This series began as a way to make sense of a severe mental breakdown, for which I was hospitalized, after 3 decades of untreated depression. What started as a sketchbook (simply to understand what had just happened to me), became an artist's book and quickly gained momentum; what started as something amazingly intimate has now become a means by which I engage a world afraid to talk of mental illness. What I intended to show nobody, I now have a goal for widespread publication.
There are two primary audiences for this:
First, are the countless people who suffer from mental illness in silence, afraid, and desperately alone. Personally, I had found lifelong solace in literature. What helped me process inpatient hospitalization was an array of literature on mental illness, suicide, and any related topic I could find. These were of tremendous comfort to me, in part because of a book's ability to let one see into someone else's head and in part because they were intimate. People may write what they would not say, and this is where I found fellowship before I had anything resembling a real-world support group.
There are those who process the world much less via text and more through image. While there is a diverse and rich assortment of written literature on mental health, suicide, and related topics, there is much less available by way of accessible, visual information, and for many, this creates a need. The first need is to feel like they are not alone but understood in a format that can initially be kept private. A book can be opened and closed, unlike a movie or a painting. As an artist, that is one of the things that helped me in the making of the book; I did not have an audience if I did not choose to--and it was very sparse, at first, who I chose to share that content with.
Secondly, there are a number of people who do not understand mental illness and need to be able to see it through somebody else's eyes. Razorbook would be a good mechanism for illustration and conversation. When two people have their eyes on a page, they can discuss the content on the page without themselves being in the spotlight. One can say, "what do you think about this," as a way to gauge how the other person might react to them, and then determine whether it is safe to continue the conversation. It is much different to say, "what do you think about this depiction of madness," than, "I think I might want to die," or "I feel like I might literally be going insane." People under-react or overreact or don't react at all.
In my own experience, I had real reason for concern, which is what kept me silent for three decades. Considering the severity of my illness, every clinician I talked to wondered how it was that I had stayed alive that long. Had there been a tool like this available, things might have been different. Mental illness increases over time and with each episode, something I did not know prior to hospitalization. Having spent the first part of my adult life as a classroom teacher, I have a particular interest in teens and young adults, who struggle with this in astounding measure. I also have had a window into their world.
What the graphic novel has evolved into has set the stage for entirely new kinds of books, which is very exciting, and the way printing has evolved has set the stage for full-color books for young-adult budgets. The average graphic novel costs between $20-$25, which is much more accessible than an original painting. One might also have access to a bookstore (or library) but not a gallery. The idea is to make this content visible, beautiful, and accessible. Ultimately the goal is to create conversations that save lives.