First Mental Health Discussion @ OZ Comic-Con #ProgressiveSteps

When I first made the decision to submit a proposal to Oz Comic-Con I wasn’t sure how it would go. I wasn’t sure 1) if the Con coordinators would even consider including the subject of mental health and wellbeing or 2) if anyone would turn up for it.

Panel Subject

An artist’s guide to mental health and wellbeing: What you need to know.

I wanted the panel to discuss openly and honestly about artists and their mental health to help support wellbeing, foster connectivity and provide a culture of support. A key point is increasing an understanding of the links between nurturing good mental health and productive creative innovation. I also wanted to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage leaders and managers to support individuals and help them access support resources.

I knew this was a discussion that needed to find a home in modern pop culture. After studying counselling, then community service and now progressively moving on to social welfare, and training in many different areas of AOD, suicide intervention, some childhood trauma and mental illness, artists began to talk to me about what was happening to them with regard to their mental health. Additionally,  while working in the field of AOD (alcohol and other drugs) and often witnessing the crossover into mental health in this area and witnessing an increase in anxiety in the young people we support through our service, it became clear open and honest discussions were becoming even more important, particularly in the field of the arts.

Now, don’t think for a minute I’m new to the pop culture scene. I’ve been actively attending pop culture conventions for about 10 years.  I’ve collected comics on and off most of my life, from around 14 years of age, and I’ve been a huge fan of manga and Japanese anime also. So I can hold a conversation about pop culture.  It felt right to submit a proposal to a con.

So I gathered a group of artists together who were as passionate as myself and we crossed our fingers and hoped that people would understand the gig.  And I’m a writer, I was prepared for rejection! But guess what? We were accepted!

Panel Members

Tash Turgoos. Goran Zivanovic. Vacen Taylor.  Kathryn Gossow.  Kate Foster.

And here we are all practising “being our excellence of self”  in a Kung fu Panda type pose, because as much as this is a serious subject we have to have fun too, right?

Tash, Goran, Vacen, Kathryn and Kate

And guess what, people did turn up! And we did get questions and we had people who wanted to talk to us afterwards. Which is what the discussion was all about. To begin conversations, get us all talking about this subject in a public space.

For those of you who might like to see some of the slides that were shown I’ll focus on the end.  The tips and words of wisdom from the panel.

My contribution was my five finger approach to supporting your mental health and wellbeing.

  1. Eat well – include water!
  2. Sleep well
  3. Think well -include mediation, relaxation or mindfulness Smiling Mind app
  4. Exercise regularly – also helps with sleep cycles
  5. Socialise well – healthy social interaction is important

* Take your medication. If you feel your medication is not working or is disrupting your artistic performance, please go back and tell your medical practitioner so he or she can help you.

Vacen and Goran

Words of Wisdom from the panel at the end which was also discussed.

“Unattainable success comes when a writer compares themselves to other writers. Do it your way and remember where your journey began.“ Kate Foster

‘Stop obsessing over outcomes. Instead, do whatever needs to be done, with all your heart. You’ll live more calmly, courageously, and vigorously, with outcomes that surprise you. Immerse yourself in the process and trust that you’ll be okay whatever happens.’ Joel Almeida – provided by Kathryn Gossow

‘Take control of your mindset’. Tash Turgoose

‘Don’t put too much emphasis on social media Followers, Likes or Comments, as this is NOT a true reflection of who you are.’ Goran Zivanovic

I guess if there is to be a moral to this story it’s “don’t be afraid to try“. Don’t be afraid to step out into the public space if you are an artist. Yes, people will either like what you create or not like what you create. And we as artists have to learn that it’s okay for that to happen. We choose to be in a subjective industry. So, allow people to have their opinion. That is the greatest gift you can give yourself and them.

I will also add another point. When sharing personal experiences as panelists or those in the audience, which is important, we must recognise the impacts they may have on our journey.

Exposure in a public space in which we may not have control over in that space or interviews in which someone else is writing our story is real. Thinking about how comfortable you are with the greater community knowing or judging your story is also important.  Not everyone will say or write things about you that you might feel happy about, and you need to have some preparation for that. If you are in a lived experience relapse can happen, preparing yourself for negative exposure is a good way to support yourself. Or at least have some supports in place in case you find the exposure challenging.

Be safe. Be kind.  And look after each other.

So until next time… “Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques




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