Be Vocal Collection is Literally Changing Society’s Image of Mental illness

Mental Health Summit in San Diego

Last month, I was in San Diego for a summit held at the Sparks Gallery where I met nine other patient leaders who have bipolar disorder–see our cute group picture!  (Full disclosure: All travel expenses were paid for by Sunovion, but this post was at my discretion and the opinions expressed are my own.)   We talked about harmful images in the media that perpetuate stereotypes of people with mental illness.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Too often, you see stock pictures in articles about mental illness that make people with mental illness look like monsters.  Sunovion has partnered with NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental illness), DBSA (Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance), the National Council on Community Behavioral Healthcare, the JED Foundation, Mental Health America, and platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato to literally change the way we see mental illness through The Be Vocal Collection.  You can see the 150 images from the collection here at Getty Images.  (This blog post is Part 1 of my recap of the summit.  You can read Part 2 here.)

Sparks Gallery, San Diego

The goal is to provide free images that journalists, writers, and bloggers can use.  The images show everything from people directing choir at church, baking cookies with their children, playing with their pets, and staring at the wall.  The collection features 10 people living with a range of mental health conditions that include: anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, among others.  As someone who blogs and writes, I know there are times when I have used the same image for multiple articles on depression because it was better than resorting to free terrifying and inhumane images of people with mental illness.  As a person with bipolar disorder, what I love about the collection is that it portrays a realistic view of mental illness and broadens the way we see people with mental illness.

The Be Vocal Collection

Some of my favorite images were of Dior Vargas, who I previously interviewed here on Fashionably ill.  I love this picture of Dior with her pets.  Having been on a panel with Dior last year at a conference, this portrait jumped out at me when I was at Sparks Gallery.  I was like, “Hey I know her!  That’s my friend.”  Also, she looks fabulous in teal!

Dior Vargas stops to hug her family dog during a walk. (Shaul Schwarz Verbatim/Getty Images for Be Vocal)

I also love this image:

Dior Vargas at JED Foundation Offices in New York. (Shaul Schwarz Verbatim/Getty Images for Be Vocal))

And this one:

Dior Vargas at therapist’s office for weekly appointment. (Shaul Schwarz Verbatim/Getty Images for Be Vocal)

I think it’s important to show pictures of people with mental illnesses doing mundane things.  Here is an image of three time Olympian Suzy Favor-Hamilton brushing her teeth:

Suzy Favor-Hamilton brushing her teeth. (Shaul Schwarz Verbatim/Getty Images for Be Vocal)

Here is a picture of musician, Jay Solar, rehearsing with his band:

Stolar sings during his band’s rehearsal. (Shaul Schwarz Verbatim/Getty Images for Be Vocal)

Another picture of Jay:

Stolar with his guitar. (Shaul Schwarz Verbatim/Getty Images for Be Vocal)
 Your Turn?
Have you ever been stereotyped because of your illness?  What do you wish people knew about people who have mental illness?

Part 2 is here! 9 Difference-Makers You Should Know

Click here to read Part 2 of my recap of the San Diego Summit; I profile the nine advocates I met and how you can follow their amazing work.  They are authors, bloggers, poets, comedians, publishers, and so much more.

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno



Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), endometriosis, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

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