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       Changing the Script: A Mental Health Multimedia Exhibit at the 2016 BEAC conference

One in five Canadians will find themselves dealing with a mental health challenge at some point during their lives, yet 60 per cent of those affected will not seek help, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA, 2015). The number of students arriving at post-secondary institutions with diagnosed mental health issues is increasing and research indicates that 50 per cent of students are using mental health services while attending college or university. Speaking about having a mental disorder, however, is still difficult for most young adults (Willinsky, 2015).

As campuses across Canada introduce measures to help students deal with mental health issues and different initiatives, such as Bell Let’s Talk Day, are established to end the silence, misunderstanding and discrimination are still very much present in Canadian culture. Studies show that the media industry, especially television and film, have an important role to play in changing how mental illness is regarded by the general public. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association,

         People with mental health conditions are often depicted as dangerous, violent and unpredictable. News stories that sensationalize violent acts by a person with a mental health condition are typically featured as headline news, while there are fewer articles that feature stories of recovery or positive news concerning similar individuals. Entertainment frequently features negative images and stereotypes about mental health conditions, and these portrayals have been strongly linked to the development of fears and misunderstanding.

(CMHA, 2015, para 3)

As the media continue to disseminate negative portrayals of mental illness, recognizing and changing those patterns becomes key. Education then becomes an important part in changing the stereotypes and misinformation that end up being broadcast (Baun, 2009). So what role can broadcasting programs across Canada play in re-framing mental illness in the media? To explore this subject, I created an interactive multimedia exhibit dedicated to starting a conversation on mental health with students who were attending broadcasting programs in Canada and professors who teach in those programs. Students from member colleges and universities were asked to interpret the theme mental health however they wished through audio, video, photography, a combination of media or any other type of medium. A group of professors recruited from the BEAC’s member institutions curated the work and made final decisions on which ones were exhibited.

This exhibit was on display at the 2016 BEAC conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Using iPads and QR codes, visitors to the exhibit were engaging with the multimedia exhibit however they wished as seen in the images below.  Visitors were also asked to leave their thoughts on mental health and the exhibit on sticky notes or a padlet.

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Baun, K. (2009). The role of the media in forming attitudes towards mental illness. Moods Magazine. Retrieved January 14th, 2006, http://ontario.cmha.ca/files/2012/07/moods_media_200812.pdf

CMHA (2015). Fast Facts about mental illness. Retrieved January 13th, 2016,

CMHA (2015). Media Stigmas. Retrieved January 13th, 2016,  https://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/stigma-and-discrimination/

Willinsky C., (2015). Transitions between secondary and post-secondary. Mental     Health Commission of Canada. Retrieved January 24th, 2016,  http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/system/files/private/doc   ument/willinsky_nov_3_950am.pdf