The ‘Headclutcher’ – What exactly is it and Why we should be avoiding it?

OK, I wish you to imagine you are in the role of a picture editor for one of the famous national newspaper publishing website. My job was to produce an article all about mental health and you have been given the task to find a picture to accompany this article quickly if not immediately.

Where do you start? Exactly what type of picture do you look for?

Let me take a guess…I think it will symbolise someone with their hands clasping their head, similar to the one above? Yes…I am right?!

It hasn’t surprised me to find this, did it surprise you? This style of image, unfortunately, does always seem to be the natural, yet chosen picture when someone is asked to illustrate any articles that are about mental health. This is largely due to the fact that mental health is extremely hard to illustrate. It has become too easy to take refuge in what has become the familiarity of it. This article is another example of how something that can appear to be quite insignificant when it appears on its own can define a multitude of entrenched attitudes and preserved stigma.

OK, so you are probably not a picture editor, but you do however and most definitely read newspapers and articles online. (as you are currently doing). What you will have found, you have undoubtingly looked at images such as this in the past and made subconscious judgments based on them. Most, if in fact not all of us have been guilty of this. The good news is we can all learn something from this by questioning ourselves what we have assumed it to be and mean in relation to the world around us.

This is why we are finding mental health campaigners, like myself, are speaking out against the ‘headclutcher’.

It is Simplistic

The fact that the mere image of a “headclutcher” provides us with the conclusion that those people who are dealing with mental health problems are in fact ‘depressed’ all of the time. This image tells us what and how somebody ‘should’ look when they have a mental health problem. We believe if you don’t look like that all the time (and actually most people who do have a mental health problem do not look like this)? What if we question the fact that in fact there are times when many of them who are suffering are in fact confident, cheerful and laughing? Do we as a society still believe they are in need or deserve help? We find ourselves asking ourselves the questions are you in fact really ill?

Questions we ask

‘…it has become the common way for many people to disguise this by being able to put on a public face, whilst all the time struggling enormously in private’

What is important to understand is that the symptoms of most mental health problems are not obvious or constant all the time. Many people are very accomplished at being able to put on while they are in the public face. However, while and when in private they struggle enormously. This cannot mean nor excuse those who do this as being any less deserving of help.

It is Dehumanising and Even Frightening

The image of the “headclutcher” is usually one which has their faces obscures. This simple message contributes to the whole idea that people who suffer from this should be ashamed of their mental health problems and should hideaway. The mere fact we can not look into the person’s eyes if very powerful in its portrayal of the message. The eye is a window to a soul. It is in the eyes of a person that you can see the whole and complexity and humanity of a person.

Also, almost in all times, these imagines, are faces in shadow, with a dark theme, look and feel. They are made to look mysterious and in some cases are even scary. So, I ask if we as a society, are really ready to face the fact that one in four of us (within any given year), will be experiencing some sort of mental health problem…is this portrayal really how we want to send a message to each other about mental health? By labeling it to be ‘different, remote and frightening’?

‘…lets instead use pictures that will help to normalise mental health’

By the use pictures that can help normalize mental health, we can show people who are dealing with mental health problems that talking to someone, looking directly at the camera, while they socialize, while they drink tea, taking part in everyday things in their everyday environments and we all do! A Time to Change has taken these first few steps by producing some great alternative images to enable us to get started on changing our thoughts and messages we send. So, I ask you to think and check how you feel the next time you see a “headclutcher “photo.

small changes can make a big difference. CBT

If you are struggling with Mental health issues, I offer CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) sessions and various age group sleep programs. That clientele who have used CBT sessions as one of their therapies, there are proven direct links to reports of improvements in their mental health issues. With clear and proven results being showing for those who chose to use this method as the help they need. Those who are currently suffering from this have said it reduced greatly upon starting this therapy.

To help you with this I will work with you on making a weekly yet manageable step by step program in helping you transform this for you which will positively impact your life. We will alongside your GP for any medication you may be currently needing to take. With the holistic and gentle approach, we would look to see improvements within a few weeks of starting the program.

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