Tagged: mental health

Keely Rutherford on dealing with depression

Tattoo artist Keely Rutherford recently lost her mum to depression and pyschosis, in this honest interview she talks about what happened to her mum and why she is holding a charity flash day in her memory…


Keely with her mum and dad

Have you always been aware of your mum’s struggle with depression and psychosis? To be honest no. She struggled and was sectioned for nine months about 13 years ago. Mum had never shown signs before, when she was home it was something we never really spoke about. I wish I’d taken the time to understand her and how she might have been feeling.

I don’t think we ever fully recover from mental health issues, but my mum just got on with things the best way she could. She was strong, courageous and had a very happy life with my dad. Looking back over the years, Dad and I have realised Mum had an addiction with shopping. When she was worried or anxious, she’d spend money to make herself feel better. Since she passed away, we’ve found thousands of pounds worth of clothes all with the labels still on. I think mental health covers such a wide spectrum of symptoms, that it must be so hard to realise when you are dealing with a mental illness.

Do you remember this while you were growing up? The first time I remember Mum getting poorly, I was 20. She’d just retired and was at home alone all day while dad and I went to work. When we came home, we slowly started to realise that mum hadn’t changed from her pyjamas all day. She was extremely anxious and panicky and we couldn’t work out why. This went on for longer than it should have, but Dad and I were totally unaware of mental health symptoms of this nature, so we didn’t know what to do.

We finally got Mum to a doctor who referred her to a psychiatrist who was very concerned for her. She got sectioned within the week as she was showing signs of psychosis and depression. She’d lost so much weight and was severely malnourished. It took her about nine months to get back to some kind of normality. If I’m honest, I don’t think Mum was ever herself after this. She was a big worrier, but she was still bloody wonderful, caring and funny! We had a great relationship. She confided in me back in November 2016, just before she was back in the psychiatric hospital. Her worry was totally fixable and I took control to help the situation. Sadly it didn’t change how Mum felt, the damage was already done.


Keely being tattooed by her mum

Do you struggle with mental health yourself? Who doesn’t? I don’t think as humans we were designed to put ourselves under the amount of stress that we do, with work and our lifestyles. We push ourselves so much to be these amazing humans that we all are, but I do think that can affect us mentally.

I’ve never been diagnosed with any mental health issues, but then again I’ve never been to see any one. I know I get anxious but never enough for it to affect my life too much. Losing Mum made me have emotions I’d never faced before. It’s only been a few months since Mum died and I’ve had a couple of days I just didn’t want to get out of bed – which is very unlike me and made me understand depression. I’m so lucky to have my boyfriend Andrew, he has been a rock, not only to me but to my dad too. I know the days could have been a lot darker without his presence.

What advice would you give to others who are worried about relatives? It’s so hard as everyone has a different story. Definitely talk to them, try and help them open up. The second time around my mum’s GP wasn’t very helpful. He wouldn’t look at her history or refer her to a psychiatrist as we suggested. So I called Mind and they said go to A&E and ask to see the duty psychiatrist, so we did on December 2nd 2016. They took us to a private room, asked Mum lots of questions – and Dad and I. They assessed her situation. They organised a team from Crisis to visit mum at home twice a day. By the 5th of December, Mum was back on a psychiatric ward. I never knew about going to A&E for this kind of help, so it’s something I want to share.


“My parents both tattooed me in August last year. Which I’m so grateful for.”

Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to let your mum go? Oh man this is a hard one. On February 17th I was working the London Tattoo Collective. At 10.30am, my phone rings and it’s Mum’s ward. She was on her way to hospital as they couldn’t wake her up, she was unconscious from going into a diabetic hypo. She stayed in hospital for two weeks where they got her eating, they then sent her back to the psychiatric ward where within days she was rushed back into hospital as she was unconscious again.

Since about January, Mum had stopped walking and being able to feed herself through the meds not working and lack of support in the ward. So by this time she had been bed bound for a month. The hospital where mum now was ran test after test and found nothing, she was a little more conscious but she wasn’t talking or opening her eyes. We celebrated her birthday on March 10th, she was 73. She was now being fed through a tube and had been on a drip for several weeks and still semi-conscious. All her tests came back clear, so over the next week Dad and I met with numerous specialists, who all said they couldn’t find anything wrong other than Mum’s brain didn’t want to fight any more, it was shutting down.

