Voices of Hope’s new audio-visual exhibition is an illuminating exploration of mental health in New Zealand

It’s no secret that the statistics around New Zealand’s poor mental health are staggering. Our nation’s rates of mental health challenges are shockingly disproportionate to the rest of the world, and often, it’s our most vulnerable communities that are the most greatly impacted. But increasingly, we’re seeing heed paid to an issue that has long been shied away from — with a growing number of Kiwis having the courage to speak up and seek support, and in doing so, inspiring those around them to acknowledge their own feelings.

There are a host of charities in New Zealand doing incredible work in this space — changing the narrative, raising awareness, removing the stigma, and shifting our collective thinking to incite radical change. One such organisation is Voices Of Hope, whose goal is spreading hope through the voices of those with lived experience. They also provide a safe space for those facing mental health challenges. This month, the charity is furthering their important and impactful work, shining the spotlight on a diverse range of individuals through a moving audio-visual exhibition entitled Behind the Smile

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Within the exhibition, open to the public now at Allpress Studio, 11 everyday kiwis have been profiled, shot by renowned photographer Tom Gould to capture the essence of each person in their ‘happy place’. The series features intimate, raw interviews that reveal the lived experiences and mental health struggles each person has faced, portraying vulnerability and strength through Gould’s moving portraiture. The hope is that, by witnessing a group of New Zealanders from all walks of life laying themselves and their struggles bare, others will be empowered to tell their stories and seek support, too.

Everyone faces struggles you can’t see behind the smile, and while this campaign and exhibition set out to spread hope to people who may be struggling, it also sits as a call to arms for us all to look past the surface and be more aware, empathetic, and in touch with our humanity.

Behind the Smile is a free exhibition at Allpress Studio, running from 16th February — 8th March


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