These are the real, honest, unretouched faces of mental illness.

faces of mental illness

“Mental illness is the medical secret.”

Welcome to Mamamia’s art endeavour, the Voulez-Vous Project. Every week we celebrate emerging artists, designers, illustrators, creators and women who knit using their vaginas. (Kidding. Maybe.) Our aim: to help the internet become a slightly more beautiful, captivating, or thought-provoking place by making art accessible.

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Photographer Anne Betton was diagnosed with a mental illness – bipolar disorder – in 2009. In the five years since, she’s spent her career photographing others with similar illnesses and doing her best to humanise the suffering.

The words “mental illness” come with a stigma attached. It’s like most people are scared to even say it, like it’s something that must be hidden or shied away from. But it’s not. And that’s exactly what Betton wants out of her project.

The photo series came about when Betton visited a friend, Sophie, in a psychiatric hospital. She brought her camera along and soon enough, people were lining up for photos. Betton realised she and all of these people had something in common – a mental illness.

faces of mental illness
“Mental illness is the medical secret.”

We chose the title together – ‘Give a face to the mental illness’ – to show to everybody we are like them, even if sometimes we struggle with cognitive problems,” Betton told Mamamia.

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Related: “Today, I stand with every woman who is honest about motherhood or mental illness”.

Betton says there was a need for a project like this because so many people that don’t personally struggle with mental illness find it difficult to understand.

“It’s the medical secret,” Betton said.

“I’m trying to show that we’re not different and that we can understand everybody, even if we don’t speak the same language.”

faces of mental illness
“I’m trying to show that we’re not different and that we can understand everybody, even if we don’t speak the same language.”

Betton says so often relationships break down because of mental illness, including her own, and she wants to show that it’s not the sufferer’s fault. It’s the illness.

Related: Osher Günsberg: ‘I didn’t just “open up” about my mental health.’

“My parents don’t see me anymore because of my mental illness,” Betton said.

“Many people cannot distinguish between a real personality and symptons. We are not responsible for our illness.”

Click through the gallery below for Betton’s work. You can find her website and make a donation by clicking here.

 

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