When you have a serious physical injury and need medical attention, you seek aid from a medical physician, correct? So what happens when you experience mental distress, shouldn’t you seek care? Why is it that people feel more comfortable talking about their physical ailments but find it difficult when it comes to matter of the mind?

From a young age I always wondered when you’ve had a distressing experience who do you go to see. From failing an exam or your home being repossessed or losing a loved one, if you don’t have the capability to cope on your own what’s next? My mum informed me of a sad story of a young pregnant woman who committed suicide after she found out her mother had been impregnated by her husband. Hours later a video of her suicide was shared on my Facebook feed. This heart breaking story had me questioning, where was her support?
_mg_3567(Center – Ifeyinwa Frederick)

I attended the private viewing of ‘Perception’, an exhibition curated by Ifeyinwa Frederick (who runs Grey Matters, the mental health blog) and Hannah Remz. Not knowing a lot about the exhibition, I went there with an open mind. The exhibition eradicated myths and stigmas attached with mental health issues and celebrated artists who have lived with mental illness.

The exhibition opened up with a charismatic talk and performance by Dr. Ahmed Hankir, a psychiatrist who revealed that he too has lived through an episode of depression. “25% of doctors experience depression and 4 doctors commit suicide in the USA each year – Doctors are human beings too…” says Dr. Ahmed Hankir. His statement highlights that anyone can suffer from mental health issues and more needs to be done to help shine the light on this area.

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Being surrounded by the visual work of artists who have showcased their perception of mental health, helped myself and others to see the minds of people suffering from this matter. You quickly gain the understanding that they’re not all that different to you. You begin to relate to some of their expressions, the only difference is you may have been in a better place to cope with the negative experience you’ve had faced.

A Q&A with Marsha Gosho Oaeke, editor-in-chief of SoulCulture shone the light on famous people who have experienced mental health issues. In an interview she had with J.Cole (a musician), he expressed how he felt depressed whilst making his album. Growing up I listened to all sorts of music, through my teenage years I listened to music from Grime artist such as Kano, Dizzee Rascal, Skepta and Young Spray – I wasn’t aware at that time but these artist were expressing their negative experiences on tracks which could be considered very therapeutic, for themselves and their listeners. Could you imagine having a conversation expressing your deepest thoughts without the fear of being judged? Music was their answer.

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Ifeyinawa and Hannah were able to create a safe place that removed the stigma attached with mental illness and allowed people to open up and express their deep thoughts and feelings with no repercussions. I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness but I was still able to relate to their experiences. The Perception exhibition made me want to become a better listener and increase my empathy. If I had ever been accepting of the stigma attached to mental issues, one thing is for sure, it is no longer the case – thank you @Ifeyinwa and @Hannah.

If you would like to read more about mental health issues visit www.greymattersonline.co.uk – ‘a dedicated space for ordinary people to talk about their experiences of mental illness in their own words.’

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I will leave you the words of Dylan Mills aka Dizzee Rascal from his song ‘Brand New Day’:

“When I look at my life I can’t help but think,
Cause I could of resorted to drugs and drink,
Everyday was the same as the day before,
We were never quite sure of what’s in store,
Every day I wake up I can’t help but feel,
I’m certain of life I mean this is real,
Mad thoughts skip around my head like dancers,
I know it’s long to question but I need answers,
The who’s, the what’s, the how’s, the when’s, the why’s,
You can at look in my face and see the pain in my eyes,
Tears ready to fall like the rain in the skies,
So hold back put my feet down and rise…”

Photographer & Writer – @Kofi Dwaah
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