Tags: community , industry interactions , community partnerships

It’s a sobering fact that many Americans, from all walks of life, will at some point in their lives experience the impact of mental illness and its surrounding stigma.  However, it’s important to remember that this stigma can also motivate us to create a sense of community that helps address the illness and stigma head-on.

To change the way mental illness is perceived in the U.S., McLean Hospital partnered with Logan International Airport to display a beautiful and compelling photography exhibit, which debuts Friday, December 9th.

The exhibit, Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life, is part of a national public awareness campaign sponsored by McLean Hospital, in collaboration with Logan Airport and several mental health advocacy groups whose goal is to change public perception of mental illness. The selected photographs present dramatic, larger than life images of people who have shared their stories with the hope of changing how people with psychiatric illnesses are viewed. An initial 235-ft installation will reside between Logan’s Terminals B and C, with further imagery and information located at deconstructingstigma.org. Plans are also underway to install similar exhibits in other airports around the U.S.

“Shame and stigma are still far too prevalent when it comes to psychiatric disease and can contribute to the fear and isolation many people feel.  Deconstructing Stigma is an unprecedented effort to spark conversation about behavioral and mental health,” said Scott L. Rauch, President and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of McLean Hospital. 

Sean Shinnock has lived with obsessive-compulsive disorder since he was a teenager and was the first person to volunteer for the campaign.  “I want to help others who struggle with mental illness know that they are not alone,” said Shinnock, now 36. “I still struggle some days, but I am confident enough, hopeful enough, inspired enough and motivated enough to be a part of this life.”

Volunteers who have shared their stories with the exhibit hope their displays of resilience will help the public to ‘walk in their shoes’ and take a different view of individuals living with mental illness.

“Each person associated with this project is determined to make a difference in the lives of other people affected by mental illness,” said Adriana Bobinchock, Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications for McLean, whose team is spearheading the campaign. “After 249 hours of photography sessions and 25,000 written words, we feel we’ve created a campaign that is meaningful and impactful, and one that has the potential to change someone’s life.”

For Jamie Lenis, a mother of two, the experience of working on the Deconstructing Stigma campaign has already made a difference in her life. “My participation has allowed me to fully accept myself, my struggles, my triumphs, however small, without a hint of shame anymore,” Lenis said. “For the first time, I feel truly empowered and free. I’m not free of depression or anxiety—not wholly—but I’ve shed their damp blanket. I’m completely open to sharing with others in the hopes that my story can help in any way.”

Read even more coverage of this exhibit at the Boston Globe.

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