While Sarah has always been a familiar face to any Canadian with a television, I happened to stumble upon her work and The Crazy Project in the way that a lot of us make our discoveries these days - while casually perusing social media. Beyond recently coming to appreciate the positive affects of regular mental wellness practices, something about Sarah's way of talking about mental health really resonated with me. Her approach is gracefully direct, and her efforts towards beautifully documenting and amplifying voices that are often left unheard, had me impressed and wanting to know more. Over a cup of coffee, we chatted about the past, present, and future of The Crazy Project. 


What is "The Crazy Project"?
The Crazy Project is a photo project focused on changing perceptions and reducing stigma about mental health. I want to keep it simple and let it be just that. It is my hope that it continues to be a platform for stories and a community that promotes healing and inclusion.

Describe what brought you to what you're doing now.
That’s a big question.  I will say that I have explored a lot of forks in the road that have always been motivated by following my heart, asking a lot of questions and seeing the world. For me it’s been television, travel, social issues and mental health advocacy, art and photography and now more school. 

Talk about TCP's evolution. Where did it come from and what has it evolved into? What has the response been like?
I started the project in the wake of my mother's death. Grief is an interesting teacher. My mother struggled with schizophrenia for a lot of her life, and the challenges she faced and a lot of her experiences really impacted me. I thought I had dealt with how I felt about her and some of my childhood experiences, as well as my own issues with depression and anxiety, but grief has this beautiful and terrifying way of splitting things completely open. The project has been a way to deal with things, educate myself, and hold space for other people.


What are your plans for TCP moving forward?
I really have no expectations moving forward, except to tell stories authentically and create images that move people. It would be wonderful to grow the project. I'd love to exhibit it more. I'd love to take it across the whole country and get adequate funding to do that. I'd love to see it used as an educational tool of sorts, and that has already been happening. All of this is possible and I see this as a long term project. There's no rush.

It seems like there needs to be a balance between confronting mental health, but also being sensitive towards it. 
It is about respecting people and their stories.  It’s about trying to avoid the kind of "patient porn" that is very prevalent around mental health conversations.  It’s about trying to add context and layers and allowing people to be as complicated and dynamic as their experience.  It's about avoiding triggering people and listening non-judgementally.  There is so much that is misunderstood about mental health and there is so much stigma.  It’s about working towards a better conversation.

Having spent so much time with people who at some point have struggled with mental wellness, what do you think are some of the best ways to clear your mind and find balance and happiness?
My understanding is that treatment is as unique as each person’s story.  I can only say that I have come to understand that exercise, a clean diet, and fresh air can do magical things.  


Are there any organizations you would recommend to someone interested in seeking help?
I'm obviously not a mental healthcare professional but I think it’s clear that people need to speak to their doctors and support systems about something like that. And the key there is to talk about it.  I think a lot of people never get that far for a lot of reasons. I do have a bunch of resources listed on the project website that people have found very helpful. I also took a mental health first aid class with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and it was very informative. I highly recommend it.

Tell me about the phrase "may my very existence be an act of rebellion."
The quote is written on the wall in my office.  It's an Albert Camus quote. The full thing is "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." It is a reminder to live with heart, follow dreams, be real, be happy. There are so many who don't have that opportunity.  It’s about standing up for things you believe in and spending your energy doing things that not only make you happy, but also positively affect others. Sometimes living your version of freedom is exactly what rebellion is about. 


Published on July 27, 2015
Interview & photography by Marlee Maclean
Shot on location at La Cubana

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