Challenging stigma of mental illness
BY ERIN SOMERVILLE CWD 10 Sep, 2009
PEOPLE living with mental illness have shared their painful personal struggles and uplifting journeys with the new photographic exhibition Through my Eyes.
The raw photographic display has been put together by the Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS) and the Orange Regional Conservatorium’s Arts, Health and Wellbeing program, and aims to break down the social barriers associated with mental illness. “Mental health is quite a common issue but there is still a lot of stigma associated with it, so we are hoping to broaden the understanding of people in the community,” GWAHS Health Promotion and Early Intervention for Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Services coordinator Meg Simpson said.
As part of the project, people who were inpatients or connected to local mental health services were given a disposable camera to capture the world through their own eyes, with the themes of loneliness, solitude, fear and struggles showing through. The photographs were passed on to Vince Lovecchio, who curated the exhibition.
“There is a popular opinion that mental health problems somehow rob people of their personhood,” Mr Lovecchio said in his exhibition statement. “This show and many others that follow will hopefully serve to enlighten, awaken and challenge the source of this notion and remind the greater community of this group’s continued humanity in the face of psychological and physical suffering.”
While the exhibition provides education on mental health for the community, the practise has also proved beneficial for those who participated. “It has been fantastic on a huge number of levels,” Ms Simpson said. “Art becomes a way of being able to benefit themselves, it is personally therapeutic and it also helps them to work through their own issues and ideas.”
The exhibition was first on display at the Orange Regional Conservatorium Gallery before touring throughout the GWAHS area.