UNIVERSITY PARK (CBSDFW.COM) – Mental illness is a disease that survives — even thrives — in silence. But, now, the faces, stories and struggles of people who suffer are on display in “Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness,” an exhibit by photographer Michael Nye on the Southern Methodist Campus.

“People need to know that it’s more common than they think,” said Imani Duncan. After hearing about the exhibit, Duncan was intrigued, and drove down from Lewisville because she said she wants to learn more about mental illness.

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“Lots of people have it and lots of people don’t want people to know about it, because people do get judged. When you see their picture, you realize that this is an everyday person. You could see this person walking down the street and you have no idea what’s going on in their life. It just opens your eyes.”

The exhibit features dozens of striking black and white photographs of people diagnosed with mental illness who have decided to go public with their private pain. The audio clips that accompany each photograph ramp up the impact by providing first person accounts of the struggle to maintain that ‘fine line’ between mental health and mental illness.

“It’s like a storm in your brain. It comes out of nowhere… like thunder, it’s petrifying.”  Those comments came from a woman who found herself rolling around on the floor of a city bus after having a panic attack.

“And “my roommate decided to not live with me the next semester. He thought I was too weird or something,” said an admitted schizophrenic who admits he always struggled to make friends in school.

A quote beneath one photographs reads:

“I would hear voices in the sound of machines, the sound of air moving through the room.”

And beneath another photograph:

“…sadness cannot be measured in tears… but, rather, in lost moments and time wasted…”

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The somber sounds of pain could go on for hours, if visitors can take it.

“Often visitors have to take breaks, and view the exhibit in parts,” said Matt Roberts, President of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas, the exhibit’s sponsor. “The stories are very powerful, very engaging,” said Roberts. “It’s exciting to have those stories told in a respectful and honest way so people can really learn that these illnesses are not unique. But, if you have a mental illness or a family member has a mental illness, they’re very real to you and it can feel like you’re all alone. When in fact, they’re incredibly common.”

Roberts said some 25 percent of American adults suffer from a mental health disorder in any given year.  “The goal of the display is to raise awareness.  We hope people who didn’t know much about mental health issues—or maybe knew more than they wanted to, but, didn’t know how to engage to get help—that’s what we’re really hoping: to increase awareness that these issues are out there, and they’re nobody’s fault and that people can get treatment and can recover.”

And this admonition from the audio clip of a pregnant woman who described herself as “well educated” and yet became homeless. “Don’t be naïve. I don’t care if you’re a doctor or a lawyer. Mental illness discriminates [sic: against] no one. You could be here too if you’re not careful.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Saturdays through May 15th, from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. at Simmons Hall on the Campus of SMU.

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