This photo series wants to break down the barriers of mental illness

By Kate Hassett

This photo series wants to break down the barriers of mental illness
New photo project shows a whole new side to the stigma of mental illness

In a bid to end the stigma of mental illness among people of colour, Dior Vargas, has launched a campaign to set the record straight about issues facing every day people – all over the world.

The People of Colour & Mental Illness Photo Project was launched by the self-described ‘Latina feminist mental health activist’ in an aim to remove the false idea that mental health issues are only seen as a ‘white person disease’.

“Mental health awareness is extremely personal and important to me, because I identify as a person of colour and I live with depression and anxiety,” she said. “[This project] is a response to the exclusion of people of colour in the media’s representation of mental illness,” Vargas told Buzzfeed.

She sent out a call to arms, to get people all over the world talking about how they live with mental illness. Vargas asked those who were interested in partaking, to take a picture of themselves with a card indicating what mental illness they have, in order to show others, there is ‘someone who looks like you’.

“This photo project stems from the lack of media representation of POC (people of colouur) and mental illness. There are tons of articles that list people with depression and other mental illnesses but you rarely see someone who looks like you. We need to change the way this is represented. This is not something to be ashamed about. We need to confront and end the stigma. This is NOT a white person’s disease. This is a reality for so many people in our community.” Varga says in a statement on her website.

Whilst the campaign has been shared all over the world, it has also received negative feedback from members of the public who deem its message “unnecessary”. Vargas responded by stating that her message is important for all communities.

“They think that we are all human and therefore share the same experiences,” Vargas told Buzzfeed.

“[but] that is definitely not the case since people of colour live with a multitude of oppressions, which exacerbates their mental health condition.”

Vargas has now started a Kickstarter Campaign in the hope of creating a photo book to reach even more members of the community, and eventually show the project in galleries and bookstores.

“I want to get these photos into more spaces,” she said, “which will then encourage these conversations and contribute to the eradication of stigma.”

“If you’re interested in being part of this project, please submit a photo of yourself holding a sign saying “I’m [your name] and I have a mental illness (or the exact type).” Whatever you feel comfortable doing.”




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