I want to spend some time showcasing several comics that I’ve found to be both cute, meaningful, and accurate in their presentation of mental illness. The artists I’ve chosen, just a few out of so many more, are showcasing their experiences with their art. Art can be a way to explain to your loved ones what you are feeling, and if you do not have the emotional energy needed to enter a big conversation, maybe directing them to some comics could help! Not only can art help to destigmatize mental illnesses, but it can also lend a hand to those who may be struggling.
(Parental advisory: some of these comics include several swear words, feature references to death, delusions, and severe struggling. They may not be appropriate for young children).
Hyperbole and a Half is a comic series by Allie Brosh. Her segments “Adventures in Depression” and “Adventures in Depression Part Two” feature a cute blob-like child protagonist who is depressed and struggling to accomplish necessary tasks, hindered by the weight of her anxiety and depression. Brosh depicts a colorful and realistic view of mental illness, and the text separated by comic panels make it easy to read.
Allie Brosh’s protagonist tumbles and slides around the comic panels,trying to find purpose and something to stimulate her depressed brain. The blob-like child with tiny stick legs is incredibly cute as well as relatable. While not all of Brosh’s comics deal with mental health explicitly, I would highly recommend reading all of Hyperbole and a Half.
Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will is a comic about protagonist Jeremy Knowles, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and is navigating high school and being bullied while struggling to find support.
Elaine M. Will captures the experience of a mood disorder with black-and-white illustration, though I’m sure to many, their experiences with bipolar can feel vividly colorful as well as monochromatic. Nevertheless, she illustrates the struggle of a young student who feels alienated and alone in his experience, standoffish from his family, and unhappy at school. GoComics.com has compiled an amazing list of twenty comics about mental illness that are funny, charming, colorful, and unique.
This comic by Steve Ogden illustrates the need for support when you are feeling depressed or otherwise run-down by your mental health. It’s important for your friends and loved ones to understand that you cannot just “cheer up” or ignore your emotional landscape, and that it is not something that will just go away. The comic emphasizes the importance of just having someone there to keep you company, remind you that you are cared for, and that you are not a burden.
This classic Charles Schultz comic illustrates our favorite Charlie Brown experiencing the cyclical night-time anxiety some of us know too well. Snoopy tells him to just go to sleep, but those of us who know this night-time anxiety know how hard it can be to sleep when we’re lying awake worrying about the past or future. When I’m experiencing night-time anxiety, I like to reach out to a friend, journal about my feelings, listen to sounds of rain, or do some stretching to relax my body.
This comic by from dorrismccomics.com is another great illustration of the sensation of being overwhelmed and overcome by anxiety, to the point where you feel unable to function and do anything but give in to the anxiety. I’ve definitely had hundreds of moments even in the past few weeks where I’ve felt this way, like every component of my anxiety is circling around me and all I can do is wrap myself in a blanket. I like to make my bed a comfortable space for me to be in at all times, but especially because it’s a popular place to fall apart in. If there is a water bottle next to my bed, a book, headphones, music, and some cute stuffed animals, it makes it a lot easier for me to feel sad and self-supported there.
Gemma Correll is a British artist whose illustration series on mental health combines humor and anxiety’s internal narratives. She discusses cyclical thinking, self-consciousness, inferiority, overthinking, and more.
I love these two comics by Gemma Correll! They’re cute and quirky and appealing to us who have anxiety and eat pasta. I love Gemma’s inclusion of seemingly random thoughts, like “Should I get chips for dinner?” because I can definitely relate to those very typical day-to-day- questions becoming a deep part of my anxiety.
Knowing that artists we like and admire are also navigating their mental health and struggling can help us feel less alone, and more understood. It can also encourage us to look towards new ways of articulating our experiences and maybe even reaching towards art to help us process and heal. I hope you enjoy the comics I’ve shared and feel free to share your favorites in a comment!
Written by: Clara Zornado