Depression is often viewed as some sort of flaw or frailty, but a new campaign is working to change that outlook one photograph at a time.
The project, led by the Canadian mental health organization HeadsUpGuys, features visuals submitted by men on how depression feels and what it means to "feel better." The goal is to help men realize they're not isolated in their experience, according to the project's coordinator, Joshua Beharry.
"The more you talk about depression, the more the stigma surrounding the illness erodes away," he told The Huffington Post. "Depression needs to be tackled head on ... You wouldn't try to tackle heart disease or diabetes on your own. It shouldn't be any different for depression."
The photos not only bring awareness to depression, but are a much-needed representation of a highly stigmatized group of individuals who suffer from the disorder. Research shows that men are less likely than women to seek treatment.
"I think society places an emphasis on the need for men to be considered 'strong,' and a person with a mental illness is often considered to be 'weak,'" said Robby Cavanaugh, who submitted photos. "For this reason, men suffering from mental illness bottle their feelings up, and I believe this is a contributing factor as to why the suicide rate for men is so much higher than it is for women. They need encouragement to feel free to express their emotions and ask for help, without fear of ridicule. "
Approximately 11 percent of Canadian men will experience major depression at some point in their lives, according to Canada's public health agency. The condition also affects approximately 6 million American men each year. Around the globe, nearly 350 million people suffer from depression.
Although the condition is fairly common, the conversation is still fairly quiet among men -- and that's exactly why Nathan Milner says he decided to get involved by submitting images. As someone who has experienced mental health issues since he was a teen, he wanted to raise awareness about something that felt incredibly personal to him.
"I want everyone to know that men's depression is real. It takes lives and we all need to realize this," he said.
Milner also hopes the campaign encourages others to seek treatment if they feel like they may be battling the same issues.
This post is part of ShameOver: It's Time To Talk About Men's Mental Health, a HuffPost Healthy Living editorial initiative that aims reclaim what it means to "be strong" by addressing the stigma men face in disclosing and seeking support for mental health issues. Each week we'll share features and personal stories about men and their caregivers as it relates to suicide, mental illness and emotional well-being. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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