Museums & Mental Wellness?
Using the resources available, or with some small tweaks, museums can become a place and a community voice regarding mental wellness.
"Someone with positive mental health and high wellbeing is feeling good, functioning well, has satisfaction with life, is developing as a person, and has strong relationships." (Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand)
Create moments of accomplishment. Build social connectedness. Spark creativity. Reduce stress and anxiety. Grow resiliency. Be inspirational. All of these build mental wellness.
Examples of small changes
Does your museum have an outdoor space to sit or walk? Spending time outdoors is a well-researched way to reduce anxiety and may even improve cognitive abilities! Find ways to let visitors know about the mental wellness value of utilizing your outdoor spaces. Or, do you have an amazing view from your rooftop garden? When people feel a sense of awe and wonder, that also builds mental wellness.
Want to do more?
Develop programs or exhibits that specifically address mental wellness
Collaborate with a local mental health professional to create programs that enhance people's mental wellness. It might be a Saturday program where families create a cooperative family poem regarding a group of artifacts at your museum. Or, it might be a special exhibit created with labels that talk about emotions more than artistic influences or styles.
Go really big!
Involve other museums, bookstores, local parks, and mental health organizations to develop community-wide mental wellness strategies. Have a once a month staff-led walk in the park for people looking to meet others who would like to find a few minutes of peaceful relaxation. Get the bookstore to have a twice a month poetry writing morning with a focus on writing about emotions. Suggest that museums in town all develop a handout regarding five things visitors can do in their museums that promote mental wellness. Museums can build mental wellness opportunities for children, teens, families, groups, and individual adults. It just takes some thinking in new ways and looking with new eyes!