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MPR, panel discuss mental health

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Minnesota Public Radio News’ Tom Crann interviews Paul Fleissner, Olmsted County deputy administrator, during a live broadcast of "All Things Considered" on Wednesday at the Rochester Art Center in downtown Rochester.
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Sometimes words can’t express mental illness and trauma. That’s where art can help. The Rochester Art Center is hosting the Science Museum of Minnesota’s "Mental Health: Mind Matters" mental health exhibit, along with art on the topic of mental health.

Minnesota Public Radio on Wednesday hosted a panel at the RAC to discuss childhood trauma. The panel was recorded as part of MPR’s "Call to Mind" initiative that will air June 13 on an episode of "MPR News Presents."

Panelists Anne Gearity, clinical faculty member of the department of psychiatry at University of Minnesota Medical School ; Resmaa Menakem, author of "My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies" and Denise Moody, assistant director of student services at Rochester Public Schools, all weighed in on the topic. Tom Crann, host of "All Things Considered" moderated the panel and led the discussion.

Menakem said dealing with childhood trauma means addressing our own trauma — as adults trying to help children and as a culture. He said he asks adults to commit to a year of training and therapy before he commits to working with an institution as a consultant.

"Otherwise, it’s just another workshop," he said.

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Adults who haven’t looked at their own reactions to stress and trauma are likely to automatically react with their own coping behaviors instead of respond to what a child needs, he said.

People trying to help children cope with trauma need to also understand cultural trauma that ethnic minorities face in society.

"It’s hard to acknowledge that people had their land stolen, that people have been enslaved because of the idea that the white body is superior," Menakem said.

In most settings, punishment of acting out doesn’t correct a child but adds to already existing trauma, Gearity added.

"We become perpetuators of trauma effects," she said.

Seeing kids disassociating or acting out can be a result of not only past trauma but the response they get when engaging in those behaviors, Moody said.

"I think that’s very much present in our schools," she said.

Menakem also touched on the inadequacy of language to express trauma and express empathy to it.

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Artist Christi Furnas said she uses visual art to help her communicate. She writes and illustrates a comic series "Crazy Like a Fox: Adventures in Schizophrenia." The book, using cartoon animals and some dark humor, relates her experience being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Furnas said she was open with friends and family about her diagnosis but publishing her story was intimidating.

"It’s in the hands of other people, and I have no idea who they are and what their reactions are to it," she said.

Furnas’s work is on display alongside that of other artists in conjunction with the Minnesota Science Museum’s Mind Matters exhibit. Furnas attended the panel and spoke to some of the people attending the event about her work.

Nearly 300 people attended the panel and recording Wednesday evening. Following the discussion, audience members were able to weigh in and ask questions. After that, dozens of attendees walked through the center’s galleries to explore the newly opened exhibits.

"Art uses something beyond language," said Sheila Dickinson, RAC curator.

Miriam Goodson walked through the exhibits and agreed that art helps express what can’t be said but can still be conveyed.

"We need to understand with our eyes, our senses," Goodson said.

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"And our bodies," added Mina Jacob, who danced to part of an exhibit showing how movement and dancing can help treat mental illness.

"I got distracted and was just lured over here," Jacob said.

Mayo Clinic, the Rochester Area Foundation, Olmsted Medical Center and Rochester Art Center collaborated to bring the panel together along with the exhibit.

Prior to the panel discussion and recording, Crann hosted a live episode of "All Things Considered" from the Art Center. He spoke with community leaders about multiple topics.

The exhibit and "Call to Mind" were created to address the stigma about dealing with mental health issues, said Sam Choo, "Call to Mind" content manager.

"Societal and cultural discrimination is getting in the way of a lot of people just getting help," Choo said. "We’re trying to close that gap."

The episode will air June 13 at noon and 9 p.m. on Minnesota Public Radio news.

Related Topics: ART
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