1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem within their lifetime. Winston Churchill called it “the Black Dog” – a depression that settled over him and drained the flavor from life.
You may remember my ‘Scanner‘ series. At the point of creating these images, I was not ready to talk about why these images were produced and the meaning behind them.
I have renamed the ‘Scanner’ series to ‘Isolation’. Why? Being alone is what I have felt like for the majority of my life, especially whilst living in a hostel from 16 – 19 years old, despite the building accommodating 49 other residents.
It was amongst the depression, anxiety and isolation I felt, that these images were produced, towards the end of my time in the hostel, my final summer living there.
From speaking to a counsellor for a few months, I learnt that there are a few things people do when they are depressed, one of which is called ‘self-medicating’. This consists of doing things to make them feel less depressed, or to forget about it. Some people may use sleep, food, alcohol, drugs (heroin, cocaine, cannabis etc), tobacco, sex etc as a form of medication. Not always a good idea, as it can lead to addiction, bad health and feeling even worse than before.
“We are all much healthier than we were 20 years ago, but mentally, we’re falling apart. The World Health Organization now estimates that one out of five people on the planet is clinically depressed.” — Stephen Petranek
For me, photography is a way of subtly showing how I’m feeling at that current time. It keeps me busy, keeps my mind thinking creatively and gives me a sense of belonging, a reason to be here, a reason to wake up in the morning and carry on.
Photography is my ‘medication’.
I’m no scientist, doctor, counsellor etc, but I have experienced/experiencing depression. So whoever you are that’s reading this, whenever you’re feeling down, try doing something creative. I’m not saying it will cure you, sure enough I’m still living with this condition, but it will put you on the right tracks. Go for a walk, just you and your camera. Sit down with a drink and paint till your heart is content. Create something filled with emotion, portray your feelings, express what you’ve always wanted to say out loud, hang it up on a wall and be proud to say that you created it. There is nothing better than spending hours on something you put your heart into, to have people compliment it, want to share with their friends and family, blog about it, post in on the homepage of their website and even publish it in a magazine.
Something I’ve started is when I’m alone in bed, I load up an application and spend up to 30 minutes just watching videos on TED. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
Most people invited talk about what they are experienced in; science, sociology, entrepreneurship, psychology etc. Some however, talk about personal experiences, about what they have learnt in their life. The videos are educational, inspirational, motivational. I find going to bed with a positive outlook on life really helps for when you wake in the morning.
Ruby Wax is a comedian who spent much of her comedy career battling depression in silence. As she says: “I’ve always said to myself, if you’ve got a disability, use it.”
Here’s a video I found recently of Ruby Wax talking about her experiences with depression: What’s so funny about mental illness?
“How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?” –Ruby Wax
Too many people still think of depression as taboo, even just mentioning it can cause a stir. Once someone has the strength to talk about it, it’s simply dismissed as them ‘wanting attention’, ‘exaggerating’, sometimes even ‘being lazy’. The last time I visited a doctor about my depression, he simply put it down to being ‘sad’. I was outraged as to how easily he could brush it off.
What if everybody was treated in the same way we treat the mentally ill? See the video below. It motivated me to write this post:
I’m going to be doing more work on depression in the new year. I have no concept yet, all I know is that I want to make a contribution, somehow, to helping people with mental illnesses.
“When life gets tough, pick up a camera.” – me