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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

British woman's selfies shed light on mental illness

Compiled by Chandra Johnson, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, July 18 8:30 a.m. MDT

 Rebecca Brown took a 'selfie' everyday for 6 and a half years and unintentionally illustrated a dangerous self-damaging disease.

Rebecca Brown took a 'selfie' everyday for 6 and a half years and unintentionally illustrated a dangerous self-damaging disease.

(via Screengrab)

Rebecca Brown was 14 when she started taking selfies to document her struggle with trichotillomania and dermotillomania— disorders that lead to compulsive hair pulling and skin picking.

Now 21, she's created a video montage of selfies many are applauding as an inspiring portrait of living with mental illness.

"It's real and it's beautiful," wrote Australian Mama Mia columnist Aparna Balakumar. "It’s a refreshing take on ‘selfies’ in a world full of filters, enhancers and glamorous poses."

The constant in the photo time lapse is Brown's piercing blue eyes, which hold the viewer through every trough and crest in Brown's journey from London film school to suicidal tendencies, depression and hospitalization until her skin and hair begin to grow and heal.

The good press for a selfie project is a change from a lot of media coverage about the phenomenon, like Daily Lounge writer Chris O'Shea's indictment of the selfie earlier this year.

"The selfie is reprehensible," O'Shea wrote. "The worst selfie site is definitely Instagram. Take a look at the Most Popular pics sometime. Count how many are selfies. Then go ahead and worry about our society."

O'Shea went on to cite a study from the University of Birmingham that alleged that people who post selfies on sites like Facebook suffer from "decreased intimacy."

With her project, Brown defies that stereotype, Upworthy's Alana Karsch contends.

"She's brave and bold to share this with all of us. And she's teaching millions of people about what it's like to live with disorders they've possibly never even heard of. Also? She's letting other people who suffer in silence know they're not alone," Karsch wrote.

Brown affirms on her YouTube channel that she is now in recovery from her illnesses, but it's still a daily challenge. In the meantime, as she told the Daily Mail last year, she enjoys raising awareness about a disease that affects about four out of 100 people.

"I get a lot of post from people who confide in me about their trichotillomania, yet they haven’t told their family or friends. I feel very blessed that people trust me like that," Brown told the Mail.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

She Takes A Photo: 6.5 Years | Beckie0

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