According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five American adults experience a mental health condition each year. Despite this fact, there is still such a strong stigma associated with mental illness, the result of which contributes to a lack of conversation, awareness and willingness for those suffering to seek help.
Part of the problem is the way mental illness is represented in the media.
“Too often, the images used to depict mental illness sensationalize or romanticize the experience,” said singer, songwriter and mental health advocate Demi Lovato. “While living with a mental health condition can be difficult at times, the current stock of photos do not reflect the true experience, even if some of them may represent how someone feels at one moment in time. These photos can be hurtful and further isolating.”
Images tend to paint a very negative picture of mental illness, often depicting a person in a dark room looking isolated, depressed and weak. While this may represent a fragment of someone’s experience with mental illness, it is not representative of the full range of emotions and experiences that are involved. Until mental illness is depicted in a realistic way, the stigma will continue to exist. To help combat this, Getty Images paired up with Lovato, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and five leading mental health organizations to create the Be Vocal Collection, a library of imagery that encourages a realistic portrayal of mental health.
The collection documents 10 individuals living with mental health conditions from across the country and aims to exhibit a more authentic, responsible portrayal of mental health in America.
“The photos of these courageous people aim to show what living with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions can look like when people speak up and get the help and support they need,” Lovato said. “I hope that by seeing others portrayed in a more realistic light through this collection, people will realize that living well is possible and they will be inspired to speak up for themselves or others to get the help and support they deserve. Sometimes there are good days, and sometimes there are bad days—but ultimately we are not defined by our diagnosis.”
As someone who has been very vocal about her own mental illness, this collection is very personal to Lovato. She hopes it can be a vehicle to create a new conversation.
“This visual project is an important part of who I am and represents the change I want to see in our society,” Lovato said. “Through Be Vocal, I hope more people feel empowered to speak up, not only for themselves, but for others, too, so that people can get the help and support they need and deserve. No one should suffer in silence. I hope The Be Vocal Collection inspires people to take action, and that the images are used widely to help reframe mental health in America.”Learn more about The Be Vocal Collection and explore the images at Getty Images