One activist wants to remind the public that mental health issues are “not a white person’s disease.”
Dior Vargas, a self-described Latina feminist, says the mainstream narrative around people with mental illness often neglects men and women of colour. So she turned her frustration into fuel to produce a photo project that reflects a more accurate picture.
“The media portrayal of people of colour in general is so dehumanising and usually created by white people who have no idea what it is to be a person of colour who experiences multiple oppressions,” Vargas told The Huffington Post. “It's important to provide a space where people can be in charge of their own narratives.”
Vargas did just that by creating a venue where the stories of people of colour with mental illness were both validated and valued.
The project, so far, includes over 60 photos of men and women of color. These individuals submitted photos of themselves to Vargas holding signs that identify their name, the mental health issue they battle and, if they wished to share, an important message they want to express.
By interacting with these individuals and asking them to share their stories, Vargas combatted the stigma around mental health in communities of color in way that she said no longer left them excluded and invisible.
"That they are not alone and there is hope," she said. "A mental illness diagnosis is not a death sentence and there are so many people who continue to live meaningful fulfilling lives."
Vargas said she is still accepting submissions for her online photo project. However, she also held a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund the next phase of the project which hopes to bring on a photographer to create a print book and, eventually, exhibit the high resolution images in galleries.
In the meantime, Vargas is working hard to do what she can to battle the stigma around mental health. As part of those efforts, she wrote a detailed essay in The Huffington Post earlier this year titled, “People Of Color Deal With Mental Illness, Too.”
“There are many ways to remove the stigma of mental illness in communities of color. Why not start here?” Vargas wrote. “I know it's not a simple task. It's going to take time to change the norms but we need to get started now.”
See more of the powerful images below, and click here to learn more about Vargas' project.