“Toxic Support” is a series of 12 illustrated posters dedicated to revealing the toxicity of phrases people say to someone with depression. This is a self-initiated social project, the idea for which came to me after experiencing the effects of depression myself as well as seeing them in a loved-one.
Most of us have heard some of these phrases or said them themselves. I am not an exception... on both fronts.
Having your feelings and/or the fact of their absence devalued and frowned upon because of something you can’t even control as a person with depression is like being forcefully muted and tied up in a tank filling up with water.
Likewise, when being around someone with depression we don't know what to say, and the emotions of sadness, irritation, fear, guilt and even anger may occur. These feelings obscure the person who needs our support, and instead of being there for them we shake those feelings off by saying, "it'll be fine, you're just tired" or something of that sort. And it helps - we get rid of approaching anxiety of feeling uncomfortable, but simultaneously we hurt the person we wanted to support in the first place, burying them deeper into their depression and the feeling of not being heard.
So I wondered, how can I facilitate spreading the message and hopefully informing, which phrases to avoid saying to someone with depression if you want to show support. Contemplating the form of the message I wanted to share I realized that, as an illustrator, my weapon of choice is visuals. Therefore I wanted to illustrate the phrases as they feel to me, make them literally visible to the eye of someone who might not have been able to see them before. I intentionally chose a bright and optimistic color palette to give illustrations a sense of cognitive dissonance with the tone of the message. I wanted to juxtapose the toxic phrase with the illustration and an explanation of how this phrase affects a person with depression.
I reached out to Anxiety and Depression Association of America for their support and was very happy to hear they liked the idea. I reached out to them because of their scientific approach to understanding the illness and their all-encompassing support to people with depression and anxiety.
My hope is that these posters make visible that which is often overlooked, provide a glimpse into the reality of depression and help support those suffering from the illness.
I've also shared the post on my website, here's the link: