Lithium Mania

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Aerial colour photograph of a large salt flat in Bolivia. The landscape is made up of a flat white expanse stretching away into the far distance where a small ridge of wavy mountains gives way to a cloudless blue sky. At the bottom of the image the white expanse meets a margin with grown earth. The surface of both the white and brown landscape are scarred with many sinewy vehicle tracks, snaking out and crisscrossing the ground all the way to the horizon.
Salar de Uyuni, amid the Andes, is the world's largest salt flat, claimed to contain the most extensive lithium reserves on the planet. Bolivia. 2018. © Matjaž Krivic/INSTITUTE.

A few months after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Laura Grace Simpkins began to take lithium. It was the “gold standard” treatment and she was spellbound – at first. But she soon began to have doubts about this mysterious drug, one that stabilised her mood but stole her pizzazz. Little is known about how lithium works, and almost no consideration is given to the social and environmental costs of producing it. Should she really prioritise herself over everything and everyone else? Here she investigates her relationship with her medication and her mental health, asking if lithium is the bitter pill she has to swallow.

About the contributors

Black and white photo of Laura Grace Simpkins

Laura Grace Simpkins


Laura Grace Simpkins writes and performs about herself, madness and death. Her writing has been published by the Guardian, New Scientist and the British Medical Journal’s Medical Humanities, as well as broadcast on BBC Radio. She is currently working on her first book.

Photographic black and white, head and shoulders portrait of Matjaž Krivic.

Matjaž Krivic


Matjaž Krivic is a documentary photographer capturing stories of people and places, primarily focusing on environmental issues. For over 25 years he has covered the face of the earth in his intense, personal and aesthetically moving style that has won him several prestigious awards. The past six years he has been immersed in the visual documentation of the lithium industry and also how companies and even countries are essentially washing away the climate sins of the past to create a greener and sustainable future.