by Kayla Salazar & Khaleigh Reed, staff writers

“Every author wants to be successful, and be the best seller. That’s just human nature, but what I think I’ve learned is that it’s getting your book out there, it’s having the guts to write the book to begin with,” says local photographer and author Jean Manthei.

“It doesn’t matter if it sells or it’s not the best seller; it’s the fact that you took the courage to go write your story and get it out there. And if people can relate to it, then that’s beautiful, and if they don’t, it’s not a big loss because you’re taking that risk, and you’ve showed that this is who I am, and you’re not making excuses. You’re being authentic.”

Manthei is a local counselor, photographer and now author who published her book Photography and Schizophrenia in August of this year. The book delves into her world as a creative and her process for healing.

Manthei lives with schizophrenia and uses photography to help with her illness. She wasn’t diagnosed until she was 29 years old. Throughout her life, she had her problems dealing with schizophrenia. Those around her put her in a “box,” she says, because of her mental illness. So, she had to spend a lot of her time proving herself to a lot of people because she didn’t want people to think less of her.

So, what is schizophrenia? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.” Whether this may be the feeling of losing touch with reality or seeing things that just aren’t there, it can have brutal impacts on the individual, friends, family or daily life. Treatments for these conditions such as art can be a huge benefit. For many, like Manthei, struggling with a mental illness doesn’t have to get in the way of passion.

Manthei felt that she had to redeem herself and prove that just because she has schizophrenia, it doesn’t mean that she can’t do what other people can do. So she went to college and made something of herself.

At the advice from one of her peers, Manthei decided to go to UCCS. Her peer, who was a graduate at UCCS, said to Manthei: “the only failure is the failure to try.” And that quip encouraged her to apply to UCCS.

She interviewed for the counseling and human services program and got accepted. She then completed graduate school and has been counseling and working with people who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction since 1993. “I think if you’re honest with people and are doing the right things and being responsible, a lot is possible,”  Manthei says.

In her book, she has journal entries that detail her thought process alongside her photos. She traces her spiritual journeys and problem-solving her diagnosis. Here are a few samples of  her journal entries:

“Yesterday” she says in Chapter four, “I came home from work, and I felt a mixture of anxiety, fear and agitation and schizophrenia and PTSD, emotional pain, and lack of well-being. I don’t know if I’d want to snap a picture of anything that represented those feelings.” While not ignoring those stressors, she says she’d rather capture something calm and peaceful, which creates less of an overwhelming picture.

“Maybe the healing that occurs when one forgets oneself and just snaps pictures without analyzing and without trying to achieve anything. Just letting creativity take you into your depths to heal a broken heart and PTSD and psychotic moments and past trauma (and maybe where the spirituality comes in). You trust God first and then yourself to allow the camera to take you to a new level of awareness and well-being,” she says.

There are photos of her trip to the beach and ocean, where she went to process  the loss of her family. And those pictures helped her with her grief. “Throughout the time that I’ve taken pictures, I’ve captured a lot of emotions. I didn’t have words for it, and now I have discovered photo therapy” she says.

Manthei expresses her emotions through her lens. Rather than look at the world in desperation or dread, she uses her lens to capture moments that allow her to process her feelings. She is a genuine inspiration for self-betterment.

Manthei’s book is available for purchase on Amazon.