Good things come from bad experiences. That’s what 17-year-old Celia Painter believes after her struggle with anxiety and depression led to her co-creating her first book with Abbie Krieble (right).

The Wellington student noticed her mental health deteriorating in late 2014. After talking to her family and her GP, she was referred on to a psychologist and psychiatrist for diagnosis and support.

That’s when her journey to wellness began. Along the way she’s discovered new skills and a desire to help other youth experiencing similar mental health challenges.

Drawing leads to mental wealth

When Celia’s clinical psychologist, Jo Leech, suggested she find a way of expressing herself creatively she found herself drawing – even though she had not done much art in the past. To her surprise, communicating her thoughts and feelings visually was beneficial to Celia’s mental health.

At the same time she and a friend from school – Abbie Krieble – were talking about their common experience of depression and what worked for them.

“My outlet is art and Abbie’s is writing, so initially we joked about doing a children’s book together,” Celia says. “We talked further and realised we hadn’t seen any mental health resources written by young people, and when we were looking through my illustrations about illness and recovery we thought maybe they could help other people.”

In March 2015, the two friends decided to take on the challenge of creating their own resource and started working on When life gives you lemons.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

“Mental illness is such a complicated thing and getting our ideas across in an understandable and relatable way was quite challenging,” Abbie says.

“It took me two days to hand draw each page, and if I made a mistake, I had to start again,” Celia adds. “Abbie had the challenge of making sure we weren’t saying the wrong thing. We want to help young people, not makes things harder.”

So each page was checked by Celia’s psychologist to ensure “it was all OK to talk about”, and the girls also discussed it with teachers at Central Regional Health School.

Celia and Abbie are very proud of their final result – a 64-page book called When life gives you lemons – which lets other young people with experience of mental illness know what does and doesn’t help and that they are not completely alone.

It is being published by Ann Neville from CreateBooks and launches on 24 November (5.30pm) at the National Library in Wellington.