When it comes to mental health, the subject is still fairly taboo in today's society. While millions of people suffer from conditions like anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder, you’d never realize it because of the stigmatization that surrounds them. In an effort to show support and educate others on these invisible afflictions, India-based illustrator and graphic designer Sonaksha Iyengar has come up with the ABCs of mental health. She pairs illustrative letters with short explanations of the condition that she’s depicted. Each piece is then posted on her Instagram using the hashtag #atozofmentalhealth.
“A is for anxiety, which itself comes in many shapes and colors,” reads one of her posts. Another says, “B is for bipolar disorder, a term still ignorantly used to describe mood swings or temper tantrums.” From these descriptions, Iyengar offers her own abstract interpretation of the letter, showcasing the toll that these illnesses can take on an individual’s life as well as those around them.
In her mental health alphabet, Iyengar does take some liberties when choosing conditions to highlight. Some, like Cotard’s syndrome, is not actually recognized in the American Psychiatric Association DSM-V—the classification of disorders used by mental health professionals. But, that fact doesn’t diminish Iyengar’s work. By simply sharing these illnesses in a compassionate way, she’s starting an honest conversation on the subject and lifting the veil that shrouds it.
Iyengar's inspiration for the series came from her own struggles with mental illness. “‘Get over it’ is not how it works,” she told BuzzFeed, “and I think being more aware and acknowledging mental health will help us make a start in the direction towards kindness and empathy.”