Science Museum exhibit aims to get families talking about mental health

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a massive impact on Americans’ mental health. After a full year of social distancing, capacity restrictions and employment struggles, the CDC reports about 40% of all adults say they have symptoms of depression or anxiety.

A local exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia aims to create a safe space for conversations about mental illness. The “Mental Health Mind Matters” exhibit uses interactive games, quizzes and personal stories to get families talking about mental health.

The exhibit even includes a section for young children. In the last year, area hospitals have reported a big uptick in youth mental health-related emergency room visits.

“Dolls and games, that help you express what your feelings are,” said Timshel Purdum, the museum’s Virginia C Ellett Director of Education.

The touring exhibit offers local resources and aims reinforce it’s ok to talk about mental illness.

“It’s a fantastic exhibit about mental wellness, mental illness and it is designed for people of all ages,” Purdum said.

“The conversation is changing,” said Dr. Ken Duckworth, Chief Medical Officer for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

He believes there’s less shame associated with mental illness these days thanks to exhibits like “Mental Health Mind Matters” and well-known sports figures like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles who stepped up to protect their mental well-being. 

After taking a break at the Tokyo Olympics Biles said, “I just felt like it be a little bit better to take a backseat work on my mindfulness.”

Even though there’s more conversation around mental illness, resources are still limited.

Dr. Duckworth says a silver lining has been telehealth. He said, “While this doesn’t create more social workers or beds, it is an efficient way to deliver care.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness just released a new study on those with mood disorders like severe depression and found more than 80% of those who used tele-health said it worked well for them.

Still, the first step is starting the conversation and it can be done at the exhibit in Richmond in multiple languages. You’ll want to move fast to catch the exhibit, it ends Sunday. For mental health resources and information try these links:

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