A former Red Deer man is using his struggle with depression to help others.
Bryce Evans founded The One Project in 2010, an online community of people using photography and other media to get talking about difficult subjects like depression, suicide and bullying.
“We are helping people tell their stories, empower themselves and inspire others to do the same,” said Evans, 21.
“It all started out of my own depression as a way for me to speak up and tell my story. I kept myself silent for so long, but when I found photography I felt like I found my voice and a way to talk about what I was going through. I realized immediately after making it public that it could not only change my life but help others do the same for themselves.”
Evans moved to Red Deer from Edmonton in 2007 just before finishing Grade 9, a move that would become a turning point in his life.
“I consider myself a big city person and took the move quite hard, which sparked my depression. I was great at putting on the mask of ‘being fine’, so I was stuck in this state for a long time despite all of the opportunities around me.
“I grew to enjoy Red Deer much more as I was coming out of my depression, realizing many of my assumptions were wrong, but I moved to Vancouver after graduating from Red Deer College to pursue an art career and get back to the city.”
The message of The One Project is simple.
“You are the most important project of your life, and you have a story to tell. A simple action such as speaking up and telling your story can inspire someone else to get talking or just get through another day. Not enough people are talking about these topics and the only way we will find solutions is through discussion,” said Evans.
Since its inception, The One Project has told stories of many people, including those in Red Deer and Evans has also comprised two short films about depression, bullying and suicide awareness.
As part of a fundraiser held in Red Deer last year, one of the short films was screened and $800 was raised for Kids Help Phone as a result.
Evans said he hopes his story will inspire others as well.
“I simply want to allow others the same opportunity that I had with this project. My life has completely flipped around and I am now working as a professional artist and happier than I have ever been—simply by making the decision to talk about my depression,” he said.
“But, this is not me changing people’s lives, it is about allowing people to empower themselves out of depression and into a better life. That is where real changes happen.
“I have kept in contact with many people since moving and I know that mental health and suicide have been continuing to intensify, so we are working on ways to help reduce that in Red Deer with the project.”
As for what’s next, Evans said he has recently finished partnering with LUSH Cosmetics on an international anti-bullying campaign titled ‘Erase Bullying’, which adapted an interactive art installation he created for The One Project telling the story of Angelika Matson and how she was brutally bullied throughout school in Red Deer.
“We had an unbelievably positive response with the Erase Bullying campaign and have had interest to bring it into schools in Canada and the United States, which was our plan from the beginning. We will be starting presentations and providing teaching kits for schools to implement the concept into their classrooms and schools. It was always a dream of mine growing up to go back to my schools and be an inspirational speaker.”
He added they have also been invited to exhibit and present at Perugia Social Photo Fest (PSPF) in Italy this November, representing Canada in the exhibitions. PSPF is the first of its kind to bring together the top international organizations, artists, and experts in the field of social and therapeutic photography and this will be its second year.
“This is a chance for us to raise awareness about depression on a global level and tell the story of The One Project and how it is empowering Canadians to inspire people from all over the world.
“We recently opened up the project to allow anyone to submit a story and we are working on more ways to bring in community-driven content, so it is becoming more accessible for people all around the world. Photography is such a universal language, and we are excited to see what we receive.”
For more information about The One Project visit www.theoneproject.ca.