On 10th October, people across the world celebrated World Mental Health day by sharing their stories and shedding light on an often obscured topic of conversation. In Kuwait, over 200,000 people were diagnosed with depression in 2014 and this figure is steadily rising. Nevertheless, there are a number of options available, from counseling sessions with a psychiatrist to more practical activities like the recent adult coloring trend.
Children’s creativity and imagination are awoken through tasks such as coloring-in, drawing and painting. However, these activities are also encouraged in children who struggle to focus or communicate with others because they are provided with a creative outlet. It also helps them learn patience and grow in confidence through pride in their work and recognition by others.
Therapists often assess a child client through allowing them to draw or color in. The colors they choose, as well as the way they fill in the spaces is simply one method through which their emotions and state of mind can be examined. A specific color pattern may suggest an advanced understanding of different hues whereas an erratic scribble could indicate stress or frustration.
In the past five years, coloring books have been rebranded, leaving behind their childhood origins and entering the adult sphere. While there are free, printable pages available online, adult coloring books are flying off the shelves in leading book retailers. On Amazon Books, Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns features as number ten on the Top 100 Books list and number one on the Crafts & Hobbies Book list.
Often, adults suffering from mental illness feel isolated from other people and struggle to convey their thoughts to those around them. Although there may not be time for them to engage in a creative activity such as painting or sculpture, the foundations of this form of art have already been established and simply need to be filled in. As well as helping people unwind, the same mental and physical benefits of childhood coloring apply to adults. Although we are developed individuals with refined motor skills and hand-eye coordination, these can be improved throughout our lives and there are countless mental benefits. Another popular option involves coloring-in clubs, which provide people with an unintimidating way of connecting with other people in a similar situation.
In a world where mental illness has been labeled as something to be ashamed of, initiating a conversation about it can be incredibly difficult. By placing the focus on the act of coloring in, the daunting conversation becomes secondary to a practical activity. This has proven particularly successful in the treatment of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, who often struggle to maintain eye-contact or focus on a direct conversation over a prolonged period.
In a world of traffic, deadlines and social media, it is immensely beneficial to take a moment away from the constant speed of things, as well as the addictive screens that crowd our lives. A detailed page can take up to an hour to neatly color in, in which time your respiration and heartbeat slow down, reducing anxiety and stress. A similar process is involved in the act of meditation or yoga, which has become another popular option for those living with a mental illness.
One of the most detrimental aspects of having a mental illness in our day and age is the response those affected are met with. There is a warped view of mental illness in our day and age and although not as prevalent now, it has been considered a taboo topic of conversation throughout history. As a consequence, people are silenced and their conditions physically hidden or – more recently – trivialized. One feasible reason for this lack of empathy or compassion is the damaging social stigma attached to mental illness as a whole.
Due to harmful messages perpetuated through the media, those that identify as something other than neurotic stereotype are ill-represented. Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often dismissed, simply because they are intangible. The fact remains that those with the flu or a broken bone need not convince those around them of the severity of their condition.
As much as it may not seem the case, massive progress is being made in the shattering of social stigma attached to mental illness. People are sharing their experiences and – as a consequence – are not only shedding light on mental illness but destroying the social stigma attached to it.
The best way to bring mental illness into society’s line of vision is by opening up a safe space for its discussion. If more visibility is given to those with mental illnesses, the misconstrued stereotype will eventually be shattered. However, until this is achieved, mitigating solutions are the next best step.