Artist Marie-Anne Conde on Mental Health Awareness

Marie-Anne Conde is a nineteen year old aspiring artist who works with several mediums including digital paint, charcoal, acrylic paint, pen and ink, and more. From reading books to watching animated shows, Marie-Anne discovered her love for art. This inspired her to study the visual arts in high school and continue her art journey into college.

“I love art that tells the stories of others and evokes emotion.” The art that’s connected with her the most has been art that centers around portraits and narratives.

If you are interested in connecting with Marie-Anne, head to her Instagram here and check out her website here. Continue reading to learn her perspective on art, mental health, and the current world pandemic.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hello! My name is Marie-Anne Conde. I am 19 years old and a major in Animation/Illustration. Raised in NYC, I come from a Haitian background. My art majorly focuses on creating discussion about mental health and identity through storytelling.

Is there a stigma on mental health?

Yes, there is definitely a stigma surrounding mental health. I come from a Caribbean family background and I am Haitian-American. Growing up in this type of family, no one believed in mental health; there was no such thing as having a poor mental health. It was known as just having a bad day, and if you felt that you were unhappy you needed to pray to God. As relieving as it is to pray to God, I also learned that God doesn’t help those who can’t help themselves. So when that stigma overlaps with mental health, it can be very harmful to your well being. There is also the stigma that if you do have depression, anxiety or any mental illness- that you are over exaggerating your sadness. There is the stigma that you don’t work out enough or exercise. When I was depressed as a young teen, my mom used to suck her teeth at me and roll her eyes. She believed that if she “toughened me” up I wouldn’t “be such a baby”.

How do you think the portrayal of mental health in movies/ media affected the way it is perceived?

The portrayal of mental health in movies/media greatly affects the way it’s perceived. Mental health is either romanticized or horrified in film and entertainment. Series like 13 Reasons Why. If someone has depression, they just need to find their lost “lover” or soulmate and then their mental health would be completely cured. For example in Suicide Squad, the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker was toxic. He was psychotic and it was not until he had a significant other (Harley Quinn) to help him be.. well, romantically psychotic. Also, in 13 Reason Why, there is a lot of controversial statements about the series and how it romatixices suicide. Again, it is not till they have someone that they fell like they have a sense of purpose. Because of that, many of those with mental illness have poor attachment issues to others. Then, many of those with mental illness don’t get a greater view of what they have and rely on the media to teach them. Film should work on having the realistic situations of what is truly like living with a mental illness.

Do you believe the topic on mental illness is becoming a more serious topic?

Yes, I will acknowledge, that people are becoming much more aware about mental health. There is much more technology that is able to the brain and study the way the body is affected by mental illness. There are different outlets like hotlines and therapy. Therapy is becoming a much more accepted form of help. There are many more people open to telling their stories regarding mental health as well. Personally, although I can not talk to my mom about my mental illness, I have many supportive friends who are able to talk to me and i am able to listen to their struggles as well. 10 years ago, I needed a therapist, I would not have been able to get it because seeking help for your mental health was not accepted nor accessible. Now it has, and it does not mean it should stop, but we have gotten as society in a better place.

When did mental health become prevalent and begin to manifest for you?

Mental health became much more prevalent in my life after I had started puberty. The three biggest factors that influenced my mental health was my family situation, school, and self-identity. It was in 7th grade where I felt so much pressure to work hard in school. Having come from strict parents, with really high expectations, I felt like the world and everything was on top of me. At first, I did not know what mental illness was. I just knew that I was not happy. I knew I did not want to be around anymore. I knew that I questioned my point of existence. I remember having a lot of negative thoughts because I was not living up to my family standards. Eventually seeking help and learning how to talk about it with my sister who was my first support outlet. I did a lot of my own research about mental health and psychology and the different mental illnesses and disorders. That helped me realize that I was not alone.

Do you believe there is a correlation with school and mental health?

Absolutely! There is such a high demand from school that they want from a kid. It is so unrealistic to live up to them. It is not what they want the students to learn but how they want them to learn. It is the workload, how complicated it is. The education system in the United States lacks federal funding to receive help for mental illnesses. The society we live in now is extremely competitive and a lot of kids come from backgrounds where they are first generation students with high expectations from their parents. There is a higher depression rate in children and in teenagers that keep growing. There are so many double standards for children. It then becomes damaging to how to feel as a person.

