Personal encounters spur art exhibition


Personal encounters with mental health battles fought in Dunedin have spurred two local men to put on an art exhibition.

Dunedin creatives Jonny Waters and Elliot Phillips have organised the exhibition "Mental Health", which opened in central Dunedin on Thursday.

Mr Waters said the exhibition was designed to raise awareness of mental health challenges faced by men and reduce the stigma related to them.

Jonny Waters (left) and Elliot Phillips have organised the art exhibition ‘‘Mental Health’’,...
Jonny Waters (left) and Elliot Phillips have organised the art exhibition ‘‘Mental Health’’, which opens in central Dunedin today. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
The exhibition aimed to help break "a cycle of negative patterns", including the "alarming" male suicide rates in New Zealand.

Mr Phillips said that the event was intended to encourage the normalisation of mental health conversations, diagnoses and treatment for men in New Zealand and encourage anyone struggling to reach out for support.

"For generations the stigma around what it means to be a ‘Kiwi male’ has scaffolded into this idea that it involves not showing or talking about your emotions or being ‘soft’," Mr Phillips said.

"It’s vital we instigate a change in that dialogue now."

Mr Waters said the idea for the theme of the exhibition was born "a long time" before his friend Danny Brisbane committed suicide in Dunedin early this year.

"That added fuel to the fire ... It spurred it into action."

Mr Waters said many of his peer group had battled mental illness and he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2017.

The time before his diagnosis was "a rocky road", he said.

The more than 60 contributions to the exhibition include paintings, sculpture, photography, zines, poetry, live performance and spoken word.

"I challenge men of all ages and backgrounds to attend this show, as I have no doubt you will take something special away from it,” Mr Waters said.

Entry to the exhibition is by koha, proceeds going to the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust.

Mental Health exhibition is open in Community Gallery in Princes St until Sunday.

shawn.mcavinue@thestar.co.nz

Need to talk?

1737, free 24/7 phone and text number

Healthline: 0800 611-116

Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543-354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Samaritans: 0800 726-666

Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787-797

General mental health inquiries: 0800 443-366

The Depression Helpline: 0800 111-757

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