Mental Illness doesn’t discriminate, it affects people of all backgrounds, genders, and races; and the kinds of mental health conditions that affect people vary greatly.

Sarasota Herald- Tribune reporter Carrie Seidman is working to tell the stories of those dealing with mental illness on the Suncoast through her project FACEing Mental Illness: The Art of Acceptance through a fellowship with the Carter Center for Mental Health Journalism.

The self-portraits of over 70 community members hang in Selby Library, showing the emotions and struggles people face while dealing with mental health conditions.

Herald-Tribune reporter Carrie Seidman says the portraits show how easy it is to relate to those with metal illnesses.

“To show that people with mental health conditions look a lot like people with anything,” Seidman said. “I mean people in any walk of life.

In addition to showing the portraits, Seidman is writing stories on the artists in an effort to help defeat negative stigma.

“Defeat some of the misconceptions people have about mental illnesses,” Seidman says. “And to encourage people to be more accepting, and more inclusive of everyone in our community.”

Seidman’s son was diagnosed with mental illness, which helped her relate to project participants, and encourage them to speak out.

“How powerful it can be to tell your story, and to own your story,” Seidman says. “And to not feel any sense of shame or discomfort over the fact that through no fault of your own you happen to have a mental health condition.”

Statements that are shared with the portraits tell stories about their personal struggles with mental illness and people’s reactions to it.

“They have felt discrimination in employment, they have felt discrimination in acceptance of them socially,” Seidman said. “These are really nice and often extremely talented people, who have just not been really given a chance.”

Seidman says she hopes sharing these journeys can inspire others.

The self-portraits will be on display at the Selby Library until the end of March, and artists’ profiles can be found here.