Portraits of Mankind exhibition encourages men to ‘Reach out, don’t tough it out’.
The Alliance for Suicide Prevention on the Sunshine Coast has partnered with a local photographer to showcase striking black and white portraits of local men that breaks stigma around mental health.
The aim of the exhibition, Portraits of Mankind, is to bring greater awareness to men’s mental health and challenge stereotypes of “suffering in silence.”
“Men’s mental health needs our attention,” says The Alliance. “On the Sunshine Coast, four out of every five suicides are males.”
The photographs, by Megan Gill, are extremely direct and powerful, each accompanied by personal stories of survival and supporting others.
Says Noosa lifeguard Keaton Grandemange (above), the surf life-saving culture encourages debriefing and speaking up about your feelings after a serious incident, such as someone not making it out of the water alive.
“Knowing I can talk to my team and my family is a big part of why I’ve always been someone who has dealt with these things well,” he says.
Jandamarra Cadd’s childhood was shaped by bullying, racism and collisions with the law. Becoming an artist helped him bridge the gap between his indigenous culture and modern Australia.
"This series of photographs and the event that comes from this is an invitation for a deeper understanding and dialogue around the emotional and mental issues that surround most men," says Jandamarra (above). "Leading in many cases to living in isolation, anguish and turmoil when it comes to the ability to express or open up to others about what is really going on in one’s life."
“I want men to know that no matter how big you are or how tough you look, there’s always a support system out there for you,” says Vika Pasifika, who survived three suicide attempts as he struggled to provide for his growing family.
Vika set up the UCE Movement (Awareness Belonging Connection) for anyone struggling with mental health and suicidality. It reaches across Australia and into New Zealand.
Vika and his team of seven mentors and counsellors regularly drive vast distances from Cairns to the Gold Coast to help others. Open to everyone, the UCE Movement has a strong focus on family communication, with the targeted “it’s not weak to speak” message for men to open up to their partners and children.
“I want men to know that no matter how big you are or how tough you look, there’s always a support system out there for you,” he says. 'We are here to battle it together."
Other men featured in the exhibition include singer songwriter Mason Hope, headspace ambassador James Hill, international cricketer Danny Morrison, and Sam Parker, founder of Grab Life By The Balls.
You can catch the Portraits of Mankind Exhibition a Black Flag Brewing, 10 Lomandra Place, Coolum until 13 March and from 16 March – 16 April at the Pomona Distilling Co, 18 Reserve Street, Pomona.