Mental Health Awareness Project 2019

Your Mental Illness Does Not Define You...

“And if today, all you did was hold yourself together, always know, I am proud of you.”

As you all know, October was the Month of Mental Health Awareness, and what better way to create some awareness, than through creating beautiful and inspiring images?

Experiencing feelings of hopelessness is something that the majority of people tolerate on a daily basis; most people don’t have an idea that these feelings can be triggered by a mental health illness, and it truly has life-altering effects on the people suffering from it.

Anyone who has personal or professional experience with mental illness knows for a fact that despite recent advances, and even with the public becoming more aware in the past 20 years, there still is a great deal of stigma when it comes to mental instability – and not only in South Africa, but all over the world!

With stigma comes a lack of understanding, which can:

To support Mental Health Awareness month, we got in contact with a group of individuals in the Western Cape who have dealt with some mental health related problems.

We started planning separate photography sessions we would have with each person, and before we knew it, we had completed a whole series of poignant images to shed some light on mental illness.

 The collaborations went extremely well and turned out to be a great success. We worked with a group of interesting people, and loved hearing more about what they have done to overcome their mental ailments.

Captured during Duniel Fourie’s emotional therapy session with Johlene Lourenco, at her practice in Edgemead.

Portrait Photography

Something to always keep in mind: “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

THE PROCESS OF CREATING THESE POWERFUL IMAGES WAS THERAPEUTIC AND COMFORTING IN MANY WAYS, AND WE HOPE THAT IT WILL HELP OTHERS WHO FACE SIMILAR STRUGGLES.
CHECK OUT THE 8 EXPRESSIVE CREATIVES WE HAD THE PLEASURE OF WORKING WITH—ALONG WITH THEIR STORIES:

ZUKISA TAMLE

Portrait Photography
Portrait Photography

Zukisa’s life was filled with love and trust, and he was raised to never judge anyone. Because he was so caring, loving and open-minded, people in his small community found it different and judged him for it.

He was addicted to unpleasant thoughts and self-harm methods, he used to stress about things out of his control, which lead to depression at a young age.

As time passed, Zukisa finally decided to soldier up and bounce back, after all, he had to retrain his mind to become a better version of himself.

The second time he tried to hurt himself something wonderful happened and it gave him strength to be OK with being different, which changed everything in his community in a positive way.

As a fighter and survivor, his advice to anyone suffering from mental illness is that we are all role models to someone in this world, and we can all have an impact for good. You may encounter many defeats but you must NEVER be defeated.

Lucinda’s inspiring life story empowers us to believe that Mental Illness is not a Personal Failure, and Pain is real… but so is Hope.

The series of portraits depicts her inner struggle with Depression, Anxiety and PTSD.

“Creating awareness around mental health is very important to me,” she explains, “mental illness has been an ongoing thing in my life since I was a child. I was unaware of it when I was younger, as I always thought it didn’t really exist and people who suffer just pretend and look for an excuse to be down all the time.”

A series of traumatic events had followed, one after the other in Lucinda’s life, and her mental illness became more prevalent over the years.

“I have experienced a lot of loss in my life, and the pain of the loss and trauma experienced became so overwhelming that I literally just wanted to die to stop it”, she tells us. “I use My Influence as a DJ to create awareness around depression and want to use the platform to do even more.”

Today, many people reach out to her regarding their own struggles with depression and she is happy to help where and how she is able to.

In our country and even globally, mental disability is definitely not getting the consideration and the attention that is required for us to tackle this illness and offer support as we should.

People are not educated about its magnitude, severity and the adverse effect it has on our lives and society as a whole. She explains that, “we all are worthy of life and love; our happiness and mental health is our own responsibility, so let’s take charge.”

LUCINDA (DJ LUSANDA) ROUX

Portrait Photography
Portrait Photography
Portrait Photography

JOHN CHIWALA

Portrait Photography

As John’s mental illness progressed over time, he realized the amount of people who have mental illness but don’t want to talk about it, “but mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of!” He explains. “It is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes – and these conditions are completely treatable.”

We need to create a better world where mental illness isn’t stigmatized and ignored, it’s important to spread awareness and educate others.

If you, or anyone you know has a substance abuse problem they can call the toll-free substance abuse helpline: 0800 121314, while SMS’s can also be sent to 32312.

During our photo session, Duniel Fourie, who has sadly tried to commit suicide more than twice in her life, was kind enough to share her heartfelt story with us.

“In 2005, at the age of 17, my life changed overnight due to a car accident. I went from being a carefree teenager to a disabled young girl with a traumatic brain injury.” She explains.

