Many Faces of Our Mental Health

Museum of Science, Boston

What does someone with mental illness look like?

That's a trick question. There is no one face of mental illness, and it crosses boundaries of age, sex, race and economic status. Often, it's invisible — and it's common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of adults in the United States have a mental illness.

Still, stigma and confusion about mental illness abound. In 2007, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that only 25 percent of adults with symptoms of mental illness believe people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. Although most people with mental illness lead normal lives, they may experience discrimination or be blamed for their condition.

"Many Faces of Our Mental Health," an exhibition at Boston's Museum of Science, is an attempt to cut through common misconceptions about mental illness. The show explores mental health through the lenses of both art and science, exploring up-to-date knowledge on the topic and addressing the lives of people with mental illness.

People dealing with mental illness take center stage in the exhibition in a photo display of 99 faces. Thirty-three of the people in the photos have experienced symptoms of schizophrenia. Thirty-three others have experienced symptoms of bipolar disorder. The rest are people who love them.

Also on display is a sculpture of the full human DNA sequence — a reminder of ongoing research that seeks to connect genetic risk factors with such mental illnesses as schizophrenia and depression.

The exhibition is open through Feb. 11. Can't make it to Boston? Glimpse a few of the faces online at