The Science Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota, in having this traveling exhibit show through January 2019, is aiming to #MakeItOk to talk about mental health. Mental health is often seen as an unimportant or “taboo” topic, something that should be avoided entirely. This has led to understandable but significant ignorance among people about what mental health and mental illness is, the effectiveness of treatment, and most importantly for people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, how “normal” people with these illnesses often are.
I attended the exhibit recently, and was very impressed by it. The most common mental health disorders all have displays, including schizophrenia. The information presented was clear, comprehensive, and understandable to people with any level of education or experience with mental illness. The exhibit does not shy away from the history of many of our horrific ways of treating mental illness, and highlights current treatments and how consumers experience them. There are also interactive exhibits, like the one where you can try to do some math puzzles while speakers play taunting voices from several different directions, mimicking the experience of hearing voices. Other exhibits involve a warped mirror to help one experience Body Dysmorphic Disorder (having an unrealistically negative view of one’s body) and writing down one’s worries and shredding them. I especially liked the booths running videos of interviews with people with various mental health disorders. The people in the videos talked about their experiences with their symptoms before they got treatment, how those symptoms changed after getting treatment, and about their lives since treatment, in general and about how they’re coping. These videos presented the interviewees as regular people, not as “mental patients,” and showed the real human side of people struggling with and managing mental illness.
I’ve had some clients attend this exhibit, and heard positive things from them as well. They found it was accurate, easy to comprehend, and most importantly, treated people with mental illness with dignity and respect. In addition, in order to encourage lower-income people to attend, the Science Museum offers a reduced-price ($3.00) admission ticket if one can present evidence of being lower-income (GA/MA/EBT/SSI/SSDI card). I would highly recommend this exhibit to anyone. I hope it continues to travel around the U.S., exhibits like these are so beneficial. Check it out!