Exhibit teaches about mental health
Sunday Star - 4/24/2017
The Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore (MHAES), in partnership with Chesapeake College, is excited about presenting Michael Nye's compelling exhibit, "Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness," beginning May 5 and continuing until June 5. This exhibit embodies the very core of our purpose: to educate people about mental illness and break down the stigma associated with the spectrum of these conditions.
MHAES participates in a variety of programs throughout the Eastern Shore to raise awareness of mental illness and to educate people about behavioral health. Our flagship program is Mental Health First Aid, a nationally recognized, evidence based, interactive training program that teaches the signs and symptoms of various mental health disorders and how to assist a person experiencing a crisis; Healthy New Moms is a state-wide educational program designed to educate new mothers and their support groups to recognize peri-natal mood and anxiety disorders and where to go for help; our Early Learning Series teaches young children about their own emotional wellbeing; we work with Salisbury University, the Maryland Coalition of Families and the School Based Mental Health Coalition to develop and implement a rural model of school-based behavioral services to improve academic outcomes for children; We lead the Shore Training Collaborative, a nine-county effort that provides workforce training and educational programs for the community on behavioral health topics; our Veterans Assistance Fund helps veterans in crisis before their VA benefits are in place. We also host an annual legislative forum with our Behavioral Health Coalition partners and agencies.
Michael Nye's "Fine Line: Mental Health/ Mental Illness" exhibit is integral to our education and advocacy effort as well as a fundraiser to support our programs. Nye was a practicing attorney who had an interest in photography that expanded to include the stories of his subjects. The focus of this exhibit, the stories of people who suffer from mental illness, was prompted by the suicide of his law partner and a diagnosis of schizophrenia of a close friend. He spent years developing this exhibit and spent an average of two days with each subject. As he observed in an interview on one college campus, "stories are the threads that bind us together." He listened to those stories and then distilled them into an exhibit that instructs us to acknowledge the "fidelity of each person's experience," to become students. As Nye observes, "I do not know where mental health ends and mental illness begins," but he tells his audience that we must remove the stigma and "support, support, support."
As the attention of the community is focused on the opioid addiction that is ravaging our community and the nation, we need more than ever to look at the causes and consequences of addiction and mental illness. They are close companions, and some of the people who tell their stories in brief statements have suffered from both addiction and mental illness. Regardless of the cause or manifestation of mental illness, the journey is typically a lonely one, as people seek to hide their illness out of embarrassment or fear of losing employment or friends, or a myriad of other reasons.
We urge everyone to see this exhibit which exposes our common humanity, our obligation to learn from each other, our need to suspend judgment and increase our compassion, understanding and empathy. Hear the brief stories of the people photographed and think about their stories and the difference support would make in their lives. The creator of the exhibit sees it as an opportunity to educate. We see it as an opportunity to begin a much-needed dialogue about how we as individuals, as members of civic organizations, congregations, and social clubs can learn to be advocates for mental health and understand the role we can play simply by being observant and supportive. We would encourage people to see the exhibit and then to have discussion groups. The MHAES will be glad to facilitate these discussions.
MHAES will sponsor four lectures during the month-long exhibit; please visit our website for speakers, topics, dates and times. We welcome your participation.
The exhibit itself is free. The opening night, at which Michael Nye will be present, is a fund raiser for MHAES, to help offset the costs of hosting the exhibit. The opening night reception is $50; you can reserve by calling MHAES at 410-822-0444 or going online to www.mhamdes.org.
Jackie Davis is executive director of the Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore.