By Phillip Zonkel
October 4, 2015
If a picture is worth a thousand words, Rhonda Schultz hopes awareness, understanding and pride will be used to describe the images in a new photo exhibit designed to help end the stigma associated with being LGBT or having mental illness.
Well MADE, a collaboration between The Long Beach LGBTQ Center, the Long Beach-based Mental Health America of Los Angeles and the downtown consignment space MADE, shows people who are coming out as LGBTQ, living with mental illness, being a survivor of trauma — or any combination of them.
The exhibit will open Friday at Made, 236 Pine Ave., and close Oct. 31.
“The exhibit will create awareness and give people in the community a more multi-faceted understanding of who these people are,” said Schultz, of the Mental Health America of Los Angeles, who devised the photo project.
The Mental Health America of Los Angeles works to end homelessness and trains other service providers on mental illness treatment methods.
“These are people who have families, hopes, dreams. They aren’t just a label. The exhibit also will help people in the project feel more pride about themselves,” she said.
The exhibit includes portraits of 36 models, including numerous staff and board members of the Long Beach LGBTQ Center and community allies, such as former Long Beach first lady Nancy Foster and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach,
COMING OUT, MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS DAYS
The exhibit was designed to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and World Mental Health Awareness Day on Oct. 10, Schultz said.
“By showing various respected community supporters, the viewer sees that people of this stature reject the stigma and embrace those identified as LGBTQ or living with mental illness,” Schultz said. “It also shows people coming out that the social stigma they might face is not universal and that there are other respectable people right here in Long Beach who value them for exactly who they are.”
Porter Gilberg, executive director of The Center, said the exhibit explores the intersections between mental health and when LGBT people come out.
“We know there is still stigma in the LGBTQ community and that LGBTQ people still face discrimination and stigma when trying to access mental health services,” he said.
“Overall, we need culturally competent providers who understand the unique issues of our community, such as discrimination in housing and employment and out history,” Gilberg said. “We can be further stigmatized by a doctor who is not equipped to deal with the LGBTQ community.”
For Schultz, one of the models in the exhibit, participating was empowering.
“This project hits me very close to home because I am a queer woman with a history of social anxiety and depression,” she said. “Coming out in this project, in the presence of the other respected, supportive advocates and participants felt safe and empowered me.”
Well MADE will open 6 p.m. Friday at MADE, 236 Pine Ave. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. It closes Oct. 31. For more information, (877) 752-1550.
Contact Phillip Zonkel at 562-714-2098.