Matthew Strong, who has schizophrenia, tells us how he has used photography to help fight the stigma of having a mental illness.
‘I am a freelance creative and have launched a project entitled I.D.S.T – “IF DESTROYED STILL TRUE”. Photography has been my number one way of expressing how I am feeling, having been diagnosed with a serious mental health issue back in 2002. The aim is to help fight the stigma of having a mental illness, and to shed a positive light on the subject through the use of photography as a coping mechanism.
‘Recently I suffered another relapse, and once I started to get well again, I came up with the idea to put on a solo photography exhibition and produce a photography book. The proceeds will go towards mental health charities and the NHS medical teams that have helped me.
‘Being at South London and Maudlsey (SLaM) was an eye-opener because when you have a mental illness, you don’t really get in touch with anyone else who has it and is suffering with the same symptoms. In the ward I was in, there were people who didn’t have the benefit of having friends and family around them, which was sad as they were in an exceptionally vulnerable period of their lives.’
‘The staff were open and friendly’
‘I have been very lucky to have had the support of friends, family and work, which made a huge difference for me. To see people who didn’t have that was very upsetting. The staff, however, were incredibly open and so friendly and there was such a great sense of community.
‘For me, photography is the way to fight back at my mental illness. The world that I see can be very dark, harrowing and unreal and so through photography I am able to express my feelings and fight back. When I have a camera I am able to shoot what I see around me, and if I see something that seems threatening or is really nice, I have the chance to take a picture of that and document it. I’ve always tried to document the way that I see things. I hope my work is able to give a positive spin on mental illness.
‘If the public can see that positive outcomes are possible, they would see another side to mental illness, and the help that SLaM can give.’
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Photographs © Matthew Strong 2017