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Local Heroes photography exhibition supports people in Cornwall to talk about mental health

People in Cornwall are being encouraged to talk more about their feelings to support good mental health with the help of a photography exhibition that has just launched in Newquay, Cornwall.

This is a joint project between photographer Jon Mackenzie and Cornwall Council, Wavelength and the male suicide prevention charity CALM, who want to use the powerful stories and images of others to enable people to explore their own mental health and open up to others about their feelings. In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly approximately 80 people each year take their own lives, and there is a high proportion number which are middle aged men.

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The exhibition features some well-known community heroes who have been captured beautifully by photographer Jon Mackenzie. The subjects chosen represent the fact that the proportion of suicides amongst men and women are 75% male and 25% female, which is in line with the national average.

In a series of interactive installations in the Newquay Harbour area, the photos of the subjects, alongside their stories aim to trigger emotions and conversations from those who see them.

Interim Director of Wellbeing and Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Steve Brown said: “In Cornwall we have higher suicide rates than the national average. This could be due to a number of factors, including higher numbers among people in certain trades such as agricultural workers that can have high rates of stress. This could be avoided if they were able to talk to someone.

“In reality, almost every family or community will have been affected in some way at some time by suicide. It is often wrongly believed that nothing can be done but by bringing organisations and communities together, each person can potentially contribute to prevention or intervening to save a life. Learning how to talk about emotional health issues, making helplines and support easy to find, and ensuring that families and carers know how to recognise the signs could all make a difference."

Photographer and project lead Jon Mackenzie said: “I hope that when people see the exhibition and interact with the stories that it will make people feel more comfortable about talking about mental health.  Having had my own mental health problems I know how much easier things can become once you open up to someone.”

The exhibition will be in Newquay Harbour until 15th August and then it will move to other places in Cornwall, the next site confirmed is at Wheal Kitty, St Agnes on 16th August. Tickets are available for free via Eventbrite.

Alongside the exhibition, Jon Mackenzie will also be setting up a number of  Camera Clubs supported by CALM, similar in idea to the man shed projects, where men can turn up to discuss photography, take photos and have a chat if they wish.

If you have concerns about your mental health and wellbeing it is recommended that you first contact your GP to talk over your concerns. They will be able to direct you to the most appropriate support for your needs.

There are a variety of services available to support mental health conditions.  You can find out more about these on the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust website.