Mclean Hospital
Deconstructing Stigma at Boston Logan Airport

Deconstructing Stigma

McLean’s international public awareness campaign is more than a series of larger-than-life photographs of people affected by mental illness. Each story is told through the eyes of the campaign’s participants as they boldly tear down the misconceptions of mental health. Not statistics or nameless faces, the volunteers in this project are everyday people—just like you.

Changing Thoughts

While the initial physical installation is located at Boston’s Logan Airport, Deconstructing Stigma is much more than just portraits on a wall.

About the campaign

Changing Lives

Stigma—it’s an ugly word, and it’s even uglier to experience. Yet 75 percent of people with mental illness say they have endured the pain of stigma.

More about stigma

Ongoing Campaign

Want to get involved? Help us reach out to the millions of Americans who are unaware of the impact that mental illness has on their lives.

Join the campaign

Meet The Participants

Despite the concerns of being labeled and risking further stigma, the more than 75 volunteers in this project are courageously sharing their stories of hope and resilience so that you will have an opportunity to “walk in their shoes” and perhaps step away with a different view of what it is like to have a mental illness. You can meet some of them below, or view many more on the Deconstructing Stigma site.


Jessika had a secret.

Ever since losing two close friends to suicide, she has worked tirelessly in suicide prevention. But she hid the fact that she, too, tried to kill herself when she was 17.

Even with everything I’d learned about mental illness, I still felt like I had to be silent.

Jessika had buried her intense teenage struggle with an eating disorder, self-injury, and depression deep inside. Several years later, after the birth of her third child, those feelings came rushing back.

I was suddenly in a mental health crisis.

Jessika sought therapy, and later hospitalization. She has decided to tell her story to help others. For inspiration, she tattooed three birds on her wrist, with her children’s and husband’s initials worked into the design.

It’s a reminder of what I’ve overcome and why I must keep pushing forward.

Watch Jessika tell her story in her own words

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels
Deconstructing Stigma participant Darryl

Darryl, “DMC,” is the founding member of the legendary hip hop group Run-DMC. Although he seemed to have everything a person could want, what the public couldn’t see was that depression and alcohol abuse were destroying his spirit and his body.

“I had everything—I was the King of Rock—we were touring, making money and everyone knew who we were. But I didn’t feel right and not a day passed that I didn’t think about suicide,” Darryl said.

Today, Darryl, 52, is back in the recording studio, has a best-selling book about his experience with mental illness and has become a vocal mental health advocate.

Read Darryl’s story

Alan is one of many Deconstructing Stigma participants who are telling their mental health stories

It’s been a battle since I was 11 just to be here.

Bipolar disorder had a grip on generations of Alan’s family. Growing up in a house full of relatives, he recalls walking on eggshells to make others happy.

At age 27, like his grandfather, former Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, Alan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

You’ve got to find a way to like yourself. That’s a beginning.

In 2010, Alan vowed to get control of his life. He bought a pair of sneakers and dropped 75 pounds exercising. Now, through social media and a camera lens, he inspires others to be the best they can be.

An active body builds a calmer mind.

Read Alan’s story

Deconstructing Stigma participant Dimple

“Many individuals within the South Asian culture do not share their personal stressors with anyone and prefer to keep these suppressed. The more they keep these negative experiences hidden, the more harm they cause to themselves. I was one of these individuals for several years until I decided to change this and speak out against the stigma.”

Dimple, Age 29 | Illinois

Read more from Dimple’s Deconstructing Stigma blog post, Confronting the Reality of Suicides in the South Asian Culture.

Press Coverage

Deconstructing Stigma has been featured in many publications, including The Boston Globe and Psychology Today. Find out more on the campaign website.

Press coverage

Need Support?

Do you or someone you know need help? Check out our list of organizations who are there to support each and every psychiatric condition throughout the US and around the globe.

Mental health resources