Changing attitudes around recovery and healing:
Healing is not linear. It is messy, complex and unpredictable.
We still a long way away from seeing real representations of mental health in our media or from seeing trauma depicted accurately.
Our education systems even fail to explore the importance of learning about and understanding mental health fully. In our health care system mental health has only recently been given broader consideration.
Support services and mental health charities should be the places we see and approach mental health and healing more authentically. Unfortunately, because they have to impress funders who require specific outcomes and measured impact, recovery has to be fairly linear, have specific goals and fit into a fixed narrative. So even in these spaces we are creating unhealthy ideas and expectations of how we “improve” our mental health.
Imagery and language within these spaces doesn’t help; those with depression or trauma are drawn in a fixed way.
Survivors particularly, are depicted as one-dimensional, often shown as weak, broken and dehumanised. Usually, we are reduced to faceless figures, silhouettes, shadows or body parts.
This causes deep problems in how others (and ourselves) view our identity. Not being represented as human, as normal people with a range of emotions, creates a huge separation and detachment to us. We are an outsider, we are othered.
Our identity is entirely that of a vulnerable victim. We are reduced to our experience, our trauma.
This is not helpful to our recovery or our perception of trauma or the impacts of violence and abuse. People are not only uncomfortable with survivors/victims looking and presenting as powerful, capable, multifaceted individuals but it leads to us not being believed or seen as valid if we do not fit in with this stereotype. Perpetrators are also depicted as violent men with their fist clenched towering over a woman. The narratives we are fed so often differ from what situations really look like and that is a huge problem.
Within the charity sector we need to be seen as incapable and vulnerable so that we can be ‘rescued’. People want to save, so we need to look like we need ‘saving’.
This type of imagery exists because we live in a society where people need to ‘deserve’ support and help and we determine what deservability looks like; innocent weak female victims and violent bad male perpetrators
This also plays into the criminal justice system and how survivors need to be seen as ‘the perfect victim’ to be believed.
We challenge the stereotyping of “victims/survivors” and “perpetrators” as believe this will enable more survivors to identify with their trauma and those who have caused harm more able to identify and take accountability for what they have done.
We choose to show images where we are more human. We want to show ourselves authentically and in ways we are rarely portrayed in survivor spaces, to offer an alternative and more honest narrative.
We want to normalise messy mental health and show the power in vulnerability. We want to show rage, humour, sexuality and joy
We want to show that it is ok have breakdowns and that they can be varied and even beautiful.
Through humour and playfulness we use photography, writing and discussion to dismantle and challenge this narrative