April Jakubec Duggal, MSc, is a mental health artist-advocate who paints bright acrylic portraits and florals as a sort of self-therapy to cope with her own mental health struggles.
Years before her diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), April started having severe nightmares. On a visit home to see her family in Arkansas, her mom gave her early (and extra!) birthday money to purchase some basic painting supplies to help keep April busy on those long, sleepless nights.
Reflecting on her work's recurrent theme of flower-covered eyes, Jakubec recalls, "I kept painting the same thing over and over for almost 7 months before I finally had to sit back and ask myself what this was all about. The answer came to me quickly-- I felt unseen. Nobody could see the pain and tears in my eyes, as if they were hidden from view. Or maybe folx just didn't know to ask if I was okay because I wasn't vulnerable enough to show them that no, I was not."
What started as a passive way to cope with her own mental health symptoms has grown into an intentional and powerful tool to connect with and help share real womxn's stories and experiences of mental health issues. "Through my art practice, I've become a better self-advocate-- asking for space, asking to be seen." April confirms that she now feels 'seen.'
April has served as the New Bedford Historic National Park Services artist in residence (Jan-Mar 2020) and has had her art featured in the US Human Rights 2020 Annual Report.