A unique photography exhibition showcasing the creative work of mental health service users, carers and members of the public has been held to mark World Mental Health Day (WMHD).
The exhibition was the culmination of mental health charity Hafal’s Wales-wide anti-stigma campaign, “Have You Clicked?” and it attracted a lot of interest from AMs and the media in Wales.
The exhibition was launched by Minister for Health and Social Services, Edwina Hart AM on October 8th, two days ahead of WMHD; Chair of the Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee, Jonathan Morgan AM also attended.
Explaining the inspiration behind the campaign Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Hafal, said: “The ‘Have you Clicked?’ campaign saw tens of thousands of anti-stigma leaflets handed to the Welsh public as well as local events in all 22 counties of Wales.
“As part of the campaign we invited Hafal clients, carers and members of the public to take photographs that expressed something about their lives.
“Photography is a levelling activity – it can be done by virtually everyone and it brings people together. The images we’ve displayed show the creativity and vision of those who took part.”
One of the Hafal service users whose shots were on display said photography has helped her “enormously” with her mental health issues.
“It helps me to live in the moment rather than looking to the past or looking too far ahead into the future,” said 28-year-old Leanne Kelly who attends Hafal’s social club in Aberystwyth.
“It helps me to experience the world around me at that moment. I especially like the immediacy of digital photography where you can take a picture and have it up on the screen to work on very soon after.
“I am also fortunate enough to live in a very beautiful part of Wales and I like taking pictures of it.”
Ms Kelly told the BBC Wales website, who produced a special online gallery of some of the best photos taken, that she felt very strongly about Hafal’s campaign to reduce discrimination against people with mental health problems after her own experiences.
“I am quite a shy person and the discrimination I have experienced from when I was a young teenager made me feel much more threatened,” she said.
The exhibition received a lot of interest from the Welsh media. As well as being prominently featured on the web it was covered by Welsh political programme am:pm.
In a live interview from the Senedd, Hafal’s Deputy Chief Executive Alun Thomas said one of the campaign’s aims was to be as inclusive as possible.
He told the programme: “One in thirty people have a serious mental illness at some point in their lives which means if it’s not someone in your family there’s probably somebody in your street who has a problem. You might not know who they are and part of that’s because they may be afraid to raise their head above the parapet and say: ‘I have a serious mental illness.’
“We still have a press that drives the ‘danger’ side of mental illness, which doesn’t have an understanding of the positive things that people with a serious mental illness contribute to society.
“All we tend to see is tragedy, when things go wrong. This means people with a serious illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may well feel less likely to come forward and receive services which compounds the whole issue.
“We want to have a recognition that people with a serious mental illness are you and I, we want to ensure they are welcomed into society, welcomed into their communities and that they can ask for help when they need it.”
To access the “Have You Clicked?” gallery please go to: http://www.hafal.org/clic/gallery/
To read the BBC story about the exhibition: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7656639.stm
To view the BBC online gallery of “Have You Clicked?” pictures: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/7656969.stm
For more information on World Mental Health Day please visit: http://www.wfmh.org/00WorldMentalHealthDay.htm