Depression is complicated, and so is the stigma surrounding it. But Clay, creator of Depression Comix, tackles depression and other mental health topics with respect and understanding. He brings to light complex issues that others shy away from, and he does it all in 4 panels.
Like many comic artists, Clay’s inspiration stems from personal experiences.
I was diagnosed with [depression] back in 1993. But over the years it seems a lot of my work is depression inspired. I would do parts in jam comics and I would make one of the characters suffer from depression. I did a fantasy comic with another artist and I made the heroine suffer from depression. It’s unconscious, I didn’t realize I had been doing it until recently but most of my work has had that theme.
Starting Depression Comix wasn’t initially a conscious decision for Clay, but a natural progression from becoming involved in social media.
When I signed up on tumblr, I followed everyone who followed me, and I was surprised by how many people felt the same way as me. I thought maybe I could do a short comic on this, with depression as the subject. One day, I had a bit of a mini-meltdown and while I was trying to recover my senses I thought to myself, “I should find a way to draw this!” The next day I drew the first two comics. I posted them on tumblr, and the response was mostly positive. I then realized that this comic was perhaps the key to help me deal with depression – by using it for inspiration.
While inspired by personal experiences, Depression Comix actually features many different characters, each with their own issues.
When I first started, I was determined not to make an autobiographical comic … The more interesting challenge would be to do a work that the characters take a backseat to depression, and to help do that the comic has a number of characters that suffer from it. I think this is important because I don’t want the comic to be about anyone in particular, and I wanted to make the point that depression happens to a lot of different people.
Clay has some clear goals when it comes to Depression Comix.
Simply to spread awareness. Depression is often misunderstood as either temporary feeling like sadness or something that makes people go crazy and start killing people. It’s neither, it’s an illness that essentially causes one to slowly self-destruct. It’s beyond one’s range of conscious control and it makes us behave in ways we’re not really aware of. Essentially, I want to do my bit to demystify the disease. If it’s better understood, it’s a lot easier to help people that suffer from it.
Though he firmly believes we’ve come a long way when it comes to the stigma surrounding mental health, Clay believes there’s still room for improvement.
In some ways it’s better because there are so many voices advocating better understanding of the disease. On the other hand, there is still little help for those who suffer, especially affordable help. And there’s still way too much stigma associated with it, you can see this with how mental illness has become the scapegoat for killing sprees. it’s not a positive atmosphere for those seeking help.
Nevertheless, when dealing with depression, Clay advocates for people to reach out for help.
If you get a doctor, be sure to do a check on the internet to make sure that doctor is effective by reading the testimonials of others… Find a place where you can express yourself to a non judgmental audience. I’m currently building a new site for Depression Comix and one of the things I want to do with it is add such a place to it.
Despite an overall positive response, there has been some backlash. Because depression and mental health is such a touchy issue, Clay has recently been under some pressure.
If I feel like I’m right, I will argue to the end. If I’m in error, I will apologize. Usually afterwards I unplug from the internet for a while, although will still draw comics. I always have to remind myself that I draw for the pleasure, and dealing with backlash sometimes makes me forget that.
But even when the things gets tough, the positive comments keep Clay going.
People’s feedback is a motivating factor. When someone says “I can relate to this” it makes me feel like I succeeded. It’s a great feeling.
Clay’s message to other aspiring comic-ers:
Draw to your own interests, not to the interests of others. Also, you will have people telling you you suck all the time. That’s just the internet. Remember that putting your art on display is the braver position – it’s more challenging to show your work than to criticize the work of others. And finally, when you get your first “you suck” message, that means you’re getting big, and you’ve attained a very important rite of passage for the internet artist.
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