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Brighton artist shares honest insight into living with bipolar disorder


Brighton artist shares honest insight into living with bipolar disorder

Jonathan LeRoux has spoken about his struggles.

After working in the film industry for twenty years, South African artist and Brighton local Jonathan LeRoux, 43, began to experience deep paranoia and extreme irritability that manifested in manic, reckless behaviour.

His bipolar disorder had manifested in such a way that he could no longer trust himself to work in ‘conventional’ industries where one’s expected to be sociable and amenable, and he instead poured himself into his artwork.

Five years later, Jonathan shares his experience living with bipolar disorder, and how stigma surrounding male mental health is costing hundreds of lives. Jonathan was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16 – but dismissed his diagnosis under the belief that he was “just a teenager that didn’t fit in”.

“I didn’t believe I had bipolar, but as life progressed and I went untreated it became more severe. Lack of self-belief, suicidal thoughts, major outburts and manic episodes fuelled by alcohol. The one thing that remained constant was that I was painting throughout that time. Anything I could get my hands on – I’d be painting bits of wood with industrial paint”.

Jonathan explains that he first started to consider seeking mental health support after experiencing extreme manic episodes during a visit to his home in Cape Town.

“I almost went broke manically spending on film equipment. I was experiencing extreme highs and lows in such quick succession I couldn’t maintain any work properly. I went to my family for help and they just put me on a plane back to England. People thought I was a drug addict because of my heightened state”.

After seeking help, Jonathan was put on medication to manage his bipolar and started seeing a therapist. While his symptoms are now more manageable, he explains that he cannot return to work in a ‘conventional’ job, and has instead poured everything into his passion for art.


“I’ve given up on trying to be part of the world, I can’t work like normal people. I’m a big bloke, and when I get manic or passionate people get scared. There’s still a lot of stigma around male mental health struggles and bipolar in particular.

“We’re treated like we’re axe murderers. It’s no wonder suicide is the leading cause of death in men under 50. We feel so isolated under the pressure of ‘being a man’. Painting allows me the space to express my emotions and thoughts. It took a long time for me to learn to believe in myself, but my art has validated me as a person who can contribute to society”.

Jonathan’s latest collection of abstract art uses oils on canvas to echo the English landscape, its atmospheric conditions and the beauty of the elements, inspired by William Turner’s impressionism. He aims to imbue his work “with a spark that exists outside of galleries” and make a lasting impression on both art-lovers and those new to the art world.

Jonathan works in painting, film, and more recently, oils on canvas. His work is abstract and narrative in nature, and encoded with the symbolism and forms of life in South Africa and England.

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