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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

A unique partnership is helping bring client art to the mainstream

Toronto, October 24, 2016 - ​​Throughout the month of October, Toronto’s Design Exchange is showcasing photography taken by CAMH clients as part of a new Photovoice exhibit entitled Perspective: the View from Here.

The exhibit features 33 photographs portraying unique perspectives of life with mental illness. The collection is meant to empower, educate, challenge and inspire through captivating imagery.

Art 1
The exhibit is a result of a partnership between
Design Exchange’s Community Outreach program and CAMH’s LEARN program – a community-based service dedicated to helping young adults who have experienced their first episode of psychosis. Using cameras and storytelling, Photovoice is a program that encourages participants to explore their own feelings towards mental health and the recovery process.

“Photovoice is not new to CAMH, and we thought that it would be a great way to combine mental health with a creative outlet like photography,” says Peter Mastorakos, an Occupational Therapist who worked at LEARN and is currently working at CAMH’s Downtown West clinic.

“CAMH has been a long-standing patron of Design Exchange. They would come pretty regularly for special exhibits and tours,” says Brigitte Huard, Programming Manager at Design Exchange, whose work in community outreach allows her to see the transformative work of groups like LEARN. “I saw an opportunity for cooperation beyond the tours, and I thought it would be great to offer some free workshops. Emelia Prus, our instructor, worked with them all summer, and this exhibition is the result of that work.”

Outside the exhibit space
Outside the exhibit space at Design Exchange

Creative Outlet

“The theme Perspective: the View from Here was selected by our clients,” says Peter. “We thought it was broad enough to capture everyone’s experience of mental health and their journey. This was a very client-driven process, but we wanted to give some parameters. We wanted it to be linked to mental health, recovery, personal journey and transformation."

“The dialogue that started here about mental health recovery is one we hope will reach the general public,” says Natalie Yiu, an Occupational Therapist at LEARN. “These are the messages that our clients want to share, to create an open dialogue about mental health.”

Exhibit organizers
L to R: Design Exchange’s Brigitte and Emilia, and CAMH’s Natalie and Peter were instrumental in getting the project underway

Here is what CAMH clients had the say about their participation in the project:

“Photovoice was a great way to creatively express my unique experience with mental illness. I think spreading mental health awareness is an essential way to break down barriers and stigma while also reaching out to others. I strive to bust myths about psychosis and mood disorders and explore the blurred lines of everyday perceptual experiences.”

“I had never taken pictures of people before, and Photovoice was instrumental in helping me build my confidence and expand my horizons.”

“It is exceptionally hard to convey what it is like to live with a mental health issue to those who have never experienced it. Hopefully, Photovoice serves as a window to help others understand mental health better.”

Art - Fly
The photography on display is an examination of perspective – both visually and narratively.

Visitor looking at picture
Visitors, clinicians and clients gained a better understanding of client perspectives on life, mental illness and recovery

With a little help from our friends

“This Design Exchange/Learn partnership would not have happened were it not for the generous support of TD Bank which funded regular workshops at the LEARN location for a year,” says Peter. “This show was also made possible thanks to the help of other supporters, including the CAMH LEARN team, CAMH Foundation’s Gifts of Light Comfort Fund, CAMH’s Addiction Medicine Service, clinicians from CAMH’s Unit 2, North Bay Regional Health Centre, Downtown Camera and Henry’s”.

A Transformative Experience

“We hope to continue some photography-related projects in the future,” says Natalie. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Design Exchange… we’re going to gather feedback from the clients on their experience, and the sky’s the limit on what we can do next.”

“It’s great to have this exhibit, but what was really transformative were the sessions that we had week-to-week,” Peter adds. “I learned a lot with our clients… Their stories are absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad that there is a medium for sharing those narratives.”

Perspective: The View from Here runs until Sunday, October 30 at the Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street.

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