Is this what crazy looks like?

Lee PTSD, mental health


Ahh that awkward squirmy topic of mental health. Isn’t it something we’d all like to brush under the carpet and pretend it’s an issue that doesn’t exist. In fact, that’s what most people do. Newsflash, it really does exist and although it’s not always visible to the human eye, it eats away at its victims and families too.

If you get on the tube with a broken leg, the disgruntled Londoners will probably move and give you their seat. Probably. It’s a touch more awkward to tap someone on the shoulder and say ‘excuse me, I’m having a bout of anxiety, I need to sit down before I fall down. I’m currently having an out of body experience just so I can cope with this fella’s breath on my face.’

Maybe you’re all compassionate people. You probably are, as you’re three paragraphs in! Perhaps, it’s never crossed your mind to tell someone suffering with depression that they should pull themselves together. But have you thought it? People who’ve never suffered with depression associate it with the only thing they can… having a bad day. It’s so much more than that. Same with anxiety, we’ve all been anxious right?

I really believed that the world was turning a corner and mental health issues were being recognised as genuine illnesses. But, nah. There is so much ignorance around mental illness and still a massive lack of support for those who suffer. I’ve had conversations with people who work in the medical profession who are openly derogatory and dismissive. Most people recognise the importance of the brain, so why the lack of understanding when the brain gets sick? It’s a bloody complex organ, it’s bound to malfunction from time to time.

It’s sad but weakness is associated with those who suffer. When in reality it takes a huge amount of strength to fight, often a shitload of medication and professional help whilst battling with inner turmoil and trying to put a brave face on it because society tells you that you should. Something’s got to shift.

A few months back I put a shout-out on my Facebook profile, asking for volunteers – only those with a mental illness need apply. Having just started a Documentary Photography course at, London College of Communication, part of UAL, I was tasked with finding a subject to photograph that I felt passionate about. I knew what I wanted to focus on but how was I going to get anyone to agree?! I expected silence, but within minutes my inbox was had a healthy number of responses. It turns out others are pretty keen to combat the stigma around mental health too.

I’m kicking this series off with Lee, husband of my best friend and father of my two beautiful godchildren. He let me photograph him and shared some very poignant words on the illness he’s suffered with, PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you want to get involved please message me!

9 Comments on “Is this what crazy looks like?”

  1. Johanna – this is such an interesting topic and one that again, and again, we say we’re all cool with, but is still the butt of many jokes, embarrassment and general lack of understanding of how to talk to someone who is suffering.

    Good luck with this project!

    • Hey Ellie, I think things are improving but there’s still so much stigma. I was in a working situation last year and left feeling horrified when young vulnerable adults had their mental health issues dismissed by management & medical staff. Maybe they were oblivious to it but behind closed doors I heard the reality. I think most people would say they’re sympathetic but in reality I don’t know. Such a lack of understanding.

  2. Definitely something I wanna take to the third world countries, specially Pakistan where I grew up! So much therapy needed, so much in terms of commonplace depression and a very relaxed attitude towards suicide!
    One funny thing in Pakistan is that every mental illness seems to have one solution – marriage! The society is so sex deprived they think it will cure anything and everything!
    So yeah, definitely count me in. I will try my best to be useful 🙂

    • Your insights are fascinating Sami, I’d love to learn more from you. When I read your words I think wow it’s insane how people can believe sex will cure anything. But is our society much different? There’s a huge emphasis on being in a relationship to make you happy. Suicide & more specifically suicide attempts are definitely seen as a burden on medical resource here. Thanks for your support!

  3. Hi Jo,

    Good luck with your project, you have done a really good job on PTSD so will look forward to your future mini documentaries.

    • Hi Olwyn, good to hear from you! Thank you, Lee was a natural and so brave to be the first. I’ve just got to convince some more people to go public as it’s only by talking about mental illness and tackling misconceptions and ignorance that we’ll change perceptions.

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