Sometimes a picture is worth more than any words could express.

After being diagnosed with depression at age 16, photographer Christian Hopkins decided to process her experience from behind a lens. The result is a stunning photo series that captures the misunderstood nuances of mental illness. The images sum up what depression, which affects 350 million people worldwide, feels like in the daily experience of the artist.

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Hopkins, now 22, says photographing how she’s feeling is a cathartic way to manage her depressive thoughts.

“I have been using photography as a means of therapy to help deal with a lot of the emotions that I had trouble understanding at the time,” she told The Huffington Post. “Whenever I felt controlled by a particular emotion, I wouldn’t be able to think or concentrate properly until I took that emotion out of my head and trapped it in a photograph.”

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After shooting the photos, Hopkins discovered the images served as more than just an emotional outlet. They also doubled as an educational resource for those who may not understand what people with depression so often encounter.

“I hope they elucidate the more amorphous symptoms of depression, and by doing so, help people understand what others — possibly even people they know — are going through,” she said.

The photo series isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s a welcome contribution to a much-needed conversation about mental illness. Many who experience mental health disorders often feel stigmatized, which research shows prevents them from seeking the treatment they may need. Hopkins hopes turning the illness into something tangible that others can see is a good start in helping to reduce those judgments.

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Hopkins wants the photos to convey a sense of a community to anyone else who may be dealing with a mental health disorder. They’re not alone in their experience. And for those who may not know what depression feels like? Be kind anyway, she says.

“A lot of people don’t quite understand how little control people can have of their own thoughts and emotions when they suffer from a mental illness,” she said. “When dealing with someone with depression and anxiety it can require a considerable amount of patience, but these diseases can be dealt with, despite how helpless things may seem. Although it might not have an immediate or tangible effect, even the smallest gesture of support can make a huge difference.”

Check out the rest of Hopkins’ stunning photos below:

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Source: Huffington Post