A Conversation with Diane Conn


What do you see when you look at the photos?

I notice how they're holding hands. Are they holding thumbs or fingers?  I wonder how they're connected to each other ? I wonder if it's a good day. I wonder if they've been fighting. I wonder if they talk when they hold hands. I wonder if they're going to hold hands for long. I wonder who's going to let go first and what they're going to do?  Even now, if I look through the 11,000 images of people holding hands ,something I’ve done more times than I can count,   I notice  I felt better.  I’ve  had depression on and off for my whole life, so I'm aware when I'm starting to sink and then feel better. I  pay attention to what might be happening externally, and can’t  ignore the fact that  I feel better when I look  at these images. Maybe just a tiny bit , maybe more. That’s really important to me.

 

What were some of the strongest memories you have as a young child? 

I think there are two things that made me who I am.  I'm one of five siblings who are very closely connected, even now.  The second is losing my mother to suicide as a teenager and realizing the fleetingness of connection;  that it can be there one day and gone the next. That said, I still remember the feel of holding my mother’s  hand.  It was strong and warm….never cold  And she was not self-conscious about holding hands.  I have a photograph that I took  of my parents with my little Kodak Instamatic,  of my parents holding hands taken from the front. I smile when I look at it.


Which photos speak to you in a special way?

That’s a tough question. What I really want is for people to pick their own favorites, for them to arrive at their own conclusions,  create the storyline and backstories in their own head rather than being forced to a pre-set place.

That said,  I must admit that I’m impacted by the picture of the two old women leaning on each other's canes. I feel that those two ladies are so connected  I have other pictures of two old ladies on canes  with hands together but that one didn’t impact me in the same way. My heart tells me that  there's a very deep connection between them.


Who do you think will appreciate this book? 

My answer is specific and immediate: I think this is a book for everyone. At some point, everyone has been connected to someone in their life - a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle or cousin, child, friend, lover, colleague. This book can remind us of our connections, and allow us to imagine new ones as well. As well, this book can help anyone who feels isolated, either physically or emotionally. For example, people who are dealing with the isolation that came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, those confined to hospitals,  or any other long-term care facilities and institutions or jails. And if Holding Hands serves as a catalyst to remembering  someone from the past or reconnecting with someone, that would be a gift. 

 

You have personally experienced depression. Do you feel that we are in the middle of a mental health crisis? 

Yes. Over the years I’ve learned that everybody has a story of depression. It’s either their own or that of a family member or another relative, a friend, a partner, or a colleague. Everybody has a story. And that, in itself, shows the commonality of the disease. The fact is that at any given time, a large percentage of the population is struggling with depression. Roughly 18 million American adults will have an episode of deep depression in any given year. The stigma is still so strong, that people talking about it is still not the norm and without strong public demands and support, the total spending on depression and suicide research, according to current  NIH figures, is 6.6% of the amount that's spent on cancer. 

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will support the Hope for Depression Research foundation (https://www.hopefordepression.org).

 

HELP IS AVAILABLE 24/7
1-800-273-8255
PLEASE speak with someone today at the national suicide prevention lifeline!


Directed by Peter Miller
Produced by Diane Conn and Peter Miller
Edited by Amy Linton
Cinematography by Justin Schein