Kerry-Anne Richardson is a tattoo artist, owner of Cock A Snook Tattoo Parlour in Newcastle and organiser of charity tattoo project Tattoo The Taboo which has to date raised an amazing £12,000 for mental health charity Mind.
Inkluded wanted to chat to Kerry-Anne to find out more about why so many people were joining together to raise awareness of this particular cause.
So, Tattoo The Taboo… where did it all start?
Tattoo the Taboo was is a project I started to try and help erase the stigma that surrounds those who suffer with mental health problems.
I have suffered with mental health problems since being tiny, but have only recently been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, clinical depression and agoraphobia. I realised I could have been diagnosed much sooner and had more support if I’d been able to talk about how I felt. I didn’t like to talk about it as I felt ashamed that I seemed so different from everyone else. I felt like less of a person. I was terrified of how people would see me. I didn’t like to feel weak and that is what I saw myself as.
I’d spent my whole life worrying, over analysing everything and thinking everybody hated me and I that I was a burden. I thought that it was my personality and I was shitter at life than everyone else. I had no idea there might be reasons behind how I felt and that I didn’t have to live like that.
I stopped tattooing for a good while as my stress and anxiety levels were so high it became almost impossible to function. I let customers, friends, colleagues and peers down as it was all too much for me. Having my own studio, working guest spots, conventions it was a lot of stress. Stress on top of illness is a disaster waiting to happen.
I was suicidal, sleeping on my living room floor (where I had been for a good few months) and suddenly I realised I needed something to happen… I was so deeply unhappy. I was diagnosed shortly after a trip to hospital after the main stint of my hibernation time (I can laugh about it now but it was dreadful).
The diagnoses has helped me a lot. It’s made me think differently about myself. I’m not at all shit at life; I’m just struggling with a serious illness and I have been struggling for a very long time. If you think about it that way, I think I’ve done pretty well. I’m educated, I’ve travelled, I have my own business and lots of beautiful, supportive friends. That’s something I hadn’t been able to see before this point.
When I started to be honest with people, I was so surprised at how many people have suffered in similar ways. I’ve been through so much and I couldn’t bare the thought of anyone else having to go through the same stuff without some kind of support. Nobody should feel ashamed for having any kind of serious illness and nobody should go unsupported.
That is why I decided to set up the support group on Facebook, I wanted to create a place where we could all be honest; un-apologetically so… a place where we can stop pretending and start learning. The only way to get rid of stigma is to talk about it. It’s ok to be poorly in this way and it effects so many more people than we realise.
The response to the group has been overwhelming. Already over a thousand members all there to support each other. I found the actual support from medical professionals and talking therapies to be considerably lacking; thats where the fundraising idea came from. It would be nice to make a difference to the level of support provided to people in need. It made sense to ask tattooers to help with the fundraising as tattooing is my life and tattooers are some of the most kind and non-judgemental people I have ever met.
How did the very first fundraising day go?
The response has been incredible – so positive and kind. We had almost thirty artists take part in the tattoo fundraising day in July. The total after that was just under £8,000 and is now at nearly £12,000 since our auction and raffle day. I was only aiming for around £2,000 so we’ve smashed it already!
Tattooers and our extended family donated original art, prints, merchandise, you name it! It was all auctioned and raffled off on the 15th August in Newcastle. If you haven’t donated yet, you can at justgiving/tattoothetaboo.
What is the next stage for Tattoo the Taboo?
We have so many plans, all top secret (hehehe)! I can tell you that we will continue to try and raise awareness and funds to help as best we can. 🙂
Do you think the attitude in the UK towards metal health is different from other countries?
The British ‘stiff upper lip’ can’t help much at all – it’s not a case of pulling your socks up and getting on with it. If you are poorly, struggling on and keeping things to yourself it can only make it worse, not better. Mental health problems can be so isolating, I’m pretty sure thats why the young male suicide rate in this country is so high. Last time I checked the biggest killer of young men wasn’t cancer or road accidents, it’s suicide. I’m certain some of these deaths could be prevented if these young men felt like they should talk to somebody and ask for support, instead of being made to feel weak. There is nothing weak about having an illness, it’s only weak to judge those who struggle daily. The stigma needs to stop and understanding needs to start.
Words: Beccy Rimmer
Photography: Instagram results for #tattoothetaboo