Articulating mental health

When the worldly words fail you, art can come to the rescue and bring to light the workings of the inner world, finds Sravya Attaluri
Articulating mental health

CHENNAI: A pop of colours, strong visual narratives on mental health, self-care and feminism, and an underlying message of a search for happiness binding the myriad imagery together. Twenty-four-year-old Sravya Attaluri’s art handle offers a delightful respite for those who are endlessly scrolling down and double-tapping on Instagram.

“My artistic journey began when I was an adolescent. I used to live in Korea. Then, my parents encouraged me to take up art classes. When I used to come down to Hyderabad, to visit my grandparents and extended family, I took up local art classes as well. Later, when I moved to Hong Kong, I dabbled in different techniques. This process allowed me to communicate my thoughts,” shares the Hong Kong-based artist and graphic designer.

As a teenager, when Sravya lost her grandmother, it sent her down a spiral of grief and depression. “This grief was coupled with dysmorphia. It stemmed from the fact that no one in Hong Kong looked like me. I started feeling like something was wrong with my body. Slowly, a sense of loneliness crept in. I struggled and was unable to articulate it verbally. That’s when art came to my rescue,” she recounts.

When fellow students in her class were busy painting delicate flowers and colourful landscapes, Sravya was busy trying to visualise her grief and mental health condition through her artwork. “Girls who felt suicidal or had body-image issues became a recurrent theme in my works. While some teachers encouraged it, my artwork put off several people. This reaction to my work was what intrigued me to take a closer look at my artistic process,” she details.

In the journey, Sravya realised that visualising, confronting and accepting the grief through her artwork was cathartic. “I started focusing on the pursuit of retaining daily happiness...which is hard work. This meant constantly checking in on yourself, doing yoga, and cutting out people who were triggering. I slowly started spinning narratives about my journey,” she says. Through her ‘Mental Health Art’ page, Sravya has not only been sharing her journey but, in the process, helping those treading a similar path. “Many reach out to me to talk about their mental health conditions and share their stories. Sometimes, it’s hard to strike a balance — to help people while keeping a check on your mental health.

But I ensure that I follow up on therapy to manage my anxieties because if I don’t care for my mental wellness, how can I help others? I am not a mental health professional. So I just lend an ear and help people connect with the right resources,” she shares.  There is no definitive end to her artistic process, which keeps metamorphosising. From the choice of colours, the words she weaves into her works to other visual and Easter-egg elements that are part of her art pieces, Sravya says she’s mindful of what she creates. “When addressing serious issues, people tend to use reds and blacks as a sign of warning. But I wanted to use bright and happy colours and share light-hearted content.

I wanted it to be approachable. I have also been trying to destigmatise dialogues on mental health by using casual tones and conversational language,” she explains. Sravya aims to help organisations and charities by enabling them to use her skills, besides her artwork, to further the cause of mental health and equality. “If someone sees my artwork at the right time, it could impact their day. I believe that art can change society and I would love to be part of that change,” says the artist who takes inspiration from her multicultural upbringing and experiences. “I have a global perspective. So, I mix and match everything. I am currently working on a series that focuses on men’s mental health. However, I don’t want to assume and reinforce any gender stereotypes. So, I am in the process of researching and listening to narratives from and of men,” she says.

Art and mission
Through her artwork, Sravya tries to find more ways to address mental health issues and the stigma around it. The idea is to make mental health more conversational. For details, visit Instagram page Sravya_Attaluri or

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The New Indian Express