In You I See Me is an ongoing photographic work that addresses the maternal mental health crisis in the UK by British photographer Susheel Schroeder. Working with a group of women with a range of different experiences, Schroeder created a portrait series capturing women looking directly at the camera. Their direct gaze of each subject is intended to make these unseen and unheard experiences, seen.

There is relatively little conversation around maternal mental health, and this feeds into a cycle of isolation and loneliness for women. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue by making pregnancy and birth experiences uncertain and by further diminishing maternity care resources. Fewer maternity care resources mean less support during birth, which can lead to difficult and traumatic birth experiences and in turn, related mental health conditions. The UK Government recently announced that £127m will be committed to maternity services, in response to the long-awaited Ockenden Report, an independent inquiry into a series of serious and deadly incidents in maternity care in Shropshire. Unfortunately this represents just a third of the £350m desperately needed to ensure safe maternity care can be delivered across the UK. 

This project was started with the intention to make women feel more comfortable talking about and sharing their experiences, in turn making the conversation around maternal mental health louder and lived experiences more visible. It questions the role of visibility and representation in mitigating the stigma attached to perinatal mental health conditions experienced during pregnancy and in the postnatal period. In time, it’s hoped that the shame and stigma attached to maternal mental health conditions will be replaced by better understanding and support for new mothers during the most vulnerable time of their lives alongside the resources needed to improve maternity care and offer widely available and substantial mental health support for new mothers.