A photograph of General Hospital Emmy winning actor Maurice Benard is one of 34 pictures lining the 235-foot-long hallway between Terminals B and C at Logan Airport in Boston, part of an exhibit that debuted last week called "Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life." Superimposed on each photograph is text describing the person’s struggle with mental illness.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 22, Benard (Sonny Corinthos on GH) remembers being hospitalized —at times being so manic, he suffered from psychosis. Like many people, Maurice has to take medication daily to remain healthy.
"I have been on medication for the last 30 years, and I learned a long time ago that those medications are what help me stay balanced. Otherwise, bipolar takes hold and I become someone I don’t want to be. When I take my medication, everything is great. When I don’t, it’s a problem."
The airport exhibit was created by McLean Hospital and several mental health advocacy groups to put forth, in the most public of places, the stories of people with mental illness — to combat the shame and show pathways to hope.
The participants range in age from 16 to 72, and tell stories of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other illnesses. The photos were taken by freelancer Patrick O’Connor, who spent 240 hours in photo sessions, kneeling up to his neck in pond water for one and dashing into New York traffic for another. The stories and photos can also be found on the exhibit’s website, deconstructingstigma.org.
Everyone, celebrity or not, is identified only by first name and age. None of the participants requested anonymity, but the hospital decided that, in a world where it is easy to Google and harass anyone anywhere, it was best to protect participants from that much exposure, said Adriana Bobinchock, a spokeswoman for McLean, a leading psychiatric hospital in Belmont.
Also featured is GH alum Rick Springfield (Noah Drake), now 67.
"I was supposed to be living a life that other people envied, but the reality was that I was deeply depressed, and I just didn’t understand why I was supposed to feel happy and didn’t. It was awful."