I met Rob through his ATB colleague and writing partner Todd. Todd mentioned he had a friend who would really like to participate in Home of the Brave. “He would be perfect.” Todd had told me, smiling.

Richard Avedon said, “My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.” As hard as I’ve tried to make HOB about its participants, I must admit that working with Rob has taught me a lot about myself. Specifically, how much work I have yet to do in terms of promoting mental health through advocacy and sharing my story beyond the safe, nurturing and empathetic atmosphere of HOB.

During our initial meeting Rob and I exchanged our stories. I explained my motivation for starting this project and Rob told me how important he felt it was to sustain a dialogue around mental health and its associated stigma.

“I’m really lucky because I have learned to accept my mental health challenges as part of who I am.” Rob said. “That acceptance came as an enormous relief! I was finally able to experience some peace. Now, I’m really open about my mental health – even with complete strangers. When I’m on an airplane, for example, I have no problem telling the person sitting next to me I have anxiety. It gets people talking and I really believe that is a good thing.”

Until I met Rob, I have always envisioned advocacy as a singular event, a public speaking engagement with an invested, motivated audience. I’ve never considered “living” my advocacy – daily – through everything I say and do.

I am truly grateful that Rob has shown me the value of numerous, small victories, that complacency must turn into advocacy and that every day is another opportunity to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.

Silver gelatin print
Hasselblad 500c
Hasselblad 80mm f2.8 lens
Ilford HP5, ISO 400

  • Location: United States
  • Author: Kawhi Leonard

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