College breaks down mental health stigmas in new exhibition

Publication date: 21 January 2019

Art installations highlighting the importance of breaking down mental health stigmas have been unveiled at the Royal College of GPs.

The news comes as today marks 'Blue Monday' - widely recognised as the UK's most depressing day of the year after the indulgences of Christmas and the end of the festive holidays.

The three pieces, which are part of a wider College exhibition called What Once Was Imagined (WOWI), highlight the realities of living with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety – two of the most common conditions currently being diagnosed in the UK.

The collection is the creation of textile artist Susie Freeman and her long-time friend, Dr Liz Lee, who have worked together for more than 20 years in a collaboration known as Pharmacopoeia.

Some pieces have been inspired by Freeman's own experiences, like Wave - a delicate stretch of blue fabric decorated with the emptied packets of the medication she took for depression.

"I have lived with intermittent bouts of depression for several years and for some people it presents itself as a 'black dog', but for me it was a deep blue," she said.

"I wanted to show this in the exhibition and for the work to not only create a discussion about the advancements of modern medicine, but also about how vitally important this medication is for some people, and why there should never be any shame or stigma attached to taking it."

Other key pieces include:

Miss Essex: a representation of a young woman with serious mental health problems - a large metal wire handbag covered in the hundreds of pills she hoarded while pretending to take the drugs.

Purple Haze: a collection of medication for agoraphobia – a smaller handbag dotted with the pills needed to manage fear and anxiety associated with open or public places.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, added: "With 90% of people with mental health problems cared for entirely within primary care, GPs are acutely aware of the prevalence of these conditions and the impacts they can have on our patients' lives.

"But no patient wants to be reliant on – and no GP wants to prescribe – any medication long-term unless completely necessary, and where possible we will explore alternatives, such as talking therapies and CBT.

"However, there is a severe lack of these services and choice of therapies in the community that could benefit our patients with mental health conditions, which needs to change.

"NHS England's GP Forward View pledged for every GP practice to have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists. We need this, and its other promises - including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs - to be delivered as a matter of urgency, so that we can continue to provide the best possible mental health care to our patients.

"There is still a long way to go, but we hope this exhibition helps break down the outdated stigmas around mental health, and educate the public about the very real impacts these conditions can have on some patients' lives."

The exhibition is free to visit at 30 Euston Square until May 2019.

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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