As part of our in-depth look at the effects of mental illness on illustrators, Bristol-based illustrator Elle Jackson opens up about her experiences.
Tell us a bit about your experience with mental health and/or addiction as student.
"Mental health has always been somewhat of an issue for me since as long as I can remember. It was only when I got into higher education that I realised just how badly it was affecting my day-to-day life. In terms of my perspective as an art student, a mixture of anxiety and high functioning depression means that I make enormous tasks for myself and endless lists that I am more often too drained to complete.
"It has taken some time for me to realise that this is okay, and I am allowed to rest. You do not have to be creating all the time, and this notion that young artists must be sleep deprived and troubled to be a 'true artist' is nonsense."
How have these experiences stemmed from, or been tied to, the life of being a freelance illustrator?
"Orchestrating and fulfilling your own deadlines, workload and production line, is somewhat harder when you are struggling with mental health. It's important to keep it as well balanced as possible, and only take on as much as you can manage. I have had terrible experiences with trying to meet deadlines when you're going through a particularly bad spell - and you must remember that you are human. Leaving it to the last minute is dangerous if your productivity is mood dependant."
Where, who, or what organisation did you go to for support?
"I'm still learning to ask for help. I understand that you could and you should but acting on this is harder yet again. I find great support in my friends. Let your friends know! They will understand more often than not. Communicating your feelings is a very useful first step."
What advice would you have for a fellow creative who may be experiencing mental health issues?
"Seeking help, talking to people, understanding and accepting your situation and your soul, doing the little things every day that help you – and eventually amount to big positive leaps in your lifestyle.
"Your work does not define you! You are so much more than that. You are growing and learning and your creative outlets can aid this as an expression.
"Sleep is so important. You do not have to work through the night to the point of exhaustion because that's what you think you should do. Like any other field of work, you need to clock out and get some rest.
"People are welcome to get in touch with me via Instagram if they relate to anything I said."
Elle is part of a group of illustrators – Ben O’Brien (aka Ben the Illustrator), Tobias Hall, Jamie Lawson, Sydney Lovell, Jimi Mackay, Sharmelan Murugiah, Franklin O'Toole and Charlene Chua – who’ve shared their stories during Mental Health Awareness Week, with the purpose of providing insight and encouragement to someone who may be unsure on how to deal with their own mental health issues.
If you're experiencing feelings of mental illness, here are a few links to helplines and charities:
Mind – UK mental health charity that provides urgent help, advice on treatment, and sources of support
Mental health helplines suggested by the NHS – including Depression alliance, Men’s Health charity and OCD UK
Samaritans – A 24/7 helpline and charity providing emotional support for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, struggling to cope or in distress
Rethink – UK mental health charity providing information and services for anyone affected by mental illness
Anxiety UK – charity for people with anxiety. Many on our staff and volunteer team have personal experiences of anxiety
Bipolar UK – charity for people bipolar, their families and their carers