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Holloway man wins praise from mental health chiefs for graphic novel drawing on 20-year experience of psychosis

PUBLISHED: 16:10 19 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:29 19 February 2018

Matt Barrell with his counsellor, Diane Frazer. Picture: Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust

Matt Barrell with his counsellor, Diane Frazer. Picture: Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust

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A former journalist who created a graphic novel drawing on his 20-year battle with psychosis has been praised by mental health professionals for breaking down stigma.

Each page conveys a different mental health condition or related health complication. Picture: Matt Barrell Each page conveys a different mental health condition or related health complication. Picture: Matt Barrell

Matt Barrell, who lives near Drayton Park in Holloway, spent nine months working on Nightmare Scenarios based on his 20 years of experience with the condition.

He intended it to be a personal project but since publishing it professionals have praised it for its portrayal of experiences millions of people can relate to.

It covers issues including obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, dementia, drugs abuse, alcoholism and gender identity.

Matt, 52, said: “This has been a personal project to motivate me to keep drawing and as someone with mental health issues it seemed logical to draw what I know about.

Matt is from Drayton Park. Picture: Matt Barrell Matt is from Drayton Park. Picture: Matt Barrell

“When my psychosis was at its worst, I felt some of the issues depicted in the book would come back to revisit me.

“I often felt I was on the edge of a ‘nightmare scenario’ – and feel I could tip out of control at any moment.”

Matt worked as a sub-editor at Time Out but became unwell in the mid-90s, resulting in three separate psychiatric admissions.

In recent years he has attended art therapy courses and counselling offered by the Camden and Islington NHS Trust at Isledon Road Resource Centre, Holloway.

Matt spent nine months on the project. Picture: Matt Barrell Matt spent nine months on the project. Picture: Matt Barrell

And as his collection of work developed he decided to self-finance 50 copies.

He said: “I don’t think I’ve solved anything but I do feel a sense of achievement. Other service users who’ve seen it have liked it, but some have found it a bit serious.”

His counsellor, Diane Frazer, feels the experience has been cathartic for Matt, and also helps dispel myths around mental health issues.

Diane said: “These drawings are so special and valuable in that they convey an absolutely accurate picture of the experiences of millions of people who are suffering mental health difficulties every day.”

The book is available via PayPal for £7.90 from mattbarrell@blueyonder.co.uk. Examples of Matt’s work can also be viewed at mattbarrell.co.uk.

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