Australians Call For A More Accurate Visual Representation Of Mental Illness

Australians Call For A More Accurate Visual Representation Of Mental Illness

Australia’s national mental health charity, SANE Australia, and Getty Images have released the results of the first national research project into the way mental illness is portrayed visually in Australia.

Anne Flanagan
Posted by Anne Flanagan

The Picture This survey of more than 5000 Australians – 70 per cent of whom had experienced mental illness – found that the majority of respondents wanted images that place more emphasis on the human side of mental illness, rather than abstract portrayals or pictures of pills.

SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath, said, “While community attitudes towards the way we speak about mental illness, along with the Australian media’s reporting of this complex issue, are among the most responsible in the world, the way mental illness is visually portrayed remains a concern for many Australians, especially associations with violence.”

“The Picture This survey results show that Australians want to see images of real people that convey a sense of both struggle and hope.

“Through our collaboration with Getty Images we can educate photographers and the community at large while encouraging the supply and use of images that present a fair and accurate view of mental illness.”

Cameron Solnordal, who has lived with schizophrenia for more than 15 years, said he and his family’s experience and understanding of mental illness had evolved over time.

“Through our varied understanding of mental illness we all gain unique perspectives which continue to change as time goes on,” Solnordal said.

“On day one of my journey with my illness, my family would have pictured schizophrenia as a locked and bolted door in the doctor’s office that had ‘mental Illness’ roughly scrawled in broken red crayon.

“Today, my illness would just be pictured as a door that we pass through when we go outside. There are no locks, no bolts and it will never slam shut. Mental illness was only made scarier by simply what we didn’t know at the time.”

Stuart Hannagan, vice president of editorial – Australasia, Getty Images, said, “At Getty Images we feel passionately that images have the power to change the way people view the world and depicting diversity is one of our biggest priorities.”

“While we cannot change what people publish or click on overnight, we are committed to providing a diverse range of imagery that accurately and sensitively reflects the experience of mental illness in Australia, and broadens the options available for those looking to create stories that are more authentic.

“This collaboration with SANE Australia will help content creators – from the media through to ad agencies, and anyone consuming content, to visualise a better world in which mental illness is portrayed more authentically.”

An outdoor exhibition of photography that reflects the results of Picture This is on display at The Atrium at Melbourne’s Federation Square until March 18.

Getty Images has hand curated a selection of images that reflect the findings of the PictureThis survey. To find them visit “PictureThis”. In addition, Getty Images is giving everyone the chance to contribute their images, based on the research results and five key recommendations developed by SANE, by visiting http://competitions.gettyimages.com.