Art exhibit helps destigmatize schizophrenia and call attention to World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is Tuesday, October 10, and a new video about an art exhibit is drawing attention to how people cope with one of the biggest mental health issues – schizophrenia.

Most people don’t know how to interact with those who have brain conditions like schizophrenia, so for Schizophrenia Awareness Week earlier in the year, the Bloc Partners, a global network of independent health creative agencies, designed and installed an interactive art experience in collaboration with Ian Fowler and Glowing Bulbs, Inc. at a gallery in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City to help address this.

It was part of the Hearing Voices of Support initiative the Bloc developed for the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), a nonprofit organization that works to support, change perceptions, and even change legislation to improve the lives of people affected by schizophrenia-related disorders.

As the video shows, the interactive art installation had mental health benefits not just for people affected, but also for the visitors to the gallery. It was a safe space that allowed reflection, sharing, understanding, and connection. It gave people affected by schizophrenia-related illnesses the opportunity to share their stories and talk about what has helped them in a memorable way –  as a light, sound, and video experience.

As people walked through the art space, they activated individual light beams through sensor plates plotted on the gallery floor. Visitors became spotlit, creating an intimate space of connection. Stepping on the sensor plate also triggered a soundtrack of a person affected by schizophrenia telling their story. After a delay, a video projection of that person talking appeared on the wall. Visitors commented that the experience helped them truly hear each person’s story, so they were better able to understand and empathize with what these individuals had been through.

It did have an affect on people, as many opened up, some for the first time, about having a family member or friend with a serious mental illness: a brother, sister, granddad, grandma, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend.

People were interviewed as they exited the gallery and completed a survey about their experience of the installation, and that resulting video is hoping to help more people learn and cope with mental health issues.

Do It Day is The Drum’s annual event to help make a difference in the world. This year's Do It Day takes place on World Mental Health Day on October 10 and our focus this year is to Destigmatise Mental Health. Read more about this cause and how you can get involved here.

Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle