Mental Health is something we should always be aware of and pay attention to no matter how serious. In the UK, one in four adults lives with a mental health issue. With an increase in conversations regarding mental health, many could argue that still not enough is being done. Many photographers have touched on the subject of mental health of which they document and confront those living with a mental illness; instead, I approach this topic from a different perspective, I explore the concept without intruding and exposing an individual, I approach this topic symbolically.
Mental health can be difficult to put into words but tends to be the only way we feel that we can communicate, photography can speak a thousand words, through photography we can show and explain what words can not, I use words and photographs to represent the mind.
While supporting a close friend of mine through depression and anxiety I decided to create a project spreading the awareness of mental health. I worked closely with this individual to gain an understanding and experienced opinion on this topic.
The photographs below represent each stage of a mental breakdown.
What you are about to read is a discussion held between myself and one struggling with mental health. This helped me to understand the topic around my work and gain an insight into how mental health and photography can work together for the purpose of raising awareness.
What Mental illnesses do you have?
I have severe depression and generalised anxiety disorder.
How did these mental illnesses begin?
They began through undiagnosed trauma throughout my childhood and sexual assault through two different occasions, I use severe self-harm as a way of coping throughout it all, and throughout my mid-teens used to restrict my diet and purge food when eating.
When was your last mental breakdown and how did you cope with it?
Last night, I felt highly suicidal and at risk of harming myself. I’m still trying to identify my triggers with what set it off. I coped by sitting with friends, but also by scratching at my arms with my nails, scratching the back of an earring, pulling and grabbing my hair.
Do you think that my work will help others to understand the importance of mental awareness?
I feel that Luke’s work will allow others to help understand mental illness through photography by being able to create an image and vision of what this may feel like. I also feel that the cracks in the wall will be able to create symbolism for a lot of different mental illness. For me, seeing the cracks in the wall represent when I self-harm, but also the scars that I now carry around with me, the constant reminder of what I have been through, but also what I have managed to accomplish throughout my mental illness journey. I also feel that people will be able to relate to the cracks in the wall, of breaking down the mask that people with mental illness wear, pretending that everything is okay and that not everything is always as it seems. Creating this piece of work holds a special place in my heart and I hope that it will help bring awareness of mental health and the struggles we go through.
If you are struggling with mental illness there are many charities set out to support you, here is a list from NHS of everyone who wants to help and support you. Alternatively, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.