Visually stunning comic launched to help creative freelancers with their mental health

Illustration of creative worker alone in studio, viewed through a window. Detail of comic cover by Bex Glendining
Detail of cover illustration by Bex Glendining
Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
Designed as a practical guide to surviving the ups and downs of freelancing in the cultural sector, Mental Health for Creative Freelancers is a comforting antithesis to run-of-the-mill mental health advice.

Last Saturday (12 November 2022) at Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival saw the publication of a wellbeing-focused comic for creatives, designed by 11 of the most exciting comic creators working in the UK today, now available as a free digital download.

Mental Health for Creative Freelancers is a collection of 11 stories written by Edward Ross, each illustrated by a different artist in their own style. It tackles everyday challenges that will be familiar to anyone working freelance in creative fields, including money, rejection, imposter syndrome, working alone, performance anxiety and social media. The artists include Norm Konyu, Simone Lia, Shazleen Khan, Hannah Berry and Graham Johnson.

The project was developed by Hannah Berry (Livestock, Adamtine, UK Comics Laureate 2019-20) and Graham Johnson (Radical Wellbeing) after Hannah ran the UK Comics Creator Survey. The Arts Council-funded investigation revealed that creators were struggling with their mental health, especially when it came to money, social media, competition and the effects of a global pandemic. Mental health professional Dr Beverley Flint consulted during the scripting process to ensure the advice is useful and reliable. Edward Ross created the characters and situations for the artists to bring to life. Woodrow Phoenix edited and art directed the book to produce a beautiful publication with a focused, accessible voice.

Excerpt from Imposter Syndrome by Shazleen Khan
Excerpt from Working Alone by Simone Lia

Throughout the project, Hannah and Graham worked to ensure that the cross-section of the creative industry and the diversity of artists was represented, as well as the pressing issues highlighted by the comic.

We’ve been really lucky to work with some of our favourite comics creators on this anthology, many of whom are also required to navigate extra obstacles in their careers through being disabled, neurodiverse, queer, trans, and/or from a global majority background. The project may have been born from the comics community, but the challenges faced and the advice given to tackle them apply to all who work in the arts.

We hope readers find the anthology useful and enjoy it in the spirit in which it was made: we don’t have all the answers, but we do have some solutions, and we love a comic.

Hannah Berry and Graham Johnson

The comic can be downloaded for for free via the link below and is suitable for creative freelancers across many disciplines – visual arts, literature, theatre and more.

Featured artists by chapter:

  • Money – Alex Assan
  • Imposter Syndrome – Shazleen Khan
  • Rejection – Graham Johnson
  • Social Media – Jayde Perkin
  • Working Alone – Simone Lia
  • Work Life Balance – Joe Decie
  • Feeling Overwhelmed – Hannah Berry 
  • Creativity and Emotion – Zara Slattery
  • Performance Anxiety – SK Schäfer
  • Creative Block – Norm Konyu
  • Working Through a Crisis – Jules Scheele
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John Nez
19 November 2022 16:41

It’s ironic since freelancers represent the largest increase of labor in the last decade… and we basically don’t have any unified rights protections. So yeah… it’s not easy.

Sheila Robinson
18 November 2022 17:53

These cartoons and stories are brilliantly done. I already feel calmer, encouraged and uplifted, having just read the comics through.

Penny Wobbly
Penny Wobbly
17 November 2022 07:07

These cartoon touch many unspoken thoughts creatives harbour. Great project.

Amanda Lillywhite
15 November 2022 09:41

This is so good! I can relate to a lot of the stories. Thank you!

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