In an art gallery in New York City, we met “the Pippins” – the signature creation of the late Charles Winthrop Norton, reflective of the artist's own battles with mental illness. The fancily-dressed Pippins, some even sporting designer shoes, all display a thumbs-up gesture in the front, while hiding a bleaker middle finger signal behind their backs.
Brigitte Norton says that was the case for her son, the artist, as he navigated mental illness. He took his own life at the age of 24. Looking back, she still can't point to the exact time Charles first experienced depression. For a period, she dismissed her son's struggles as a teenage phase. But the phase never passed.
COVID-19 has increased demand for mental health services, but a shortage of providers predates the pandemic, and is likely to worsen in the years to come.
An extreme consequence of mental illness is suicide, a particular concern as rising rates have been reported among some groups of young people in particular.