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Intersection of Disability and Mental Health on Display at USU

The Seeking Mental Health Services as an Adult with a Disability exhibition is now on display at the Lyndsley Wilkerson Gallery in the Sorenson Center for Clinical Excellence at Utah State University.
“The idea I was trying to convey with this one is that sometimes and mental illness actually prevents you from seeking help for that, for that very illness,” said Samuel South, describing a photo he took for a research project at Utah State University.

It shows a jumble of index cards scrawled with words. Front and center is the word, “help.” He and others are describing their work during the exhibition’s launch. This PhotoVoice project is qualitative research. That said, it presents the information a little differently. Its purpose is:

“To show what it's like what the stories are behind people who have mental health challenges and intellectual and developmental disabilities when they're trying to access services,” said Rachel Byers, the project’s coordinator at the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice.

"Data shows that that's generally a more complicated process for people who have co-occurring mental health and intellectual developmental disabilities. So at this particular time, because we had like two weeks to kind of take the picture to make sure the study could kind of move along. And just so happened, this timing. I was changing my medication,” said Nicole Burnard, describing her photos, including a dark, unfocused self-portrait that shows her reflection in a mirror.

“That's always kind of rough when you're changing meds and changing providers, or you know, you have to wait for appointments forever. And it happened that it fell over Fourth of July weekend. So, like I couldn't, I wasn't getting, I just was pretty depressed when I was taking these pictures. And so, it worked out that I could kind of capture what that looks like for me from my house, you know, or my perspective.”

“So, it's just a picture of an ear that I took,” said Jennifer South. “And it for me, it represents the longing to be heard. And just have someone listen with the intent to understand.”

“The reason why I chose those three is because they represented purpose, my ways of what worked for me.” Alaina Arnett described the photos she took of things that help her cope: including a gaming system. “I can easily hit the game person without actually hurting anybody else.”

"I think something that stood out to me; this is a method that can be used so easily in a lot of situations,” Byers said. “And [it] can be really meaningful because we have technology at our fingertips. They used to do this in the 90s where they would hand you a camera and then you develop the film later on. It was a more intensive process. But now pretty much everybody has a camera in their pocket and they're pretty high quality. So, it's a very accessible method because of that. For me, I wasn't taking photos, but I feel like I learned so much.”

The exhibition runs through October 27.