A photographic project by Becky Butwright.
Self Love of the Human Mind is a collaborative project revolving around mental health. With the combinational use of photography and conversations, participants have shared their thoughts in hopes of supporting those affected but often feel silenced. The aim is to raise awareness by creating a discussion that transforms and changes the way society views mental wellbeing. If there is a better overall understanding by society, it can help minimise the extent of people suffering today.
Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any give year. This has lead to the biggest cause of death under 45 to be suicide. The numbers reflect the reality, each one representing a life that can be affected by mental health. Therefore, a powerful tool like photography has allowed the volunteers to come together on the project, connecting the message to the wider public.
Self Love of the Human Mind’s purpose is to create new, and positive perceptions of mental well being that highlight the importance of loving of our mind.
People are always shocked knowing the fact that I have gone through depression and anxiety. The stereotypical impression of mental illness is all linked to negative connotations, and none of the above seem to suit me, at least not in the way I carry myself. But it does not mean the dark side of me does not exist. The fine line of being depressed or not is no black and white. I could smile and laugh all day in front of people, and stare at four walls and cry my eyes out when I am alone. I could dance and talk all day at work, and also be completely silent, holding a knife and wish my life to be over. There is no such thing as “you don’t look depressed” there are no “looks” of being depressed. People need to be educated and be more open towards mental health issues, acknowledge the fact that it is not something scary, or to be ashamed of, and at the same time, paying more attention to those suffering internally. Not everyone deserves to know your life story but at least respect them and treat them nicely. A nice smile or simple greeting to a stranger might seem little, but you might save a life, save a man from being suicidal. This world needs a little bit of kindness from every individual, it’s as simple as that.
Have you ever received help?
Help is a broad term; I’ve never received professional help for my issues with mental health. The mental health service for young people (CAMHS) never picked me up despite referrals, probably because they are radically oversubscribed and underfunded. The help I did receive never came from doctors or specialists - it came from family. Not just blood relatives, but also the friends in my life who help me through tougher times. I am eternally grateful to those who have my back and will return the service with fierce loyalty. Helping your friend through mental health can mean the world to them, even if it’s just a message or a shoulder to cry on.
What have been your experiences when seeking help?
When I broke down to my parents about the difficulties I was having with my mind, their first instinct was to make an appointment with a GP. I was thankful for their support, but sitting in a doctor’s surgery with them both and answering questions about my head wasn’t my idea of safety or help. I got referred to CAMHS, but didn’t hear anything back for another 6 months. I ended up speaking with a severely disinterested woman over the phone almost a year after the initial referral, who seemed not to care less whether I got the help I needed or not; This experience put me off professional help for a long time and I haven’t sought it since.
Do you have your own ways of self-help that can be shared?
Helping myself is something I struggle to do day-to-day, but I think it mainly comes down to attitude. This year I’ve invested a lot of time in learning myself: The way I react to things; How I feel when traumatic events hit me; and crucially, what I needed to do to get myself back on track. I think these things vary from person to person (as they should), which means what works for me might not work for you. But you should take the time to experiment with yourself, to work out how your own mind works and how to parent yourself when you need it. Rules of thumb though? Don’t be afraid to open up to those around you-a problem shared is a problem halved and if they judge you then they weren’t worth your time anyway. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’ll bounce back eventually. And finally, your demons are only as scary as you make them. They come from you, so they can be defeated by you. Believe in yourself.
At the time, I was dealing with trials and tribulations of being a teenager suffering with PTSD. Feeling alone in a country that wasn’t home was tough. And having to make new friends with anxiety and trust issues made that very hard.
The feeling of being alone and “somewhat” isolated made me a lot more pessimistic as opposed to optimistic. I felt like I had no one to turn to for help. Fear of immediate judgement caused by fear of true compassion or understanding about your situation is a ubiquitous feeling.
Stay positive. You are blessed, trust yourself and the great people in your life. Things always get better.
I’ve always found it difficult to talk about my mental health issues but I realise I have been hindering myself from moving forward. I feel like it’s so important to verbalise our feelings and doing so is definitely the first part of dealing with the problem. It wasn’t until last year that I started being open about my depression but it’s the best thing I could have done. The support from my friends has been amazing and I’m so glad because now I feel like I have that support system around me. It’s difficult because you don’t want to be a burden to anyone but it’s worth it. It is definitely dark most days and I’m trying my best to get through each day as it comes, but at least I know now that I’m not alone in this.
So, if you haven’t already, I urge you to talk to someone because you don’t have to deal with this on your own.
