Why Mental Health?
I came into the Masters knowing that it would involve exploring an issue that is important to me. I knew that it had to be something big enough to get my teeth into, something Masters worthy and it had to be a topic that would engage my audience.
It really didn't take me long, a few days at most, to zero in on the subject matter that ticked all the boxes and then some!
Mental health. Specifically, poor mental health and how we approach it. This is something that has touched my life in many different forms and the impact has drastically changed how I perceive and react to things around me. And yet it's still a difficult subject to talk about, despite it affecting so many people.
During my research into mental health issues I've discovered some alarming, but not at all unexpected figures.
Nearly half of all adults in the UK think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life*. And despite our increased awareness and understand of the problem, the figures are continuing to rise*.
In fact, so far, everyone I've spoken to regarding this project has been affected by mental health issues in one way or another, either suffering from it directly or knowing a close friend or family member who has/is.
My lines of enquiry took me down the road of Art Therapy, and I've been delving into this complex and multi-faceted area. Like most, I was only vaguely aware of art therapy, having been mostly informed by the media's portrayal of it and whilst there is validity in the way film, tv, etc represent art therapy, it only scrapes the surface.
A common theme I've found running through all my conversations and most of the studies is the inability for someone suffering with poor mental health to communicate what's wrong and how they are feeling. Often there just aren't the words, and that's where art therapy comes into it's own.
Many people assume that art therapy is only for children or people who identify as being artistic, but that isn't the case at all. Just the act of getting something out of you onto paper (like scribbling if you're angry) can be beneficial, it doesn't even have to make sense to anyone else or follow any 'rules'. Still, some people shy away from creating art (and that's a whole other blog) but that doesn't mean art therapy isn't an option.
And that's where I am at the moment. I'm hoping to speak with people I know well and realise their illness in photographic form. Keeping my signature aesthetic, I'm hoping to transcribe the experiences of the individuals I collaborate with and hopefully portray the illness in a way that engages with sufferers and non sufferers alike. It's ambitious and there are many pitfalls I need to consider but I think I can do it.
So, presently I'm on with realising my own understanding of depression. Using the images from the recent shoot, I'm attempting to combine five negatives in one print to create a visual representation of what depression is to me. I'm also playing with simple darkroom techniques to help bring the whole idea together, and whether I use them in the final photographs or not, I'm liking what I'm getting thus far.
*All figures and statistics taken from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016.pd