Photographing Mental Health

This week SANE Australia published a survey entitled Picture This: How Australians picture mental illness. The aim of the survey was to discover what Australians living with mental illness thought was a fair and accurate visual portrayal of the experience of mental illness.


According to the survey this image was the most popular amongst respondents and represented a fair and accurate depiction of having a mental illness. The image was found to express  hidden emotional turmoil behind a smiling face – a common experience of sufferers of mental illness.

SANE Australia put forward five recommendations for depicting mental illness in their survey.

Hidden adversity
Images should show a diverse range of people engaged in everyday activities while also depicting a hidden experience of adversity.

Human experience
Images should emphasise the human experience of mental illness and avoid abstract depictions.

Photographers should avoid depictions or associations of violence or violent imagery with their portrayals of mental illness.

Search words
Images should be tagged with diagnostic terms as well as emotions to make them easier to find through online searches.

Diversity of experience
While many identify with images depicting loneliness or isolation, there are also many who do not relate to these experiences and as such a wide range of experiences should be used in images conveying mental illness (including those of loneliness and isolation).

Until the 15th of April SANE Australia along with Getty Images will be running a competition for photographs and images that depict mental illness in a way that rejects stereotypical portrayals and incorporates their recommendations. The South Bank Hub will be taking part in this competition.

For more inspiration you can find galleries of related images here and here.