So on March the 17th we had our final meeting, and this was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. To let Mum go peacefully. The doctors had no other options and poor Mum couldn’t fight for herself and I know she would have hated us all seeing her lay there day in day out. They said the chances of Mum ever walking again was near on impossible as her tendons were so dehydrated. So for my darling Mum’s dignity, the specialist, Dad and I made the decision to stop all the meds and let her go. Mum started palliative care (end of life treatment) on the 18th of March. So we sat with her every day and night for two weeks until she passed away on April 1st, this was torture watching her slowly die, but it also seemed so unfair to prolong her suffering. I held her hand until the bitter end

We will never know if Mum knew what was happening the last few months of her life. All I know is that I hope she knew that Dad and I were with her when her heart stopped beating.

Why is it so important to open up a dialogue about mental health issues? It’s the unspoken illness, yet it affects so many people’s lives. When I told people my mum was seriously ill people assumed she had a physical illness. I’ve had such an amazingly overwhelming response already from sharing my story and making a charity day [details at the end of this interview] to raise money and awareness. As you can image it was a very hard decision to go public, but as soon as I did it was like a weight had lifted. I hope by sharing others will be encouraged to confide in the people around them.


Some of Keely’s flash available at the charity day on August 12th

What do you hope to achieve from the flash day? Awareness for people like my mum who suffered and felt too scared to ask for help. 100% of what we make will be going to the mental health charity Mind – they helped us so much. We have already had so many donations, I’m so grateful.

You mention on your JustGiving page that your mum loved cats and passed this down to you (and that is why it is a cat flash day) did she pass anything else down to you? So much! I’m very like my mum, she also asked daft questions all the time! Which I’m very aware of doing! I’m amazing at shopping so I think that’s down to her! She was a great mum and devoted her life to me, she taught me so much. To be caring, kind and to love. I’ll always miss our chats about life and love.


Cat & MIND Charity Day

10am, Saturday 12th August
Jolie Rouge
364 Caledonia Road

London, N1 1DU
Pre-drawn flash available on the day
First come first served basis

Tattooers taking part:
Keely Rutherford
Clara Sinclair
Manni K
Lord Montana Blue
Mark Ford
Antonio Gabriele
Matt Difa

Mental Health Hearts By Callum Glover

23-year-old tattooist Callum Glover works out of Black Craft in Wakefield and Secret Society in Hartlepool and Brighton, where he creates blackwork tattoos. We chat to Callum about the hearts filled with positive messages, that he tattoos to raise money for mental health charity MIND and his own struggles with mental health…


I got into tattooing after I had  been to college doing non art related courses and after working poorly paid jobs with little job satisfaction. I had been tattooed a few times with pretty poor tattoos before I started tattooing. But I just loved getting tattooed, so I remember going to get tattooed by a guy in his house (cringe)! This guy happened to become my best friend, he showed me a tattoo machine, asked if I’d like a try, so I did, I tattooed a small tribal design on a piece of fake skin made out of rubber. The tattoo was awful, the machine was cheap but I was hooked from then on. I’ve never been good at keeping quiet or staying still, or being told what to do, and with tattooing I saw an opportunity to do something that I’d be happy doing for the rest of my life.

So I looked and looked for around two years for an apprenticeship, all the while improving my art work, trying to find my style, which I’m still doing! I found my apprenticeship and the rest is history as they say.


What drew me to the tattoo world was properly experiencing the tattoo world. I remember being an apprentice not knowing if I could make it as a tattoo artist, wondering if it was for me or if I fit in. Until I went to my first tattoo convention, as soon as I entered my mind was set to rest, I remember thinking this is it, this is my world, it’s where I feel at home.

Tattooing helped me so much, I could have turned out so differently, due to the struggles I’ve been through, but it’s been there for me and gave me something to get lost in. I’ve done a lot of tattoos, a lot I’m super proud of, but the ones that mean the most to me are the mental health heart tattoos I do.


I remember where the idea came from, I myself have severe depression and anxiety and I’ve suffered for years. It’s ruined so many friendships and relationships in my life and it’s took me to some dark places. I remember having a really bad few days, where I just shut myself away, I was bitter and nasty, I thought I was a lost cause. Until I managed to drag myself through, with the help of a friend.

In the moments that followed, I decided I didn’t want to get to that point again, not only that, but I wanted to help others. So I designed a bunch of hearts, with positive messages inside. It is sometimes hard to take help from a person, and it’s usually the best option to help someone else to help themselves.


That’s what these tattoos are, my customers come and pick from my designs or we create a personal message for them together. That way when they feel low they have a permanent reminder from themselves that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ and ‘you are enough’.

