The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Soul Soup – Everyday Superheroes

"There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have mental health problems, and those who are in denial."

I've been quoting this one for years, but I can't remember where I first heard it. Even a google search hasn't helped. Perhaps I made it up. Where ever it comes from, it's always had a deep ring of truth to me.

Mental health is still something of a taboo for many people, so it doesn't get talked about, much less admitted to. Fear of rejection, of appearing weak, or even of employers using it as an excuse to get rid of us, all contribute to so many people staying quiet, and ending up feeling completely on their own with it.

By the time you hit 50, the chances are you've probably found coping mechanisms, perhaps even solutions. But when you're young and all your friends and peers seem to have brilliant lives – as promoted on Facebook and other social media – then the feelings of isolation can be overwhelming. The fear of facing and trying to deal with the emotional turmoil on your own can lead to suicide looking like the only way to end the suffering.

Soul Soup is an amazing local charity offering professional counselling and support for young people (12 to 25 years old) facing emotional distress and difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing.

Having had an on-off relationship with Depression since I was 18, when I was asked if I would help create a photo for them to use to launch a publicity drive to raise awareness about mental health, I didn't hesitate.

"Everyday Superheroes" is tied in around the notion that nearly all of us attempt to appear invulnerable and easily able to cope with the world, so the idea is to get people to photograph themselves as superheroes doing everyday things – be it shopping, gardening, washing the dishes etc – and share it on social media.

To kick-start the drive, though, we created a photo of people dressed as superheroes in a group therapy session: even Superheroes are vulnerable to mental health problems.

The concept and the costumes were all created by a group of Soul Soup workers and users.

Recalling the Moniave Manga project I did last summer with Ralph Yates-Lee of Basement 20 Hair Salon, I asked him if he’d like to be involved too. Ralph leapt at the chance, brought along an assistant, Angelique, and sorted out hairstyles for several of the participants.

As well as the main image, I needed to create a series of photos of each of the characters in proper Superhero poses to Photoshop into posters placed on the walls behind them.

A couple of people whipped out their mobile phones to record some of the process of getting hair done and the photo shoot itself, so with a soundtrack from my band, The Cracked Man, I edited together this short (1:10) video to give you a taste of the day.

Feel free to "like" and support Soul Soup over on Facebook if you're there.


Pat said...

Excellently put together and quite moving. I think it will ring a lot of bells. Certainly did with me.

hope said...

Everyday Super Heroes are the best kind...because their hearts are in the right place. :) Hope they win.

Jonathan Chant said...

Lovely, great project Kim.

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Mental health issues are simply not talked about in the open here in Guyana.

So many men here abuse alcohol, then get violent...and I am sure it's because of mental health problems.

We don't have enough counsellors.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - I wish there had been something like this about when I was a teenager.

Hope - they did, which was great news :)

Jonathan - thank you :)

Neena - I think mental health problems are far more common than anyone realises, and until there's a wider acceptance, inappropriate self-medication will continue to make things worse.
Nearly 10 years ago - back in the days when I used to get more visitors and commenters, I did a poll about how people self-medicate. If you're interested, you can find the results here:

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