Pics 4 Passion (P4P) is a project that supports young people in learning and implementing self-care and visually demonstrating how it feels to live with mental health. Raising awareness, breaking stigmas and learning new skills are foundational pillars for creating P.4.P. Hannah has been dealing with Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD since Hannah was 11; when Hannah turned 13, my parents bought me a camera. Little did Hannah know at the time that this would end up being a lifesaver. Photography quickly became a way for her to express herself safely. Fall of 2016, Hannah started at Nova Scotia Community College, working towards a professional photography diploma. This allowed me to continue learning more about photography and encouraging my passion for adventure and creativity. While in school, there was a requirement to start a personal project and create an Instagram account dedicated to this project. Struggling to try and decide what to begin photographing consistently, Hannah finally agreed that Hannah would try to capture what it feels like to have mental health. Because it is rarely what the movies show us.
Now knowing what Hannah wanted to do, it was time to seek advice about making it happen. After asking a few close friends to help me, Hannah created a collection of images that visually conveyed how they felt on their darkest day. Working with these individuals was incredibly meaningful. Seeing the power that came with the final photos was terrific—creating images that sparked uncomfortable but needed conversations about the reality of mental health in our young people. 2017 led to a series of events that would, unfortunately, put P.4.P on pause for a little over a year. In spring 2017, Hannah had to take a step back due to some unforeseen health issues. Just as Hannah got better, an accident caused me to get a significant concussion, which put most of my life on hold for 11 months. Thankfully, Hannah only had to take a month off from school, which meant Hannah could still graduate on time (June 2018).
July 2018, Hannah had the privilege of attending The Duke of Edinburgh International Award - Passion to Purpose Youth Summit in Regina, Saskatchewan. Throughout the week, young Canadians from across the country came together with ideas to give back to their communities. Hannah attended with the drive to continue P.4.P. At the end of the week, Taking It Global and the Duke of Edinburgh announced that there were grants to help make their ideas a reality. Everyone who needed a grant for the project was assisted in the application process and then told they received the gift. This was when the idea for Pain vs Passion - The Book was born. Creating a book that visually demonstrates how it feels to live with mental health and showing that our illness does not define who we are. We are more than our mental health, our physical sickness, our spiritual awareness. Those things help shape us, but they do not define us.
This project involved travelling across the province of Nova Scotia, photographing individuals who expressed an interest in sharing their stories. There are two photos of each individual—one with tape on their face and one without tape. The video will have four (4) words that each person perceives to be their worst, met with a straight face and unwelcome body language. The photo without the tape or the words is welcoming, smiling, open to conversation and engagement. Along with the pictures, there were three questions asked of each individual. These were meant to be open-ended to share as much or as little as they wanted. The only stipulation was they had to keep it positive and educational. They could include details of the story, but the focus needed to be helpful.
1. What is a piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
2. What do you want to see changed for future generations
3. What is one thing you are going to do to help someone else?
In fall 2018, Hannah started photographing individuals for the project. In Winter 2019, my depression became hard to manage, and the project stopped for the winter. Summer of 2019, Hannah picked up the project again. Hannah decided to use a Facebook ad to find individuals who might be interested in participating. The ads proved to be successful. By October 2019, everyone who had expressed an interest in the project was photographed. Then it was time to create the book, figure out how to print it and or publish it. Early December 2019, the book was completed and sent to the printer (The Print House - Halifax). Because the project was grant-based, the first round of printing was given out for free. Some went to participants and family members, and some went to organizations that supported me and some mental health organizations.
Seeing what has come from a young person with a passion who has also been struggling daily with mental health, Hannah only wants to provide the same opportunity. Hannah wants to show them how powerful the arts, photography, in particular, can be for mental health, especially in younger people. The majority of the population has a cellphone or access to a camera of some kind. In doing so, we are paving the way to making this program as accessible as possible. Create your stuff, do it at your own pace, in your own space.
In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience mental health problems or illnesses.
The total number of 12-19-year-olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receive them.
Using tools like painting, drawing, photography has proven benefits for dealing with past trauma and depression.
The majority of people (not just teens) who own a camera wish they knew how to use it better because taking photos is meaningful and enjoyable.
Mental health in photographs is typically perceived negatively.
Many teens in Nova Scotia do not know what resources are available to them or how to access them.
Photography, music, art and exercise are all proven ways to help deal with mental health in a healthy way and on your terms.
1 in 4 children live in poverty in Nova Scotia. 1 in 4 Children do not have the money to go to therapy, get medication or even have a way of getting to and from the resources.
Pictures are a great way to spark a conversation about a challenging topic.