In a move towards recovery, Duniel goes into detail about her struggles and how she conquered some of her deepest fears: “In the past year I have realised that I have to accept the person I am now. Thanks to God and my family for second chances, enabling me to live a purposeful life again.”

We all need to be open enough to share our story and not be ashamed to speak about past experiences. You can be a beacon of hope to those who have no voice or who consider the act of suicide.

You can make a positive change in your life today! Don’t be afraid to seek help:

Contact Johlene Lourenco today, on 082-927-0534 or visit her website to get in touch.

Be prepared to get affordable and effective counselling for women from an industry professional.

Corporate Photography
DUNIEL FOURIE
Portrait Photography
Portrait Photography

ASHLEY SNYDERS

Model Photography
Model Photography
Model Photography

Being depressed and suffering from a mental illness feels like an overwhelming feeling of sadness, anxiety, self-pity, and low self-esteem, which all stems from emotion.

“I could spend countless hours detailing the wanting or need to either perfect myself or kill myself; how I hated my appearance because I was teased about my race, the fullness of my lips, the shape of my nose, the coarseness of my hair…” Ashley explains.

Having depression and anxiety is like having 50% of your emotions run wild and 50% of your stress levels being pushed to its highest capacity, and it becomes debilitating.

While dealing with his mental health, Ashley has learned that whilst your emotions, thoughts and worries run wild, you need to separate yourself from it and observe them from a different perspective to see them for what they truly are.

“It will enable you to understand that mental illness can be managed”, he tells us. “Depression is an illness like any other and should be treated and respected the way other illnesses are.”

Chronic, severe, or persistent pain, known as “The Invisible Disability”, is a dreadful illness to live with. It interferes with your daily life, and constantly keeps you from doing things you’d like to do.

When pain is not just physical, it can damage your self-esteem and bring on a lot of anger, anxiety, depression, irritability, and hopelessness. The emotional and physical pain condition also has a tremendous impact on your thoughts and moods on a daily basis.

“I’ve found that during the years I’ve dealt with chronic pain, isolation has become one of my main coping methods, furthermore, I either have trouble sleeping or cannot stop sleeping, I constantly feel tired and exhausted, concentration is always a problem, I tend to torment myself with feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and my mood changes every 5 minutes.”

For Nikki, these influences have created an unfortunate cycle that is hard to break…

“Through the project in light of mental health awareness,” she explains, “I have truly recognized how vulnerability, insecurity, and baring your soul can be painful, but rewarding at the same time.”

Chronic pain is not just uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it affects your work capacity, mental health, and overall well being.

Despite the strong link between pain and mental health, chronic pain remains an ignored, misunderstood, and neglected factor in public awareness…something that is negatively affecting the mental health and life quality of millions suffering from it.

NIKKI VAN DEVENTER
Model Photography
Model Photography
Model Photography

FASSIDI KALABANE

Model Photography

“I think that everyone tries to get up again in their own way, there is no magic recipe, and when you overcome this deep pain and wound, it will leave after-effects.

You end up drawing great strength from this weakness and use it to face life’s challenges. It is the best way for me, and has helped me get back on the right path and grow.”

Fassidi is a professional male model, he traveled all the way from Paris to visit the beautiful South Africa.

He is another example of someone who has experienced horrid things in life, but has come out of it as a better, stronger person.

“The abused child is the one who is the victim of physical violence, of mental cruelty. The intensity of negligence had serious consequences on my physical and psychological development”, he explains.

Rebuilding oneself by having suffered from child abuse is not easy, and can be more burdensome when it happens at a young age while our personality is still being formed.

It was heart-breaking to hear about the serious trauma Robert had experienced during his childhood. It took him five years to finally gain the confidence and ask someone for help.

Today, Robert lives a purpose-driven life that soothes his soul. He carries a positive message over to others, because he knows that it is his duty to pass it on and share his experience, strength and hope with others.

ROBERT CHIWALA
Model Photography

“I needed to be able to relate to someone who looked like me and was experiencing mental health issues like I was. I needed to see that there was hope and that with the right treatment, support and resources, I could possibly have a life worth living.”

Today, you can take control of your life – Don’t keep quiet, ask for help…So many people out there want to help you, you just need to ASK. Most mental health conditions can be treated if the correct advice, help, and treatment is found: Help is only a call away!

Are you interested in helping out? There are many ways! Find out how: https://www.nami.org/

For professional guidance and assistance, contact the South African Depression & Anxiety Group on 011 234 4837. You can also give Life Healthcare a call in a psychiatric emergency: Call LifeLine National Counselling Line: 0861 322 322 or in a medical emergency: Call your local hospital emergency unit or 10111.

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