How do you think the Coronavirus/quarantine has helped and/or harmed those with mental illness?

That’s a good question. I can speak from my perspective, those of my friends but not of everyone with a mental illness. The Coronavirus ironically has been really great for my mental health. Before all of this, I was going through extreme burnout, I was losing a lot of motivation and I was hoping to have a chance to slow down and stay in my room and take care of myself at my own pace. Because of quarantine, I am able to take care of myself and the way I want to. For most people, the Coronavirus/ quarantine has been negative for many.I know many people miss their friends, miss having the support system they had to go to. There is a downfall for me , of course. Being in my room for so long does make me a little crazy. And a lot of people are feeling that regularly and people are feeling trapped and caged in and wearing their mental health.

What are some ways you have coped or helped you with your mental state?

A lot of what I do to help me is meditation and pray. I have been making a schedule for myself of things that I want to do. I know one of the first things that I do when I wake up I play music. Because my room is so quiet, it can be very creepy. That is why music helps create some type of momentum. I crack my window open to hear the birds or the outside world. I play shows and call a lot of my friends now. I like to call or FaceTime 1-2 friends a day. I like to keep the friends that have made me happy closer to me during these times. I remind myself how important it is to get work done. I make a lot art now! I have time to manage my sleep schedule. I remind myself that this social distancing is not forever and that I can keep work around it.

How has mental illness affected you career wise as an Animation Illustration Major?

It is interesting because my mental illness both helps and hurts my career as being an animation creator. In one way, it is because of my mental illness that got me into art. It was my first support system that I had and that helped me really grow into wanting to refine myself as an artist. If I felt extremely disassociated from other people, I would not feel that way toward making art. I do realize that the older I get, when I do become depressed it becomes a lot harder for me to draw. If I feel like I have no purpose, sometimes it feels meaningless to pick up a pencil. When I am going through my seasonal depression, I hear a lot of voices in my head saying: “Why does it matter?” “It’s never going to matter.” I do have art blocks a lot of the time. What I recently started doing to push myself to make art is making a schedule. I always push off art during the school year because I prioritize my academics over making art. Ironically enough when I am on my lows, I have a lot more ideas of what it is that I want to draw. I write them down and with that list that I have accumulated, I am starting to do them now.

What can you do to help end the stigma surrounding mental health?

I create a lot of my art regarding my mental illness. I also have a lot of discussion with people about mental illness.Before, I never used to talk about how unhappy I was or how much I hated myself at times. I never used to cry or break down in front of my friends. I think I was really blessed the time I came to college where I ended up meeting so many like minded people who were supportive and loving. Although, I would not throw my mental health on other people, it became okay to tell people I was not okay. Now that I have gotten more mature, I have learned to talk to myself. When I started opening up about it, many more people became interested and related to it. Those same people would open to me about her mental health. I do a lot of journal entries to cope with my seminal heath as well. At college, I did a “Fred Talk”, which is essentially a Ted Talk at Fredonia, on how love influences love. A Lot of it was based on mental health and how family influences, and how you were raised influenced mental health. Taking advantage of any platform and creating open discussion about it, those really help bring awareness to mental health.

What would you say to those that have a loved one with mental illness and are trying to help?

Everybody handles their mental health differently. The first thing that you could ever do with someone who is suffering from mental health is hearing them out. Listen to what they are saying. Listen to their story. Be there for them. A lot of the time, those with mental health don’t want to be told a solution. Sometimes the solution is you just being there for them and telling them they are not a burden. It does so much for them. Just being able to support them: they are not a burden, they are loved, and are not alone. Also telling them that dealing with your mental health doesn’t have to be a one man battle. Another way to help someone with mental illness is letting them know that it is okay to seek professional help. I have my therapist who has helped me so much already. Sometimes doing things that they likes also helps. When my friends are having low days, I suggest watching a show together, or “let’s do this together.” For example, with my friends Mel, when we were having a low day, we had a compliment race with each other. That helped us feel good inside. It felt great.

Any last statements?

Never be afraid to open up to people. Open up to the right people. You will be surprised. Sometimes the right people are the people you never would have thought of. You can receive help.It can be a phone call away, a text away. Keep pushing. Life is meaningful. There is a purpose to existence. You do matter. You got this.