Stigma Reduction — 13 October 2015

BOOVAL’S Penny Redshaw is quite literally drawing attention to illnesses like depression as Mental Health Week comes to a close.

The university student is the creator and illustrator of Motivating Giraffe, a series of hand-drawn pictures accompanied by inspirational quotes.

The 22-year-old started sketching her red and yellow cartoon companion to help work through her own depression and now thousands more are also benefiting from her creativity.

Ms Redshaw’s hand-drawn pictures quickly gained momentum online after the social science student began posting the drawings on Facebook.

The Motivational Giraffe Facebook page is growing in popularity every day, and currently boasts more than 4,500 likes.

“The more I started getting messages from people telling me the pictures had made their day or helped them through a tough time, the more I wanted to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay,” Ms Redshaw said.

“It’s not okay that in 2015 we are still afraid to ask for help because of the stigma that goes along with it.”

The local student, who was planning to go into foreign aid after graduating, said she never expected to be an illustrator.

“I’ve never been good at drawing. I hadn’t picked up a pencil since art in Year 9,” she said.

“In fact the giraffe was actually going to be a cat before I realised I couldn’t draw cats.

“When Motivating Giraffe started gaining popularity someone suggested I make a book so I started a kickstarter and made $6500.”

Ms Redshaw used that funding to publish her first book containing about 100 sketches.

The young artist is preparing to release her second book in December this year.

“I’m going to continue to do this for a year after I graduate in December and then see where it goes from there,” she said.

“The world we live in is not nice a lot of the time. The internet is also full of things that are not nice. I guess Motivational Giraffe is a way to spread something kindness instead of cruelty, love instead of hatred, encouragement instead of criticism. It’s nice to make something good.”

Ms Redshaw shared her advice for other people who might be also struggling with their mental health.

“When I was a teenager I thought it would go away so I wouldn’t tell anyone,” she said.

“It won’t go away and you have to talk about it.

“Tell a doctor, tell a friend, tell your pastor, tell someone.

“I know there is someone reading this that is so afraid to make that call, to take that leap. Take a breath, my beautiful friend. You deserve so much more.”

Visit the ‘Motivating Giraffe’ Facebook page to see more of Ms Redshaw’s work.

This article first appeared on ‘Queensland Times’ on 10 October 2015.

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