Beth, a talented writer, was a star at her high school, even performing her original songs onstage.
But severe agoraphobia eventually engulfed Beth, leaving her unable to move or leave her home for years.
Beth tells her story of depression in “Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness,” an interactive art exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
The exhibit, created by San Antonio artist Michael Nye, features stark black-and-white photography of subjects, along with audio clips of participants discussing their stories of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and other mental illnesses.
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“It is so easy to talk about our physical health, working out and dieting,” Nye said. “Rarely do people sit around and discuss our mental health. In a way, we are giving people permission to do that.”
“Fine Line,” which runs through May, is presented by Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County, the JPS Health Network and the museum.
Besides the exhibit, Mental Health Connection has arranged free educational programs open to the public, which address suicide prevention, trauma and cyberbullying, among other topics.
Patsy Thomas, president of Mental Health Connection, said that 1 in 4 Americans suffers from a mental health issue but that nearly half of those never seek help.
“Stigma is the primary reason people do not reach out for help when they need it,” Thomas said. “Treatment is available. It is possible to recover. By bringing this exhibit to Fort Worth, we hope to reduce the stigma, raise the level of conversation and make mental illness a safe topic to discuss.”
For Nye, a former attorney, his interest in mental health grew when he saw those around him dealing with mental illness. A close friend committed suicide. His mother-in-law suffers from bipolar disorder. A former law partner was chronically depressed.
So Nye spent four years traveling the country, from Las Vegas to Philadelphia, interviewing and photographing participants whom he found through friends, mental health agencies and clinics. He spent two to four days with each person, recording hours of conversation. Those conversations are condensed into five- or six-minute clips that exhibit viewers listen to with headphones.
Their stories are diverse. There is Doris, who received a master’s degree in sociology but spent two years homeless. Or Vinny, who grew up in New York and quit speaking as a teenager. One man, Michael, the editor of an alternative newspaper, suffered a breakdown while working and could not stop crying.
“These are not experts, doctors or researchers talking about mental illness. These are real people — our friends, neighbors, colleagues,” Nye said. “We all have a unique wisdom, and we can learn from each other’s wisdom and life experiences.”
If you go
▪ “Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness,” an interactive exhibit featuring 55 photographs and stories.
▪ Continues through May at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1600 Gendy St.