Doctor of Happiness: An Art Essay
Heartfulness eMagazine|March 2020
SUKRITI VADHERA KOHLI is the founder of Doctor of Happiness, helping young people with depression and other mental conditions through her art and online platform. Here she speaks with VANESSA PATEL about what inspired her to open up this forum, and what a difference art can make to our well-being.
VANESSA PATEL

Q: Hullo Sukriti, can you please tell us about yourself and your organization, Doctor of Happiness?

When I started teaching, about 10 years back, I was interacting with a lot of young people. My students were aged 18 and 19, and I realized there were a lot of mental health issues in the country. Our students are facing a lot of pressure, and the pressure isn’t just about studies, it’s from multiple, complicated situations that young people are dealing with. To say that “College life is the best life” and “Youth is the best time” may not be true for everybody.

I began thinking that there has to be something that can be done for the mental health of Indian youth. I don’t have a psychology background; I am an artist. When I was in school, I was also in a very dark space and art helped me cope, so the thought came to me, “Why can’t I create a platform?” Before this, there were so many things I wanted to do but they never worked out. It took me three years to come up with the idea that art can inspire people. Can art be the reason for people to become hopeful?

So on January 2, 2018, I started my first online post and the idea was to reach out to as many people as possible. I also researched and discovered that there are a lot of artists working on mental health all over the world. They were doing a lot of dark stuffand I felt, “What is the point if I’m already in a dark space, and I see a dark illustration and I’m pulled into it? It doesn’t help. In fact it pulls me back.” So, consciously I decided that I would not use colors in my illustrations, only black and white in a minimalistic way. I would say something very profound in a simple way, so that it didn’t complicate, it didn’t overwhelm, it didn’t create more anxiety, it was not gyan, only something which would bring smiles to faces. I make a conscious effort to make positive art. It is very difficult, actually, for a subject like mental health. I had to really rack my brain and research a lot.

Q: You use art to tell a story or convey a message. Your illustrations also have a quirkiness, although that doesn’t take away from the somber topics you’re addressing. How do you inject that little bit of lightheartedness and still make the point?

It’s really a big challenge, but I believe one thing: unhappy people make other people unhappy, and happy people make other people happy. To be very honest, with the challenges we face in life, it’s difficult to be happy all the time. To make art like that I need to become happy first. I’m a mother of a six-year-old, I have my family to look after, I have my work to do, so sometimes it’s a challenge to make myself happy.

But I’ll tell you one thing, the secret lies in dealing with daily problems. Because I cope with them I know how hard it is, and I overcome them and illustrate that. Whatever I’m dealing with I’m illustrating, so the quirkiness comes from the fact that the problems are there but I’m going to overcome them. I have illustrated many books, but for the first time in many years I have been able to use art for something that creates value in other people’s lives.

My quirkiness remains the same, but what I create for Doc of Happiness is very profound. Sometimes, even I am encouraged by my illustrations – when I look at something I have made 6 months back.

Q: I don’t see your work touching on anything topical or political because that’s an entirely different subject.

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