For the past 10 months, I have been collecting self-portraits from people of color dealing with mental illness around the country on my website; so far, I have 61 amazing images.
I started this project to challenge people of color to speak out and unburden themselves of the shame and secrecy of living with a mental illness, and to change the way people of color with mental illnesses are represented. It's important to humanize mental illness and put faces to the subject.
People have written me telling me how meaningful the project has been for them and how crucial this work is. I've even received feedback from Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York!
The next phase of this project will be to work with a photographer to take 50 professional, high resolution photos in a studio space. I also plan on conducting interviews with the participants to add context to the photos. These photos will be assets I can use in the future for different projects such as gallery exhibits and print books based on different themes. These future projects will help get the images back into the communities that need them even if they don't have internet access.
These images would have a place on my website as well as the previously submitted photos which will remain open for people to contribute.
In addition to compensating the photographer and getting studio space I also want to pay the participants an honorarium as well as give them the project poster as way of thanks.
Why support this project?
According to the Office of Minority Health, suicide attempts for Hispanic girls, grades 9-12, were 70% higher than for White girls in the same age group, in 2011. Also, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
Studies show only 12% of African-American women seek help and/or treatment for depression, only 10% of Latinos with psychological disorders contact mental-health specialists and that Native Americans/Alaska Natives are 1.5 times more likely to experience serious psychological distress than the general population. (Mic)
When it comes to mental illness, people of color are more likely to be given more severe diagnoses than their white counterparts. In 2005, the Washington Post reported that even though schizophrenia has been shown to affect all ethnic groups at the same rate, black people in the U.S. were more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than whites. Latinos were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed as whites. (Colorlines)
My name is Dior Vargas and I am a Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist. I live with depression and anxiety, and I am a suicide attempt survivor.
I am a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and I am a facilitator for NAMI NYC Metro's Young Adult Support Group.
I am a #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us Voices of the Year Honoree for the People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project under the Impact category.
I work tirelessly to create projects to let people know they are not alone and give them reason to keep going. You can learn more about me via this interview with Proud2BMe.
$25: 3 Postcards with sketches of some of the project participants by the extremely talented Mojuicy.
$50: Sponsor a shoot and an invitation to the photo party in New York. This would cover studio & photographer time, materials for signs, and the honorarium for participants. Also, join me, photo participants, and other supporters to celebrate the work we've accomplished! You will also receive the POC & Mental Illness Project Poster, and 3 postcards of Mojuicy sketches from the shoot.
$1,000: Speaking engagement and dinner! I will speak to your group and have dinner with you afterwards. I've done talks at universities, organizations, and hospitals. (NYC only)
Risks and challenges
Getting 50 people into the studio can be a scheduling challenge but this project is important to me and I am intent on making it happen.
I'm still in talks with a couple of photographers. If you are someone in NYC with strong social justice values and willing to collaborate on this with me, please let me know.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)