Generally, when it comes to mental health illnesses people can be quick to look the other way and ignore the issues at hand. Some blame the active avoidance of mental health discussions on the stigma that comes along with mental illnesses. Stigma is defined as a sign of disgrace or discredit towards another person who has a particular circumstance or quality. To combat that challenges that come along with dealing with mental illness, we have organizations and programs such as the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council (MYLC) that attempts to stop perpetuation of stigma.
This program is known for many of their many hallway displays that draw attention to both their program and cause. On holidays they have handed out plastic bags with candy in them, along with motivational messages. Members have also been known to hold up signs for people who are struggling with an illness both in school and on the streets of Stamford in public demonstrations. Just because you have an illness, doesn’t mean you’re not human, and that’s the message MYLC is trying to put out there.
One thing that many students encounter each day are the MYLC portraits in the main lobby. In these pictures, they show various students posing with words written on their arms, legs, or chest encouraging members of the Westhill community to ‘end the stigma.’ I believe this is very effective, utilizing powerful composition. I think the words leave a huge impact on people, it gives students and even teachers an ability to feel comfortable in their own school without being judge.
Many people walk around school and avoid talking about their burdens, all because they don’t want other people to know that they are willing to embrace the flaws of being human but sometimes believe they can’t. These pictures open doors for kids who are afraid to speak up, and are far from the disruption some claim them to be. These portraits are a wonderful way of getting people involved and getting to know about MYLC, and shows support for those suffering from mental illnesses.
These pictures don’t just force on one specific person but different people of all different shapes and sizes, different races and ethics. It shows how people of all kind can go through whatever and these don’t only go for students but also for adults. Who knows if we are shining light on adults because you never know if they’ve gone through a mental illness (and still fighting) when they were teens.
“They are all productive, it opens up a new kind of thing in Westhill, it shows support,” said senior Reginald Hardy. These pictures are changing people and their minds, to be open and express their minds by giving them the educational truth of what stigma and mental health is all about.