Polly, who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), took part in a photo shoot for Mind. We organised the shoot because we wanted genuine pictures of people with experience of mental health problems – instead of models – to tell the story of our work.
More than 100 people applied to take part. We narrowed this down to 15 men and women of different ages and backgrounds who travelled from all over the UK to be in London for the photo shoot.
Laura from Mind’s Communications team, who was at the photo shoot, spoke to Polly about why she took part and how she found the experience.
Why did you decide to apply to take part?
I'm very keen to break down the stigma of mental illness, and if that means I have to do something I find difficult, like putting my face to it, then I am willing to do so.
I always feel like I should hide how I feel, but Mind gave me to opportunity to try and change this habit and be open. The more people see Mind's name, the more people understand, and the less sufferers like myself feel isolated. It would be amazing if someone saw my image and felt they could reach out for the help and support they need.
Can you tell me a little bit about your own experience of mental health problems?
I have had PTSD for the past 12 years following traumatic experiences as a teenager. During this time I have struggled with depression, anxiety and episodes of distressing flashbacks, hallucinations and delusions.
The past five years have been the worst, punctuated by several lengthy hospital admissions. Two years ago I began receiving psychodynamic psychotherapy and my life is slowly getting back on track.
What was your experience of Mind before taking part in the photo shoot?
I used their advocacy service whilst in hospital and frequently use the website for advice and support
How did you find the day of the photoshoot?
I met some inspiring people, who are determined to look beyond their illness. It was good to see people who have recovered, or who are recovering, as often I only come across fellow sufferers in treatment settings.
I felt like I could be myself, that I wasn't going to be judged and I could be honest about my experiences, which is rare.
I was impressed with how supportive and understanding all the Mind staff were. It made me feel at ease and welcome. Many said they had direct experience of mental illness which must be really valuable to them.
What has taking part in the photoshoot meant to you?
I feel proud to be associated with Mind and I hope my contribution has been valuable.
Being involved in the photoshoot gave me a feeling of self worth and made me realise that I don't need to feel ashamed of my illness because there are many, many people who really do understand.
Polly and Laura
The pictures from our photoshoot are used in all our work, including our ecards which you can send to your family and friends for free to help raise the profile of our work.