It was August.
That was when I published my first #SpotlightOnDepression photograph.
19th August 2015. World Photography Day.
Although I had been talking openly about my battles with depression, World Photography Day seemed to be an appropriate day to launch a series of photos I’d been taking to highlight what it actually feels like to live with depression, after all, I am a photographer, so it seemed logical, natural even, to express myself through my work.
Spurred on by the still fairly recent, well publicised passing of Robin Williams and the inevitable questions that followed the outpouring of grief from his huge fan base, I felt it was time to start sharing my battles too.
I had found the experience of photographing my moods very therapeutic and although the reactions and responses were mixed to say the least, having shared these private moments, I did start to feel more positive by putting my invisible illness in the spotlight.
A year ago, in April 2016, I published a blog post to accompany the series of Spotlight on Depression photographs. For the first time, I vocalised how this project came about and the impact it has had on myself and others. (You can read that post and see the #SpotlightOnDepression series here)
The response to that post was interesting, I say response, it was more ta lack of response.
Looking back now I say interesting, but at the time, it was devastating.
I stopped taking the self portraits not long after, although I would continue to vocalise my battles on social media platforms, desperately trying to let those close to me understand how I felt and what living with depression and anxiety actually means.
The more I posted, the more I shared, the fewer ‘likes’ ‘sad face emoji’s’ comments or messages I received. It was almost as if people were tired of hearing it. Tired of reading about it. Tired of me bringing the mood down alongside the cute cat photos and hilarious or shocking ‘click bait’ articles that usually fill their timelines.
But I am tired too. Tired of feeling like this, tired of trying so hard to call for help and just not being heard, tired of being tired.
So here we are, in 2017, numerous high profile campaigns to raise awareness of Mental Health and Invisible Illnesses, to encourage us battling to speak up, reach out and talk about our problems. More celebrity suicides keep the subject in the headlines and in our news feeds, and still people are asking ‘How can someone do that? Why would you do that? I don’t understand’
I’ve struggled a lot since the death of Chester Bennington. A lot. I listened to Linkin Park constantly through a particularly bad episode many many years ago. The lyrics spoke to me. ‘In the End’ and ‘Somewhere I Belong’ in particular. I’ve struggled with the fact that despite his words helping me through a desperately dark patch, I never took the time to even find out his name. I scrolled passed when his name was trending on my Twitter page, only learning it when I saw Linkin Park started to trend too. I realised then that those songs meant so much to me because he probably felt the way I had. I felt bad that he had been so public with his struggles and, as I’ve since come to discover, not just in his music, but countless interviews too.
That got me thinking, if I, who have suffered, struggled and battled depression for decades didn’t notice, how would anyone else?
What do we need to do as a species, a society, a generation, to help those of us with an invisible illness not only feel heard, but actually get the response we seek?
What more can be said that hasn’t already been said?
What more can we tell you about living with depression, so you can spot the signs, recognise the symptoms and realise when to reach out to those clearly struggling?
What are your reasons for ignoring, turning a blind eye or just putting off reaching out to someone who you know needs help?
So much of the recent publicity surrounding mental health has been centred around the person with the diagnosis.
I think it’s time to turn the spotlight around, highlight why people shy away from offering support.
I’m not judging, accusing or blaming anyone here.
I genuinely want to understand what you need from us to be able to help us when we need it most.
Please be honest in your comments, however silly you may think it sounds, your thoughts, opinions and feelings matter.