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Deconstructing Stigma: McLean Launches National Public Awareness Campaign

January 20, 2017 Print

In an unprecedented partnership, McLean Hospital is collaborating with Boston’s Logan International Airport and several mental health advocacy groups in a national public awareness campaign intended to change the way mental illness is perceived.

“We were determined to develop a thought-provoking campaign that would be effective in reaching as many people as possible. We had the idea that airports might represent an ideal network of venues, and the leadership at Boston Logan was enthusiastic about the prospect of working with us to create high-impact public education,” said Scott L. Rauch, MD, president and psychiatrist in chief for McLean. “Together, we hope to elevate awareness and help catalyze real change.”

Deconstructing Stigma
The 235-foot gallery, located between Terminals B and C at Boston Logan Airport features more than 30 portraits of people with mental illness, including celebrities such as comedian Howie Mandel and singer Rick Springfield

Formally known as Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life, the campaign utilizes a series of larger-than-life photographs and compelling vignettes, based on interviews with people from across the United States who have been affected by mental illness.

“Told through the eyes of its participants, this campaign boldly challenges misconceptions about people with mental illness; the exhibit is intended to spark conversation,” said Rauch.

While participating in the campaign has been emotionally evocative for the volunteers, their responses to the experience have been overwhelmingly positive.

“My participation has allowed me to fully accept myself, my struggles, my triumphs, however small, without a hint of shame anymore. I’m proud of how far I have come and that I continue to move forward,” said Jamie, one of the campaign volunteers. “For the first time, I feel truly empowered and free. I’m not free of depression or anxiety—not wholly—but I’ve shed its damp blanket. I’ve strengthened my voice and resolve to help destigmatize. I’m completely open to sharing with others in the hopes that my story can help in any way.”

With the initial installation at Logan Airport in a 235-foot gallery between Terminals B and C, and an accompanying website, Deconstructing Stigma is expected to reach several million people in 2017. Plans are already under way to install similar exhibits in other airports.

In addition to partnering with Boston Logan, McLean has been gratified to welcome other leading organizations that have eagerly signed on in support of this project; the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the International OCD Foundation, Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and PROJECT 375 have all played a role in helping McLean develop Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life. For more information about the campaign, visit DeconstructingStigma.org.