THOUGH one in three people in Scotland will experience a mental health problem each year, with stark rises in figures for young people, many claim poor mental health is still dogged with stigma.

Now a new exhibition – the largest showing work exclusively by those with experience of mental health issues and opening on World Mental Health Day later this week – aims to challenge that by providing a platform for often unheard voices.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, first set up as part of Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) in 2013, has since quadrupled in size, this year featuring almost 400 diverse artistworks by bartists who aim to “reclaim the narrative” by telling their own stories of mental health. Thousands of people are expected to attend.

Hosted by CAPS Independent Advocacy, a vast range of mental health organisations including the Alma Project, Penumbra, Bipolar Scotland and involved, with support provided by the Mental Health Foundation. It will open in Edinburgh’s Summerhall on Wednesday.

Pam van de Brug, arts as advocacy worker for CAPS Independent Advocacy, said that all those contributing artwork had experience of mental health issues and that much of the work expressed aspects of their mental health experiences.

“Some artists say that taking part in the exhibition provides an opportunity to express themselves, to share their story, to express their views, to be heard or to simply be seen. The exhibition creates a space for all of us to think. That is just as valuable for visitors as it is for the artists.”

Gail Aldam, arts and events manager for the Mental Health Foundation, which co-ordinated the the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival for the last 12 years, and supports the exhibition said: “In order to reduce stigma and discrimination, it is vital that we hear real stories from people with lived experience of mental ill health. They promote increased empathy and understanding, and help change minds.

“The arts provide us with a platform to share these stories and create connections in a safe and meaningful way.’’

'Words are hard to find': Stephanie's story

‘‘FOR a long time I have suffered from anxiety, depression and disassociation disorders,” explains 24-year-old artist Stephanie Wilson, who says she can find it hard to relate to others as a result.

But for Wilson, who recently completed an MA at Edinburgh Art College (EAC), art is the perfect way to express the complexities of struggles with mental health. “For me art is an alternative form of communication that isn’t verbal,” she adds. “Visual language works well when words are hard to find. You can build up layers of meaning.”

She claims the exhibition will allow people to challenge their assumptions about what they thought they knew about mental health and mental illness.

Her pieces focus on the way the beauty industry can undermine self-worth. One work features swatches of lipstick displayed on a model’s arm, which are reminiscent on the marks of self-harm. Another shows a woman with a peeling face mask, printed on draped, stretchy fabric, questioning the reality of the glossy image.

“Young women are being made to feel inadequate, that they need these products to look ok,” she says. “But we need to realise that this ideal isn’t something that we should strive for.”

Another benefit of the show has been the connections it has helped form between the artists, she adds, with many of them still reporting they experience the stigma associated with mental health and illness – the two being often conflated.

“People have been given authority of their own unique voice. When dealing with issues like mental health that is so important.”

'Brexit terrifies me': Lauren's story

LAUREN Stonebanks has always felt anxious and depressed and for many years assumed it was normal.

“I thought that’s how everybody felt,” she says. She struggled her way through three years of medical school at University – amazed now by her the high marks she achieved – before personal difficulties exacerbated her mental health issues in her final year and she was forced to drop out.

It took another decade to get a diagnosis of emotionally unstable – or borderline – personality disorder, which she says was “a relief” after living without knowing what was causing her mental health problems, which include struggling to identify and control her emotions, for so long.

Now 39, she has found art has added a new dimension to her life. This year she has contributed four works to the show, including Brexit Bunker – an installation work made with collaborator, Feòrag.

“Brexit terrifies me,” she says. “I get anxious and panicky whenever I think or hear about it.”

Three days after the referendum Stonebanks was verbally attacked on a bus in Edinburgh in the middle of day. Her attacker told her to “get her passport” because “people like her were going f*cking home”.

Other works include several pieces featuring miniature books, made about different aspects of personality disorder. She gave one to a policemen who later told her he had used it to help him talk to someone struggling with mental illness. “That made me feel like maybe I had achieved something,” she says.

Dark visions: Jamie's story

“I’ve always had a tendency toward depression,” says James Flowerdew, a former video games designer and developer who is now rebuilding his life as an artist. “I’ve found that painting has helped.”

For Flowerdew the process can be cathartic. He says: “A lot of my paintings are about quite dark subject matter but in the end there is something quite beautiful about them as well.” He adds: ‘‘When I’m painting I can be completely subjective, I think how did I see that, how did it make me feel?

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind presents a huge swathe of humanity. To admit that you have mental health issues involves waving your rights.