Deconstructing Stigma at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut

March 16, 2023

McLean Hospital, in collaboration with Bradley International Airport, the Brian Dagle Foundation, Cultural Coalition, Greater Hartford Arts Council, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Connecticut, recently brought Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health, McLean’s award-winning mental health awareness campaign, to Connecticut.

The exhibit, which could be seen in art cases throughout Bradley Airport, featured individuals from Connecticut and beyond who have experienced the impact of mental health challenges.

“This campaign brings together individuals from around the world who bravely share their stories about how mental health has impacted their lives, doing so in hopes of reducing the fear and shame that is far too often associated with conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD” said Scott J. O’Brien, director of Education Outreach at McLean and co-founder of Deconstructing Stigma.

“The key messages our volunteers want to convey is that it’s OK to ask for help and to let people know that there are great groups and organizations that want to help support you on your journey.”

Deconstructing Stigma posters in glass cases at Bradley airport

Deconstructing Stigma participant stories on display at Bradley International Airport

NAMI estimated that 531,000 adults in Connecticut live with a mental health condition while over 125,000 adults had thoughts of suicide in 2020. The volunteers who participate in Deconstructing Stigma in Connecticut are sharing their stories to encourage others to seek care and to know they are not alone.

“Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of people in Connecticut affected by mental health conditions, as well as their loved ones, and decrease the stigma that prevents them from getting help and support,” said Liz Taylor, executive director of NAMI Connecticut.

“This wonderful exhibit gives thousands of people passing through Bradley the opportunity to learn that they are not alone and there are free support groups, resources, and programs available that make a difference.”

While McLean has been actively working with organizations across the United States and around the world to install Deconstructing Stigma in public spaces, the exhibit in Connecticut had a very personal connection for a local resident, Ann Dagle.

Deconstructing Stigma participant Ann

Deconstructing Stigma participant and founder of Brian’s Healing Hearts, Ann Daigle

Ann, who lost her son Brian to suicide, is a mental health advocate and volunteer for Deconstructing Stigma. In telling her story as part of the campaign, Ann’s goal is to raise awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention.

As the founder of Brian’s Healing Hearts (The Brian Dagle Foundation), Ann began using her story and her voice to advocate and lobby for bringing Deconstructing Stigma to Bradley.

“I’ve met so many families like mine, who have lost a child away at college. And they had no idea how much their child was struggling,” said Ann.

“Through Brian’s Healing Hearts, and by working to bring Deconstructing Stigma to Connecticut, I think I’m carrying on some of the work that Brian would have done. His story doesn’t have to end and mine doesn’t either. It goes on. I go on, and he goes on, and we are able to do this together.”

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