Portraits to highlight depression

Alex Beaujon is doing much better now, but that wasn't always the case. Photo credit: Tim Vellinger/Studio040

How do you deal with depression? What do you need to get out of it?

‘OPEN on depression’ is an Open mind Foundation project. It aims to make mental vulnerability more visible and discussable. “If people don’t talk about it, things can snowball,” Mirjam Bekker-Stoop, the initiator, begins.

“It can even get so out of hand that the person in question feels more and more despondent. That’s why I’d like to encourage more debate around this. Depression is a true underlying condition.”

One in five

Research shows that one in five young people experience depression. The portraits are meant to get people talking. Beneath the photos are QR codes.

Scan them, and you can read and listen to the story behind the person in the picture. Alex Beaujon (pictured) is one of these people. She was depressed. At 14, it became clear.

“She’d get over-excited in the car when we went on holiday,” says Alex’s dad. “That would become quite an emotional rollercoaster. To the point where Alex had to get out of the car to catch her breath.”

Got help

After struggling with these feelings, the family finally called 113. That’s the number for suicide prevention. “That’s how bad it was.”

“She didn’t want to be here anymore. Fortunately, Alex came to me later to say she didn’t want to die. But she also didn’t want to live like that anymore either,” he remembers.

“Luckily, Alex now takes medication that’s helping her tremendously. And we’ve been given the tools to help her when she struggles.”

‘It started at school’

“For me, it started at school”, Beaujon says.  If I’d often be just five minutes late, I’d usually just not even bother getting up. I eventually didn’t even go to school that day.”

“At the same time, I’d reprimand myself. It would eat away at me – why didn’t I just go to school on that day anyway.” That went from bad to worse.

“I had a lot of suicidal tendencies. Sometimes I’d across a highway bridge and look down. I’d ask myself, ‘could I…? I’m glad I never did”, Alex says, frankly.


“It could also come very unexpectedly, those depressing feelings. Even if I were at a party, having a good time, there’d be a little voice in my head. It would say, ‘It wouldn’t even be a problem if I’m not here anymore.

“I see my depression a bit like a wave,” she explains. “It sometimes throws you against the rocks. But when the next wave comes, I’ve learned from the first one. And so I keep rising above it a bit.”

What can you do?

A listening ear can mean a lot. Listen to what’s going on with someone. Try not to judge or give advice right away, but ask what the person needs.

“What helped me a lot were friends who didn’t treat me someone pathetic,” Alex says. “They’d simply ask, ‘Are things not going so well today?”

“No? Okay, let’s have a coffee then.’ They treated me normally and kept trying, even though I often didn’t want to.”

You can see these portraits at Stadshuisplein until Tuesday 29 December.

Are you having suicidal thoughts? Please, talk to someone about it. You can even phone 0800-0113 or chat via 113.nl. These helplines are open 24/7, and they’re anonymous and confidential.

Source: Studio040

Translator: Bob

Editor: Melinda Walraven


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