Launceston fights stigma

ARTIST: Photographer Alison Cosker documented the powerful series, and also shared her own mental health story. Pictures: Alison Cosker

ARTIST: Photographer Alison Cosker documented the powerful series, and also shared her own mental health story. Pictures: Alison Cosker

Two years ago, the process of capturing a portrait was seemingly “impossible” for Launceston photographer Alison Cosker. 

Now she’s using her mental health experience to shine a light on stories and stigma through a powerful campaign. 

STORIES: Lisa King, one of 25 subjects featured in the series so far, shared her poignant story at the Lifting the Lid Mental Health Forum.

STORIES: Lisa King, one of 25 subjects featured in the series so far, shared her poignant story at the Lifting the Lid Mental Health Forum.

The Lifting the Lid on Mental Health campaign has encouraged the conversation around mental health in Launceston, shedding light on its prevalence and complexity. 

The Facebook series has shared intimate and poignant stories of familiar local faces, including residents Lisa King, Jess Andrews and Richard Harmey.

Cosker, who co-founded the Lifting the Lid campaign, said her own experience helped inspire her to curate the candid series.

“About two years ago, I was in a pretty rough place in my own mental health,” the 28-year-old said.

“And then [I] managed to get out of it, with help and support and medication.”

Cosker said two years ago, when she was in the midst of a dark period, the seemingly simple actions required to assemble the series seemed unthinkable. 

“All these things that are everyday things, when I was deeply depressed individually felt impossible, let alone to do all those things in one day, and then five times a day.

“There is another side [to life].”

Cosker shared her own mental health story in a powerful post. 

“I didn’t want it to be about me … but I just wanted to eventually put myself in it and say, ‘this is a part of my life too,’” Cosker said. 

The photo series was designed to engage the community with real mental health stories in the lead up to the Lifting the Lid Mental Health Week forum. 

Cosker began asking people she knew whether they would take part in the series, and eventually people were volunteering to share.

Curating the series, Cosker would take a portrait and spend 10 or so minutes with her subject to photograph them and chat, and get them to send her a post about their mental health journey.  

“I don’t want it to be about Facebook … [but I’ve learnt] just how much connectedness and support there is,” Cosker said.

“And how people respond when they realise someone who they had no idea had ever struggled, when they come forward and there’s just lots and lots of support.

“It’s been amazing … everyone who has shared [their story] has felt really empowered by it, including me.

“I can’t stress how much it takes off your shoulders by sharing … it’s horrifying if you can’t think about anything more than getting out of bed.”

Cosker composed the series to be “representative” of Launceston. 

“If we went forward [with the series], I would like to represent people with more acute mental illnesses.”

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