Our Books Editor, Henry Crabtree, reviews Medsin’s OTR event, Unspoken: A Mental Health Arts Exhibition.


Last night, Deans Court played host to an intimate evening of artwork, music and speeches around the topic of mental health and everyday stigma hosted by Medsin St. Andrews in affiliation with HUG (Action for Mental Health). Henry Crabtree was there to experience a warm, open environment with an array of student talent and transparency.

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Mental health is difficult to talk about. Chances are we all experience issues with mental health in ourselves, our family, friends, work, or recreation in our lifetime. This proximity that we all share to a great societal ‘elephant in the room’ proves Medsin and HUG’s ideal devastatingly important – for us to take steps toward a more open dialogue with ourselves and each other about a very human experience. This exhibition, fittingly titled ‘UNSPOKEN’, was covered wall to wall in painting, writing, photography, poetry; a plethora of transparent expression from students and professionals alike.

Deans Court proved a perfect venue for an arts exhibition every bit as talented as it was open – Medsin’s call for any and every submission of works relating to themes around mental health, anxiety, stigma, emotion and isolation was answered. Pieces adorned all four corners of the exhibition, far too many to mention in a short review, showcasing the scope of approaches taken through art to express feeling in whatever way the artist sees fit. Björn Lambrenos’ artwork of ‘Sea, Sand, Sky’, a beautiful photoset of the natural offset by isometric shards cutting across the landscape, aimed at showing mental health finding continuity from “within our own personal discontinuity”. A deeply moving question posed by Inseo Yun asked the interpreter to match mental health diagnoses to photos of the backs of heads: an important and fantastic way of illustrating the disparity between outward stigma and internal feeling, and an overtly human reminder to not judge books by their cover.

This proves key in HUG’s work educating about mental health in Scotland, that there is no wrong way to talk about mental health, as long as it is being spoken about. HUG works tirelessly to provide a platform for mental health, not to vilify undergoing mental illness as abnormal, but to celebrate those who go through it.


Artwork by Sian Venable, shown at the exhibition


Medsin’s decision to host an arts exhibition focusing solely on mental health was a resounding success, in line with their principles of having a local impact in a global society. A showcase of student alongside professional artwork raises the important point that mental health issues are universal and should be treated without stigma, derision or condescension. Graham Morgan, speaker and mental health activist from HUG, gave a wonderfully moving speech on his own experiences, his organisation’s work, and what we can do as a society to move towards more open dialogues, acceptance and belonging. His heartfelt call to arms as an advocate for mental health training and transparency found its hard base in his truth that “we are all too painfully human”. Graham’s speech did not provide a dour outlook on mental health issues, instead countenancing the reality of his and many other’s situations – this reality, he suggests, lies somewhere between, not just of his own pain but also “the times we laugh… the things that give us hope”.
Graham’s speech was followed by one from Nightline, our student-run helpline open every night that halls are open, who provide a confidential and empathetic service for anything a St. Andrews student might need to talk to someone about. Medsin St. Andrews then rounded off the exhibition with a showcase of live music to round off a warm, welcoming evening of transparency and candid discussion about mental health. I personally would like to thank Medsin society, HUG Action for Mental Health, all contributors to the wonderful art, poetry, photography shown at the event, and to the live music for a wonderful evening of frank artworks and speeches.

You can find out more about Medsin, HUG Action for Mental Health and Nightline using the contact information below:

http://www.facebook.com/medsinstandrews
https://www.facebook.com/HUGActionforMentalHealth/
https://www.facebook.com/stanightline/

Henry Crabtree