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A welcomed family visit to the Science Museum of Virginia after a yearlong pandemic-induced hiatus included a visit to their current traveling exhibition, Mental Health: Mind Matters. This in-depth look at the too-often taboo topics of mental illness and mental health shed light on the history of mental health treatments around the world and so much more.
Available in English, Spanish, and French, the interactive exhibits served as springboards for a myriad of discussions for my family about a wide variety of mental health topics, including body image, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and excessive worrying. Most of the topics are heavy and may not be right for younger kids, but my 12- and 14-year-olds seemed to really enjoy learning more about mental health history and different types of mental illnesses. The testimonials from people who suffer from mental illness were powerful and helped to humanize illnesses that sometimes read like something out of a work of fiction.
As we moved through the exhibits, it was therapeutic to write down a worry on paper and then feed it into the “Worry Shredder.” It was sobering to gaze upon the re-creation of a living room of a family dealing with depression. The interactive computer brain games were fun for all of us, and dialing in our own body image on what I dubbed “the magic mirror” was a real eye-opener.
There is a wonderful reading area at the end of the exhibit with a wide selection of children’s books related to mental wellness, along with literature to take home from local and national resources for anyone suffering from or caring for someone with mental illness.
The Museum has a wide variety of additional companion programming planned to support this exhibition, including Community Connections, a regular Saturday event to advance community conversations around mental health, hands-on projects in the Forge Workshop, and weekly Lunch Break Science digital programming around mental wellness.
The exhibit will be at Science Museum of Virginia through August 29 and is included in admission. Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Purchase tickets here.