Comic book seeks to help local teens understand nuances of mental illness

2013-11-30T01:02:00Z 2013-12-18T14:05:39Z Comic book seeks to help local teens understand nuances of mental illnessCARA SPOTO cara.spoto@journaltimes.com Journal Times

RACINE — Tony Kinnard communicates with the world through art.

So when the 27-year-old comic book artist wanted to share what it really means to suffer from mental illness, he turned to his pen and gave Mike Boticki, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County, a call.

Having learned how to cope with his own combination of depression and social anxiety — and having seen friends struggle with illnesses likes bipolar disorder — he wanted to shed light on the struggles of those with mental illness.

Kinnard, who’s from Burlington and has been involved in NAMI support groups, also wanted to make sure kids who might be struggling with mental illness know help is available.

He knew a comic book was the way to get those messages across.

He decided Mischa, a counterculture college girl in her early 20s, would be the character best suited to tell the tale of a young person struggling with mental illness.

In the beginning of the comic book, Mischa finds herself overcome by her illness. Drawn to bad behaviors, she uses drugs to numb the pain. But as the comic book pages turn, she finds help and ends up going to college.

Boticki said when Kinnard contacted him about getting the comic book published and distributed to local schools, both men thought it could be good way to reduce the stigma around mental illness.

“Anybody can have a mental illness and there are some people who have learned to live successfully with it,” Kinnard said. “I wanted to emphasize that if you yourself have a mental illness, you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. You should know you are not alone.”

On Wednesday, seated in a conference room at the NAMI-Racine County office, 2300 DeKoven Ave., Boticki said he thought Kinnard did a good job of telling the story of mental illness, especially when it came to the struggles youth experience, such as the yearning for acceptance.

“Most teens appreciate comics and I think teens also learn when they can identify with an adult who has been there before,” Boticki said. “It is a personal means of connecting with teens.”

NAMI-Racine County volunteer grant writer Madeline Carrera has applied for a $10,000 grant to get the comic book published. If NAMI gets the grant, the money would pay for 5,000 copies of the comic book to be printed and distributed to high schools.

Boticki said he would love to have “Tony co-present the book” at various schools and “possibly tell a part of his story.”

NAMI-Racine County should know by some time early next year if it has received the grant. If it does, the nonprofit’s leaders hope to get the comic book into schools by fall of the 2014 school year.

Although his main hope is to help kids with mental illness, Kinnard said he also hopes the comic dispels stereotypes that paint the mentally ill as being dangerous or mass murderers.

“I want somebody like Mischa to be the face of mental illness,” he said, “Not everybody with a mental illness is going to shoot up a movie theater.”

Existing mental illness help for youth

While the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County is still waiting to see if it will get the grant dollars it needs to print and distribute Tony Kinnard’s comic book, Executive Director Mike Boticki said young people seeking help with or insight into mental illness are encouraged to attend the nonprofit’s Teen Talk Support group, which meets twice a month in Racine.

What: Teen Talk Support Group

When: 4 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month.

