus, memory, and general cognitive function. Check out some examples of musical activities below:
Similar to the previous forms of art mentioned, movement-based creative expression like dance and drama provide a cathartic release for negative emotions and a general output for strong emotions. Arts that are more physical like these can also generate endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the brain and relieve stress. We’ve listed two prominent forms of movement-based creative expression below:
Expressive writing has many similar benefits to other forms of art because it also promotes creativity and emotional expression. Writing forms like journaling can help release negative emotions and reinforce positive ones. It can also help with reflection and understanding oneself better. Creative writing and poetry are wonderful ways to work through feelings or channel certain emotions into something more productive. Below are some examples of expressive writing:
Of course, although this is a plentiful list of viable artistic expressions to implement, we know it is challenging to find time to do so. If any of these forms of expression speak to you, your healing, or your mental health journey, we encourage you to prioritize them — though it might be stressful to set aside some extra time away from tasks, these practices have the potential to not only relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, but boost your productivity and performance in work, school, and life. Please do not hesitate to explore the sources below for more information, specific practices, and research.
Thank you for reading and learning with us!
You may have heard of the Tramp Stamps, the most hated new TikTok band. They emerged in TikTok around November 2020, posting covers of songs from bands like blink-182. Well, this year, they released original music and were instantly met with hatred. The immense backlash that the Tramp Stamps received is a great example of the nuance that having a positive Internet presence takes.
The main reason that the band received hate was the accusation that they were industry plants. They put on a persona of a band that started authentically out of a genuine love for music, but later it was found out that they were actually connected to a label owned by Dr. Luke. This felt like a trick, and the people did not like being tricked. Especially because of the general disdain for industry plants, which are public figures that sign with a label that helps publicize them and put them in a position of success. There's nothing inherently wrong with being an industry plant, but when public figures pretend to be "homegrown" while their success has actually been dependent on a label makes fans feel betrayed. However, even with this betrayal, the Tramp Stamps would have probably received much less hate if not for one thing: their message.
The band's image was supposed to be relatable: they claimed to be feminist, punk, and a riot grrrl band among other things. After they released their first song, "I'd Rather Die," this was all quickly disproved. Their lyrics seemed to encourage sexually assaulting men, and their "punk" aesthetic was too polished for people to truly believe that they were actually an organically formed band. It was quickly uncovered that they had connections to Prescription Songs. The messages in their songs about hating "straight white men" was criticized as hypocritical and overly pandering, as all three members of the band are white and one is married to a man. Overall, their entire identity was crafted to appeal to the young, progressive audience on TikTok and failed to live up to the facade.
I agree with the people who dislike the Tramp Stamps: their image is falsified to pander to a certain audience, and they have some genuinely harmful messages in their music. Taking on a stance of progressiveness as an aesthetic or to appeal to an audience is wrong. The Tramp Stamps use a thin veil of authenticity and revolution to write mediocre songs that glorify sexual assault. Their image is based on a false pretense, and represents a need for money or fame rather than an actual passion for activism or music. There's nothing wrong with playing music for money, but doing genuine harm through it is different. Public figures cause harm or exploit causes for their own benefit relatively frequently, but not many get held so accountable as the Tramp Stamps have been.
This blog post is the third of a four-part series collaboration between Inspiration Fine Arts & Magnify Wellness.
Written by: Anabella Garcia
Celebrities aren’t exempt from suffering with their mental health — they are human like the rest of us and have their own experiences with mental wellness. Past experiences combined with heightened societal pressures may begin to pile up, catalyzing depression or anxiety. Many celebrities have advocated for ending the stigma surrounding mental illness, including Demi Lovato, Chris Evans, and Ryan Reynolds. However, it is just as important to be advocating for mental wellness.
