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Poland photographer will travel U.S., raise mental health awareness

Chris Bennett is taking portraits of people and helping them share their mental health journey.

POLAND, MAINE, Maine — A man who lives in Poland has a goal of biking across the country while raising awareness for mental health. Chris Bennett started his journey in March 2020 but had to put his trip on pause because of the pandemic.

Now he wants to try again and take portraits of people who are willing to share their mental health journey along the way.

Chris Bennett is a professional photographer. He focuses his work on people willing to share their mental health journey, like Nicole Lluellas.

"When I was a young teenager, I was diagnosed with attention deficit, and even before that, I kind of knew something was off," she said.

She added that she was later diagnosed with depression, and sometimes it can be hard to do basic everyday things because of it.

Lleullas said she found Bennett on Instagram and was reluctant to be a part of his project but knew it was for the best.

"I've always tried to be pretty open about my mental health over the years, but it's always something that's been pretty difficult," she said.

Bennett is getting ready to ride his bike from San Diego to Portland, Maine, with the hopes of taking photos of people how they're most comfortable.

He's taken 20 of these portraits in Maine, but only two were men.

He says that isn't surprising because women are more likely to talk about their mental health. 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2019, there were more than 47,000 suicides in the U.S.

White males accounted for almost 70 percent of those deaths, but Bennett said he knows more people struggle with mental health than just those with depression.

"I broadened the scope instead of just focusing on suicide. I wanted to do a more comprehensive mental health in general," he said.

So he's doing just that, taking photos and talking to people about what they struggle with and reminding them we're all in this together.

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