This Photo Is A Powerful Reminder That Mental Illness Isn't Always Visible

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Often, when a story comes out about mental health, the image that accompanies it is of a sad, gloomy-looking woman (not unlike the photo we've used to open this story). But that's not what people with mental illnesses always look like — a powerful point body image and mental health advocate Milly Smith made when she posted a photo of herself taken just hours before she attempted suicide for the third time.
"This photo was taken just 7 hours before I tried to take my own life," she wrote in the caption of an Instagram photo of her seemingly happy, smiling, made-up face.
She had a good day that day, she wrote. She took a walk and went out to eat with her family and genuinely enjoyed her time with them. But that night, she overdosed and was in the hospital for the next week.
"I had no idea I'd try to take my own life in the morning, I was smiling and loved the way my hair looked hence the selfie," she wrote.
Smith has borderline personality disorder, which is a "serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning," according to the National Institute Of Mental Health. Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson was recently diagnosed with the same condition, and said that his mood swings caused him to black out. For Smith, her diagnosis means that she can have suicidal thoughts over "the slightest trigger."
"Borderline personality disorder can be exhausting , terrifying and lonely," she tells Refinery29. "Living with borderline means I'm constantly trying to balance my emotions, I’m constantly trying to fight the lows and keep up the highs without getting too exhausted as I’ll spiral."
She posted the photo to show that someone who is suicidal might not look like the image we so often associate with mental illness.
"Suicidal isn't just crying, for those with a troubled life and long build ups to breaking point, it's also snap decisions made whilst your son sleeps in the same house and your loving partner kissed you goodnight hours before," she wrote. "We need to learn how suicidal tendencies can present themselves beyond our ignorance to the topic. By listening and learning even the tiniest triggers/signs we can save lives."
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
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