Mental Wellness is when your mind is in order and functioning in your best interest — you are able to behave and feel in ways that are positive for both your physical and social well-being. One of the best examples of a celebrity who is outspoken about Mental Wellness is Jim Carrey. You may be wondering how someone who starred in Dumb and Dumber and How the Grinch Stole Christmas would have such a firm stance on this topic. Despite these silly, lighthearted acting roles, Jim Carrey has struggled with depression from an early age. In a 2004 interview, Carrey said, “There are peaks, there are valleys, but they’re all kind of carved and smoothed out, and it feels like a low level of despair you live in. Where you’re not getting any answers, but you’re living okay. And you can smile at the office. You know? But it’s a low level of despair?”
Carrey has taken a long hiatus from acting after filming Dumb and Dumber Too, but he has been working on his mental wellness in that time. Carrey has turned to painting and sculpting to express his emotions and find peace in the storm. Carrey has dabbled in art before, but he fully committed himself to it when he needed to “heal a broken heart.” He has found help and hope in his paintings and wishes for others to find the same. Carrey says that his art frees him from regret and worry. Semir Zeki, a professor at University College London, “connects the mere viewing of beautiful paintings with an increase of dopamine and activity in the pleasure center of the brain, resulting in feelings similar to the throes of romantic love.” Carrey is a strong supporter of finding what would improve your personal mental wellness, stating that “we want to show ourselves and have that be accepted. I love being alive and the art is the evidence of that.”
Another celebrity who has spoken about mental wellness is pop singer, Kesha. Kesha has dealt with anxiety and depression throughout her life and has been very open about how she processes her emotions. Kesha has released several chart-climbing songs, such as Tik Tok and Cannibal, and has reached ultra-pop stardom. Still, she is human and has her own tactics for grounding herself. In a personal essay that she wrote about mental health, Kesha says, “Trying to spend all of your time pleasing everyone else is not only exhausting — it’s impossible. And you know what? If you take a little time for yourself, you will actually be much better company for those around you.” Kesha has noted how trying to make the whole world happy has taken away her own happiness. She vouches for spending time with yourself and finding inner peace so that you don’t drown in what the world wants from you. Finding your own personal haven to ground yourself and find peace and hope is an important step in gaining mental wellness.
Fame and stardom in creative fields don’t save you from mental health struggles. In fact, scientists believe that there is a direct correlation between creativity and poor mental health. Many other celebrities have their own bouts with mental wellness and their own methods to find peace and stability. There is a lot to learn from these explorations into what activities ground us and show us the brighter side of life. Whether it’s painting, meditating, journaling, or going for a walk, there are many avenues for us to gain and build mental wellness. Let the paths that these artists have taken serve as a map for our own mental health journeys.
This blog post is the second of a four-part series collaboration between Inspiration Fine Arts & Magnify Wellness.
Written by: Sandhya Maddali and Evelyn Fung
Contributing author/editor: Mikaela Brewer
For as long as art has existed, artists have been using it as a method of self-expression and an outlet for mental health. Research has found a higher prevalence of mental illness among individuals who have pursued a creative career, such as writers, artists, musicians, composers, and those involved with theater, suggesting that people with mental illness may gravitate toward art to express their inner turmoil. Household names in the art world such as Judy Garland, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, and Robert Schumann have suffered from Bipolar Disorder. A study conducted by the Karolinska Institute found that writers have a higher risk of suffering from anxiety, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. They concluded that writers were 121% more likely to be bipolar, as well as 50% more likely to commit suicide. Mental illness also affects creativity and heavily impacts artistic expression, which is often visible in an artist’s work.
A very clear example of this relationship can be seen in the work of Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt, who collaboratively create pastel paintings. A common theme in their work is serious mental illness — themes like hallucinations and delusions, obsession with death, mania, and hopelessness. Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which is one of the world’s most recognizable art pieces, was apparently inspired by an evening walk where the sky began to turn blood red. Munch was trembling with anxiety as he felt an "infinite scream" through nature. Munch also exhibited vulnerability in his self-portraits, wearing little clothes while staring at the audience, revealing himself to viewers of his art with no outer layers. Each of these artists utilized dark colors like black, white, and red, alongside ghastly, dead, or serious expressions in their art. Impressionists like Van Gogh and Munch used several types of swirls as well as the stretching of the body and surroundings.
