For some, treating your body like a canvas to mark intricate and loving designs upon is a way to express yourself.
This could be getting your favourite animal tattooed on your arm or a quote from a movie that’s helped you through a rough patch – we can all agree that after the last two years we’ve had with the pandemic, expressing who you are and your story is crucial to your mental health.
Whether that’s through your fashion sense, or what music you listen to, as long as it’s not hurting you or anyone else then it should be encouraged. We shouldn’t have to bottle up who we are.
I came across Self Love Club Tattoo through endlessly scrolling down my “for you” page on Tiktok and was immediately pulled in. Why? Well, it claims to have a focus on tackling mental health.
According to Mind, a mental health charity, 1 in 4 of us will face a struggle with their mental health…
So the question is, why is having mental health based tattoo studios so ground-breaking?
If so many of us struggle with our mental health, why has it taken so long for spaces to be accessible to folks who struggle with their mental health?
After working as a tattoo artist for over four years, Chloe Isaac who owns the studio, could see that there something was missing.
She said: “Being heavily tattooed myself, it’s quite intimidating when you walk into a tattoo shop and they don’t know who you are or what you struggle with. You just get tattooed and then you leave.”
“And so, I think growing up in that and just say it’s kind of made me realize what should be there and what isn’t there.”
This wasn’t what she wanted for her own studio. She plans to not only have the venue used as a tattoo and piercing studio, but she also wants to use the space as a community hub, where the public can pop in and talk over a cuppa if that’s what they need, even if they don’t want a new tattoo or piercing.
When you walk into the shop, you’ll be required to fill out a comfortability form, where then the staff can accommodate for your needs, whether you need noise cancellation headphones or need a separate room, or even dietary requirements. Chloe says she doesn’t want anyone to feel left out and that the staff will do their best to accommodate everyone’s needs as she understands how daunting it can be.
“It’s just to make them feel more comfortable and just not feel intimidated.”
The studio is planned to open in May and will be based in Blantyre, though because the staff are having to go through additional training it may take slightly longer to get opened.
Staff will be given mental health training, so that they can see the signs if people are struggling or need to talk to someone. Staff will then be able to signpost clients to support services.
Chloe told me that she wouldn’t have considered opening a mental health-based studio before the pandemic, and that something extraordinary happened. She told me that her mum really struggled with their mental health and before the lockdown, Chloe couldn’t fully understand what she was going through. She said that seeing someone you care about go through that can be really eye opening, and that there must be many more people out there who suffer in silence.
Through the lockdown, Chloe ended up giving her mum a tattoo sleeve and with each new tattoo, she could see her mum completely flourish and bloom. They both decided to call it the “self love sleeve”.
She told me that the meaning behind the studio’s name: Self Love Club Tattoo, was that she believed in principle, that if you can’t love yourself and look after yourself, then it’s very hard to be able to love and look after anybody else in your life.
Intrigued by the relationship between mental health and tattoos, I spoke to Tom Home, the founder of blOKes, a men’s mental health podcast. He told me that he has two tattoos; one saying “I love you” in his nana’s handwriting, as they were very close when she passed away in 2016 and a compass on his ankle. This was because he was going through what he calls, “a bit of a crossroads” with his life and mental health, and wanted to get something he could look at and see how far he’s came since that time.
“I know tattoos often split opinions but for me personally, I think they can be instrumental in improving mental wellbeing. Having something on your body permanently can sometimes give you the motivation or boost that you need to get through difficult times – that’s certainly been the case for me.
“Tattooing is an art form and having the opportunity to be creative and express yourself can really help improve your mental health, so I think that this should be something that the industry encourages and promotes more.”
Self Love Club Tattoo is one of the first mental health based tattoo studios, and so far they have boomed in popularity online through social media sites like Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook. Chloe told me that even if they can change just one person’s life, it’ll all be worth it.
In this day and age where we have a new political scandal every few days in the shadow of a pandemic and Brexit, perhaps spaces such as Self Love Club Tattoo could be the silver-lining we all need.
If this discussion of mental health has been distressing and you need some support, please check these resources. The process of getting help is hard but I can promise you that it will be so worth it.