These Photos Nail Precisely How It Feels To Have A Mental Illness

Simple AND accurate.

When you have a mental health condition, sometimes it takes everything in you to keep it together.

Artist Eisen Bernardo conveys this message perfectly in a series of paper clip images, which he designed to depict different mental illnesses. The office tool, Bernardo says, is the perfect symbol for how a person feels when they’re experiencing mental health issues.

A paper clip is a very simple innovation. It is just a twisted metal but it can keep things together (not permanently though, but still),” Bernardo wrote in the description of the series. In other words, it’s just as destructible as it is sturdy.

The photo series, called #KeepItTogether, aims to capture the overall anguish of mental illness. Bernardo hopes the project spreads awareness about mental health and helps people become more understanding about what it’s like to live with a mental health disorder.

And it’s a necessary pursuit: Approximately 1 in 5 American adults are affected by a mental health issue in a given year. But despite the fact that these issues are so common, research shows many people living with a mental illness feel stigmatized by others.

Take a look below at Bernardo’s images detailing different mental illnesses. For those who experience them, the portrayal will likely look all too familiar. And for those who don’t, these images may serve as a lesson.

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue that can cause intense mood changes. This photo aims to capture the manic and depressive states of the condition, which affects 2.6 percent of American adults in a given year.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder causes an involuntary escape from reality, often in the form of the person feeling as though two or more personality states are "taking over." The issue can cause memory loss. It was called multiple personality disorder up until the 1990s, when experts changed it to better reflect the actual condition.
Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are mental health conditions involved with obsessions around food and body weight or shape, which may cause those living with them to binge eat or restrict their food intake. Eating disorders are the most fatal of any mental health condition.
Depression is categorized by feelings of loneliness, isolation and withdrawal along with intense periods of sadness and a lack of energy. It's one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting nearly 300 million people globally.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is more than just an urge to keep things tidy: The condition can cause severe anxiety and rumination, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior, like constantly checking on things. It affects approximately 1 in 40 American adults.
Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorders can range from mild to severe. Prolonged use can cause health problems, such as a higher risk for cancer or other illnesses, as well as lead to an individual ignoring personal responsibilities and experiencing social problems.
Anxiety, which affects an estimated 40 million Americans each year, is characterized by debilitating stress and fear that interferes with a person's everyday life. It can also lead to physical issues, like headaches, stomach pains, heart palpitations and more.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone who has witnessed or gone through a terrifying experience, from veterans to victims of sexual assault, among others. The condition often leaves people feeling anxious and isolated, and may cause traumatic flashbacks or nightmares. This can trigger a person's "fight or flight" response, leading to panic attacks or extreme stress.
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