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Episode 2 – Art and Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

In this episode, Bud and Laura have a lively, wide-ranging discussion with Philadelphia artists, Abby Squire and Rosie Carlson about how art and mental health affect one another. Abby and Rosie discuss their process in making art and how this intersects with their mental health.

EPISODE 2 – Art & Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

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Rosie is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Her passions include graphic design, painting, and a love of studying women’s historical roles within fermented beverages in early modern Europe. She says, “It’s only recently that I’ve admitted to myself that I need art; that I need to be making it. Valuing my art has allowed me to tackle anxiety and depression like never before because I’ve come to value myself.” Rosie’s website is rosemarycarlsondesign.com.

Abby has been living in the city for the past three years and is continually inspired by all of the creative people who call Philadelphia home. As a teaching artist with The Claymobile, a mobile arts initiative serving low-income students, she has had the opportunity to work within diverse communities throughout the region and share artmaking with students who don’t have access to art programs in the public schools. When not at work, she devotes her time to her own creative pursuits; reading her favorite authors, and exploring every corner of the city on her bicycle. Abby currently resides in her West Philadelphia home with her Golden/Pit Bull, Eloise.

Laura and Bud pose challenging questions to their guests, such as, what is more important, mental health or art, and are the two mutually exclusive? The guests and hosts explore these and other questions while investigating how to incorporate self-care into making art. Struggle is an inherent component of any creative endeavor, just as struggle with issues like anxiety and depression is part-and-parcel of living with mental illness. The hosts and guests offer candid and revealing insights into the intense, rewarding, and challenging life lead by artists, as well as individuals coping with mental health challenges.


RELATED: Mental Health > Art an essay by Laura Farrell


Mental Health & Writing: A Bad Son Letter to the World

When I was a boy, I became obsessed with a Civil War officer named Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. I acquired and devoured every biography written about him that I could find (there are a LOT), watched Ken Burns’s epic “The Civil War” documentary around four times (it’s eleven hours and thirty minutes) watched “Gettysburg,” featuring Jeff Daniels as Chamberlain, many, many times. I dutifully memorized facts about his pre-war life (fluent in 10 languages, sang in choir, mother wanted him to become a preacher), his military career (hero of Little Round Top, shot six times, one of only two battlefield promotions bestowed by U. S. Grant, commander of the surrender ceremony at Appomattox), his post-war endeavors (president of Bowdoin College and Governor of Maine for four terms, died in 1914) and I visited Chamberlain’s stomping grounds in Maine with my wife, years after the intensity of the obsession had, I guess, somewhat subsided.  (more…)


Disclosure related to trauma is difficult to navigate. Sharing secret information can be courageous, but it can also make the person disclosing information feel vulnerable. The truth is, as we share our experiences — especially dark ones – with others, they perceive us differently.

I always try to be seen as happy and kind to others, although certain experiences have made me feel and act differently. The word “victim” carries a heavy weight and meaning — something I consistently struggle with as I consider who I am.  (more…)

I Still Lose Myself


CONTENT WARNING: This post contains descriptions of self harm, suicide, and drug abuse.

I remember being happy when I was 10. I was sitting in my mom’s car, an old white Volvo station wagon waiting in the driveway after school. I felt smart, and cute, and strong, in stark contrast to the usual self-critical anxiety that often ran through my mind, even as a kid. School had always made me so nervous. But just then, just for a few moments, I didn’t feel worried. 5th grade was going pretty well.

When I was 11, I started to flicker and fade. It felt like the change happened overnight. I would curl up in a ball in the corner of my bed, my stomach wrenching in horrible knots of anxiety and apathy and grief. I would pray that nobody would have to feel the way I felt, not even my worst enemy (who at the time was Jake Doone, because he said my mom got drunk at a party in 3rd grade and I didn’t even know what that meant and anyway he was a show off).

I hurt so much. I didn’t understand how to take care of my body. I didn’t know that I was sick with Bipolar II and a major anxiety disorder. I smelled bad and dressed weird. I cut class and failed tests. I started hanging out with the kids whose parents didn’t notice what we did, kids whose parents did drugs. All our moms did drugs. Mine drank too much, smoked weed, popped pills. Other moms snorted coke and smoked crack. We would smoke cigarettes and steal liquor and get drunk and tell our parents we were fine.

Sometimes I could barely stand up. I felt like I could hardly breathe. I would crouch and hide. And sometimes a swooping blackness would make me dizzy with fear as it swung toward me from my peripheral.