Portraits of the mind

How often do you really share what's on your mind?

Doma Dovgialo invited people she had photographed to use their portraits to reveal their innermost thoughts.

The result is a snapshot of our human struggle with mental well-being.


I am quite a bright, colourful person. I try to be enthusiastic and funny. I don’t know if I am actually funny, but I do try.

I’m quite an expressive person, not very neat, not much of a perfectionist. My image shows this - it's quite messy.

But I know that in the privacy of my own brain there is a lot more going on.

I am quite private with my emotions, that’s why there is a big, ugly circle in the middle of my brain. There is a lot of stuff going on in there that people don’t know about, which I wanted to represent.

It’s my own struggle and something I have always dealt with, but it also forms a lot of my outward personality. So there is a darkness, but it helps me to be more colourful and cheerful.

I’ve always pulled through on my own, or other people have helped me without knowing that they did. I don’t see the need to burden others with it if I don’t have to.


I have suffered from depression in the past. It’s not something I expected to happen - it just suddenly hit me. One day I started to feel very tired and wanted to stay in bed for the whole day. And then it lasted for about two years.

Most people take mental health for granted. It's only when you get sick or some life event hits you that you really understand what it means.

When I was depressed, I lost all interest in doing things. It took me about five years to come out of it.

In the picture I have tried to put a mask in front of my face. I'm a receptionist and I tend to get a lot of sales calls. Even though I get annoyed, I need to pretend to be nice - like wearing a mask.

I stayed in the dark for so long. Now that I am out of it, I try to be colourful. I never know when the depression will come back to hit me.


I’ve realised I am quite a conflicted person, which I tried to reflect with the black and white in my image. It’s like there are two very different people within me - but I'm as much one as I am the other.

One part of me wants to be free and detached and to not exist really - to be invisible in the world and free from responsibility, to travel and disappear.

The other half wants stability with relationships and future.

I think I put too much pressure on myself [to resolve this conflict].

There is blue in the image because I think it's the most beautiful colour. It's quite a sad colour, but it’s a beautiful sadness.

It's like the sea and the sky, the two things that you can’t see the end of - they are so vast.


I've been thinking about my mental health recently, as I'm getting a new therapist.

It's a big part of my life. I have psychosis and suffer from delusions, and that kind of thing. But it’s not something that generally I'm really bothered about.

I also have OCD - I have to do things a number of times because I feel something bad will happen if I don't.

If I walk down steps and find I have to miss every even-numbered step, I know it's going to be a bad day.

The OCD has changed my life a lot, but I've learnt to ignore other things, such as the hallucinations.

Some days are worse than others. I have social anxiety, so sometimes I will avoid social situations where I know there will be a lot of people.

I was assigned female at birth, but I identify as a man.

I knew when I was 11 but I didn't come out until I was about 15. If you come out in your teens, people say, “You should have known sooner”. But if you come out as a child they claim that you can't know already.

My mum says she is still grieving because her daughter died. I still like to do feminine things, like put on make up. My parents find this very confusing, though.

When I came out, they didn't believe me, so I had to dress more manly and do typically manly things so they would accept it.

My mental health has caused a huge disaster, and now I am trying to build myself back up.


The pictures on my image are basically little references to my life. Most of the drawing is about my daughters. I drew a dice because everything seems like a bit of a gamble

I’ve got bipolar disorder. The way it works is that things start whizzing around your head very fast and you start getting lots of ideas and making connections.

It’s great when there is a peak to it, but not if it goes further and you make a connection when there isn't one. It can send you a bit crazy.

When I didn’t know that I had it, I was going up the wall. Being a bit up and down mood-wise means I don’t really suit a nine-to-five job. Art and music suit my personality.

Bipolar is one of those things you have to come to terms with. I found out as much as I could about it, which meant I could control it better.

I was on lithium, but you can only be on it for so long. I could feel some differences in my body, and what it was doing to me, so I worked out different strategies to cope with the bipolar. Nowadays I am very good at coping with it. I run all the time which gets rid of all excess energy, as well as keeping me fit.

You have to look out for signs of the bipolar.

For example, once I start being entertaining, like making people laugh at the pub, it feels great. But that can be the start of the high. It can feel fantastic - except it just all starts getting out of hand. That’s when it can start getting irritating for people.

Mike F

My image shows a car. I worked in the taxi trade for about 30 years - it was what I lived for. I liked it because I would chat to people - hear their stories. Then I became ill, with depression mainly. It was kind of downhill from there.

Then my wife died. The last two years, I did everything for her.

In the past four months, I haven't wanted to see anybody. I don't want to go out. I'm just looking at four walls - within those walls are memories. What do you do? Pack them in a suitcase and forget about them? You can't, you just have to carry on.

People say I am strong, but I'm not. I've had counselling but it hasn't made a difference.

With time it gets easier, but you don't forget. They are still there and always will be.

Today I had to go to the opticians around the corner to ask if they could stop sending letters to my wife. Every time I get mail for her, it brings it back.

