Dani x Ashika

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Finding space to breathe through belonging and connection

During intense periods of anxiety, mental health advocate Dani Leever often found the simple act of breathing a challenge. In this powerful combination of imagery and words, Dani and Ashika Harper – artist and best friend – explore the physical pain and restriction of anxiety, as well as the solace found through connecting with others.

Dani Leever (they/them)

I’ve lived with anxiety for many years and when I was first experiencing it, the most notable part of my experience was that my chest would be tight constantly and it wasn’t always easy to inhale. Occasionally this would lead to panic attacks, but it was the consistent pain in my chest that made moving through life every day feel really difficult.

The experiences that I wanted to convey to Ashika throughout this process were not only ones of struggle, but also how community, connectedness and my queerness have been so instrumental in the healing process of mental health. That finding like-minded people and learning to build solid support networks can help me heal, and in turn, help me inhale and exhale.

Ashika Harper (they/them)

Through the conversation with Dani, we talked about many different elements of their experience with mental health. This work is about the support of Dani’s community and how that space helps them manage mental health.

Through conversation, we discussed how anxiety has affected them. We talked about breath and the way breathing is such a physical characteristic of their anxiety. I imagined Dani’s community as the cells that form the structure of plants. They live and breathe as one organism that continues to grow and flourish. This plant is like Dani’s emotional lungs. It sits firmly on the back of the figure who presents it with strength and courage. They breathe together and help each other develop.

MY VISIBLE MESSAGE

Healing can be complicated, and sometimes you need community and support to get all the nutrients you need.

The key messages I want to convey are around finding community and a sense of self through building support networks. The strength of the queer community has brought so much joy and healing into my life. I want everybody who has experienced mental ill-health to feel like they can belong – whether it’s a community of queer people, a religious or cultural community, Dungeons and Dragons fans or just a solid network of friends and family who understand you.

Dani

The collab

Through the conversation with Dani, we talked about many different elements of their experience. I made links between the different topics which led me to visualising plant life and the continued relationship we have with it. After our chat, I went away and designed a work that I thought represented many of the ideas I was having. I also had Dani colour in a sheet of their favourite combinations of colours. I used this as inspiration of the colours in the work.

Ash

Working with Ashika was such a dream. Ashika and I have many similar experiences, so it was great to bounce ideas off each other and make something really collaborative. They interpreted so many of my complex experiences in a visually stunning and powerful way which I feel so grateful for.

Dani

Dani Leever (they/them)

Dani is a writer, DJ and youth mental health advocate. They’re passionate about advocating for young people experiencing mental illness, in particular trans and gender diverse young people. They aim to work toward creating safe spaces, breaking down stigma while speaking out against issues impacting the LGBTIQA+ community.

Ashika Harper (they/them)

Ashika is a Melbourne-based artist currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Art at RMIT University. Ashika joined forces with Visible because it seemed like a great opportunity to engage their artistic practice in community and with other people.

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Visible is a movement initiated by the Australian Youth Advocates for Mental Health (AYAMH), co-ordinated by headspace and guided by 9 National Mental Health organisations.

Visible would like to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First People and Traditional Custodians. We value their cultures, identities, and continuing connection to country, waters, kin and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and are committed to making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.

headspace is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. headspace welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd is a health promotion charity that has been endorsed as a deductible gift recipient. ABN 26 137 533 843