At the age of 19, photographer Edward Honaker was diagnosed with a mood disorder that affects about 14.8 million American adults. This disorder is characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness, one which acts as an overwhelming obstacle during an individual’s day-to-day life. In other words – just two years ago – Honaker was diagnosed with depression.
“All I knew is that I became bad at the things I used to be good at, and I didn’t know why,” the photographer told The Huffington Post. “Your mind is who you are, and when it doesn’t work properly, it’s scary.”
To convey his inner thoughts and feelings, Honaker turned to his camera and creativity. What results is a surreal series of self-portraits – which are filled with powerful symbolism. Each black-and-white image is as artistic as it is revealing. If you’ve coped with depression or are currently coping with depression, Honaker’s work can act as a beacon of empathy. And if you haven’t, you can still learn a lot from the creative’s telling snapshots.
Now, Honaker wants his work to inspire others. He wants to encourage viewers to have a conversation about mental illness, to motivate them to be more accepting of those who cope with mental health-related issues. “When I was making the portfolio, I asked myself if I was the kind of person whom others would feel comfortable coming to if they were going through a difficult time and needed someone to talk to,” he continued. “Truthfully, at the time, I don’t think I was. I’ve still got quite a ways to go, but the whole experience made me a lot more patient and empathetic towards others.”
Honaker’s work is especially important because it shines a light on male depression. The National Institute of Mental Health claims that more than 6 million men cope with depression in America, yet they are less likely to recognize their symptoms – especially due to the culturally ingrained stigma that men shouldn’t talk about their feelings. Men are also less likely to admit that they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in Psychology of Gender.
While each and every person experiences depression differently, it’s important for such individuals to realize that they are not alone. “I think a really helpful way to end the stigma surrounding mental illness is to be there for others who might be suffering,” Honaker emphasized. “You never really know what others may be going through so all you can really do is be kind and nonjudgemental.”
Check out even more of Honaker’s harrowingly honest, stunningly executed portrayals below.