We Speak is a poster and blog campaign featuring ten young women who are speaking up about their relationships with mental health and how it informs their identities. For too many of us, mental wellbeing takes a backseat to physical health and even the daily obligations that never seem to let up. When it comes to young women, navigating the transition into adulthood - entering the work force, facing the pressures of school, cultivating relationships, continuously forming one’s identity - can be especially trying. In fact, the rate of mental illness is over twice as high among individuals aged 18-25 than for people who are 50 and up. Combine these with pressures like narrow standards of beauty that are particularly pervasive for teen girls and young adult women, and it isn’t surprising that women are more likely to suffer from depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia. Despite how many women in this age group struggle with mental health, the stigma surrounding these kinds of illnesses is pervasive and obstructive. Having the support of loved ones is often crucial for healing, yet the fear, shame, guilt, and uncertainty of being honest about mental illness stops so many of us from confiding in friends and family. To foster support, we must raise awareness and reduce stigma.
In the past year, the ten young women featured in the poster portion of We Speak came face to face with the state of our mental health. Our stories, carefully and honestly written, are meant to start a conversation about a topic that many of us wish we could ignore. But these are our realities, and in sharing them, we want to start chipping away at the stigma that keeps us feeling weak and alone. To see these prints in person, visit Work Gallery in Ann Arbor, Michigan (part of Launch: Stamps School of Art and Design’s Senior Thesis Exhibition at the University of Michigan) for the exhibition opening on Friday, April 18th. The work will remain up during gallery hours through May 3rd.
In addition to the original ten participants, everyone is encouraged to consider sharing their own story about mental health. By contributing your experiences, you can help open the discussion about the importance of mental health and tear down the stigma that keeps it so hidden.