Struggling with mental health looks different for everyone
When Milly Smith, a UK body-positive activist, was a teen, she went to a doctor and told him she was suicidal. He dismissed her, saying she didn’t “look suicidal,” Smith wrote on Instagram. That doctor’s comment has stuck with her for over a decade.
Now, 24-year-old Smith, who has a blog and Instagram account dedicated to self-love, is on a mission to prove that there’s no such thing as “looking suicidal.” Struggling with mental health doesn’t have “a look” — and Smith is using side-by-side photos to prove it.
“This, this is the danger of thinking mental health has a ‘face’,a ‘look’… In both these photos I’m suicidal, perhaps not in the same way but on both of these days I had suicidal thoughts racing around.”
“Depression doesn’t have a face. You can’t look at someone online or in person and grade their depression,” she writes. Smith has borderline personality disorder (BPD), a condition that makes it hard to regulate emotions and that affects as many as 1.6 percent of adults in the U.S., according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. In her posts, Smith talks about how difficult it is to be vulnerable and share her struggles with the world, but she still does it to show others it’s okay to ask for help: “I’m not weak, I’m not horrible, I just need help,” she writes. “If you need help, you’re not alone. You’re worthy of that help. Get it, it’s not shameful. You deserve it.”
In a photo that’s gained a lot of recent attention, Smith smiles at the camera in full makeup with her hair curled. The caption reads, “Taken 7 hours before I attempted suicide.”
“I had no idea I’d try to take my own life in the morning,” Smith wrote. “I was smiling and loved the way my hair looked hence the selfie. Having BPD means that my mood can switch to suicidal in seconds over the slightest trigger.”
The photo has amassed more than 12,000 likes and thousands of comments from people thanking Smith for sharing her story with so much vulnerability.
“Thank you for bringing awareness to depression. I have chronic depression and a lot of people don’t understand the fact that no matter how ‘good’ your life is, the depression always comes back with full force,” one commenter wrote. Others chimed in with their own experiences with depression similar to Smith’s.
Smith’s photos are starting an important conversation. Struggling with depression doesn’t have a look, and those who are fighting it can still look and seem happy. It’s so important to take people at their word when they discuss their struggles.
Thanks for being so strong and continuing this conversation, Milly.