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Anti-Stigma - Summer 2007

The group dynamic of our three day marketing session, presented an atmosphere abuzz with creativity, positive energy, and synergy of ideas.  Everyone had ideas and opinions to bring to the table, and in the process of creating our materials, there was an ever-growing sense of accomplishment.We were able to get so much done in such a short period of time because we were fortunate enough to have a group comprising a wide spectrum of ideas and yet consistently exuding a warm, productive, inspirational, and accepting energy.  This allowed for a constant flow of fresh ideas as the varying perspectives of the team members were as unique and individual as the people presenting them.
- Excerpt from the Media Release prepared by youth participants, Andrew, 23 and Jen, 21.

Text Art Collage Description

written by Tara, 16

Each member of the anti-stigma group placed three words they thought were reflective of stigma. Stigma is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a mark of shame or discredit”, “an identifying mark or characteristic” We then drew pictures surrounding each word and linking them together. We filled every inch of the paper. The result was a graffiti looking art-work.

We chose words to represent - the causes of stigma, such as media and stereotypes; the result of stigma, such as judgement, isolation and fear, the overcoming of stigma, such as awareness, freedom and acceptance.

Some of us noticed that the negative words bordered the image and the positive words were found in the centre. This can be interpreted as our society trying to overcome fear and prejudice to achieve a wish. The wish is a world of love, freedom and acceptance; a world without stigma. We’ve noticed that many of the words and meanings in this piece of artwork extend beyond stigma into our everyday life. We face influences such as stereotypes and the media on a daily basis. They shape our actions and judgement. I believe our society is trying to overcome these negative factors, and therefore creating a better world (hopefully in the near future).

I think we can all agree that this artwork makes you think.

Because we had little instruction, little restrictions and a number of artists contributing, the resulting image is a lot like graffiti. It’s very busy and a long time of needed to analyze the artwork. Negative areas and positive areas seem to come together to form a true interpretation of stigma.

What the group created...

Text art is a new art style that is rapidly gaining popularity in our culture. Designs created out of an assortment of words and images can be found anywhere from t-shirts to billboards. For the Anti-Stigma sticker we took inspiration from these designs and from six of our youth participants. This idea stemmed from a wall size text art mural the group had worked on using words related to stigma. The same concept was transferred to a sticker by layering the artwork of the six youths' art work, doodles and designs. The images utilize key words and designs that are meant to be appealing yet thought provoking.

“When I Grow Up…” presents a young girl labelled by her future paths.  With the endnote of the girl’s suicide thrown into the mix, the overall message that “suicide is the second highest cause of death amongst teens” is illustrated in the image.  The sense of “cute innocence” presented by the picture heightens the sharp contrast of this harsh final note.

“Reach Out…” incorporates the slogan and challenges the stigma surrounding self-harm.  It was easily our most controversial and thought-engaging piece.  There was initially a general concern about the plausible effect of this piece in acting as a trigger to people.  We therefore deemed it necessary to seek the approval of someone representing the field of psychiatry and familiar with self-harming behaviour.  The consensus we finally reached was that creating awareness of this issue was a message that needed to see the light of day.  The silence surrounding this issue, acts as a devastating catalyst in promoting a negative stigma. It was this quiet and hidden nature of the issue which presented itself in the form of controversy and social taboo. Only by breaking through this silence, can we hope to move forward in tearing down the walls of stigma surrounding self-harm. The existence of controversy, suggests that there may be those few who respond negatively to this piece.  Controversy, however, is a powerful tool for stimulating consideration, discussion, debate, and ultimately awareness.  By not succumbing to the fear of addressing controversy, we allow ourselves to break free of the conformity and suppression of the present stigma.

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