Researchers at the University of Bath were recently invited to submit an image of their research, together with a brief description, to be shown to the public. I think it’s really difficult choosing images to try to represent mental ill-health. Images can be so powerful; they can contribute to very negative stereotypes of mental illness but they also can be incredibly positive and express things it is difficult or impossible to put into words. I know that for OCD more specifically, many people with OCD are frustrated that the public often think of OCD as being limited to contamination concerns and hand-washing. They are keen that much wider representations of OCD are given in the media.
On this occasion I decided to use a very personal image of my own OCD, even though it could be seen as a negative image, and it focuses on contamination fears. I’d be really interested in your reactions to the image. Last weekend I stood next to it for a number of hours at a public exhibition in the centre of Bath. A part of me definitely felt awkward, embarrassed and vulnerable but at the same time I long for a time when we, as a society, can talk openly about mental health problems, and not feel ashamed. Fear of stigma was a huge reason why I delayed seeking help for so long.
In the course of the weekend I had some very moving conversations with individual members of the public who just happened to be passing by … the sort of conversation where two human beings share something very real, deep and important with each other. It was a real privilege to be part of those conversations.