At Home With Mental Illness
Zhendong Liang, 15, stands in the street watching people pass by. He lives in a small village with a population of a few hundreds. He was dismissed from elementary school in 2009, because his school thought he was a bad influence on other students. Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, China.Yuyang Liu
At Home With Mental Illness
Yongyi Ou, a 12-year-old girl is kissing her grandmother Mei Lin
83-year-old Mei Lin is begging her daughter Xiaolin Long to go h
At Home With Mental Illness
Jiagui Su stands on a ladder to the loft of his adobe where his
At Home With Mental Illness
15-year-old Zhendong Liang is blowing to help his mother to make
Jianwen Pang is smoking and peeing in his house. He loves writin
At Home With Mental Illness
At Home With Mental Illness
At Home With Mental Illness
At Home With Mental Illness
Zhendong Liang, 15, stands in the street watching people pass by. He lives in a small village with a population of a few
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Yuyang Liu
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See the Lives of China's Mentally Ill

Jul 29, 2015

To live with mental illness in China is to live in an invisible world.

Of the more than 100 million victims living with some form of mental illness in China, 16 percent are classified as severe, according to a 2009 report by China’s National Center for Mental Health. Yet, inadequate psychiatric care and social stigmas have pushed many out of the public sphere, denying family members the much-needed support they need.

This year’s Ian Parry scholarship recipient, 23-year-old Chinese photographer Yuyang Liu, has set about illuminating this invisible world. He recently documented families crippled by mental disease across the southern province of Guangdong, one of China’s wealthiest regions. “It is often the case that one family is impoverished because of a family member’s illness,” Liu tells TIME.

The project, At Home With Mental Illness, which aims to highlight the inefficient government efforts, won him his scholarship.

Liu first became aware of the issue when he received a newsletter from a Chronicle Disease Prevention Center in a small town, which mentioned its effort in helping those struggling with mental health issues and their families. “I was blown away,” Liu says. “[I realized] that although the patients are largely invisible in the society, they and their families do live a real life.”

With leads provided by local NGOs and online forums, Liu gained access to six houses, photographing the interactions among the mentally ill, their families and the larger society. “I don’t want to photograph how miserable they are even though some of the pictures will inevitably convey that, but I want to focus more on the support between them and their families, and capture the viewers’ attention that way,” Liu says.

Among them, the Xiao family’s situation is especially grim. With a mother suffering from severe mental illness at home, Xiao, a father of two, has to work every morning. Before leaving, he used to tie his five-year-old daughter with a rope attached to a wooden stake so she wouldn’t be able to wander off. When social workers discovered the girl, she did not wear any pants. The father had thought that since no one could untie her to use a bathroom, it would prevent her from wetting her clothes.

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Liu immediately partnered with Chinese Internet and technology giant, Tencent, after photographing the Xiao family’s situation, and raised 4,000 RMB ($645) for the child. But he hoped that the fundraising would benefit more than one family and that he would be able to raise awareness for the socially disadvantaged group as a whole, he says. Now with the scholarship’s support of £3,500 ($5,450), Liu plans to expand his coverage to other regions in China.

The scholarship, named after photojournalist Ian Parry, who died while covering the Romanian revolution in 1989, is given every year to an aspiring photographer under 24, the age Parry died. “[The prize] is a great encouragement for me personally,” Liu says. “There’re so many amazing photographers as my predecessors, and I’m really happy to be included in the family.”

Early this year, Liu had contemplated going into commercial photography for a better income, but soon dismissed the idea, and winning the award serves as a major encouragement for him to push through a short period of hesitancy.

“The judges felt this was an outstanding and brave body of simple, honest images,” said the jury in a statement. Along with Liu, Hosam Katan of Syria was highly commended this year. Hashem Shakeri of Iran, Isadora Kosofsky, who was published on TIME LightBox last year, and Salahuddin Ahmed of Bangladesh were also commended. Each of them will receive a cash award of £500 ($780). “Every single portfolio selected for this year’s scholarship has human interest at its heart, and that’s why this award is so special,” said Don McCullin, combat photographer and a trustee on the scholarship’s board.

See Isadora Kosofsky's winning story below.

The Intersection of Love and Loss: Confronting Youth Incarceration

Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.
Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.Isadora Kosofsky
Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.
Vinny, 13, stands in command call before entering his cell at the juvenile detention center.
Ready to appear in court, Vinny is shackled to another youth.
Vinny lies on his cell bunk.
Vinny eats his first meal in the detention center cafeteria.
Vinny's mother Eve comforts him during visitation at the detention center.
A family portrait of David, then 13, Vinny, then 8, and Michael, then 3.
Eve cries after learning that the court will not allow Vinny to live with her and has ordered him to live with his paternal aunt.
Eve places her head on David's back, while he draws a picture of a clown in his notebook.
David and his father, Dave, leave a motel.
David and his girlfriend Felicia have been together for four years.
David feeds ice cream to Felicia.
David joined a gang in his early teens after his grandmother passed away.
With a warrant out for his arrest, David cries in fear that police will find him and take him away from his family.
David, 19, sits in the recreation yard of the jail at night.
Felicia and their 10-month-old daughter Lily see David through video visitation.
David stands at night next to a fence after being released.
David pushes his daughter in a stroller.
David and Felicia smile as they teach Lily to walk.
David and his youngest brother, Michael, 8. Michael pines for David's attention. "I want to be just like my brother," Michael said.
Michael playfully punches his sister Elycia's cheek.
Elycia grips her mom's leg and won't let go. After Vinny was held at juvenile detention and subsequently sent to live with his aunt in a town three hours away, Elycia often cries for her brother.
Eve speaks intensely to Elycia. Michael says his mom "doesn't mean it," when she is angry.
Michael seals his mouth with tape. "I'm lonely. No kids to play with," he says.
Eve holds Michael in the pool at a motel.
Vinny punches trash bins behind his aunt's home. He finds it hard to escape the "empty feeling" he gets when he thinks or dreams about juvenile detention.
Vinny, Michael and Elycia play together on a trampoline. This is Vinny's first visit with his siblings since beginning his new life with his aunt.
Vinny and his sister, Elycia.
Vinny, now 15, and David, now 21, lay down at night after spending the day together. "Vinny broke into my heart"" says David when asked about their bond.
Vinny looks at David and Lily before saying goodbye.
Brothers Vinny and David stand together as the sky darkens before a summer storm.
Isadora Kosofsky
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Ye Ming is a contributing writer to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter @yemingphoto and Instagram.

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