If I was hoping to spread a message, then I think the message would be ‘you are not alone’. No matter how you feel, you are not on your own, help someone help you, reach out, seek help. I want to share love and positivity with every single one of these tattoos. Every single one I do helps both my customer and myself with the daily struggles that mental health issues bring.


I believe that we can all do more to help those in need, show love, show compassion and show understanding. Just listen, any of these things could save someone’s life – I know from experience. So I’d say the best way to help is to pay attention, notice the signs and just be there for that person.

Interview with Hannah Hill

21-year-old Hannah Hill is the talented lady behind independent business, Hanecdote. Since 2012 she has been creating cute and quirky embroidered patches, along with establishing the Ghoul Guides International club. Not only does her stitching wizardry make you smile, with slogans such as “Avocado Angel” and “Pizza Princess”, but they also bring awareness to subjects such as mental health, racism and feminism.

Amber Bryce caught up with Hannah to talk about her art, inspirations and amazing collection of tattoos, of course…


When did you first start embroidering? I started embroidering when I was about 17, at college studying a BTEC Art and Design course, where I was given the opportunity to experiment with a wide variety of mediums and techniques. Saying that, my mum has always knitted and stitched so the influence has been around me for most of my life.

Where do you find your inspiration? My sources of inspiration can vary a great amount. I find beauty in kind people and my intense love for my best friend, nature, architecture, pop culture, emotions and politics, girls, identity and family. I find huge inspiration and support in my online feminist art babe community, and people constantly making me want strive to be better and make even more meaningful work.


Are you interested in any other art forms? I love all kinds of art forms and styles, although hand embroidery is my main skill. Both of my grandparents were architects, which influenced my outlook on the world around me from a very young age, and as I mentioned, my mum is a very talented crafter, who has done projects including mosaic, stained glass, knitting, painting, floristry, embroidery and sculpture. All my life I have been surrounded by art/design in one way or another, whether it was crafternoons, gallery trips or work experience. This year on my fine art course, I hope to expand my textile techniques as well as explore my identity further. This is something I am really excited about, and look forward to seeing where my work goes.


Do you have a favourite artist? There are plenty of artists who I love but I don’t think I could choose just one. I recently saw Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy and it was incredible. What stood out to me in particular, other than the deep historical context and emotion behind lots of his pieces, was the beautiful craftsmanship, which just further represented aspects of China’s history.

I also love Yayoi Kusama’s work and am really inspired by her resilience through mental health issues and how that transpires in her hypnotic, colourful work. Right now I am obsessed with Reuben Dangoor who has been painting Grime artists as if they were landed gentry, which combines my love of grime music and classical painting. I am all about changing up the art world, and injecting the variety of cultures now residing in the UK into what we think of art and history in England, and this series really represents that crossover.



Which of your creations are you proudest of? Over the past year, my embroidery has grown from teeny patches expressing hobbies and interests, to more biographical pieces, which are much more detailed. I love both kinds equally, but the patches that are closest to my heart are ones that support and encourage little victories, activities that are hard for people with mental health issues but still deserve to be rewarded. Knowing that I have impacted someone’s mental health, and helped them to not feel so alone is so heartwarming to me.

I personally love the embroidered self-portrait I made last year, which was challenging but my hard work really paid off. It had originally started of as a self-care project, which turned into really fun way of working for me.


What are your future plans for Hanecdote? As far as my shop, its had to be put on the back burner while I’m back at university, but I do hope to reopen it soon, just selling machine embroidered versions of my classic designs while I study. Next summer I will have more time to commit to my business, introducing some clothing, expanding the machine embroidered range and also offering customised embroidered hoops, similar to the ones I have been making. I love being able to share my creations and designs with people, but I wouldn’t say I enjoy business, so I kind of make it up as I go along, improving and learning constantly, and I would like to grow personally as an artist for a while before committing to my shop again.

What advice would you give to others wanting to start their own business? It takes a lot of patience, that’s for sure. I struggle to think of sound advice as it is all about trial and error for me, and I’ve been running Hanecdote since I was 17 so there really has been a lot of learning and figuring out the best process. I was making and sharing kind of crap things for a year or more before I made my Ghoul Guide patches and they got popular online, which propelled me into the patch machine I have turned into over the past two years. I guess be confident in your products, work ethically, don’t copy other peoples designs and have fun expressing yourself.


