How 'We Are Lions' Helps Artists With Mental Illnesses and Disabilities

Most people don’t know who designed their favorite t-shirt or the pattern on their most-used mug, but We Are Lions, an online store that showcases the work of artists with mental illnesses and disabilities, wants to change that.

We Are Lions works with artists with disabilities and mental illnesses to produce functional pieces of art – from cellphone cases to t-shirts – bearing the artists’ designs. Each partner artist creates an original print and We Are Lions does the rest, printing, packaging and shipping all items. All products are moderately priced, ranging from $29 for a tote bag to $59 for a shower curtain.

“I believe art is the perfect platform for this change,” David Schwartz, founder of We Are Lions, told The Mighty. “Art is a means of acceptance and inspires communication. In order to facilitate this conversation productively, I started putting artwork made by the community on products people interact with every day.”

The idea for We Are Lions came from personal experience. “I had an incredible uncle, Larry. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at a very young age,” Schwartz said. “Stigmas are real, it’s an unfortunate reality that people living with disabilities and mental illness have to face. When purchasing [products] made by the community, it empowers not only the person responsible for creating the product, but it chips away negative assumptions that are associated with disability and mental illness.”

In addition to empowering artists living with disabilities, We Are Lions, also employs them. Each participating artist receives royalties from items sold bearing their designs, with 50 percent of profits benefiting artists and nonprofit organizations. We Are Lions reaches out to artists they are interested in working with but also encourages artistically inclined people living with mental illnesses and disabilities to submit their artwork for consideration.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

close-up of therapist holding patient hands

When My Therapist Is on Vacation or Unavailable

I have a confession. I’m terrified. I don’t know how to survive without my therapist. Despite the support groups and contacts that were given to me, I feel completely lost. I am so embarrassed by my need. I feel silly. I feel like she will hate me. Yet… I am completely reliant on her. I’ve [...]
A side view of a young woman with a mountain in the background

When I Need Someone to Rescue Me From My Inner Troll

Sometimes, it feels impossible to go on. So much responsibility. So much to do. I’m utterly exhausted. I take care of my children every day. I help them grow and be healthy. I schedule their appointments. I take them to the doctor, to the dentist and to therapy. When my kids are melting down, I [...]
Black and white portrait of a man with his head held in his hands.

When Giving and Receiving Gifts Bring You Nothing but Shame

Holidays of any kind are hard on people buried in shame. Holidays calling for an exchange of gifts are even worse. The shame people like me experience around receiving is obvious: we feel unworthy. If I’m an irredeemable piece of shit, I certainly don’t deserve a gift, whatever it is. Your even thinking to give me [...]
a young woman typing in her phone

When Your Facebook 'Year in Review' Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

I didn’t want to look at my Facebook “Year in Review” video this year. I haven’t shared it on my timeline for family and friends to see. There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s a perfectly lovely collection of photos of our once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Australia, days out with friends, our children’s birthdays. But much like [...]