Sheffield photographer captures the mental health crisis in pictures: ‘More can still be done’
"Twenty years ago, my cousin took his own life due to depression,” says Kate Harber, explaining why she has decided to use the medium of photography to raise awareness of the plight faced by those with mental health problems.
“It's been a big motivating factor for me in getting the word out there. I feel like now mental health problems are treated more seriously than they were back then, but more can still be done – which is what I'm trying to do.”
Kate, aged 29, of Hillsborough, takes portrait photos of models that convey different emotions to represent mental health problems, as well as landscapes of nature and abandoned buildings.
“Some of them are a bit darker,” she says. “I don't really limit myself on the style of my photography.”
Kate, who uses Sheaf Photography Studio on Matilda Street, started taking pictures 10 years ago in college. "Then life took over and I became a panel beater. I picked up my passion for it again out of nowhere three years ago and now here I am. I think some people might struggle to understand what mental health issues are actually like. I want to give them a visual image of how serious they can be to solve this."
Mental health issues, she says, are ‘a massive problem’ across the world. “I think today reported cases are becoming more common, too. More people are comfortable talking about it and there's resources in place, but I don't think it's enough. I know local people who've been to their GP with mental health issues and they've been deferred straight onto a waiting list. I've heard people who've had to wait up to 12 months for help, which is far too long.
"I think Sheffield is the same as everywhere else in this regard, because of how many things are causing mental health problems like lack of jobs and government funding, for example. I see homeless peopleevery day in Sheffield, most of whom suffer enormously mentally."
Kate is raising money for the charity PAPYRUS, which is dedicated to helping people with suicidal thoughts.
"I did a fundraiser night for PAPYRUS recently; we managed to raise £370. I've got a sponsored bike ride and a walk planned for early summer, and I'm also trying to sort out another fundraising night sometime soon. I've got a few other ideas up my sleeve too. I want to come up with an idea that'll get people's attention; something that's a bit 'out there'.”
PAPYRUS, she says, focuses on the prevention of suicide.
“If people are considering suicide, I urge them to contact PAPYRUS if they're having any doubts. Until I started taking photos to raise awareness and involved myself in tackling mental illnesses, I hadn't heard of them. I like backing the underdog and PAPYRUS is still a very worthy cause. I found out that they do actually have a big community helping them out, but if hadn't heard of them, I feel like more can be done to raise their profile.”
Social media is a good tool for boosting awareness, she believes.
“It only takes a click to share the information. I urge people that have concerns about their or their loved one's mental health to to reach out. Without help, things can only get worse. Luckily I've not been personally affected by mental illnesses, but I know a lot of people who have. It's about understanding what those people are going through. That way, they'll feel like they're not alone. It's like they're a prisoner inside their own mind. Sometimes I feel people need to learn to actively seek and accept help, rather than bury the issue."