Credit: Conner Somerville
Credit: Conner Somerville

Student Minds St Andrews and student photographer Conner Somerville paired up to create a unique new exhibition, INTROSPECT: Experiences with Mental Illness. The purpose of the exhibition is to tackle the stigma of mental illness by seeing a variety of art and writing that have been inspired by personal contact with various mental illnesses, and through this, experiencing mental illness from the individual perspectives of those who have been and are being affected.

Conner Somerville was inspired to organise the event after witnessing his Grandfather battling Alzheimer’s disease. It proved extremely difficult for Somerville to talk about what was going on, and to express his feelings, Photography becoming his outlet in order to do so, as he finds it easier to present a photograph and explain it this way, than attempt to talk about it eloquently. Photography became something that helped Somerville to de-stress, and focus on something other than the anxiety that surrounds experiencing mental illness. His submission to INTROSPECT is a photograph titled ‘Looking for Me’, a photograph of his Grandfather looking out of a window. The composition juxtaposes extreme light and darkness, a metaphor for the darkness enclosing one’s mind as the disease progresses, and the world that one sees outside being too bright to make sense of.

Amongst Somerville’s submission, there will be a variety of diverse submissions presented at the exhibition, due to the lack of boundaries placed by the organisers; they encouraged those submitting to do whatever they were comfortable with, and whatever they felt was their preferred method of creative expression, the exhibition becoming a range of media; paintings, photographs, collage, reflective text and poetry.

The event has benefitted from utilising links between Student Minds St Andrews, and also the organisation See Me. Somerville recruited Student Minds after attending a recent film screening that was on the topic of Dementia, and he realised that the inclusive and aware organisation would be the perfect platform on which to base his inspiration of INTROSPECT upon. Through Student Minds, Somerville managed to find many passionate and like-minded people who wanted to bring the event to life, through practical and promotional means. See Me aided the event by putting Somerville in touch with a Glaswegian artist, Gillian Orr. Orr is a regular ambassador for See Me, giving talks about mental illness in order to tackle stigma.

If you’re interested in finding out more about mental illness through a unique and personal perspective, then I greatly encourage you to attend. With organisations such as Nightline, Student Minds and See Me being available to explore alongside the opportunity to experience the individual mind through a diverse range of creative expression, this event promises to be both a socially conscious and aesthetic addition to St Andrews’ art scene, which will hopefully become a permanent fixture.

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