A blog about FACT's latest exhibition "Group Therapy: Mental Distress in the Digital Age" and touching on my own experiences with mental health issues.

“If Britney can make it through 2007 then you can make it through today.”

Hmmm, well Britney had shed loads of money and access to some pretty good prescription drugs to help her get through it. All I have is cake and a Netflix subscription.

The Britney shout is often bandied around from those having a shit day at work who seem to forget that Miss Spears wasn’t just mad at Joan from accounts for stealing her milk; she was going through a pretty serious mental breakdown.

I’ve had my own Britney 2007 style breakdowns. Unlike Brit, I don’t have any money so all my dad could get conservatorship off was hundreds of sweet wrappers from under my bed and a load of receipts from some questionable purchases. I never went as far as shaving my head but looking at the pictures of me with rusty orange hair; it may have been a better alternative. Blonde hair, seek medical care.

I’m not alone with my experience – 1 in 4 of us will at some point in our lives suffer. This stat doesn’t cover all our actual encounters with mental health; while we may not be diagnosed with depression ourselves, we will know someone who will. We will all experience stress or anxiety at some level. In the current digital age, where we need an online personality alongside our real life one, it’s not hard to get a cluttered space of mind.

Given the nature of my jobs; most days I’ve checked Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Tumblr, emails and Buzzfeed before I’ve even brushed my teeth. I was bored of #TheDress within about 5 minutes – my dad will probably be ringing soon to say he’s “seen this dress on Facebook. Now, it may be blue but your mum thinks white…” I may roll my eyes at the idea of a ‘Digital Detox’ but when you start to dread the sound of your notifications on your phone, you find yourself wishing you had the willpower to log off everything.

With all this in mind, the latest exhibition at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) should be worth a visit for anyone who’s ever felt their head get a bit ‘crowded’ from the modern world. Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age (between 5 March – 17 May 2015) explores the complex relationship between technology, society, and mental health.

It’s hardly ground-breaking news to learn that today’s society is characterised by a constant use of digital devices. Simultaneously, most of us face some kind of mental health issues during our lifetime, affecting either ourselves, or a friend or family member. But how is our use of technology connected to our wellbeing, and how does it affect our values and the way we see ourselves?

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 (11 – 17 May), works by designers, researchers and artists will encourage visitors to rethink their understanding of mental health and wellbeing, by exploring the past, present and future of mental health and wellbeing in relation to societal values and technology

A variety of digital tools including apps, games and online forums will be displayed, illustrating the diverse ways we use technology to manage and mediate our emotions in the 21st Century.

Vanessa Bartlett, who is co-curating the exhibition with FACT’s Director Mike Stubbs, says ‘Group Therapy proposes that art and the creative use of digital devices can challenge dated ideas about mental illness, helping to reduce stigma and encourage open discussion about our personal wellbeing.’

Part of the exhibition is also an interactive archive showing 20 years of FACT projects for participants with mental health issues, in which artists have been working closely with the community in creative projects as well as created digital tools that support mental health. These projects have been organised in collaboration with various mental health organisations, including Mersey Care NHS Trust.

Artists include Dora Garcia, Kate Owens & Neeta Madahar, Quintan Ana Wikswo and Katriona Beales.

Group Therapy: Mental Distress In a Digital Age

Exhibition at FACT, Liverpool: 5 March – 17 May 2015

See also: Group Therapy: FACT’s New Mental Health Exhibition