10 Photos That Perfectly Illustrate The Reality Of Mental Illness

Eye opening.

Sometimes a photo can express more than words ever can.

That's especially true when it comes to mental health conditions, which are challenging to explain to those who don't understand what it's like to experience them. Despite the fact that these disorders bring about crippling physical and emotional symptoms, the illnesses often are "invisible" to the naked eye -- and that can perpetuate negative stereotypes that someone's suffering is "all in their head."

Enter these stunning photos, captured by artists who know firsthand what it's like to face mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. Their artistic expressions nail the plight that people with mental health conditions face every day and how their disorder makes them feel. They're tangible proof that mental health disorders are no joke and deserve just as much sensitivity as any other health condition:

On dealing with anxiety disorder:
Katie Crawford
"No matter how much I resist, [anxiety will] always be right here desperate to hold me, cover me, break down with me. Each day I fight it, 'You're not good for me and you never will be.' But there it is waiting for me when I wake up and eager to hold me as I sleep. It takes my breath away. It leaves me speechless." --Katie Crawford, photographer
On men's mental health:
Robby Cavanaugh
"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.' 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. " --Robby Cavanaugh, photographer
On suffering from depression:
Christian Hopkins
“A lot of people don’t quite understand how little control people can have of their own thoughts and emotions when they suffer from a mental illness. When dealing with someone with depression and anxiety it can require a considerable amount of patience, but these diseases can be dealt with, despite how helpless things may seem." --Christian Hopkins, photographer
On managing obsessive compulsive disorder:
Dan Fenstermacher
"My advice to others is to reach out and talk about your issues with OCD. Sometimes you can get locked into a train of thought and feel trapped. Reaching out and listening to others experience can be uplifting, and can also open up opportunities to treatments that you might not have considered before." --Laura Lavadour, photographed by artist Dan Fenstermacher
On eradicating mental health stigma:
Edward Honaker
“Your mind is who you are, and when it doesn’t work properly, it’s scary ... I think a really helpful way to end the stigma surrounding mental illness is to be there for others who might be suffering. You never really know what others may be going through so all you can really do is be kind and nonjudgemental." --Edward Honaker, photographer
On the symptoms of anxiety:
Katie Crawford
"I was scared of sleeping [with mental illness]. I felt the most raw panic in complete darkness. Actually, complete darkness wasn't scary. It was that little bit of light that would cast a shadow -- a terrifying shadow." --Katie Crawford, photographer
On living with OCD:
Dan Fenstermacher
"I was 13 when my symptoms of OCD and anxiety truly reared their ugly heads, I spent my life since then trying to figure out how to be like others, how to be 'normal.'Wondering what it is like to just 'be,' not be 'happy,' nor 'sad,' not 'angry' or 'depressed.' No racing thoughts, no feeling of impending doom. Just be." -- Erica Atreya, photographed by artist Dan Fenstermacher
On healthy ways to manage an illness:
Christian Hopkins
“I have been using photography as a means of therapy to help deal with a lot of the emotions that I had trouble understanding at the time. Whenever I felt controlled by a particular emotion, I wouldn’t be able to think or concentrate properly until I took that emotion out of my head and trapped it in a photograph.” --Christian Hopkins, photographer
On accepting a mental illness:
Nathan Milner
"I want everyone to know that depression is real. It takes lives and we all need to realize this ... As hard as it is, asking for help is the first step to recovery. Being able to speak aloud about what you are going through only helps with self acceptance. There is never anything to feel ashamed of." --Nathan Milner, photographer
On healing:
Joel Robison for HeadsUpGuys
“The more you talk about depression, the more the stigma surrounding the illness erodes away. 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.” --Joshua Beharry, project coordinator for the Canadian men's mental health organization HeadsUpGuys

Before You Go

Celebrities On The Importance Of Mental Health