Feature Story

UK youth use photography to express their lockdown emotions

by Stephanie Chan

UK youth use photography to express their lockdown emotions

Cisco sponsors UK’s Show & Tell, an interactive campaign run by The Photography Movement in partnership with Rankin, Eye Em, Getty Images and Mental Health UK.

After months of shelter-in-place which involved disruption of social and educational activity, the results of the global pandemic has impacted children around the world.

In June, child psychologists in the UK sent an open letter to British Parliament’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stating that isolation from the lockdown has been detrimental to vulnerable youth. The group of mental health specialists wrote that the lack of face-to-face contact can increase feelings of loneliness and social isolation among children and teenagers.

Show & Tell, a revolutionary photography initiative sponsored by Cisco and run by non-profit organization, The Photography Movement, is one program designed to give the UK’s youth an outlet to express their emotions through photography.

While young children may arguably not be the biggest victims of the pandemic, the disturbance of education and social contact have exacerbated mental health struggles for some. Show & Tell aims to help 11-18 year olds tackle stress and anxiety through therapeutic photography, with guidance from professional photographers and mental health experts.

See also: Mental health priorities for employees and leaders remain steadfast at Cisco

“Cisco UK is proud and honoured to support the Show and Tell project," says Sarah Eccleston, Cisco Vice President of Global Small Business Segment, "It’s about using technology for the mental health and wellbeing of young people, and for the good of the community – two things we are passionate about at Cisco. If our involvement has helped young adults in the UK to feel better about themselves or their situation, then we are thrilled to have sponsored this program”.

Four workshop films will run from September 7th to November 8th and encourage the nation’s youth to participate, express how they’re feeling and submit an image to be showcased in a national exhibition.

Two live feedback sessions will also be hosted by guest photographers exclusively for schools, facilitating direct interaction with teachers and children on workshop tasks. Powered by Cisco Webex, using the technology means that the sessions can bring together diversity of expression on to one platform through collaboration and inclusivity.  

The Show & Tell exhibition, slated for late November 2020, will be curated by The Photography Movement, Eye Em, and the workshop photographers to represent the full emotional experiences of visualized by the participating students.

Cisco’s priority of mental health

Webex has been used in a variety of different ways in the past year—from distance learning, to telehealth, to remote working, to mental health services. Recently, Cisco Canada announced a successful expansion of virtual care with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to meet the growing demand of mental health services in the country. Webex has been deployed throughout the organization, helping train more than 400 CAMH clinicians and delivering care with more than 1,500 virtual visits in April.

Cisco’s commitment to a conscious culture means that mental health care is always at the forefront for employees and their communities. In 2018, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins sent a company-wide email to reduce the stigma of talking about mental health and to address the importance of accessing treatment. Since then, the company has encouraged its community to speak openly about issues and to support the organizations that provide support to others. Some of these include CAMH, the San Francisco Suicide Prevention agency, and Connected North, a program that engages students with education and mental wellness programming in underserved communities in Canada.

Regardless of whether it is an employee, leader, child or student, mental health should come as a priority during times of crisis. Cisco’s partnership with the Show & Tell photography movement hopes to help children find wellbeing through community building, personal growth, and artistic expression.

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