To do a short film about Pete and his struggle with depression was my very initial idea for the visual anthropology project. However, the sensitivity of the topic deterred me, frightened me. I abandoned my thoughts on it because the gaze on suffering seemed cruel and objectifying. I looked around for other topics, for something less challenging, something less personal. But with whatever idea I came up, it just didn’t have the same magnitude and urgency about itself. I needed to re-visit my original idea.
I’ve come to known Pete very deeply over the past half year and it broke my heart many times to see him suffering for days, physically unable to do much more than a cup of tea, tormented by constant darkness and harrowing fears. Me going about my days, and maintaining a sense of normality in the house seemed to help if even just in the slightest for his pain would not just go away on command. What I saw however was never just his depression but the curiosity, the stories, his larger-than-life character which ever so often rises through the cracks of his pain even though it may seem invisible at times. When I approached Pete with my idea about the project, about wanting to explore what it means to suffer from depression, he was, to say the least ‘very excited.’
There’s much to Pete’s story which could be explored on a socio-political level, on the intersection between the individual’s ‘lifeworld’ and the larger social structures. From the appalling lack of NHS services to how a society as a whole relates to mental illness. Potentially there could then be claims of generalisations, a study of ‘service-users’ or ‘survivors’. However, that’s not what I’m aiming for here. If anything I want to honour a man’s strength to not lose hope in the face of enduring adversity and to use the film to lend Peter a voice to talk about his condition. A condition which may no longer be taboo in our society but which nevertheless is often nothing more than an assemblage of stereotypes in our minds. I hope that we manage to challenge some of these stereotypes and as a result foster greater understanding and compassion for the people suffering from depression.