Popular “Suitcase Exhibit” Reveals Personal Stories of Institutionalized Patients

ALBUQUERQUE, NM

An exciting new traveling exhibit, The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic, is coming to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center February 2 - March 2, 2010. The exhibit originated in New York with the closing of the state-run Willard Psychiatric Hospital, and the discovery of a number of patients’ suitcases left in the attic that bear witness to the rich, complex lives these people led before they were committed to Willard – and speak to their aspirations, accomplishments, and community connections, as well as to loss and isolation. The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic takes a humanistic look at the cost of mental illness on individuals and society by telling the stories of nine patients through their suitcases and possessions they left behind. The pictures and stories illustrate the ordinary lives these people led: they raised families, had jobs, were educated and traveled, fell in love, and faced misfortune. For many, dealing with hardships sealed their fate to a lifetime in a mental hospital. Concurrently, UNM’s Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center will be hosting a discussion series on topics such as homelessness, health equity, and health policy as these subjects relate to mental health.The Lives They Left Behind - Opening Reception
Thursday, February 4, 5:30-7 p.m. Domenici Center Main Lobby. Welcome given by Samuel J. Keith, M.D., Professor and Chair, UNM Department of Psychiatry.Homelessness and Its Cyclical Relationship with Mental Health - Panel Discussion
Wednesday, February 10, 12-1 p.m., Domenici Center room 2112
An inter-professional panel will explore the relationship between mental health and homelessness focusing on the prevalence, barriers to care, and community based initiatives.Health Equity and Socioeconomic Factors in Mental Health - Panel Discussion
Thursday, February 11, 12-1 p.m., Domenici Center, room 3010
An inter-professional panel will explore the issues surrounding access to care for vulnerable populations and the socioeconomic factors in mental health.A New Course in Health Policy for Mental Health - Panel Discussion
Thursday, February 25, 5:30-7 p.m., Domenici Center, room B116
An inter-professional panel will explore health policy as it currently stands with regards to mental health and conduct a post review of the NM Legislative 2010 session. Panel discussion is co-sponsored with UNM’s Center for Rural and Community Behavioral Health.The exhibit is free and open to the public at the UNM Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more information, please contact Laura Hall at 505/272-6518. The Lives They Left Behind was created by the Community Consortium, an organization of people with psychiatric histories and their allies, to honor the memories of those removed from their communities and institutionalized. This exhibit was brought to New Mexico with funding from the New Mexico Humanities Council. The Lives They Left Behind is circulated by The Exhibition Alliance of Hamilton, NY,www.exhibitionalliance.org.