Even on the good days, I feel as though I'm not getting anywhere. But a good day is better than the bad day you had the day before. It's not a quick fix. But only I can make the changes


I drew a rose, because it got complexity and it's quite beautiful. The red rose speaks a lot about love if you give it to somebody. I think it says I am a very loving person.

I am a community mental health worker. It is a very rewarding job for me and I feel privileged to help people with complex lives.

It can take more than eight months now to get a medical assessment and to see a psychiatric doctor. It’s really cruel, these people are really unwell and they need immediate help. And it’s just waiting and waiting, and they become so anxious.

They even go in and out of A&E because they have a panic attack and things like that, but there is no quick way to see a psychiatric doctor.

GPs refer people to CBT therapy and self-help groups, but there is a 12-week wait for that. When someone's first language isn't English, it's even more difficult for them.

In our South Asian, Bangladeshi cultures, it's thought women should be multi-functional and not get ill. They should just get on with life. Mental health isn't really recognised.

Women have control in their house - financial control for example. But often don't have the education or the freedom to earn that money for themselves. Freedom is a very big thing that plays on their minds.

I am not embarrassed like I used to be [about showing my emotions]. If you cry, just let it come out.

When I lost my dad, I used to suddenly burst into tears when I saw someone who looked like him on the street.

My dad was always a big part of my life.

He always wanted to help vulnerable people - whether in Manchester or Bangladesh. That’s what I am doing.


I am not one for labels when talking about mental health issues, they are so unique to an individual it's difficult to have a specific name for a thing.

Depression to one person means something else to another.
But I’ve had issues with that kind of stuff, with anger stuff. I'm a bottler - I bottle things up.

My image has four main elements.

With the waves, I’ve spent a lot of time sailing, and when you're out on the water you realise how small and insignificant you are in the world. It's nice to think how little you matter, so you can just enjoy what you are doing.

The scales are the biggest representative symbol. It’s weighing up how much pain I would get from doing one thing versus how much I would gain in the long run. It’s an uncomfortable set of scales to be holding - and if I could drop them, I would.

The dragon represents my escapism. I am one of those people who plays Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy stuff. Rather than having to think about important things in reality, it creates a different world where you can do whatever you want.

I would be lying if I said I am a fundamentally happy person. I am a pessimist and I don’t like it.


I've got Parkinson’s disease. It was a relief to be told, because when you put a name to it, it makes sense.

I am scared about the future. There is not much of it. At 82 - I didn’t think I’d live this long. There are more memories behind which are excellent.

When I go to bed at night, I sleep solid for hours and I sometimes have some lovely dreams despite the drugs I am on.

I’d like to just go and sit on a mountain in Tibet. Just watching the sunset and the sunrise. The people in Tibet usually look after the elderly.


After my husband died I had a mental breakdown. I had no children or family here.

Social services were involved and they told me they would not be able to help me. I felt very angry with them.

I got all my stuff into my living room and wanted to set the house on fire. One of my neighbours then knocked on my door and asked me what I was doing.

I live alone and I do get scared, but I feel a lot better than I did before.

I want to go to visit Bangladesh, but I don’t know what I would do if I went back there permanently.

When I see ladies that are really stressed out, I tell them to pray to Allah. If you are stressed inside your house, get out and talk to somebody.


I'm an aspiring broadcaster and musician.

For the past six years, I’ve been involved in a project on the weather and tracking storms. Since the new year, I have been quite depressed. I guess I don’t feel as though I'm performing as well as I should in what I am doing

I had a difficult time at school. I left at 14 and was home-schooled until college. I struggled because of various mental health issues that I had at the time - mainly depression and anxiety. When I was younger, it was social and communication issues. But I guess I’ve got over that - mainly through broadcasting.

I feel quite isolated and lonely, because I just don’t really identify with many people within my age group. Sometimes I might go for a night out, but I don’t do it religiously like people my age do.

I guess I am just a lonely soul, but there we go.

In my image, there is a tiny umbrella above my head and a big rainstorm that completely dwarfs the umbrella - which I think is very apt for my situation in general.

I am quite a rational thinker - but thought it was quite ironic to spell “rationale” wrong intentionally.

The white stuff around the musical note is white noise. In my line of work, I have to deal with a lot of white noise. White noise to me is also the conflict that can be created within a group of people.

The brown stuff above my shoulder is where my worst thoughts usually are. At two points in the past three years, I have had an existential crisis where I was just worried about the whole big picture of the world and the universe.

There is also a representation of my mismanaged and hopeless romanticism - which is going on at the moment. The yellow wall is my defence area. If people are rude about me, I am usually mentally strong enough to block it off. But sometimes the wall can drop away a little bit, and I can get triggered into depression.

The blocks at the bottom resemble the workload I have at the moment - brick by brick.

It’s completely disorganised to the point where a task on my to-do list is to write a to-do list.

The number one represents the position I'd like to be in my field, and the number 10 is how I usually feel.