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6 ½ years of selfies show her life with mental illness


In this four minute clip published in 2014, 23 year old filmmaker Rebecca Brown compiled selfies she took everyday throughout a period of six years of her life, from ages 14 through 21, documenting her journey with Trichotillomania, which she describes in the video’s biography section as a hair disorder where she is “compelled to tear it out strand by strand.” Starting chronologically in 2007, Brown’s self-portraits, sequenced on screen to music from SoundCloud user Amarante, showcase a head-on view of her face and hair. The photos are shown in sequence, illustrating the progression of her condition over multiple years of her life. The first pictures depict Brown with a head full of hair, but as the video progresses, the amount of hair on her head begins to fluctuate with occasional baldness and growing in periods. Notes of life events ranging from the meeting of friends or boyfriends, to deaths in the family or breakups, or even diagnoses with depression or suicidal thoughts, pop up in the sidebar in conjunction with the timing of the changing pictures. By the end of the photo compilation, Brown has shaved her hair (to “stop her from ripping out more hair”) and reveals that she has begun wearing wigs. She states that while Trichotillomania doesn’t necessary affect the appearance of hair in the front, she ends up with bald patches and thinning hair near the crown of her head and on the sides. At the end of the video, the photo images stop and Brown steps into frame to briefly promote other videos she has made both about her filmmaking and about her condition. “It’s pretty scary stuff,” she says.


Besides raising awareness about her rare condition, what other possible intentions might Rebecca Brown have in creating this video? Who is the intended audience of this film? How does the practice of creating and sharing your story through media impact you?

Mental illness is still heavily stigmatized, especially with conditions that are less commonly known, such as Trichotillomania. What do you think are ways to improve awareness and acceptance? Are there any potential downsides for Brown in putting herself out there, considering the immense amount of potential for anonymous Internet hate and negativity?

Do you think Brown is effective in raising awareness about her condition here? Why or why not? What important evidence does she use?

Video activism is becoming more and more popular. What effect do easily accessible platforms, such as YouTube, have on this kind of activism?

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