Zhang Nan starts a photo project called Crinkled Fog that aims to raise awareness of depression. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY
Liu Qing hasn’t slept well for months. Every day, the 13-year-old middle school student wakes up with dark circles around her eyes. She has lost interest in everything and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. She knows what this sinking feeling means.
“Living like this is such a torture for me. I can’t feel happy at all,” Liu told Xinhua.
Liu is one of many who suffer from depression. According to World Health Organization (WHO), about 264 million people around the world are affected by depression. In China, depression affects 54 million people and is one of the leading causes of suicide.
To bring this issue to people’s attention, Zhang Nan, a photo studio owner in Wuhan, Hubei province, started a photo project called Crinkled Fog. Over the last three years，he has taken pictures of over 100 people struggling with mental health, mostly girls or women, aged 14 to 30.
“Although things have been better with people talking openly about it nowadays, there are still misunderstandings about mental illness,” the 27-year-old told China Daily.
The 100th person Zhang shot for the series is a 23-year-old from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, nicknamed Yaya. She was diagnosed with depression in 2013 during her first year in senior high school when her grandfather, who raised her, passed away.
Her parents, who do business in another city and only see her a few times a year, didn’t take her struggle seriously and believed that depression is just like a cold and will go away on its own.
But for Yaya, it was painful. During her darkest period, she received electroconvulsive therapy 10 times within six weeks.
Yaya applied for the photo shoot when she got better this year because she wanted to record the moment and tell people that they can recover.
Depression is, in fact, a real illness. “Just like your body, your moods can fall ill, too,” said Li Songwei, Tsinghua University assistant professor of psychology. “When depression can be diagnosed, no matter how terrible it is, there are effective treatments.”
A major problem is that people are ashamed of the illness and don’t seek professional help, Lu Lin with the China Academy of Sciences said at the recent Tencent Medical Enlightenment Summit.
“We must remove the stigma and the shame by actively and openly supporting our friends and family members who are experiencing depression,” Bernhard Schwartlander, former WHO representative in China, told China Daily.