An issue of mental health is highly stereotyped in modern media. A campaign called Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health makes one step forward revealing a true image of people with mental problems.

The "Be Vocal" Photo Collection

Getty Images stock photo agency is known for its collaboration with projects against stereotyping. For instance, it worked with LeanIn.Org and Refinery29 on the Lean In Collection and the 67% Project, respectively. Together they created collections of photoes changing the representation of women in media. Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, thinks that images are the best way to convince people. “I think at its best, imagery—especially imagery that’s shared widely on social media and in editorial stories—can be a shame solvent,” she says. “I’m looking to put forth images that break stereotypes, that bust clichés, and that dissolve stigma, because the more we see images of people who are shown in authentic and true ways and who are sharing their real stories, the more normal these stories become.” For the present, the main concern of her projects is mental health.

The "Be Vocal" Photo Collection


How do people see depression?

Diseases associated with mood are often considered to be far-fetched and a demonstration of weakness. Yet, it is quite a serious problem, requiring treatment and attention. Usually, at the mention of depression, a person imagines a bleak picture in cold colors, lonely or sad people and other frightful pictures. But all these are stereotypes. In fact, people suffering from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder largely look the same as a healthy person. Many are not even aware of their illness.

So, last year Getty Images in collaboration with singer Demi Lovato, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, and five mental health organizations—the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the Jed Foundation, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Council for Behavioral Health created  a campaign called Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health. The project contains 150 portrayals of showing the real lives of ten Americans living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It was designed to inspire and motivate those with mental health problems. Also it is intended to give a more accurate image of what mental illness looks like and reduce the stigma of mental illness. “I think there are a lot of steps we have to take to get people in a place where they see depression or bipolar or schizophrenia in the same way that people see heart disease or diabetes,” says Stolar.

The "Be Vocal" Photo Collection

Like anybody else

Stolar is one of those people who prove that living with mental illness is possible. Although he has bipolar disorder and depression, Stolar is a singer and songwriter. He joined Be Vocal via the Jed Foundation and now there are pictures of him in the Be Vocal Collection.

Except for him there are pictures of ten people in their real life. The portrayals  available online through Getty Images grasp a wide range of occupations, interests  and daily routines.They feature Dior, a mental health activist and founder of the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project against inadequate media representation of people of color with mental health conditions; Yvonne, a social worker and small business owner; and Sonya, a veteran, mental health advocate, and peer specialist. To show their unique experiences photojournalist Shaul Schwarz spent a day with each of the partiipants. As a result, she got photoes of day-to-day life of ordinary people. Sometimes, though, affected by mental conditions. There are pictures where the subjects take medications or speak with their therapist.

The "Be Vocal" Photo Collection

Schwarz intended to be “a fly on the wall” silently following each character. “The exception for this project was the portraits. We wanted some really powerful, intimate moments, and to show these people for who they really are,” – he said. “Hopefully, someone looking at these photos understands that a mental health condition is just one aspect of someone’s life, and it can be managed like any other chronic illness. It needn’t define someone.”


People are different

While creating a post about truckers’ mental health Jake Tully, a professional journalist living in Los Angeles, faced a lack of diversity in representation of people with mental disorders. Apart from being “incredibly clinical and unrealistic,” they did not depict much variety in race, sex, and class. That leads us to an important issue: lack of alternatives typical media depictions of people with mental health conditions.

The "Be Vocal" Photo Collection

Allen Doederlein, president of the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, also points out to this problem. “I used to joke about [how] you would see so many images in, whether it was a magazine ad or whatever—in terms of depicting, especially, depression—this poor woman in a purple bathrobe, looking out her window or something. And it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, most people do not walk around in a purple bathrobe—that’s not a thing,'” he tells. “There’s not a lot of diversity, and that doesn’t just mean racial and ethnic diversity. The fact is, people of all ages, backgrounds, gender identifications, races—it’s [something] that affects everyone, and there should be images that reflect that.” An this is another point for which we should pay tribute to The Be Vocal Collection as it demonstrates a wide range of people who have mental health conditions.

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