Mental Health Imagery

Steven Fry Portraying The Cliche Mental Health Imagery

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In April this year a campaign backed by Stephen Fry was launched to try to change the type of images used by the media for stories about mental health.  I completely agree that the classic dark room black and white picture of a person sat on the floor holding their head in their hands is in itself depressing imagery, and maybe you’re thinking “well that’s the point”, but mental health issues including depression doesn’t always mean you look and act sad or depressed all the time, so it gives a set impression rather than a true reflection.

 How do we show anxiety in a picture? The dark lonely room is not representative necessarily of anxiety, and whilst all people and their mental health experience is different and unique to them , we have as a nation for to many years now tried to display it in a certain way.  So for people that have no understanding of mental health and have not suffered its wrath before, some of the old imagery I feel keeps the stigma alive for comments such as:

  • “Well they always seemed happy enough”
  • “They were out laughing at the weekend with friends they never look depressed” 

I mean seriously what does that even mean?

OCD, this has become a well-used saying for people that are tidy or clean, and the imagery as stated in the article is again placing it in a box, there is nothing funny about the true nature of OCD (or any mental health issue).  Its hugely debilitating and obsessive compulsions come in so many different shapes and forms again unique to the individual. I agree that it would be impossible to try and capture every angle of mental health in media images, but I do feel we need to widen the spectrum so that people are not being questioned, and are not questioning themselves by realising that marketing can portray an un-realistic image.

Depressed people can hide behind the face and smile they paint on at work every day, they can even be the funny one that made you laugh all night. Often people suffering with mental health issues have become masters in the art of concealing their true feelings, of what has been such a taboo subject until recent years. 

We want to encourage people to open up, to not feel ashamed, to feel less alone with their story they hide behind their eyes, this for me is part of what I feel is lacking in the images, we need to teach people to look into someone’s eyes and see what they might not be saying.  But what do you think?

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