Out in the Open. In it Together

Montclair and Newark, USA

23 Portraits - October 2018


Look into my eyes. One in five people is diagnosed with a mental health condition, and one in twenty-five has a serious mental illness. Mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, siblings, friends, and all our loved ones. Each of us is affected. Empathy can erase the stigma. We're out in the open, and in it together.

Here’s what some of our portrait models want you to know…

* Recovery from bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses is very possible, and I'm living proof!

* The faces of mental illness speak louder than the stigma of mental illness.

* I have changed a lot and gained so much. I'm stronger because of the support and I want to help others.

* Being an advocate for a family member challenged with severe mental illness has been a scary , yet rewarding experience. It has made me understand that a person is a person, and despite having been diagnosed with mental illness deserves respect, and has rights as a human being.

* Participation in this group action is a way to stand up for justice for event he least of these. It says I care, I want to help, I want the stigma to be diminished. It says, I stand with you because you matter!! I love you!

* This action means to me to get rid of the stigma around mental illness. It is just like any other physical ailment. There are many programs out there to help. Some services include medication therapy, individual therapy and group therapy, so no one suffering has to feel that they're alone.

* I'm learning from these workshops and I'm thankful my first time taking this "Out in the Open" picture. I think I am doing well and am getting better. Thanks for the support.

* I had become good at hiding. It had been imprinted on me from a young age that I had to be perfect, that I could not show others my faults or flaws. I found comfort in the diagnoses that categorized my mental state, but I viewed them as flaws and continued to pretend to those around me that I was okay, that I was just like you. But finally I’ve realized…I am just like you. I don’t have to pretend. We are all human. We are all unique souls emanating from unique bodies, brought into this world to create something beautiful. We are all alike in that we are all different. We each struggle independently with hardships that vary to some degree. We all experience a wide range of human emotions. We all have our own variations of flaws and imperfections. I may have a mental illness. It may impact my daily life. But I shouldn’t feel the need to hide it. It does not make me “less than” you, just as your independent struggles that you didn’t choose do not make you “less than” me. Because in reality, there is no you and me. There is all of us, unified together as occupants of this earth and participants in the human experience. There is us. And if we view each person that we encounter, regardless of their mental state as one of us, we can, together, build something incredible.

* Acknowledging that my family history and my own history has not limited my capacity to live a full productive, creative life.

* It has helped me to be more compassionate, empathetic, and encouraging to my loved one, which has helped them over through recovery, and walk alongside them to live a productive and rewarding life!

•As an adult I can look back at my childhood with shock and awe that I survived with an alcoholic mom who was emotionally and physically abused by the men in her life. I don’t think she nor my family knew the emotional trauma caused to myself and my younger brother, but now the issues creep into adulthood. Thankfully there are resources and support available for us, and I am forever grateful for the people doing the good work to reduce the stigma and hopefully prevent other children from such trauma.

* This is a chance at a second chance. I'm trying to overcome my fear and shame surrounding mental illness.

* In response to what participation in this action means to this individual: “It means unity.”

* Longstanding interest in reducing stigma surrounding mental illness.

*We all live on the same planet but in different worlds!

* How my father’s mental illness impacted my life: On the day my mother drove my father to the psychiatric hospital in Englewood, NJ, I was only 16 or 17 years old. It was not the first time that my father had to be hospitalized. I remember he was feeling really sick. I have a memory of him crouching down on the kitchen floor, screaming and pulling at his hair. Was that incident related to this hospitalization? I’m not really sure. My 45-year-old memory is not clear; but I understood even at that young age that my father was suffering.

My mother drove the family Chevy Malibu. I sat behind her in the backseat and my dad laid across the back seat resting his head in my lap. Then he started talking about his life and all the things he regretted about it. He spoke about how he regretted not finishing high school and how he never traveled back to Italy to see his family. He spoke about other regrets that I don’t remember but what I do remember is how profoundly his words impacted me. I swore at the moment in time that I would live a life without regrets. I also swore that I would never change my last name even if I were to marry. I wanted to honor him and the name that he gave me. And at 62 years old I can look back on my life with close to no regrets. And I have kept the name that my beloved father gave to me.

* Knowing/understanding one’s truth ‘is’ being. Awake to the opportunities, possibilities which beckon to the spirit to keep moving forward. To persevere in the infinite process of healing.

* We are all in this together.

* Hoping to educate others that mental illness is a disease, and most importantly, it is not anyone’s fault.

* I feel like art is a powerful tool that can help anyone at any time they need it. I want to share my message to the world that anyone can create, without many materials, as a means of self-exploration and healing. Art is so powerful!

* If we looked at what’s the same, instead of what’s different, well who knows?

* Mental health has been a lifelong pursuit and I have succeeded. It has been a circuitous route with deep dark valleys and extraordinary heights. Bipolar disorder has shaped my life and though it has been a long struggle, I have been stable and without symptoms for nearly two decades. My family suffered with me through my undiagnosed bipolar disorder, but together, and with great therapy for everyone of us, we have emerged intact. I continue to be vigilant for symptoms in the event that the disorder breaks through my medications. I take them in the same way that I brush my teeth. An accepted part of my morning and night ablutions, taking my medication faithfully has been a cornerstone of my recovery. I have become a mental health professional in the years of successful remission. I feel that my life experience with mental illness is now a great asset with which I am able to be a positive influence in the lives of others. I want to be the face of hope for people. Recovery is possible.

Into The Wild

These photos show the posters pasted in the streets