Hannah Hilton, 29 from North Georgia, USA, is a Yogini and writer. A self confessed mellow minded person with the curiosity of a child, a nature lover and all round positive person with as she describes “love in my eyes and flowers in my hair”, Hannah has written an important article on surviving abuse which you can read HERE. ASLI wanted to get to know Hannah a little more and get her opinions on our recent campaign for mental illness, health and recovery, here is the interview:
What is your artistic/creative background?
When I feel moved by something- I create art. Sometimes I write, or paint, or craft, or dance, or do yoga- and sometimes I do it all. I found that by expressing myself in these forms- I feel more at peace with life.
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?
It comes from a time in my life where I felt beaten down and I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I literally felt like my life was ending. It took me a couple of years to build back the pieces to my foundation, but I came out so strong from the situation. I wrote this piece because I want others to know that abuse should never be tolerated and that you do have the strength to reclaim who you are as a person and do just that. “Don’t compromise yourself, you are all you’ve got.” Janis Joplin.
What is your process when creating?
When creating it’s usually very random. Something will come to me (usually when I don’t have a means of writing it down haha) and I have to just immerse myself into my writing, painting, dancing, yoga, or crafting. I put everything in to that piece in that moment and I don’t stop until I feel it is completed. Usually there is some music to go along with it and generally- I am outside. From there I sit with it for a while and edit, I try not to change too much because there is beauty in imperfection!
Who are you influenced by within your artistic discipline?
I am influenced by individuals who speak from truth, whether it be of experience, knowledge, or the general concern and care of the world in which we live.
Who inspires you in general?
Anyone who is wild & free. It takes a lot of courage to truly be who you are with no care of what others may think. I find this courageousness commendable and contagious!
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?
I fully believe in awakening the world (higher levels of consciousness) and sharing with others on how we can do so. I also believe that by educating the world, we can stop a lot of the negative views, habits, and actions we take on others. You can find me volunteering for animal rescues, picking up trash, cleaning waterways, suicide prevention events, supporting abuse victims, creating canned food/coats/book/bags/etc. drives, you name it- if someone is in need- it speaks to my heart and I will do what it takes to help them.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
Art literally saves lives. I know from my own experience that by creating art- it has saved me from the dark abyss I was in. I also know that it creates change because not only has it brought life back in to my life- but I have seen it bring light back in to others. Art is a means of expressing what you cannot express on a day to day bases.
Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in anyway and do you think your message within them could help create change in the world?
Yes- as mentioned before art saved me from my depression. It was the only outlet that I felt safe in expressing. I fully believe that by sharing my own experiences through the form of art it can save others, because this allows others to see that they are not alone and that if someone else has crawled out of the darkness- they can too!
What are your present and future goals for your art?
My only goals for my art is to reach others and make them simply feel. We live in a world where we are told to keep our feelings at bay- well I want you to fully feel all that this world has to offer.
The following question are about mental health:
Can you tell us about your own experiences with mental illness?
I have personally suffered with (most undiagnosed) situational depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder/anorexia. I can honestly say in those times, I sought help from a professional because I was unsure of what to do. I felt I didn’t have the coping mechanisms to survive. My counsellor showed me that I did- I was just too afraid.
How does your artistic /creative expression help you with your mental health?
It keeps me balanced. It allows me to feel both sides of the spectrum- sadness to bliss.
Have you ever experienced being stigmatised or marginalised due to your mental health or have you seen this happen to someone else?
I have seen it done to someone else, never myself.
Have you ever received treatment for mental health and if so, what was it, did it help and was it private or state funded?
I sought a counsellor after my divorce years back. It was out of pocket, and very brief. However, it saved me.
Do you think society and culture is accepting of people with mental illness?
I personally do not think society and culture are accepting of people with mental illness. I believe that there is a population of people that are- and we are making headway, but I feel that for the most part, society tells us that we all have to be one way and this excludes those of us who experience mental illness.
How do you feel your Government in your country helps people with mental illness and could they do more?
I feel that the United States of America could educate the population more on mental illness and provide more support to individuals who are in need of help. Less isolating and stigmatizing and more love and understanding.
Have you ever had any creative therapies as part of your treatment, did it help?
I was asked to journal- and from there I began to blog for on-line communities such as Elephant Journal. This helped me because people would email me telling me that I helped them in their situation. Knowing this makes you feel like by you putting yourself out there- you may actually be helping someone who was too afraid to put themselves out there. I hope I can provide them with the courage to do so!
Do you think artistic / creative expression can be used to help people with mental health problems?
Do you think artistic / creative expression could help raise awareness and communicate how mental illness affects people?
Absolutely! It is a wish and dream of mine!
What made you want to get involved with ASLI’s MENTAL ILLNESS, HEALTH AND RECOVERY CAMPAIGN?
I want to share with the world that even if you are suffering, even if you feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel- there is. You have to have some darkness to appreciate the light and I hope I can bring encouragement to those who want to see the light!
Do you believe in more rights for mentally ill people in the work place and for equal opportunities?
Yes! My degree is in Industrial Organizational Psychology and I know the laws within the work place on rights, rules, and regulations. I feel that they are archaic in manner and they need to be adjusted.
We at ASLI want to de-stigmatize diagnosis labels within mental illness so that people treat others and their own mental health label as that of a diabetic or any other chronic “physical” illness, as we know the brain is physical and this would further improve stigma and marginalising mental illness. How do you feel about diagnosis labels?
I feel diagnosis is just another one of those things that causes separation. It is a man-made concept. We are all one. We are all the same. By not putting a label on who I am makes us more unified. I am fully in support of eliminating labels.
Everyone within ASLI is affected in some way by mental illness, with our MD having several chronic mental illnesses and other members either caring for or dealing with mental health issues. Would this make you think twice about working with ASLI? And does this make ASLI “less professional” in your opinion and if so why?
It would make me want to work with ASLI even more because it comes from a place of experience and compassion. To me- that means more than just an education.
Are there any artists/creatives/performers which you admire, who suffer from mental illness that you feel use their work to discuss or highlight mental health?
Jim Carey! I cannot even begin to explain how much I admire this man. His comedic capabilities will have you in stitches all the way to his explanation of consciousness expansion and his experiences of depression. Also, Tom Shadyac, the Director of many Jim Carey films as well as the amazing documentary “I Am” (if you haven’t seen it- you must). In “I Am” he breaks down his depression, the root of it all, and then the journey to finding happiness. It’s inspirational as well as enlightening in our current society.
Finally is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself or your experiences?
I would just like to think ASLI for allowing me the opportunity to share my own experience with others. I hope that my words help those who need them.
ASLI found Hannah to be a extremely articulate and expressive woman, with a talent for creating positivity which leads others out of darkness. We welcome Hannah as a NEW member of our ASLI Artists and look forward to more contributions from Hannah’s journey as well as following her on her mission to create change.
Thank you Hannah for being part of the change.
Read Hannah’s Article – Overcoming Abuse – HERE
To find out more about Hannah Hilton please follow these links: