Mental Health is not just in your head.

Reserve JudgementReserve Judgement

I had a friend contact me out of the blue the other day to say thank you. Thank you for bringing a smile to his face, and allowing him to be captivated by his own imagination. Because really, that's what photography does. Engages the mind to go places they would not normally go. W. Eugene Smith dedicated his professional career to bringing images to the masses unfettered by traditional media concepts focused on paper sales rather than truth. Commendable to say the least. Yet, crazy when you think about it. Giving up so much money and accolades for applying his unquestionable skills, to secure a vast audience of "truth" believers as the media saw fit. Some might say, he was crazy to do so.

So who defines what is "normal"? Is it the people around us and the level of comfort that THEY wish to live in? It is not easy being around those suffering from mental illness. Or should I say, it takes more energy to be around people with this more than common affliction than one might admit, yet it is not worth the extra effort most times to even try. "I don't have the energy to deal with that right now." I hear this comment quite often. Care givers of those with severe mental disabilities, are in my book selfless, magnanimous heroes.

Where then, does that leave the "everyday" person? The husbands, the wives, the children of those with anxiety, depression, or traumatic stress? All of the above. Where does that leave the person with, the anxiety, depression, the traumatic stress? If dealing with government or social programs, likely out on the streets in the cold. If one were to sit with the statistics in front of them, and compare the rate of mental health issues coming forward in today's society, with the amount of funding for programs to deal with these issues, one might say that the scales are tipped pretty heavy in the wrong direction. It is shameful.

If you know somebody with mental health issues, whatever the type or severity, ask yourself one question;

"Is this person really a broken, unusable person suffering from something that if they "really tried" could walk away from and move on in life. Or are they just like the rest of us, without all the denial and bravado?"

Mental health issues are not uncommon, nor should they be treated as such. They should be embraced, and considered in everything we do as humans. Yes, we are a complex being, with much to offer this world. This does not mean we are the "supreme" species however. It just means that with the evolution of thumbs, comes an uncanny ability to judge others instead of helping. Judge. For a person suffering from mental health issues, this is the absolute worst thing you can do to them.

Accept who they are, and tell them it is okay to be a little off. You love them for who they are, and it is not just in their head, people really are judging them. Bring it out in the open and point the finger at those that feel it necessary to judge so harshly, and do nothing constructive to help. Bring the onus back on those that cannot come to terms with the fact that they are in fact, feeling insecure or guilty for not lending a helping hand and projecting their own feelings of inadequacy on to others to make themselves feel better. "They are not the ones with the problem." Perhaps the paradigm thought of "crazy" will shift.

By the way, Eugene Smith, is considered one of the most influential photojournalists of our time due to his work in truth, and died with eighteen dollars in his bank account. Give that some thought.