• josutherstphotography

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#11 – Behind the Mask – Debbie

Figure 1: Sutherst. Debbie. 2017

Debbie has suffered from many issues over the years that have caused her much stress and sadness. The words on her mask indicate some of what she may have experienced – “sadness” and “deceit”. Debbie does a magnificent job of hiding these things from everyone who meets her.

I have photographed Debbie in the past. She is a fellow photographer who volunteered to be made up into a rainbow fairy over a year ago. When she came to the shoot she was nervous at being in front of the camera, but we had such fun and achieved amazing images during the session. So, it makes me sad to see some of the words she has written on her mask.

Debbie’s confidence and self-belief are low. She is working on improving this by volunteering to help with my projects and by talking about her issues.  Not all her issues are ready to be aired to others, but over time this will become easier if she continues to challenge herself to take part in things that she finds difficult and out of her comfort zone. Taking part in this project and writing the words on to the mask are part of the healing process.

“Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion . . . The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health. “

– (The Stress Management Society, 2017)

The phrase that I find the saddest on her mask is “don’t want to live”.  At times in her life, Debbie has felt this way because of the issues in her life and the lack of support of those around her. Things have been so hard to deal with in the past, that this may have seemed like the way out. I hope that these thoughts are far from her mind now.  She has recently got married and seems to be very happy with newly married life. There will always be things that cause these feelings and thoughts to get too close to the surface, but I am hopeful that Debbie has a better support structure around her than she has had in the past.  She can certainly count on me to be there for her.

To find out more information about helping prevent suicide please visit the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) page on the Samaritans Website and please click DONATE if you would like to help support people in need.

Figures 2 and 3: Sutherst. Debbie. 2017


The Stress Management Society. (2017). What Is Stress?. [online] Available at: http://www.stress.org.uk/what-is-stress/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

#BehindtheMask #October2017 #TheMasksWeWear

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