Students Unmask Mental Health



InterACT hopes to bring awareness to mental illness and health issues through photographs.

By Greta Chevance, Deputy News Editor

Last fall, NYU students Sophia Wu, Franny Cacciola and Nikki Guillery created Project InterACT, a photo campaign initiative in order to address mental illness and health issues throughout the student body.

Designed to change the stigma regarding mental health issues, Project InterACT shares pictures of NYU students’ thoughts and experiences with mental illnesses onto their Facebook page.

Gallatin junior Guillery said Project InterACT was inspired by the photo project “Hello Neighbor,” which helps communities become more familiar with one another through photographs and interviews.

We decided to have people handwrite their words on the photos as we feel this puts a much more personal touch on them and takes away some of the anonymity that can often feel so overwhelming at NYU,” Guillery said.

CAS junior Wu said Project InterACT was formed from a need to share the feelings and stories of students who have had mental health issues.

“We saw how prevalent these issues were among our peers, friends and family, but it never occurred to us that part of the illness itself was either not coming to terms with it because of embarrassment/its social stigma or not having an opportunity to release these emotions harboring inside you,” Wu said.

CAS junior Julia Oxman, who participated in the photo campaign, said Project InterACT is different from other mental health-related organizations on campus because its personal, hand-written quotes from familiar faces at NYU bring conversations about mental health out into the open.

“Rather than keeping the discussion private or anonymous, like other mental health platforms often do, Project InterACT normalizes the issue through the use of social media,” Oxman said.

Guillery thinks Project InterACT will add to NYU’s mental health and wellness resources and provide validation for those struggling with mental health.

It’s easy living in such a fast-paced city surrounded by so many other success-driven students for issues related to mental health to get pushed aside in an effort to maintain the image that we are doing well, but our hope is that through viewing these photos and taking part in the walk next semester people will begin to see that their feelings and experiences need not be minimized by this pressure,” Guillery said.

Project InterACT is organizing a university-wide walk in Washington Square Park for September 2016, as a celebration of mental health. The event will consist of food, guest speakers and additional photos for the photo campaign.

A version of this story appeared in the Monday, April 18 print issue. Email Greta Chevance at [email protected]