Launch - In Depth - August 2018

SCIENCE MUSEUM OF MINNESOTA

"Mental Health: Mind Matters” is a traveling exhibition developed by Heureka, The Finnish Science Centre. It is on loan at the Science Museum of Minnesota. (Credit: Science Museum of Minnesota

‘Mind Matters’ Shines Light on Mental Health

A sensitive and often-misunderstood topic is now at the forefront of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s programming. Called “Mental Health: Mind Matters,” the debut of the North American exhibit explores how mental illness is not a personal flaw, but rather a medical condition. 

Developed by Heureka, The Finnish Science Centre in Vantaa, Finland, the traveling exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota is on loan through an international partnership.

The exhibit cites studies that show in a given year, 18.1 percent of adults in the United States experience mental illness, while more than 20 percent of Europeans receive professional help for mental illness in their lifetime. 

Mark Dahlager, vice president of exhibits at the Science Museum of Minnesota, says many of the experiences in the exhibit inform and encourage conversations among families.

“There’s an empathy simulator with a scene where you watch a family interact with a father who has depression and see and hear how his condition affects the family. There’s an experience where you can wear a mask and make your body mimic the feeling on the mask, and another experience where you’re encouraged to do a mental activity to show how mental and physical health are connected,” says Dahlager.

SCIENCE MUSEUM OF MINNESOTA

Much of the exhibit is designed for families and teens because, as Dahlager notes, museum visitors tend to come in family groups. A resource center with games and dolls helps explore emotions, and visitors are encouraged to explore the unknown in a small room with an immersive digital experience set up as a forest at night. This room is meant to show that, often, what people are afraid of can be studied and explained. For teens, there’s an area where other teens tell their own stories related to topics being discussed every day in the news and in daily life.

Notably, the exhibit doesn’t delve deeply into the medical aspects of mental disorders. 

“We can’t really put ourselves in the position of a mental health practitioner, but we do suggest where people can go for help if they need it,” Dahlager says.

“Mental Health: Mind Matters” is at the St. Paul museum until Jan. 6, 2019, and is included with museum admission.

www.smm.org