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Karen Liao: Bare

 

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Photography, Text and Video Interview by Karen Liao, Copyright 2017

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BARE

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The state of one’s mental health is never an easy topic to discuss. There may be fear of being easily dismissed or of burdening others. There may be an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. There may be conflict in not even personally being able to understand their own emotions. It’s true that these feelings exist across both the physical and emotional disease continuum for people. But unfortunately, a particularly strong stigma with mental health makes it more even more difficult for people struggling with this aspect of their health to voice their struggles. The veil of shame surrounding the topic also prevents many people from seeking care. Well-being is defined as health of both the mind and the body– we need to reevaluate and strive towards improving health in all aspects of a person.

These are all important lessons that I’ve learned from my college experience. As a nursing student, I’ve learned the pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and treatments for mental illnesses. But the main factor in my life that has helped me come to much better understand mental health is my friend pictured in the portraitures. She struggles with a variety of mental health issues, and my friendship with her has taught me so much about what a person with mental illnesses struggle with in daily life. These four core human emotions of happiness, sadness, love, and despair manifest themselves so much more extremely in her than in any other person I’ve met. She describes herself as “feeling more deeply” than others.

Tackling mental health stigma can begin by starting conversations and opening up about what mental illnesses feels like. And so my portraitures, I hope, can exemplify the destruction of the pretenses and shame that surround mental illnesses. These pictures of my friend illustrate her actual emotional states at the time. The emotions are real, and they represent the fluctuations in her mental well-being that she constantly struggles with. Through these portraitures, she is willing to be vulnerable, baring it all.

I just wanted to add that these portraits are also a tribute to her strength. Despite all that she has been struggling through over the years—so many tears shed that there are none left, the feeling of utter hopelessness—she is brave enough to keep moving forward and find the happiness and love in life. And so those are the things that I wish for her to have more of– self-love and confidence, more time with her beloved pug, and a life that’s always filled with physically and emotionally beautiful things. 

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HYOJUNG_CHUN_CLASS_PORTRAIT_2

Portrait of Karen Liao by Julia Chun, Copyright 2017

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About The Author: Karen Liao is a Junior enrolled in the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019

This entry was posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, Women.

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