BDD manifests most severely amongst young people.
The success of the delivery of the piece has centered around the public engagement and youth outreach program which has been developed and delivered through participation, dialogue, provocation and the immersive experience.
In 2017 Leigh worked with UCLA's Active Minds, a leading nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking and The SWC Body Image Task Force, a committee within USAC’s Student Wellness Commission. Their mission is to spread self-acceptance and positive body image, which encompasses mental, physical, and emotional health.
They co-programmed a very exciting and educational event, at UCLA - “Body Dysmorphic Disorder Explored,” that investigated the intersection of art and science, bringing together Leigh de Vries and a leading body dysmorphic expert Dr. Jamie Feusner, Professor-in-Residence in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
"to see things from a new perspective."
The youth outreach program in the UK in 2015 involved 7 separate groups of 110 young people with over 80 hours of engagement.
After navigating around the installation Leigh held a Q&A, this involved thinking about and discussing the installation, their feeling and thoughts around the piece, their perceptions and image they had of themselves, the amount of time they spent thinking about their appearance and their general emotions. This created an arena of open curiosity and reflective self- questioning.
The Q&A was followed by a workshop where each individual was given the opportunity, using simple and safe materials, to design and create their own mask.
They were symbolic of their own struggles - the masks they might wear in everyday life engaging them in a creative and meaningful way. The mask were then hung on the wall and became part of the installation.
“The workshop very much engaged the students who gained from it in a number of ways. Students fed back that the exhibition was fascinating, dramatic, brave and gave them a real sense of the issues that people with body dysmorphic disorder face. It also gave students an opportunity to discuss self image and gather perspectives from others. This was a positive experience that is particularly appropriate to learners in this age group (16-18) It was also insightful for students to see how Leigh had developed an approach to tackling this subject and how this became an effective and engaging exhibition. “
— Richard Lyons (Teacher) College of Arts and Technology UK
It enabled the young people to envisage how things might be different in their own lives and to see things from a new perspective.
The workshops explored issues relating to adolescent’s identity and self-image. They learnt more about BDD through Leigh’s work, confronting their own issues about appearance and self-esteem.
The workshops enabled the adolescents to express their opinions and feelings around the topics of the pressures felt by young people in today’s society to be ‘perfect’ and the difference between being beautiful on the outside and within.
There is a pressing need to increase awareness of this serious condition and to promote detection, diagnosis and treatment.
The project opened up discussions around people with actual abnormalities / deformities, how in our society we are not given any guidance on how to deal with difference, how acceptance of difference is so marginalised they were confronted with the recognition of the existence of this behaviour in society.