Several of the articles in this issue of Your Voice talk about feeling different in childhood as a prelude to later difficulties related to mental distress. Shaun Hunt, who is featured in this edition's profile feature, explains that he went through life from an early age believing he was different from everyone else; Terry Simpson talks about being out of place among the ‘posh kids’ at school, whilst at the same time leaving behind his working class roots; and John Mills outlines how he felt different and apart from other people, even as a schoolboy. These articles highlight the difficulties of feeling or being different in a society that values conformity over self-expression. This aversion to real or perceived difference is one of the main factors underlying stigmatising and discriminatory attitudes towards people with mental health problems.
Both Shaun and John stress how important the support of others is when trying to come to terms with traumatic and stigmatising life experiences. Shaun talks about the value of human contact in institutional settings, the importance of peer support between people “who were sharing a terrible moment in time together,” and the strength and self-confidence he gained from others’ belief in him; and John focuses on the support he receives from close friends and his partner as a means of managing a difficult past and looking forward to a hopeful future.
The theme of making contact and developing connections as a way of breaking down stigma and barriers is taken up by Rose Murphy in her review of the recent 'Seasons' exhibition, which she praises for generating a “beautiful creative buzz” filling the gallery with good feeling and a sense of well-being and magic.