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Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital
Beyond the Shadows of a Label Photo Voice
By Robin Croft, Bedford PAO
Thursday, June 13, 2019The PV exhibit begins with posters introducing the project and the goal of helping Veterans through creative expression. At the end of the display, there is a call for people to go online and take the stigma free-pledge from the National Alliance for Mental Illness, (NAMI). “We left a ballot type box for comments. Those comments were moving and provided evidence that there are people that can understand and relate to the Veterans’ stories,” says Anne Marie Craman.
The artists are four Veterans who participated in the Mental Health Intensive Case Management Program, (MHICM) for many years. Three of the four Veterans have graduated and moved on in their lives, having achieved their goals in MHICM. One of the Veterans will be graduating this month.
The Veterans participated in a 10-week group program that met once a week for 1-1/2 hours. Ms. Craman facilitated the group sessions using a workbook developed by the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Combating Prejudice and Discrimination through Photo Voice Empowerment. Each Veteran has deeply personal stories, messages and recommendations that they want to tell the Public.
“The Veterans and I discussed whether they would want to exhibit their work to the public because increasing public awareness about stigma and mental illness is one of the outcomes of Photo Voice,” Says Anne. “Some libraries are open to the idea of exhibiting community art in their reference sections which are quiet open spaces that allow for peaceful reflection. Four artists contributed Photos and narratives to the display.
“Photo Voice” gives participants a venue to share their personal experiences, for viewers to consider the person’s point of view and to reflect on the message. The aim of the exhibit is to inspire change in one person at a time, within our communities and our world and to respectfully draw attention to obstacles that stand in the way of positive change and opportunity for people seeking help for mental illness.
So far, the Photo Voice project has exhibited at the Tewksbury Public Library, the Billerica Public Library, the Heroes Among Us program at Middlesex Community College and in June, (this month) it is at the Lowell Public Library. They hope to exhibit at one venue each month.
It takes a great deal of organization, planning and building relationships to launch these initiatives. The Veterans who participated in Photo Voice have since moved on to living full lives.