The past year and a half has been a really hard time for me. I think coming back to university has reignited some of the old feelings and experiences I went through as a teenager. I had always brushed off these feelings of guilt, emptiness, doom and self-loathing as being something “normal”. As something I’d just always lived with and denied, that it wasn’t anything more because I’m not “depressed enough”, or that I’m tired all the time because I’m “lazy” and self-pitying. But obviously this was all just another sign of the illness and actually this isn’t supposed to be how anyone feels. It is exhausting having to second guess yourself and everything you do and say. But as each day comes I am learning to accept myself as I am, and I know that the real me is somewhere inside underneath all this fog, and I’m armed with the tools that I can help find her.
Have you ever received help? What have been your experiences when seeking help?
I haven’t received any help from any services of any sort for my anxiety. I was recommended to try CBT by members of my close family but found the therapist I was assigned to, didn’t really listen to my problems, before trying to apply them to a frame work for analysis. I just felt like I was one of many. On top of this, my therapist actually fell ill a week into our sessions and I wasn’t contacted again about looking for another one until a number of weeks later. These factors coupled up and I never called back to arrange another meeting. Instead, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Do you have your own ways of self-help that can be shared?
For me personally, the gym and meditation play big roles in helping me manage my mental health. When I initially started back at university for my third year, I didn’t even want to leave the house because things had gotten so bad. However, structured routine and the practice of both, meditation and the gym on a regular basis has helped me look at myself differently and given me renewed confidence and a more positive outlook on my mental health, allowing me to lead a much more calm and relaxed life.
Opinions on society and its responses to mental health, what do you feel needs to change?
I personally didn’t have any experiences with mental health before I had my first panic attack. It wasn’t really something I was able to understand the magnitude of before it impacted me, but now it holds much greater importance. On society as a whole I feel there have been recent efforts to help people with mental health problems by the government but a lot more would need to be done. I believe raising more awareness plays a key factor. Understanding that I wasn’t the only one going through these sorts of problems played a prominent role in helping me frame my own anxieties and begin to overcome them. Many people in society are numb to the possibility that mental health problems could impact them. When these problems do arise, I believe most people will probably have next to no knowledge on how it can impact them and what they can do to help themselves. Efforts need to be made to teach both, children and adults how impactful mental health can be. Things like sport at school are good for helping to make someone physically stronger, but not a lot is done in terms of shoring up mental fortitude. I think this needs to be worked on and implemented into society so that having a strong mind is as valued and praised as a strong body is and perhaps mental health problems will not be as arduous as a result.
I felt like a shadow of my former self, a crawled-up ball. I kept trying, searching for ways to become who I used to be. I honestly felt trapped within myself, and I didn’t know how to get out.
It’s knowing I should be happy but still deep in the pit of my stomach. Even when I’m out with friends, I am not okay, I am not content. The terrible thing about it is, it will disappear you’ll feel happy again, and then it comes back. Constant waves, and you don’t know what to do.
I am fortunate enough to have dealt with a lot of my issues. Negative people, abusive partners but it doesn’t just go away. I’m in a place where I’m relatively happy, I’m happier knowing I have depression and acknowledging negative people in my life and dealing with my issues, but it’s never completely gone.
We live in an age where mental health issues are talked about a lot more open and publicly. There’s less stigma and shame around mental health. But you know a lot more can be done, should be done, and needs to be done. Mental health issues in some countries and cultures are overlooked, male suicide is often ignored too. So I believe it’s good that the conversation around mental health has started, but real actions and policies need to be put in place. Easier access to therapy, counsellors, families, friends, teachers and employers understanding and spotting mental health. People die or try to die every day from mental health and that is not okay. I am hopeful that my generation can do better and that one day everyone no matter what race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, culture or country can get the help they need.
The ways that I help myself keep calm are by keeping a journal of how I feel. Anything that comes to mind and so on. It becomes my best friend/book of secrets. I also channel stuff into music. It’s good to be able to hear out loud how you feel. Even if you keep the music to yourself.
Mental health should be discussed more in society. Society doesn’t like to discuss it but yet, so many people are suffering with mental health issues. It’ not abnormal. I believe it should be taken more seriously. Just because you might not be able to see pain, doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. Pain isn’t just physical. The more it’s talked about, the more comfortable people would feel to openly talk and try to heal.
No matter the age, anyone could be suffering. Mental illness can be very dangerous, so the more it is spoken about and we encourage people to get help, the more lives could be saved.