Sammy Nickalls
February 06, 2015 11:15 am

Mental illness is an issue that affects millions of Americans. In fact, according to the National Institute Of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2012, 18.6% of U.S. adults had a mental illness. That’s 43.7 million people in the U.S. alone.

Yet, mental health is still fraught with negative stigma, and many who suffer from a mental illness are too afraid to speak up about what they’re feeling and going through despite the fact that speaking up really is the way to get people the treatment they need.

Add in the issue of race, and mental health becomes an even more serious problem. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people from non-white communities are far less likely to receive the care they need.

Why? Because often, the clinical setting needed for treatment is incredibly charged with discrimination.

That’s why Latina mental health activist Dior Vargas is our new hero. Vargas has started a photo project featuring people of color with mental illness in order to do her part in this voyage of de-stigmatization.

As Vargas wrote on her site, “This photo project stems from the lack of media representation of POC (people of color) and mental illness. There are tons of articles that list people with depression and other mental illnesses, but you rarely see someone who looks like you. We need to change the way this is represented. This is not something to be ashamed about. We need to confront and end the stigma. This is a NOT a white person’s disease. This is a reality for so many people in our community.”

Vargas has been posting submissions of people of color holding up signs that state their name, their mental illness, and anything else they feel comfortable sharing. Here are just a few of our favorite examples. The entire project is exceptionally moving.

I can’t encourage you enough to check out the entire project on Vargas’ site, you can also submit images by checking out her page.

[All images via.]