Many other artists have created art that reflects their struggles with mental illness. Louis Wain was an English illustrator well known for his illustrations of anthropomorphic cats. However, after being diagnosed with Schizophrenia, a disorder that affects not only a person’s way of thinking, but also their behavior, Wain began acting aggressively, and his work reflected a style less and less similar to his initial artworks. His cats, previously smiling and cuddly, became more geometric and colorful. Francisco de Goya, a famous Spanish painter, is speculated to have suffered from Susac Syndrome, a disease that in addition to causing hearing loss and vision, also causes brain and balance difficulty. Attacks of hallucination and delirium were also frequent during the most critical period of the painter’s illness. In his works, de Goya portrayed the gravity of human melancholy through paintings, increasingly depicting human suffering. Finally, we come to Yannoulis Chalepas, a modern Greek sculptor who spent several decades without producing anything, or else destroying his works as soon as he created them. Though his art didn’t necessarily seem influenced by his mental illness, Chalepas’ mother believed that art was responsible for her son’s mental state, so she tried to keep him away from sculpting. Only after her death in 1916 did Chalepas actually return to work. Researchers agree that in this period he began to create sculptures with more freedom and was not as attached to neoclassical ideals.
Art has always been a form of expression — a way of putting one's feelings into a more tangible form. Due to the difficulty in coping with or describing their mental disorders verbally, many find it easier to use art, because art is a freedom, with no logic or bounds. Apart from the more gruesome scenes being depicted, mental illness can also change one’s art style over time into something more abstract and attracts viewers from all backgrounds. Now that we have learned about the breeding grounds of many of these famous artworks, we have hopefully gained more insight into the struggles of the artists themselves and bring those understandings into our daily lives today.
On September 1st 2011, fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson published the first three articles for Rookie Mag, a free online magazine specifically for young girls. The magazine would continue posting articles in this many, three a day by different authors once a day. The articles would vary in nature, some would be playlists, some would be thinkpieces, some would be photo diaries, etcetera. Something they did have in common, however, is they always had the well being of their readers at heart. Whether they were encouraging creativity, giving thoughtful advice, or championing strong women, it was clear that they not only took their audience seriously but respected their intelligence.
One of the things that made Rookie so popular is how they encouraged teen contribution. Not only did they have various places for advice (Ask a Grown, Just Asking, Damn Girl Ya Look Good), but they would publish what readers sent in, whether it be short fiction, essays, comics, or poetry. Other than the readers, though, the writers at Rookie also mostly consisted of teenagers. Tavi herself, after all, was only 15 when she started it. This created an authentic environment that felt as if it was specifically for young people, instead of just some corporate take on youth culture. The age of the columnists, however, did not negatively affect the professionalism of the magazine. A majority of the pieces were well worded, thorough, and always, unfailingly honest. Sometimes the pieces would be brutally so, detailing painful stories and experiences. The unyielding nature of these was never excessive, though, rather making sure they told how they lived through it. After all, the goal is not to shock but empowering kids who may have gone through similar situations.
Because Rookie cared about their readers, they were sure to represent all different cultures and backgrounds. When recommending books, movies, or music, they did not shy away from being inclusive. Likewise, when interviewing specific artists they would always be sure to include people of color, queer folk and people with disabilties. This being said, Rookie’s efforts always paid off. Some of the celebrities they featured included Michelle Zaunher from Japanese Breakfast, Amandla Stenberg, Teagan and Sara, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kumail Nanjiani; who all gave excellent advice and insight. Meanwhile, writers like Hunter Schafer, Jamia Wilson, Jenny Zhang, Marie Lodi, Tyler Ford provided a variety of different perspectives . If Tavi Gevison had not made an extra effort to seek out a diverse staff and featured guests, the magazine would have still been good, but would have been far too one sided. Instead, she strove for excellence and it more than paid off.
