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!