“Our goal is to make talking about mental health normal. It’s not about self-help,” says Indhira Rojas, founder and creative director of Anxy Magazine. Indhira started the magazine as a way to challenge the overwhelming media narratives surrounding mental health, with an instinct that, “a printed magazine could do that – at least, if it was full of personal stories, artfully told, visually spectacular, it could really make a mark.” Now in its second issue – which is launching on It’s Nice That today – we caught up with Indhira to find out more about how her and her team are showcasing a myriad of voices and experiences to achieve their goals.
How would you describe the ethos of Anxy and what is your goal as a publication?
“The reality is that we all, at some point of our lives, will encounter painful challenges. For a huge number of people this means managing a mental illness — either themselves personally, or through supporting their friends and family. But even though it’s so pervasive, it’s hardly talked about. We think the only way to change that, to remove the stigma around mental health, is to get more people to open up, to read about other people’s lives, to see they’re not alone, find empathy for others, and compassion for themselves. We want people to feel comfortable with sharing the kinds of vulnerable thoughts, feelings and experiences that are usually only talked about in closed settings.”
Could you delve deeper into your opinions on representations of mental health in the media – why do you think its important that you offer another story?
“Media treatment of mental health usually focuses on the medical side, of diagnosis, or it looks at the extreme, spectacular cases — like somebody famous having a breakdown, or revealing a dangerous behaviour. But for most people, mental health isn’t just about one-off moments or major incidents: the reality is that we all move along this spectrum our whole lives. We hope that by providing a lens into people’s inner experiences, we can humanise mental health, because behind every diagnosis there are very personal and moving stories of resilience, perseverance, loss, grief, healing and repair.”
Why did you choose workaholism as the topic for your second issue?
“When we look at themes, we try to find places we can explore lots of different stories from different angles. We also pick themes that through our own personal experiences we’ve learned cut deep in their relationship to mental health. Workaholism is one of those topics. A lot of people, myself included, use work as a form of coping or even escapism. We struggle with recognising when we are working hard versus working compulsively. We wanted to explore those edges. Besides, whatever your job might be, work — needing to work, to pay the bills — is a common experience that is the source of a huge amount of stress and anxiety.”
Tell us about Ori Toor’s illustration on Anxy’s cover.
“Ori is a fantastic illustrator from Tel Aviv, who we actually found through It’s Nice That! We asked him to illustrate a story by the psychologist Malissa Clarke about what workaholism actually is — it’s probably the most educational piece in the magazine — and his approach really helped take it to a new place visually. We had originally started out with another idea for the cover, but when we saw what he’d done we found it so striking that we took the chance of splashing with it. It’s vibrant, artful and plays with the theme of workaholism in a subtle way.”
Do you have any particular highlights from the issue?
“There are so many pieces to choose from, and we’re proud of them all in different ways but one of the most important pieces for us explores the way teens at some of the Bay Area’s most intense schools think about life. The suicide rates in Silicon Valley schools are the highest in America, and the pressure cooker atmosphere really creates incredibly high expectations, a workaholic culture, and leads to a lot of anguish. But even though there’s been a lot of coverage of the issue, it’s always a reporter telling you about the teens—you never really get a chance to listen to them.
“We think that those teenagers get a pretty raw deal. Every generation seems to get labelled as lazy, entitled, and thoughtless by those who came before them. So we asked a group of young people who have endured these difficult situations to write unvarnished accounts of their experiences, so that we could actually hear them say what they think… not just tell them what we believe. We coupled it with artwork produced by a teenage artist in London, a fantastic young collage-maker called Jao San Pedro. The whole package is really eye-opening.”
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