AMMAN- In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Day (October 10th), artmejo collaborated with The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Jordan to launch the #mindthemind campaign. Aimed at raising awareness about mental health through public art, this campaign tackles the rampant stigmatization of such issues among the Jordanian community. The campaign was an opportunity for four local artists Omar Shaheen, Sara Allan, Randa Abu Rahmeh, and Sandra Sarkissian to paint three large-scale murals around Amman narrating struggles with such issues and encouraging a positive outlook on mental health. 

Final Mural by artists Omar Shaheen, Sara Allan, Randa Abu Rahmeh, and Sandra Sarkissian

The COVID-19 pandemic witnessed an alarming increase in mental health issues worldwide due to lockdowns and confinement, decreased social interactions, fear of infection, losing loved ones as well as economic downturns. Local studies and polls have recorded higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, and domestic violence due to the pandemic. 

Artists Randah Abu Rahmeh and Sanrda Sarkissian. Image by Zaid Khaled.

Unfortunately, mental health is a heavily stigmatized issue in Jordan. Open conversations between family and friends about psychological well-being and seeking professional help are a foreign concept to most members of Jordanian society. Many are undereducated about mental illnesses like anxiety, depression and eating disorders and often downplay their seriousness through jokes and denying themselves or other family members access to professional help.

Artists Omar Shaheen and Sara Allan. Image by Zaid Khaled.

The #mindthemind campaign begins to tackle these issues, encouraging open conversations about mental health, and casting a positive outlook on mental health problems. The murals’ uplifting colors and optimistic imagery demonstrate to the public that mental health does not always have to be a dark and negative topic. Rather, the murals celebrate mental health and encourage the acceptance of all mental struggles, no matter how small or large. 

The campaign began with an open call for all artists and muralists to submit artworks and ideas that speak about the issue. An independent panel then chose four artists to collaborate on the three murals, which were painted and completed throughout the month of October. The Embassy and artmejo also collaborated with Ruwwad Al-Tanmeya, a non-profit community development and educational organization for disenfranchised communities, to host a virtual community engagement session where 20 local artists spoke with four women from Ruwwad’s community about their first-hand experiences with dealing with mental health. This conversation provided the artists with a better understanding of the community’s outlook on mental health issues, which helped in the formation of the subject matter of their works. 

Musician Muhammad Abdullah recording Fog El Mai
Idreesi recording Fog el Mai, image by Zaid Khaled.

In addition to the murals, artmejo and the Embassy also commissioned a group of local musicians to compose and perform a song that addresses the issue of mental health. Fog El Mai is writtenn and performed by local musicians Muhammad Abdullah, Mohammad Idreesi, Amjad Shahrour, Amr Abukhleif, Ammar Urabi, Ghalia Barghouthi and Zaid Allan and Zaid Khaled. They were inspired by the universality of struggling with mental health due to the pandemic. In the song, the artists emphasize the importance of self-reflection and introspection, and normalize struggling with mental health issues. The lyrics reassure the audience that some things are out of one’s control, like the color of the sky or whether there is water in the sea. The song affirms that social isolation, economic stress, and several other issues regarding the pandemic inevitably affected everyone’s mental health, and it is only through a community effort that Jordan can begin working towards the acceptance of mental health issues.

Final mural by artists Randa Abu Rahmeh and Sandra Sarkissian. Image by Zaid Khaled.

The three murals narrate a story promoting positivity and acceptance. The first depicts a very optimistic, wide-eyed child and speaks to the beauty of this innocence and purity that comes with childhood. Through the child’s eyes, the world is very colorful and untainted. The butterflies that surround the child in this mural are meant to represent the butterfly effect: certain elements of life are out of one’s hands, and situations can escalate very quickly and unexpectedly. This mural aims to promote positivity regarding mental health issues, because they are uncontrollable; one should not blame oneself for suffering from such issues. The second mural depicts the same child grown up. She looks and reflects upon herself, her past, and where she wants to be. The mural quotes a line from Fog El Mai و أنا بلون السما راضي which translates to “I accept the color of the sky,” conveying the importance of accepting the elements of life which are out of one’s control. This mural encourages people to accept whatever negative events they may go through. It also inspires people to reclaim their narrative and maintain a positive outlook. In the third mural, the woman looks inside herself and she finds that she still has her positive inner child. This mural speaks about loving and embracing oneself, and recognizing that all the events that one goes through play a role in shaping one’s identity.

The murals’ immense size and their placement around Jabal Amman and Jabal Al Lweibdeh in the capital’s heart ensure their visibility to the vast public and spread these positive messages about mental health amongst all members of Jordanian society.

Final mural by artists Sara Allan and Omar Shaheen. Image by Zaid Khaled.

In a world suffering from the devastating consequences of a global pandemic, this campaign was a much-needed reminder of the importance of optimism and acceptance. The campaign acknowledges the mental health problems that many found themselves struggling with as a result of the pandemic, and encourages the Jordanian community to be more accepting of these issues. The murals spread positive messages about struggling with mental health, and encourage people to educate themselves about mental health issues. This campaign is an important step towards a future of acceptance and understanding towards mental health.