Mehmet x Emmanuel
Finding a balance between physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Growing up in a culture and community steeped in tradition and values, mental health advocate Mehmet found himself feeling trapped beneath the weight of pressure and expectation – striving to be what he felt others wanted him to be. Working with artist Emmanuel, this introspective piece reflects on Mehmet’s journey of caring for his wellbeing and how his cultural heritage can support this. Finding the ‘why’ and appreciating his religion and culture from a place of intrinsic curiosity rather than external pressure.
Mehmet Kavlakoglu (he/him)
I wanted this art piece to reflect my experiences as a first generation Australian. It has been inspired by my experiences as a Turkish Muslim living in a small country town who later moved to Adelaide.
I have always prided myself on being a perfectionist and balancing multiple priorities at the same time. As I grew older, I realised that taking care of your mental wellbeing as well as your spiritual and cultural connections is just as important as achieving a high GPA. We have a certain amount of time we can use in a day and I realised that life is not a sprint. It is about creating sustainable habits and ensuring that your physical, emotional and spiritual health is at the forefront.
This art piece focuses on my connection to religion and culture as well as how I navigated my teens and early 20’s; the good, the bad and the ugly. There are themes that include religion, social and emotional growth as well as external pressures to be academically successful. I hope it inspires other young people from CALD backgrounds to recognise the impact that culture plays on our everyday functioning.
Emmanuel Asante (he/him)
Art is a platform for expressing one’s point of view. It is a way of sending a message to your audience. For Mehmet’s message to be heard, metaphors were used including colours and the placement of objects. Colours such as blue symbolises sadness, yellow symbolises hope, and the talisman represents identity and religion.
I carefully listened to Mem’s story about his experience of hopelessness, low mood and low motivation. To my surprise, Mem and I have a lot in common; we shared a similar experience. This made my work easier. I also researched an artist who had struggled with his mental health – Pablo Piccasso – whose blue period was a great influence on the piece.
MY VISIBLE MESSAGE
“Culture is what you make of it. Pave your own path and prioritise what is important to your own development.”
There is a lot of stigma attached to seeking help for mental health, especially in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. It’s such a broad demographic that it makes it difficult to provide effective support for people in these communities. Each community has their own experiences, beliefs and traditions. My experience within my own community has been that the importance of an individual’s mental wellbeing is too often an afterthought.
I hope this artwork can empower young people from varying communities to understand that it is OK not to be OK. Sitting with this sense of discomfort to acknowledge its existence is the first step. The second step is to seek support. I want to share that culture and traditions are often imposed on young people early in their development. As we grow, we learn the ‘why’ and appreciate our religion and our culture through our own personal opinions and experiences, not the expectations of others. Through education and collaboration, we can understand the positive influence that culture can play in our lives.
One thing that I learnt about mental health and wellbeing is that it is OK not to be OK. Deep listening can help others know their issues matter. Another thing I learnt is to ask for help when you need it. Asking for help does not mean you are weak, asking for help means you want to remain strong.
It was definitely a fun experience, sharing my story and learnings with others, like Emmanuel, who have their own perceptions and understandings. It was also quite empowering to advocate for a group of people who would benefit from seeing the artwork. I hope that other young people will be able to ‘teach’ individuals about their own lived experiences and findings.
Mehmet Kavlakoglu (he/him)
Mehmet is passionate about helping young people, who come from different backgrounds and religious faiths, with their mental health. He has a particular interest in addressing the barriers that newly arrived families and young Muslims can face when accessing mental health services. Mehmet believes in early intervention, which can simply start as a conversation with a friend, a family member, a community elder. He is also an advocate of the importance of a holistic approach to care that incorporates physical, social, emotional, cultural and spiritual elements.
Emmanuel Asante (he/him)
Emmanuel is a 25-year-old artist based in Sydney. Inspired at a young age by his visual arts teacher, Emmanuel has since been the recipient of the 2019 Young Achievement Award in Creative Arts, and the 2019 Young Achiever Award (African Australian Awards). With a love of literature, poetry, song, novels and movies, Emmanuel wants to use his skills to combat the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.