In contemporary society the stigma placed on psychological disorders is becoming more prevalent. My thesis aims to expose the falsities of this stigma and strives to offer a possible solution that changes the way in which mental disorders are discussed. I don’t believe these people should be feared, looked down on, nor treated differently from any other individual of society. Using philosophy and psychology as my guide, I explore the social responsibility that every individual, mental disorder or not, has for perpetuating the stigma of mental disorders. The differences between those who are “normal” and those who are “disordered” are briefly considered while my argument fo-cuses more on establishing the similarities between the two socially constructed types of people. I further argue that upon self-reflection on one’s own identity a basis of empathy can be created between those who are “normal” and those who are “disordered.” Establishing empathy at an intimate level with individuals and small communities will help alleviate the alienation of the “disordered” and even go so far as to help stunt the onset of illnesses. This strategy of communication will transform stigma into empathy and work to stop discrimination.
In congruency with my research, I have created a book installation en-titled “I”, which embodies the theories of identity, incorporates concepts of social responsibility, and intimately communicates the similarities between those that are “normal” and those that are “disordered” with the viewer. Each book within the installation is based on an interview that I conducted with a variety of individuals that have or have had a wide range of mental health conditions. As the viewer interacts with each book, he or she will hopefully discover that through each interview, they were able to relate to each indi-viduals statements about identity. The moments spent sifting through the pages marked with insecurity and honesty and reconstructing the marks, confessions, and portraits of these individuals will be re-enactments of the way in which those around us perceive and control our identity. Just as this book lacks a self-curated organization and structure, so does each individuals identity. This embodiment of philosophy and technology conceptually strengthens the goal of the books – which is to establish empathy. Once the viewer has self-reflected on their interaction with each book they should hopefully realize that they have related to each book both intellectually – the way in which they think about identity – as well as emotionally – they share similar securities and insecurities. This realization is the basis for transform-ing stigma into empathy.