Art can be a lifeline for people struggling with mental health issues. After being misdiagnosed for years, Kate Fenner was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 17. Now, at age 18, she has a path to move forward, which includes learning to cope with the disorder's symptoms.”I have always been an ‘artist’, I just didn’t realize what that meant until my mental illness appeared,” she writes. “I draw a lot of my hallucinations, as drawing helps me deal with it.”
The hallucinations that Fenner experiences vary. She hears voices and random noises, for instance, and she often sees bugs and faces. This becomes the inspiration for, and the subject of, her schizophrenia drawings. The powerful art has a raw emotion that depicts a side of the disorder we don’t usually see. It's honest and eye-opening for those who don’t have schizophrenia, and it also allows them to better understand what someone might be going through.
Flies are a regular fixture in Fenner’s work. The creatures, coupled with text, illustrate the serious effects that depression has her on self esteem; they are a symbol for how she feels “worthless like a fly.” Other drawings and paintings are direct representations of what she’s seeing at the time of her hallucinations, or what she’s hearing inside of her head.
It’s not easy to so publicly tell the world about her problems. But in doing so, Fenner hopes that it will help to lift the stigma around mental illness and the negative way in which the media portrays it. “I personally feel like the media portrays any kind of mental illness in a way that makes people afflicted look incompetent, violent and lazy,” she told The Huffington Post UK. “While that may be the case for some, most people I know that suffer from some type of mental illness are normal people. The media lacks a portrayal of real people who have to live with it.” As a result, people suffering from these afflictions are afraid to open up about their experiences.
Fenner wants to break this cycle, “I understand the risks of being public about hallucinating bugs and voices, but I’m willing to take those risks in an attempt to normalize mental illness (by making it acceptable to talk about and inspiring people to seek help if they need it) and to educate people.”
Kate Fenner was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17. To cope with it, she creates artwork about her hallucinations.
Her schizophrenia drawings provide a look into the disorder we don't often see—including her hallucination.
Flies are a common motif in Fenner's work. They represent the effect that depression takes on her self esteem.
Kate Fenner: Instagram