Exhibit brings illness to light
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 12:01
Recognizing signs of pain and emotional distress can be difficult for a family to cope with and understand. Though a large portion of Americans deal with a mental illness, a larger portion of the population doesn’t understand the idea and what it’s like to have one of these illnesses, according to the American Psychological Association.
A study found 44 percent of the public report knowing a little or almost nothing at all about mental illnesses.
Nothing to Hide is a traveling photo exhibit set up on the second floor of the TSC from Jan. 17-24. It brings attention to various illnesses families cope with. The objective of the presentation is to disarm negative stereotypes about these mental illnesses.
“The exhibit is kind of normal, everyday people and families that have had or are still going through mental illness,” said Recovery Education and Creative Healing Peer Eric Richardson. “You’re seeing pictures of people who look just like you. You’re hearing stories of how they’ve gone through these hard times, but they also have normal lives.”
Designed to teach students various skills to help them deal with mental illnesses, the REACH Peer program brought the exhibit to USU because of a complaint.
Though he knows little about the origin of the complaint, Richardson said he felt the need to address the issue.
“There was a complaint about insensitivity about mental illness,” Richardson said. “That’s pretty much all I know. As far as I know, I’m not sure if the complaint came from a student or came from faculty. We wanted to put on an event to educate people about mental illness and personalize it.”
Trying to personalize a mental illness can be difficult, but Richardson said a specific photograph gives the audience a personal meaning.
“There’s a picture of this little girl that we’ll be putting up, and it’s a picture of her talking about how she’s kind of gone through the troubles of having a mental illness, but she also likes to play with her kitties,” Richardson said. “It’s kind of just putting into perspective. Although they have a mental illness, they’re just like us.”
According to the American Psychological Association, about one in five Americans suffer from a mental disorder.
REACH coordinator Eric Everson explained the concern people may have with their own mental illness.
“I think it’s gotten better over the past few years, but I think there’s still kind of a hesitation,” Everson said. “People worry about what it might mean if they come in to counseling. I think there’s certainly a concern with, ‘OK, there’s something wrong with me, I need to get fixed, but what if someone sees me going into the counseling center?’ We’re trying to de-stigmatize that with the exhibit. We’re always trying to focus on, ‘How do we normalize this?’”
Evenson, who has a Ph.D. in counseling, sees anxiety and depression as common problems that face the students at USU.
“I think it’s common for students to come in during the winter time and feel a little more down,” Evenson said. “We have the inversion that asts for a month. We don’t get much sunlight and we know that can be kind of hard for people.”
Students who have aspiring goals for their career and tend to be overachievers in school stress a lot. Evenson said it’s important for these students to take care of themselves before the situation gets out of hand.
He said another reason it’s important to educate people about mental illness is to make the counseling environment accepting if they wish to seek help for themselves.
“I don’t think you could do enough to educate people about that,” Richardson said. “It’s an issue that changes people’s lives. I don’t think we could understand the scope of what people go through with mental illnesses. This is just to give you a picture of who they are and what they go through and that they’re still people like us.”