The comic #TheMonsterAndMe was created by former Warwick student Hattie as part of her Student Devised Assessment for the IATL Module ‘Understanding Wellbeing Theory and Practice’.
The aim of her assessment piece was to create a means for raising awareness of wellbeing and mental health issues among higher education students and, at the same time, to suggest a way forward.
Hattie reflects on her art piece:
“At university, I experienced and watched people experience mental health problems. Some were diagnosed, some were not. Nevertheless, people were in pain. And yet, somehow, it wasn’t – and still isn’t – an easy thing to talk about.
My monster came in the form of all-consuming terrible thoughts that refused to leave me alone so that I chewed and chewed away at them, convincing myself of realities that didn’t exist. Often the advice for those so anxious or worried is to ‘just stop worrying’ which, at the time, seems impossible.
At the end of my year abroad (which, despite what my colourful Instagram page claimed, was a hugely stressful, anxiety-provoking time), enough was enough.
And so, I began this journey of looking after my own wellbeing and understanding the monster that I have drawn in my comic. I have learnt that he is scarier because he is invisible to everyone else. He was a part of me, so entangled with the person I was that I had begun to believe my anxieties and ‘bad thoughts’ as the truth. In the comic, I have drawn him outside the girl because it’s important to understand that your thoughts are just that – thoughts. They are not part of your identity, however impossible that was (and still sometimes is) for me to grasp. By the end of the comic the girl has managed to separate herself from the monster enough that her colour – her identity – returns. The monster is minimised but does not disappear because, unfortunately, mental health problems come and go. But that's OK – with help, you can fight them.
In terms of combating mental health issues, I have learnt that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. The girl in my comic represents several tools that are recommended to positively impact wellbeing, but the key is finding out what works for you. Meditation doesn’t help me, but talking to my friends, drawing, yoga, all do. Also key is that prioritising our wellbeing isn’t just for those with a particular mental illness, it is for all of us – never compare or diminish your feelings against someone else’s.
It is so important that you put your wellbeing above anything else - these are tools that can help you throughout your life. Your monster might seem too big, or too scary, or too completely incomprehensible but – trust me – you are stronger.”
For more information on the mental health and wellbeing support provided at Warwick, please visit the Wellbeing Support Services website.
The comic was created by former student Hattie and produced with the support of Dr Elena Riva, Director of Studies at the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning) and Professor Gwen van der Velden (Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Student Learning Experience). The comic has been distributed around campus, funded by prize money received by winners of the Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence and National Teaching Fellowship awards.