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Photo: UNSW

Sculpting away stigma: a look inside the mind of someone with PTSD

Sydneysiders and tourists perusing the sculptures that have cropped up along the shores of the eastern suburbs will get a glimpse into the experience of living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A team from UNSW took to Tamarama to set up a large, androgynous and ageless resin head called Look Inside My Mind.

It was set up as part of the city’s Sculpture by the Sea event, which attracts around half a million people each year.

The university’s visual content manager, Matthew Gill, said there are three holes positioned around the head that provide visitors windows to a three-minute audio and visual sequence that depicts the lived experience of PTSD from the view point of a returning solider.

"The images look back at you, creating an emotional engagement that connects you to the person,” Gill said. “The viewer can become totally absorbed in the surreal and dreamlike experience and there’s a sense of frustration that you don’t see the full picture or make sense of the order of images."

Professor Zachary Steel, from UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry, said capturing an experience of PTSD through video and the eyes of someone who has the disorder is highly valuable in providing a window for others to better understand the condition – one that is still surrounded by a lot of stigma.

"We are all familiar with the term PTSD. What we don’t often understand is how someone can shift from high functioning to sudden impairment,” Steel said. “While it may resolve for some people who develop the condition, all too often it can become a chronic condition and cause difficulties not only for those directly affected but those who support and care for them."

Steel said raising public awareness of PTSD will go a long way to lifting low mental health literacy and continuing to destigmatise mental health.

The video was based on research from UNSW Medicine’s School of Psychiatry, UNSW Psychology, and interviews with male and female ex-service personnel who are UNSW Canberra alumni.

The sculpture can be viewed at the steps on the edge of Tamarama’s Marks Park. It runs this year until 4 November.

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