They are musicians and librarians, fashion designers, fitness instructors, actors, athletes, and artists. They are sisters and wives, brothers and fathers, from New England and around the nation. What do they have in common? All have been affected by mental illness and its stigma and have been brought together as part of a national public awareness campaign sponsored by McLean Hospital, in collaboration with Boston Logan International Airport and several mental health advocacy groups.
The campaign, Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life, launched in December 2016 and features larger-than-life photographs of courageous people who have shared their stories with the hope of changing how people with psychiatric illness are viewed.
“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, MD, president and psychiatrist in chief of McLean.
With an initial physical installation at Logan Airport spanning a 235-foot gallery between Terminals B and C, advertising on the MBTA—Boston’s public transit system—a website, a simultaneous social media campaign, and strong interest from the media, Deconstructing Stigma has generated a great deal of attention. In the month following the launch, its website, DeconstructingStigma.org, saw an average of 500 viewers a day, while Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram generated close to two million impressions. The display at Logan Airport is expected to reach more than a million people in 2017.
“When people walk through this gallery, they’re going to see these images and realize that ‘wow, I know someone [with a mental illness],’ or they are going to read the narratives and say ‘oh my, god, that’s me,’” said Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, a participant in the campaign and a founding member of the legendary hip hop group Run-DMC. “This project is going to remove the guilt and shame, and then it’s going to remove the pain.”