Where: NAMI-Racine County, 2300 DeKoven Ave. in Racine.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. Kids Like Moses
    Report Abuse
    Kids Like Moses - January 03, 2014 10:03 pm
    Mr.Tony Kinnard this is a fantastic idea, may this creation bring relief to our young adults and parents. Yes NAMI will get the grant to fund the publication of the book, and I will be purchasing some copy's. I extend to you a warm appreciation for your determination to help make a difference.
  2. jim keiser
    Report Abuse
    jim keiser - December 19, 2013 10:00 am
    Some creative non-fiction writing on this subject- 'Like psychiatry, witch hunters believed being a witch was genetic with evidence that one’s parents were witches being sufficient proof that a child was a witch. Biological psychiatry uses evidence with similar scientific weight. Chemical imbalances that cannot be detected, brain disorders with no physical manifestation and research evidence based on swim tests for mice. Like psychiatry, the identification and treatment of bewitching was set out in a manual, the Malleus Maleficarum. The DSM-5 similarly attempts to give credibility to a process for identifying and treating mental disorders, and a rationale for their detention and forced treatment. It attempts to silence skeptics by couching subjective assessments of deviance in medical terms and to put psychiatry on a par with branches of medical science which have biological findings as their basis. In the 300 years since the executions of witches in Salem and around the world, the descendent families have sought compensation for the unjust and unscientific labeling, abuse, and killing of their loved ones.'- Bewitched - Mad In America ___________________________________________________________________________Less allegorical writing on the subject- "The lie is that we know what mental illness is, when in fact we have no workable definition of mental illness. The lie is that we have succeeded in domesticating emotional suffering, that we have placed it in a grid with clear and familiar boundaries. The lie is that we know the line between mad and normal, and can tell you on which side of the fence you belong. The lie is that it is science, rather than ethics or social norms, that can tell us what kind of behavior is acceptable and what is not. The lie is that psychiatric treatment is objective medical treatment, as clear and direct as your medical doctor treating a broken wrist. The lie is that by accepting a psychiatric label, you embark on the road to being cured. The lie is the provision of false hope at the price of a stigmatized identity."-unk
    ___________________________________________________________________________
    IT IS USUALLY THE PSYCHIATRIC LABELS (a/k/a “diagnosis”) THAT TEND TO STIGMATIZE PEOPLE, NOT THE SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH THEM, and tend to justify most psychiatric treatment and the pharmaceutical oriented mental health monopoly of drug (and shock) treatment. The symptoms of these so called "illnesses" or "disorders" are usually problems with emotion, perception, thought, memory, behavior, and life experiences that are very real, but are not "diagnosed" (labeled) on the basis of ANY underlying physical conditions.-jim keiser
    ___________________________________________________________________________
    Mental health/psychiatric watchdog & reform activity- https://www.facebook.com/jpkeis?ref=stream Hopefully on a path of discovery about effective ways to expose, and improve a "mental health" system and (mainstream) psychiatry I (and others) have experienced as harmful. I want to be helped with my past "mental health" problems and be an advocate for people who are or have had problems with "mainstream" psychiatry and mental health. I'm also interested in reporting on and discovering alternatives.
  3. jim keiser
    Report Abuse
    jim keiser - December 19, 2013 9:56 am
    Some creative non-fiction writing on this subject- 'Like psychiatry, witch hunters believed being a witch was genetic with evidence that one’s parents were witches being sufficient proof that a child was a witch. Biological psychiatry uses evidence with similar scientific weight. Chemical imbalances that cannot be detected, brain disorders with no physical manifestation and research evidence based on swim tests for mice. Like psychiatry, the identification and treatment of bewitching was set out in a manual, the Malleus Maleficarum. The DSM-5 similarly attempts to give credibility to a process for identifying and treating mental disorders, and a rationale for their detention and forced treatment. It attempts to silence skeptics by couching subjective assessments of deviance in medical terms and to put psychiatry on a par with branches of medical science which have biological findings as their basis. In the 300 years since the executions of witches in Salem and around the world, the descendent families have sought compensation for the unjust and unscientific labeling, abuse, and killing of their loved ones.'-
    Bewitched - Mad In America

    Less allegorical writing on the subject- "The lie is that we know what mental illness is, when in fact we have no workable definition of mental illness. The lie is that we have succeeded in domesticating emotional suffering, that we have placed it in a grid with clear and familiar boundaries. The lie is that we know the line between mad and normal, and can tell you on which side of the fence you belong. The lie is that it is science, rather than ethics or social norms, that can tell us what kind of behavior is acceptable and what is not. The lie is that psychiatric treatment is objective medical treatment, as clear and direct as your medical doctor treating a broken wrist. The lie is that by accepting a psychiatric label, you embark on the road to being cured. The lie is the provision of false hope at the price of a stigmatized identity."-unk

    IT IS USUALLY THE PSYCHIATRIC LABELS (a/k/a “diagnosis”) THAT TEND TO STIGMATIZE PEOPLE, NOT THE SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH THEM, and tend to justify most psychiatric treatment and the pharmaceutical oriented mental health monopoly of drug (and shock) treatment. The symptoms of these so called "illnesses" or "disorders" are usually problems with emotion, perception, thought, memory, behavior, and life experiences that are very real, but are not "diagnosed" (labeled) on the basis of ANY underlying physical conditions.

    Mental health/psychiatric watchdog & reform activity- https://www.facebook.com/jpkeis?ref=stream
    Hopefully on a path of discovery about effective ways to expose, and improve a "mental health" system and (mainstream) psychiatry I (and others) have experienced as harmful. I want to be helped with my past "mental health" problems and be an advocate for people who are or have had problems with "mainstream" psychiatry and mental health. I'm also interested in reporting on and discovering alternatives.
  4. Frank Blankenship
    Report Abuse
    Frank Blankenship - November 30, 2013 2:48 pm
    Ever consider doing a comic book featuring the face of mental health!?
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