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Comics as Medicine

May 25, 2020

Drawing can help us express and process our emotions. It's also a popular way to share personal stories of illness, and to learn about health.

Graphic Medicine

I love to draw, and I love health and wellness. Imagine my excitement when I learned there is a type of literature dedicated to these two things!

Graphic medicine is the category of comics and graphic novels that focus on health. Some are written as personal memoir, such as RX, where artist Rachel Lindsay shares her experience with bipolar disorder and her hospitalization in a psychiatric ward. Other comics are written to directly educate patients and families about a health condition.

When you read a comic, the right side of your brain lights up, as opposed to when you just read words.  Your right brain activates emotions and empathy and helps you to more fully understand and remember what you read. Comics are powerful tools!

During this global health crisis, graphic medicine is helping us to make sense of changing health information, in a format that we can understand. Artist Malaka Gharib created a mini comic to help explain the virus to kids, which is now also available in Chinese and Spanish. Other cartoonists are making comics about their experiences at home in quarantine or as frontline workers, creating visuals for issues most of us are facing, like loneliness, anxiety, and the need for a haircut.  In a time where we must take care of our mental and emotional health, we can all benefit from drawing. Studies have shown that making art helps to decrease feelings of depression and anxiety, especially for individuals in isolation. 

Give it a Try!

Put emotion to paper, and follow along with artist Marek Bennett to make a 4 panel comic. You can also just enjoy watching him draw.

More Activities

Draw a gratitude bubble and mail it to the person you are thankful for

Make an "un-mask" to display real or imagined feelings

Write from your heart with daily writing prompts from The Porch

Just scribble all over a piece of paper and rip it up. Quarantine is hard!

Graphic Medicine to Check Out

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Elizabeth Roth

Elizabeth coordinates the Be Well at NPL initiative. You may spot her walking or biking around Nashville, or asking too many questions at one of the health and wellness programs at your branch.