REMOVING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH
Helen & Charlie
10 years ago after Charlie was born Helen suffered from post natal depression and chronic fatigue syndrome which went undiagnosed for a year. Once diagnosed she was put on medication for a year; after not receiving the help she needed Helen was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital. Charlie was later diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder for which Helen and Charlie have received support. Helen has since recovered and is employed as a Macmillan cancer support worker, she has a healthy, happy relationship with her son.
This is a project in progress, it is about removing the stigma of mental health by taking portraits of people who have either recovered from or are managing their illness. It is to demonstrate that people who have had or are managing a mental health issue are able to make valuable contributions to society.
Michael is a lecturer in Media Studies, who is passionate about his role in educating students. Since the age of seventeen Michael had suffered with anxiety and depression; this would later be diagnosed as Bipolar 2. After numerous episodes of mental illness, he was forty six when he had a breakdown. From this he eventually received the mental health support he had been seeking. Part of this therapy involved going to a place he felt calm and peaceful, he found this to be part of the Dorset coast called Hengistbury Head. Nine years later he is managing his depression and the episodes have become less frequent. Michael is dedicated to teaching and continues to successfully support students in attaining qualifications to enable them to work towards careers in the Media industry.
Vicki first began suffering with anxiety disorder at the age of 14 but in 2016 had a severe attack of depression after making a big life change. It also became apparent that a large contributor was her busy career that meant she had little in her life outside of work. After finding that fitness was a great therapy for her she now feels she is 99% recovered and puts a lot of this down to sport and having hobbies that she is passionate about. Vicki began climbing in 2016 and climbs a combination of indoor roped climbing and bouldering at least twice a week, getting outside to real walls as often as she can. She also runs and attends the gym several times a week and spending weekends in the great outdoors. Vicki is now passionate about sport and hobby therapy for depression and is in the process of starting her own mental health charity to promote this. Vicki has also changed her career and for the last year has been working for an Outdoor Adventure Company where she sees the benefits of sport and adventure on a daily basis. At the bouldering wall is where Vicki feels she can escape from a stressful day and work off any anxieties.
Steph and Hudson
After the birth of her daughter in 2006 Steph suffered from postnatal depression that went undiagnosed for a year due to her shame to admit that she wasn’t coping. This, in turn, led to an unhealthy relationship with food that meant she gained vast amounts of weight in the years that followed. However, in 2017, Steph embarked on a journey to a healthier life that saw her lose 9 stone, this was aided by the family dog Hudson because having a dog meant taking him on daily walks which not only helped Steph to get active but also lifted her mood. Though still on medication for her depression, this is a much lower dose than previously and losing weight has helped her mental health greatly. Steph went on to help others feel the freedom that losing weight and having a healthier lifestyle brings and became a Slimming World consultant. Steph is an active member of the community, always involved in raising funds and awareness for good causes.
At the age of 24 after exiting an emotionally challenging relationship I developed anorexia which became progressively worse until the age of 29 when I was admitted to an eating disorder unit where I remained for 6 months. I was very fortunate to eventually receive help as there are few specialist units in the UK and gaining a place in one is difficult due to bed shortages; I would not have been able to get better on my own. At the age of 30 I was fully recovered and able to start living again, I met my husband and now at 47 have a 6 and 11 year old. I maintain my mental health with the assistance of a prescriptive drug to increase my serotonin levels and by making time for creative pursuits. Once recovered I studied for an MA in creative and media education and have been teaching photography now for 16 years at a local college and university. Mental health is no different from physical health, it is crucial that the stigma of having a mental health condition is removed from society to enable those who have one to seek help. Everyone who has taken part in this ongoing project has been able to stand up and be counted as an individual who has overcome a mental health issue and is now a positive force within their community.
Jon and Will
Jon first met his friend Marc in 2002 on the maternity ward where his daughter and Jon’s son were born within a day of each other. They were both young fathers and a few years later, when their respective relationships were breaking down, they supported each other through the ordeals of the ensuing legal and emotional battles. In 2008 Jon lost Marc to suicide.
Becoming a father at a young age meant Jon transcended to ‘manhood’ rapidly, without really having time to work out what it meant to ‘be a man’. He behaved how he thought he was meant to. Anxiety around not being able to live up to what he now understands to be the societal stereotypes of masculinity, led to depression at various times in his life. He was shaken when his son (then aged 14) told him he’d also been diagnosed with depression.
As a photographer Jon embarked on a project to question societies stereotypes of masculinity, to unveil the limitations of these stereotypes that prevent men from asking for help when they need it. The photographic project helped Jon come to terms with Marcs suicide, his own mental health and deepened his relationship with his son.
Jon’s work can be viewed here http://jon-mackenzie.com/man-up/
Jelena works in television as a producer and director, she has traveled the world filming documentaries. Jelena has carved a successful career for herself within the industry and at the age of 44 she became a mum to her daugher now aged 5. Jelena has always suffered with anxiety. Her father an intelligent, funny, talented engineer who also suffered from a mental health condition; depression, was the one she would turn to, to talk with about feelings and anxieties. Jelen's world came crashing down when her father passed away and she was prescribed anti-anxiety medication. It was when Jelena reconnected with her university buddy that she realised that she wasn't alone in taking anti-depressants or in her case anti-anxiety medication. It was an enormous relief to once again