At the initiative of the World Federation of Mental Health and with the support of the WHO, on 10 October World Mental Health Day is celebrated. Prevalence estimates vary but have in common that experiencing some kind of mental health problem (e.g. depressive, eating or anxiety disorder, schizophrenia etc.) during lifetime or even in the course of a year is not as far-fetched as one might think (e.g. via). In Austria, a country with 8.5 million inhabitants, 900.000 people are currently in treatment. On a global scale, estimates range between 400 million and 1.5 billion people who are affected (via).
The aim of the day is raising awareness as the social stigma attached to mental disorders can make problems worse. According to the Mental Health Foundation, about nine out of ten say that stigma and discrimination have a negative impact on their lives. Problems are related to finding work, being in a long-term relationship, living in decent housing, and being socially included in mainstream society (via). In the UK, the campaign Time to Change aims to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.
Invisible disabilities are not readily apparent. Those whose disabilities are invisible might even have to convince other people that they are impaired not knowing what consequences their disclosure might have. In line with the "seeing is believing" attitude, readily visible impairments are said to be the ones that are taken more seriously (Coté, 2009).
The Mask Series was a collaboration between the Austrian photographer Inge Morath (1923-2002) and The New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg (1914-1999). They started the project in the 1950s and continued it into the 1960s.
Coté, J. (2009) Invisible Disability Disclosure. Athabasca: MA
National Mental Health. Development Unit. (n.y.) Stigma and discrimination in mental health (via); photos via and via and via and via and via and via and via