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Visualizing Mental Illness

January 24, 2022

Angela Johnson
Harrison, Nebraska
Honors Capstone Project  |  Winter 2021 Graduate
psychology major, creative writing and honors minors 

“Mental illness is largely stigmatized in modern society. My first piece is titled Faceless—a woman, head into her arm, shielding herself partially from the world, while baring her naked body to the world, in a completely vulnerable state. Much like the vulnerability of mental illness, admitting that you are facing struggles within your own mind can be the most vulnerable state. Additionally, she is faceless. Mental illness presents itself uniquely in each person. This is an important concept for society to accept.

“My next piece is titled, Can You See It? The background is disorganized and chaotic, representing many mental illnesses—a representation of what the eye cannot see. I chose to paint the picture this way because the focus needs to be on mental illness, rather than vilifying the person with the disorder. The disorder is not who the person is. A mental illness does not define us, no matter how big or how uncontrollable it may feel.

“My final piece, Does It Show?, depicts a woman looking up to the sky with her eyes closed. Bright white veins seep through the normal-looking face. Mental illness is in many people, but it does not have a visual sign. The veins represent the mental illness coursing through each individual existence. It can be embraced and handled properly, leading to a fulfilling existence.”

three drawings
L-R: "Faceless"; "Can You See It?"; "Does It Show?"

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