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Marlon (Marley) Richards

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 Marlon Richards believes his POD (Point of Difference) project will create a visual presence and showcase that people are much more than just their mental illness.

POD (Point of Difference) is an incubator programme supporting young people to create projects that challenge mental illness discrimination.

The 23-year-old joined the third round of the POD incubator process in July to foster his creative idea of building a supportive community on Facebook to celebrate stories of mental illness through art. The community is called ACPmi (Awesome Creative People Living with Mental Illness).

“We’re a group of awesome individuals who seek to showcase the qualities and creative work of our community to empower those living with mental illness, reduce the fear and shame associated with acknowledging mental distress, and build a productive dialogue,” says Marlon, who is known as Marley.

“The idea is to reduce the amount of shame and fear that comes with acknowledging one’s own mental distress and to showcase that people are so much more than just their mental illness.”

Creative arts advocate

With a double degree in music and psychology from the University of Otago he understands the power of creativity and is an advocate for the creative arts.

“When I’m at my peak I’m being creative. Even if that form of creativity is a miserable failure at least I’m thinking I’m challenging myself in some way and most of the time I’m having fun.”

Marley says the POD programme has provided him with helpful insights for his project as well as himself and ways for him to practice self-care.

“The hardest part has been discovering my own limitations,” he says.

“For a long time, I wasn’t taking care of myself and I’ve recently started to notice some of the long-term effects of that. It’s been important for me to recognise how I’ve changed and I’m now more aware of myself.”

Marley believes creativity and learning go hand in hand, and while he is focusing on fostering his creativity through this project, he’s also learning something valuable about himself along the way.

Sparking the creative potential

Marley says his next step is to build a community.

“I guess the thing I’m most excited about is also what I’m most afraid of – to see where it goes and the response it gets.”

Even though making his project live was daunting in the beginning, Marley feels confident in his effort to build something special.

“I like to think that it’ll empower some people, perhaps foster new projects and maybe make us a little more aware and empathetic of those in our social circles,” Marley says.

“I’m looking to gather stories to share in the group, which tell us a bit about who people are and how people think we can improve our mental health and wellbeing as a society.”

Marley would like ACPmi to include people living with mental illness, as well as people who are interested in mental health and creativity.

“If you have, or know of an idea, project or just something awesome that you’d like us to showcase, send us a message!”

To join ACPmi and connect with Marley, like and join the Facebook group.