Tell us about your tattoo collection? I got my first tattoo a week after my 18th birthday, which is a bum in a heart shape and could still be one of my favourites as my mum also got tattooed with me and it brings back fond memories. I also have a black cat on my wrist; a matching honey jar with my brother, which commemorates a fond memory with our grandpa; an interpretation of my popular Too Cute To Care patch; a palm tree, which I got in Antigua with my boyfriend; a pin up girl with a snake wrapped around her, inspired by John Collier’s painting of Lilith and Salma Hayek’s character in From Dusk Till Dawn; a skull pin cushion; a Friday the thirteenth embroidery sample; a sad girl; a crying eye; lil ghoul; a heart with a G inside; a heart saying ‘mine’; a nude Polaroid, and a butterfly.


Have you got plans for anymore in the future? I have lots of ideas for tattoos in the future, including some mermaids, no doubt more embroidery inspired ones, some more babes, and I’ve been really thinking about a beautiful under boob tattoo. I think I’m gonna go easy for a while though, if I can help myself! Matching tattoos are my favourite and I would love to get some more. Hopefully one day I can convince my dad to get one with me

SemiColon Tattoo

Project Semicolon  is a non-profit faith-based charity encouraging people to draw semicolons onto their skin to show their support for mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, self harm and suicide.

The popular punctuation mark shows that the wearer’s story is not over or finished and how they have the power to write their own future. The tattoos are bringing people together as they convey a sense of unity to anyone suffering from mental health related issues.

The semicolon has been branded as a symbol of hope, reminding those who have it that they have the strength to overcome obstacles and that they are not alone.

On the Project SemiColon website it states that:

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.


Tattoo the Taboo


Meet Kerry-Anne, tattooer and owner of Cock A Snook tattoo parlour in Newcastle… for years she suffered with mental health problems, but she suffered in silence, she felt unable to tell anyone due to the stigma… read her story and find out how you can help below. She has now organised a charity tattoo day to raise awareness of mental health issues and also has a support group called Tattoo The Taboo on Facebook.

“Even though I have suffered with long-term mental health issues, I didn’t ask for help until I was 31. Because of this I lost friends, let customers, colleagues and peers down, which over time made my illness worse. This also greatly impacted my ability to make tattoos. When I decided to ask for support and treatment, I wondered what I had been so afraid of? Why didn’t I seek help before?

“I was terrified of other people finding out, I felt like it was showing weakness. I had subjected myself to a self-inflicted stigma that had festered to the point that I had no idea how poorly I was. I thought it was completely normal to hate myself, be riddled with doubt and see the world through negative eyes. I believed that I would never be happy and that I was just really shit at life. In hindsight, and after starting treatment, I can look at things more objectively. I’m not worthless, I’m kind, caring and compassionate and I have just as much right as anybody, to live a happy and normal life. I wasn’t shit at life, I was just struggling with a crippling illness.

I decided I couldn’t bare the weight of keeping secrets and lying about my illness, so I took the step to gradually let people know. Even though I was scared, I was surprised at how supportive everybody was. This encouraged me to tell everybody else without being apologetic, as I realised the stigma surrounding mental health was the biggest factor as to why so many people go untreated and unsupported through their illness.

“I also wanted to do something about tackling the stigma, as the more people I told, the more I realised that it was so much more common than I had expected. Some of my favourite people, who I knew inside and out (or so I thought) then shared their own struggles with me. I decided to share my story and made a support group on Facebook called “TATTOO THE TABOO” to  raise awareness of mental health issues and also to do some fundraising to boot. This group is inclusive and for anybody who has, or is suffering with any mental health problems and also for people who have been affected in some way, whether it be caring for somebody who is suffering, or if these issues have impacted on you in some way.

“The group is a platform for people to share their stories and to do some fundraising. The the stigma needs to stop and understanding needs to start. I already have  over 100 artists keen to take part in some “TATTOO THE TABOO” events. The first being on 4 July 2015. Tattooers will be making flash, etc to tattoo on customers who support the cause, the money raised will go to a mental health charity. Lots of the artists are donating paintings, prints, and merch, or whatever they can, to be exhibited, photographed for a book and then auctioned, with all the proceeds donated to the same charity.”

Kerry-Anne is still looking for other tattooers who wish to participate or donate to the event. For more info email cockasnook@hotmail.com. Hopefully as a tattoo community we can all pull together and make this worthwhile.

Check out the following links for more info: Facebook event, Cock a Snook, and the Instagram accounts: @cockasnook @littlekezz