Local artist offers insight into Bipolar with first book deal

By Claire Dukes - 2 August 2019

Arts and CultureHealth
  • James Osborn - photography ©Elizabeth Reaney

    James Osborn - photography ©Elizabeth Reaney

"That’s exactly how I feel sometimes," is what some people say when they look at an artist's work which depicts Bipolar disorder.

James Osborn - photography ©Elizabeth Reaney

In 2019 we’re talking about mental health more and more, however, one person’s mental health journey is usually different to another’s.

James Osborn, 29, is an artist with Bipolar and will be releasing his first book on 6 August. Mr Osborn hopes that Nanook the Bipolarbear will not only offer solace to those on their own mental health journey, but for people who may know someone with Bipolar or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and not understand what they might be going through.

Mr Osborn says, “It’s now becoming more accessible to say that you have a mental health illness, to say you have depression, to say you have Bipolar, but there’s still a huge amount of miseducation as to what that means. So, for instance, I can say I have Bipolar and everyone thinks I have massive mood swings, but the reality is way more complex than that. So, that’s one of the messages I am trying to get across.

"I’ve found that a lot of people who haven’t got a lot of experience in the area of mental health have been saying that they find the Bipolarbear helpful in opening up their minds in understanding why their niece, nephew, cousins, brother, or friend, act the way they do – why they behave in the way they do.

“First and foremost, I want to validate how people are feeling, let people know that how they’re feeling is fine, how they’re feeling counts and they’re not alone. One of the things that has kept me going with it is people saying that they resonate with the bear and tell me, ‘that’s exactly how I feel sometimes’.”

As an alternative to medical lingo, James believes he has created a digestible and less conventional approach to open up the conversation about mental health through a series of infographics. Through this particular style he says the book is less about telling someone how they feel and more about allowing people to engage with Nanook the Bipolarbear on their own terms. James says: “The other message I want to put out there is that for those who don’t understand, they have a place to go to learn that isn’t going to fry their brains with long words and convoluted concepts.

“It’s a way of presenting it so people can stomach it, because quite often people can’t stomach the harsh realities of something, and it’s made even harder when most of the books on Bipolar or PTSD are text books for doctors or long biographies using all sorts of complicated language. It’s really for anyone who wants to know more about bipolar. So, with that in mind I tried to make it as open to interpretation as possible.”

On top of medication, GP visits and support from mental health charities including IPSUM, Mr Osborn advocates that humour has played an integral part in his journey through mental ill health which is why he insists – despite misconceptions about Bipolar – the book’s not all doom and gloom and that readers can expect a little laugh. “Just the concept of a Bipolar bear is funny,” he says, “and I think humour is often essential for people who are dealing with their own mental health issues. It’s a great way to help people understand it, and the role that comedy plays generally in society as a tool to educate people is massive.”

As well as illustration, James is also a poet who co-runs The Rusty Goat Poetry Corner at Baristocats, Swindon. He believes that creative expression can often be more effective when dealing with mental wellbeing which is where Nanook comes in. He says, “A lot of my inspiration comes from sitting at poetry events.

“I think that’s how we change society at large: to have art, music, theatre, poetry, and any other creative pursuit make it okay for anyone to talk about their mental health because that will have a knock on effect, like dominos – once one person starts talking openly about their mental health, anyone who connects and resonates with them or their message will then be able to talk freely about their mental health.”

In a fun turn of fate, it was at a poetry event that James met his future publisher - Black Eyes Publishing. Peter Lay, Black Eyes Publishing owner, said: “As a publisher, we’re looking for stuff that’s maybe a bit different and stuff that’s edgy.

“I’d seen some of James’ drawings on the internet and when we started talking, he told me he had this book full of stuff and immediately my ears tweaked. When he sent it through, I was blown away by it. It’s a class bit of work, and all we’ve done is put it together – the real credit goes to this guy [James] over here, because he’s actually done it.

“As someone who actually suffers from this [Bipolar], I think it’s really good and I think it could do really well.”

James Osborn will be officially releasing Nanook the Bipolarbear on Tuesday 6 August at Darkroom Espresso, Farringdon Road. “The reason I chose Darkroom is because it is a place that is safe to talk about wellbeing and mental illness, and most other things as well,” James adds.

“It’s a place where creatives come to be creative and know that they’re allowed to be. There’s all sorts of people who come through here all the time, - like tattooists, artists, poets and writers - and then you’ve got everyone else coming through so it’s not a place where there is an elitism and particularly as someone who suffers with mental illness elitism scares the crap out of me because it’s an extra layer of judgement that isn’t needed. So, finding places where you’re not judged is really important - and that’s one of the reasons I am hosting the launch here.”

The book launch of Nanook the Bipolarbear is free to attend. Copies of the book will be available to be purchased and signed by Mr Osborn. For further information visit www.facebook.com/events/700939803679824/

For further information about Nanook the Bipolarbear visit www.facebook.com/Nanook-The-Bipolarbear-293502508205222/

Your Comments

Be the first to comment on this article

Login or Register to post a comment on this article

Registered in England & Wales. No: 4513027, Positive Media Group, Old Bank House, 5 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon, SN1 4BJ