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The project that’s hoping to normalise the mental health stigma

By Cheryne Lauraly Fourdrigniez

Alex Green via Pexels

The ‘It’s Okay Project’, which aims to normalise talking about mental health, allows people to submit anonymous zines – all of which reflect individuals’ personal experiences with mental health using art as a medium.

When Sara Prinsloo’s sister took her own life just about two years ago, the 36-year-old, who is a technician by trade, decided to launch the It’s Okay Project.

A 2021 Statista report shows that in 2019, there were 11 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people in the UK. Now, the Health Foundation is reporting a staggering 8.1% increase in severe mental health issues experienced as a result of the virus.

Infographic by Cheryne Fourdrigniez

A poll by Craft Magazine reveals that 70% of people feel comfortable speaking up about their mental health whilst the other 30% don’t.

Poll by Cheryne Fourdrigniez

That’s why Prinsloo who is from Manchester but based in Hertfordshire, says, “We’re trying to drop the stigma to say that it’s okay to talk about how we feel and that we should shout for help if we need it because that’s how we hope to save lives.”

Social psychology student, 32-year-old Sophie Sutherland, speaks from personal experience. When she says she finally spoke up about her mental health issues, she was able to find people she could relate to.

“It makes you feel like a lot less like what you’re going through is abnormal or weird,” says Sutherland.

During lockdown, Prinsloo says that they’ve had a huge increase in the number of people submitting zines.

Excerpt from interview with Sara Prinsloo explaining the meaning behind her zines, interview by Cheryne Fourdrigniez

In the back two pages of every zine, one can find all the resources for help if needed. There’s also a ‘Find Help’ page on the It’s Okay Project website which has an extensive list of mental health charities – all specialising in different fields of mental health issues.

4 ways you can seek mental help, infographic by Cheryne Fourdrigniez

The project is now officially registered as a non-profit organisation and they are trying to raise funds for themselves. “Now 20% of the sales go to Papyrus and the rest goes to us. With that funding, we can cover the printing cost so we can raise more and fund more exciting workshops.”

Looking into the future, founder of the It’s Okay Project says that once things slowly get back to normal, they’re hoping to host a series of free creative events which will have a positive effect on people’s wellbeing.