18 years ago our founder and photographer Blake Loates discovered her passion for photography and using that medium to try and make a difference in the world. Blake was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at a young age and always felt very alone in her struggle. From her frequent trips to the library to research her disorder she learned that that a staggering 1in 5 people in Canada have a mental illness. Blake questioned how the rate could be so high yet she felt solated in her struggle. The answer was simple…stigma. Blake wanted that to change that. She wanted herself and others to feel less isolated. She dreamed of taking photographs of people with mental illnesses and telling their stories. Moreover that she wanted to create a community for those struggling with mental illness. To read more about Blake please visit her website here.
The project percolated for many years due to Blake’s struggles with her own illness. During that time Blake also became a psychiatric nurse, but her love of photography and social justice drew her back to other endeavours. But when Blake’s hero, Robin Williams, died by suicide she knew that the the project could no longer lay dormant. The world was ready and wanting to have a conversation about mental health. She had to bring this idea to life. And on May 23, 2016 We All Believe in You was officially launched at the Art Gallery of Alberta in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) for Mental Health Awareness week.
75 portraits and stories were displayed at the Art Gallery that evening. Over 500 people attended the show and thousands of dollars were raised for CMHA. But what was most remarkable was seeing how proud the participants were of their bravery and honesty. It was an emotional evening full of love and hugs. See the images here.
In 2017 We All Believe in You was contacted by the Canadian Mental Health Association to create portraits for Suicide Prevention Week. The images were used in this awesome collaboration video. To see all photos please go here.
Portraits were taken in 40 different YEG locations in 4 days. What was originally intended to be 30 participants quickly became over 120 because of so many Edmontonians wanting to put their face behind the cause of Suicide Prevention. Participants were asked to create a "Message of Hope" to help inspire a person struggling with suicidal ideation to keep on going. So many hugs, tears and stories were shared during these four days.
WABIY highly values community and to reflect that value we started an online Facebook support group for those struggling with mental illness. To join that group please visit here.
So what does the future have in store for We All Believe in You? WABIY as an organization deeply values education as a tool for suicide prevention and the fight against the stigma of mental illness. More recently we have been involved in educating teenagers about suicide prevention and mental illness in YEG…and we plan to go full steam ahead with education. We also believe that mental wellness is a fundamental right for all Albertans regardless of income. We will be advocating for affordable, long term therapeutic services for ALL Albertans. And we have some more plans for future photo projects. And we plan to extend our community by holding monthly hang outs, information sessions, and educational opportunities.
We invite you to join the We All Believe in You movement. Your voice is important. Your voice is needed. And please know, that above all, we all believe in you.