Science Museum Exhibit Seeks to Provide Better Understanding of Mental Illness

May 04, 2018 10:07 AM

Creating a safe space to learn and talk about mental illness.

That's the goal behind the "Mental Health: Mind Matters" exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

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"The exhibit's purpose is really to build empathy," said Kim Ramsden, the museum's communications director. "And (to) understand what it's like for people living with mental illnesses, but also (to) raise awareness about mental health."

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The approach is hands-on.

For example, there is a "Worry Shredder."

Participants grab a piece of paper and a pencil. Then they write down their worry, put it into a machine and hand-crank the shredder.

The idea is that writing down your worries can sometimes make them more manageable.

Dr. Thomas Joseph, the Chief Medical Officer with PrairieCare, a psychiatric health system, said 1 in 5 people across the U.S. has experienced a mental illness.

But he said 60 percent of adults who have one haven't had treatment because of issues like geographic access, insurance or stigma.

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"Facts are really good for some people," he said. "And they're able to see 'Oh, when someone is struggling with sleep and appetite and energy and concentration for a certain period of time, maybe it's worthwhile checking on them.'"

Empathy is another focus of the exhibit.

For example, there are headphones through which distorted sounds can be heard. Which is what Joseph said people with certain types of psychotic disorders experience.

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There is also a focus on understanding treatments available.

National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota is partnering with the Science Museum.

NAMI Minnesota's Executive Director Sue Abderholden said it's a great way to reach a lot of people who might not attend something specific on mental health and the brain, such as a class or presentation by an advocacy group.

Abderholden is hoping the exhibit will change attitudes.
 

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Brandi Powell

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