By respecting different demographics of people and maintaining an accepting atmosphere, they promoted unity and camaraderie. One of the ways that they managed this was their segment “Friend Crush”, where they gave girls the opportunity to talk about how amazing their friends are. They then contact the friends and ask them questions about their friendship with the girl and what it means to them. This segment attracted all manner of friendships, whether it be between sisters, childhood friends, new friends, or even online friends. It was a wholesome way of celebrating different types of bonds and what makes them unique. Though it was just for fun, their small act in celebrating the friendships of women came a long way. By depicting relationships between women as positively rather than negatively, they chose to focus on viewing fellow women as allies rather than competition. Considering the fact that their audience was mostly girls, and society often tries to pit girls against each other, this was and is a refreshing stance for them to take.
Rookie Mag officially shut down in 2017, but it left quite a legacy. It promoted teen power, diversity, and solidarity between women rather than resentment. With the helpful advice, educational articles, fun crafts, vulnerable stories, and fun environment, it was a source of life and light. Best of all, it was absolutely free, making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Fortunately, though they are no longer updating it, the site has been archived making the articles still available for viewing. Needless to say, Rookie Mag will continue to be a beacon of hope for teens for years to come.
This blog post is the first of a 4 part series collaboration between Inspiration Fine Arts & Magnify Wellness.
Written by: Melissa Liu, Sandhya Maddali & Mikaela Brewer
Contributing research author: Mahathi Vinapamula
The link between art and mental health has existed for as long as the first creation of art. Though it may not have occurred in controlled settings like the art therapy of today, artistic expression has been an emotional outlet in some capacity for a long time. Some of the most famous art pieces in the world were created as a method of self-directed therapy. For example, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night is part of a larger collection that was painted when Van Gogh was a patient in the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in 1889. The dark colors and forceful, swirling brush strokes in the painting are thought to indicate his inner turmoil. Countless other artists have similarly used art to reckon with difficulties in their lives, and among the most famous are Jean-Michel Basquiat, Edvard Munch, and Louise Bourgeois.
Though art therapy was certainly present before the 1940s, people weren’t necessarily aware of it then. Doctors in the 1940s noticed that patients who suffered from mental illness turned towards drawing and painting to express themselves through long, empty hours in psychiatric wards. These trends led to the development of art therapy as a formal practice. The goal of this practice is to combine art (in any medium) and psychotherapy methods to improve mental well-being. Following the creation of a piece of art, the artist is asked to analyze what they’ve crafted and how it makes them feel. This is a puzzle piece of art therapy called projection, which aims to demystify feelings when they can’t be put into words. Additionally, art is widely used by therapists as a component of psychological exams. Tests like the inkblot or Rorschach test show subjects an abstract blot, and based on their interpretation, the test is thought to be able to identify whether the subject is exhibiting mental illness. The Rorschach test has nearly become obsolete nowadays because tests have shown that it has little to no value in predicting what it aims to. Art therapy does have upside, but it has been researched very little, and therefore its effectiveness is often debated.
Though the literature on art therapy is not abundant, there is ample evidence that drawing is beneficial for mental health. Drawing is thought to help manage stress and emotional expression. Drawing can be an outlet to release negative emotions. It can also guide an understanding of negative emotions, associated with anxiety, depression, and mental pain. Drawing can also induce what’s described as a meditative or flow state, which increases serotonin levels in the brain. Artists are known to have increased levels of grey matter due to drawing. In the brain, grey matter, compared to white matter, contains a higher concentration of neuron cell bodies, which produces the grey color (white matter is less dense). The higher this concentration, the higher the density and strength of connections and signals between neurons. This trend suggests a potential link between drawing and healthy, refined cognitive function. Drawing is an activity that has strong evidence to support its benefit to one’s mental health.
Aside from drawing and painting, other forms of creative expression include coloring, collage work and sculpting, among many others. In various forms, art therapy has been used to treat several instances of severe adulthood stress, trauma, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, childhood behavioral complications, learning disabilities, PTSD and relationship tensions. It is important to note that artwork isn’t a replacement for mental healthcare, although there are likely benefits in building a personalized, safe space of creative fluidity.