McLean Hospital & Bangor International Airport aim to boost mental health awareness

Inspirational photo exhibit shines a light on Mainers living with mental illness

BANGOR – McLean Hospital, located just outside of Boston, and Bangor International Airport are bringing an inspirational exhibit highlighting stories of people living with mental illness in Maine. The goal of the exhibit, which opens today at the airport, is to increase awareness and reduce the stigma that is too often associated with depression, anxiety, substance use, and other mental illnesses.

The Bangor exhibit is part of “Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health,” McLean’s international mental health awareness campaign, featuring compelling portraits of courageous people who volunteer to share their stories with the hope of changing how people living with mental illness are viewed. Deconstructing Stigma initially launched in 2016 with a large installation at Boston Logan International Airport. Since then, McLean has partnered with airports and other public venues worldwide to feature volunteers who share their stories about their experiences living with mental illness. The Bangor exhibit features several volunteers from Maine and was done in collaboration with Northern Light Acadia Hospital and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine.

“We are excited to bring Deconstructing Stigma to Maine and are grateful to the Bangor International Airport and our advocacy partners for supporting our efforts to heighten awareness and spark conversation about mental health,” said Scott O’Brien, director of education outreach for McLean Hospital . “Most of all, however, I want to express our deepest thanks to the volunteers of Deconstructing Stigma who have bravely shared their personal stories in hopes of helping others.”

The Strength of Storytelling

After witnessing a tragic event while at work, Ron began to struggle with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“I’d start crying at bedtime, I’d start crying before I went to work. I’d explode at home and start yelling. I was in a hard spot emotionally,” explained Ron.

In time, Ron reached out for help, confiding in trusted colleagues. He was able to take time off from work, get treatment, and today is in a much better place.

Ron volunteered to be part of Deconstructing Stigma because he wants to encourage people who may be facing depression and PTSD to reach out for help. He also has a special plea for those who work in high-stress jobs to pay attention to their co-workers and look for signs of trouble.

“Stories like Ron’s are important to share because far too many people are afraid to speak up. Thankfully, Ron recognized he needed help and reached out,” said BGR Director Tony Caruso. “Thousands of people come through the airport every year. By providing space in our facility for Deconstructing Stigma, we hope Ron’s story and the others that now adorn our walls will raise awareness, provide support, and encourage our friends, family, and neighbors to seek help when they need it.”

McLean is honored to have local collaborators, including Northern Light Acadia Hospital and the NAMI Maine. These two organizations are dedicated to providing mental health support to individuals and families throughout Maine.

“Normalizing and prioritizing conversations about mental health leads to more Mainers getting connected to help and hope. This display reminds us that it’s okay to “not be okay” and help is available. The Maine Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Maine) is grateful for the stigma-busting work of McLean Hospital and Bangor International Airport. During a time when mental health needs are high, this story-telling installation is really a story of hope.” – Nicole Vera, NAMI Maine, chief operating officer

To learn more about mental health resources in Maine, visit the Deconstructing Stigma website.

McLean Hospital has a continuous commitment to put people first in patient care, innovation and discovery, and shared knowledge related to mental health. It is consistently named the #1 freestanding psychiatric hospital in the United States by US News & World Report. McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Mass General Brigham. To stay up to date on McLean, follow us on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Located on America’s north eastern seaboard, Bangor International Airport is the closest US Port-of-Entry from Europe, providing a wide range of commercial and general aviation services. BGR is currently served by Allegiant, American, Delta, and United. The airport is a leader in transatlantic tech stops, as well as a strategically important location for the US military. BGR is a funded enterprise entity operated by the City of Bangor and is supported solely through airport generated revenue. For more information, visit www.flybangor.com.

As the largest grassroots mental health organization delivering advocacy, education, and support in the state, NAMI Maine is dedicated to building better lives for everyone impacted by behavioral health concerns. Incorporated in 1984, The Maine Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness engages with leaders and community partners at all levels to improve the state’s mental health system through collaboration and education. For more information, visit www.namimaine.org.

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