Mental health awareness
As many as 500,000 people are prescribed today with the mass production of “second generation” and “third generation” drugs on the market. Are these antidepressants being over-prescribed?
The area of interest that I am drawn to most urgently this past year has been mental health. I have personal experience of how the personal, the social and the sectoral cross-over, and a family member and myself have worked on two projects that I have developed photographically. Research plays such a vital role in the creation of my work, that after beginning online to get a sense of facts and figures I started to generate a strategy and create a visual approached to the representational task of asking some complex questions about mental health.
With a colleague studying photography, Max, I began a conversation about struggles with mental health issues familiar to us and among our peers and our generation. As ever, trust is essential and with this in place we began the process of developing my project goals. I explained how I wanted to create the photographs in a way that would allow him to share his responses with me, give me some feedback. In the end, Max's participation saw him become the model for the shoot that I finally devised as well. In the studio, it was a collaborative atmosphere. This method allowed us to experiment with lighting techniques and the various ways in which the bottle would be displayed to create a particular viewpoint. I chose gel lighting for technique reasons and symbolically. Once a set-up was photographed, I showed Max what I had shot and we figured out other ways we could try it. The challenge for me was to create an original visual that signified mental health, but not one that would be so cut off from what was familiar that it would hard to understand.
In Ireland, there are many organisations that have run campaigns on mental health, such as Your Mental Health, Mental Health Ireland and Walk In My Shoes. What is surprising at first is that these campaigns have not commissioned particularly original photography. Your Mental Health uses a graphic visual strategy in their campaigns which illustrates various scenarios with encouraging positive messages. This organisation schedules its on going campaigns highlighting issues based on different holidays, the most recent one happens to be Mother's Day. In contrast, in the UK, the Mental Health Foundation enlisted photographer Rob Murray and creative agency KesselsKramer for their 2010 campaign. The photographs were created to win the attention of the public and compel them to look further into the organisation and its supports: “to help the public understand the invaluable benefits of mindfulness, a simple and modern form of meditation that alleviates stress”. However, campaigns for change face difficulties when using photographs because it is challenging to fit everything in that you want to convey within just one photograph. It is important that the communication is clear, effective and more importantly correct. It is essential for the photographer, not just the client or agency, to research thoroughly.
Throughout the process of this project, I have learnt a lot more on the statistics about the antidepressant intake in Ireland. Returning to these photographs allows me to reflect, learn and engage differently with the photographs, which I believe is very important in order to make better decisions and grow as a photographer, also the issues and my position in relation to both at the same time. Mental health advocates have recently warned that children and teenagers are being left to fend for themselves because of the State's failure to provide adequate mental health services. It has been reported that 2,500 young people are on waiting lists at the moment nationally. I want my photographs show that it is far easier to be prescribed a drug rather than attend what could be vital counselling and this is a problem. Throughout the process, my collaboration with a colleague certainly led to the best possible outcome photographically, but as well as that, I have gained a better understanding of how campaigns use photography in their visual advertising, ultimately curating the photographs for the purposes of promoting awareness and educational campaigns.
I would like to thank Max Ott for his time and conversation.
Redmond, B. (2017) Still waiting, Available at: (Accessed:___).
I work and travel between Tipperary and my studies in Dublin. I specialise in portraiture, fashion and social documentary photography. I previously pursued my creative studies in fine art before focussing on photography.