A mental health installation at Boston Logan International Airport takes a stand against the stigma often faced by people diagnosed with mental illnesses. In addition, to many concrete losses (housing, jobs, friends, money, etc.) that are commonly experienced when someone is diagnosed with a complex mental illness, stigma can pose a formidable roadblock to recovery.
According to an article published in today’s Boston Globe, the groundbreaking exhibit entitled, “Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life” may try to change the status quo.
If you’ve passed through the airport this year, you may have noticed these compelling photographs. Located in the hallway between Terminals B and C at Logan Airport, they include 34 eight-foot-high portraits of individuals whose lives have been affected by mental disorders—both celebrities and ordinary people—of different ages and backgrounds. Showcasing the work of freelance photographer Patrick O’Connor, the larger-than-life portraits are accompanied by text that tells the inspiring stories of these individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life.
This project was developed by McLean Hospital in collaboration with a number of mental health advocacy organizations. On the companion website, Scott L. Rauch, President and Psychiatrist in Chief at McLean writes:
Shame and stigma are still far too prevalent when it comes to psychiatric disease. There should be no shame in having a mental illness, but the stigma that surrounds these conditions contributes to the fear and isolation that individuals and their families feel far too often.
What we all must come to understand is that essentially every one of us is affected by mental illness in some way, whether by living with an illness ourselves or grappling with its consequences in a friend or loved one.
Unfortunately, mental illness often breeds fear, embarrassment and isolation. The website explains that the subjects in the photographs volunteered to participate in this project so they could convey the important message: Those affected by mental disorders are not alone.
People spend a lot of time waiting and moving around airports so it’s a perfect place to educate travelers—one at a time, up close—that most mental illnesses are treatable and recovery is possible.
If you have no immediate plans to travel through Logan, you can see these wonderful photographs and read the heartfelt stories of these heroes on the website here.