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Hearing Voices of Support initiative turns up the volume during Schizophrenia Awareness Week

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New York creative engagement agency The Bloc launched an initiative for the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) late last year.

The initiative was developed by Bloc Creative Directors Sharon Howard-Butler and Brit Till, who are united in a mission to give back in the important area of mental health with a focus on destigmatizing schizophrenia. Both have been personally touched by this illness; Sharon with close family members affected, and Brit with a friend who suffered from a related disorder who was lost to suicide.

The initiative will soon be brought to life through a perception-changing interactive light and sound experience that will run from May 16 to May 20 during Schizophrenia Awareness Week.

“The Hearing Voices of Support art installation puts people with schizophrenia-related disorders in the spotlight, with visitors activating sound and lights as they walk through the gallery,” said Elizabeth Elfenbein, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at The Bloc. “Up to eight voices will be heard at any one time while images of the people speaking are projected onto the walls. It is reminiscent of auditory hallucinations but with a twist—the voices are positive, helping to reshape how people think about this condition.”

The initiative was launched in October last year for Mental Illness Awareness Week with a social platform of 18 mini documentaries (hearingvoicesofsupport.org; facebook.com/hearingvoicesofsupport). Then in November, a sympathetic media company offered the cause a Times Square billboard.

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In December, a flash mob performed Sara Bareilles’s song “Brave” under that billboard to draw attention to the cause and celebrate Congress’s passage of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act with an overwhelming majority of 422-2.

Flashmob Times Square: Hearing Voices from Film & Motion on Vimeo.

Linda Stalters, founder of SARDAA, said, “This has been a such an extraordinary turn of events. We were fortunate to connect with The Bloc team who came up with this great initiative, then to have been offered a Times Square billboard and to have received a grant to fund the interactive art installation. The response to the initiative has been fantastic; there have been comments of support from across the US and around the world, as well as an influx of emails and calls from families affected, letting us know it is making a real difference.”

Stephanie Berman, also Partner and Chief Creative Officer at The Bloc, said, “There is no doubt that great strides have been made in raising the profile and reducing the stigma of mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. People are becoming more open about having these conditions. But you don’t see many people putting up their hands to say they have a schizophrenia-related disorder. It’s why the team from The Bloc partnered with SARDAA to find people who were willing to tell their stories. And why we’ve gone beyond just raising awareness to driving change through engagement.”

The Hearing Voices of Support interactive art installation will be running from May 16 to May 20 during Schizophrenia Awareness Week at the Tribeca gallery One Art Space, 23 Warren Street, New York City. Admission is free.