The Perspective Project is a website that hosts art, poetry, and writing to provide a creative outlet for those experiencing mental health problems.
The project encourages those affected by mental health problems, whether directly or indirectly, to share their perspective on their struggle, through whatever medium best suits them. The project, founded in September 2017, has hosted nearly 80 different artists from around the world.
We spoke to the 24-year-old founder, Mark Anscombe.
‘When I turned 17 I had quite a few interactions with people with poor mental health.
‘Going from a relatively sheltered child, and then seeing mental illness explode onto the scene, made realise what a traumatic issue it can be.’
He says these few formative experiences, along with his volunteer work for Nightline (a mental health helpline) gave him the motivation to start The Perspective Project.
He says the value in using different artistic mediums to tell stories about mental health is ‘about understanding that not everyone connects with the same things and not everyone expresses themselves in the same way.’
He adds that even if someone does not experience mental illness, art still has the power to generate empathy for everyone.
‘As humans, we are imaginative and creative enough to be able to see a piece of art or a piece of writing and hear someone telling a story of how their mind works… and we are able at least to sympathise.
‘And there are elements of universality around mental health experiences.’
He believes in the power of giving people a platform to express themselves where words don’t suffice.
‘It’s a very hard thing to talk about. As a culture, we are very uptight about displaying negative emotions and talking about negative emotions so we often talk in euphemisms when we talk about mental health.
‘I think art is a way of expressing your feelings without having to be explicit.’
He acknowledges the limitations of his project: art isn’t the answer to ending stigma on mental health. His policy priorities would lie in education.
art and creativity is a really powerful and valuable thing, but mental health needs more than just being written about or painted about
‘I didn’t learn anything about mental health at school, I could say with confidence that I don’t think the word depression or anxiety ever came up.’
He believes educating the next working generation or generation of policy makers about mental health will breed empathy, resulting in ‘a future of realistic policy.’
‘A lot of your worldview is informed by your education, and I think mental health needs to be part of that.
‘So art and creativity is a really powerful and valuable thing, but mental health needs more than just being written about or painted about.’
Talking about the value of education in de-stigmatising mental illness, and providing better care for the mentally ill, we began discussing the problems of mental health and minority representation.
Generally speaking, people from black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems and more likely to ‘experience a poor outcome from treatment’ according to mentalhealth.org.uk.
Black adults are found to have the lowest treatment rate for mental illness out of any group, with only 6.2% of those suffering receiving help.
Art, sometimes seen as a very middle-class pursuit, may not ever present itself as an option to disadvantaged communities as a method for expressing their experiences of mental illness
Accessing hard to reach communities should be a massive priority, Mark says, for both government, big charities, and projects like his.
‘My project is perhaps not the best example of being accessible,’ commenting on the specific demographic that engage with the project, mostly middle-aged women.
The confluence of access for minorities to mental health discourse and art can be a tricky terrain to navigate. Art, sometimes seen as a very middle-class pursuit, may not ever present itself as an option to disadvantaged communities as a method for expressing their experiences of mental illness.
‘But,’ he adds ‘part of the value of art is not just in the creation but in the reception.
‘I do believe that anyone can see a piece of art and see the story behind it, and derive value from it, regardless of your background, images and artwork can transcend these experiences.’
The importance of education comes back to this. Some people who don’t have access to platforms like The Perspective Project, or even know that there is content about mental illness out there to engage with, can end up not knowing anything is wrong.
‘Some people are not able to connect how they are feeling to mental illness.
‘I think if in school we were taught about depression and anxiety, or what a panic attack feels like, that would be a really simple way to help.’
As for the future of The Perspective Project, Mark is keen to see it expand further globally. A branch has been set up in Córdoba, Argentina, which has taken off and is soaring in popularity.
The Perspective Project intends to hold exhibitions, and reach out to community groups, hopefully to play an educational role in using different methods to express experiences of mental illness.
Lastly, Mark adds, ‘if the story behind a piece is authentic, and the people are authentic, I will host it and let them tell their story.’
If you want to submit any form of art, poetry or writing then email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org and check out their website