The new London cast of the Emmy-award winning Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen, officially opened a powerful new exhibition today showing the hopes and dreams lost to neglected mental health and suicide across the world.
The Museum of Lost and Found Potential, which opens free of charge to the public in central London on World Mental Health Day (Thursday) for five days (10-15 October), also shows the potential that can be found when people receive the support they need.
The museum shares 16 interactive portraits of people from across the world through video, sound, and real and imagined objects. These personal stories, from Ghana to New Zealand, India to Australia, represent the lost and found chapters of the lives of people affected by mental ill health and demand more support and investment.
The museum has been created by Speak Your Mind - the nationally driven, globally united campaign that wants everyone, everywhere to have the mental health support they need, in partnership with HSBC. Throughout the exhibition there is a focus on the importance of the world investing more in the research and evidence that can identify solutions that improve mental health.
At the launch of the museum, which will travel the world after premiering in London, the cast of Dear Evan Hansen performed their hit song ‘You Will Be Found’. The Tony Award-winning musical explores teenage mental health and suicide and opens in London’s West End next month.
Author and mental health campaigner Scarlett Curtis spoke at the launch as did Miranda Wolpert who leads the Wellcome Trust Mental Health Priority Area at Wellcome. The museum was officially opened by people who have shared their stories in the museum and young leaders of the Speak Your Mind campaign from Liberia, New Zealand, India, Nigeria, Australia and the UK, alongside António Simões, Chief Executive Officer, Global Private Banking, HSBC. Last week the Bank announced the roll out of a mental health education programme to 238,000 employees across 65 markets, as part of a new partnership with the Speak Your Mind campaign.
Pictures of the museum and launch event are available for media to download here
Stories of people lost to suicide and their loved ones are an important part of the Museum. John and Sophia Hall, parents of a young woman in the US who died by suicide aged 20, after years of suicidal ideation tendencies due to severe mental health issues, is supporting the Museum in memory of her daughter through the Korum for Kids Foundation. This was established by her parents more than four decades ago. Speak Your Mind is dedicating the exhibition in her honour.
Visitors to the museum will be asked to add a message to the #SpeakYourMind #40seconds voice petition, which was launched at the United General Assembly in New York last month and is being signed by people across the world to urge leaders to invest in the right mental health support. Watch and download the film featuring Zak Williams here.
Elisha London, CEO of United for Global Mental Health, which powers the Speak Your Mind campaign, said:
“More and more people are talking about the importance of mental health and the devastating statistics show the scale of the problem. Our families, communities, economies and world is losing so much due to lack of mental health support being available to all. Still, leaders around the world are still not valuing mental health enough to take action. The Museum of Lost and Found Potential shines a spotlight on the real, personal experiences and impact behind the mental health and suicide statistics.
“It is a rallying cry to leaders and all of us to unite so that everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to. We hope the museum will inspire people to add their 40 seconds message to the voice petition and join the global call for more action to be taken on mental health.”
HSBC Chief Executive Officer, Global Private Banking, António Simões, said:
“Mental ill-health is one of the biggest issues we face today and touches all of us. HSBC has an important role to play in supporting our colleagues, because too many people still feel uncomfortable talking about mental health. For me, education is key. We provide free counselling and awareness education for our people. We are committed to sharing our experience with other employers. Everyone has a responsibility to take mental health seriously, and businesses in particular have to act now to help our people, our communities and broader society.”
Stacey Mindich, Tony Award-winning producer of “Dear Evan Hansen” said:
“Dear Evan Hansen is so proud to be part of the Speak Your Mind campaign and help encourage our leaders on the local, national and international level to make mental health a priority. As audiences of this musical have reminded us time and time again, mental health affects everyone. It is imperative that we destigmatize these very human issues and make help accessible to all.”
Scarlett Curtis, Curator of It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) & Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies), co-founder of Pink Protest said:
“When I was 19 I believed my entire future would be defined and damaged by my mental illness. There is a powerful movement across the world to call on our governments to address the growing mental health crisis. Joining this movement, sharing my story and listening to others has changed my entire life for the better. My book and this museum are puzzle pieces in a global community of support. I seriously encourage everyone to visit the museum and speak their mind to leaders so that everyone can access the mental health support they need, wherever they are in the world”.
Professor Miranda Wolpert, Head of Mental Health at Wellcome, said: “Mental health affects us all, directly or through our relatives and friends. This museum shows just what can be lost through mental health problems and what can be gained when people use treatments and approaches which work for them. There has been great progress in improving awareness over the last few decades. It’s now time to invest in developing the next generation of treatments and approaches, so that everyone can find what works best for them wherever they are.”
Further information on the Museum of Lost and Found Potential
The Museum of Lost and Found Potential will be open to the public, with no ticket required, from Thursday 10 October to Tuesday 15 October, 12.00 - 20.00 weekdays and 10.00 - 18.00 on Saturday and Sunday. More details and a digital version of a selection of museum exhibits can be found at gospeakyourmind.org
This exhibition contains stories that discuss suicide, child abuse, bullying, human trafficking, conflict, depression, and more difficult themes. We do have a mental health first aider inside if visitors need support at any stage, and visitors will be asked to be mindful of others attending.
The stories in the Museum of Lost and Found Potential range from a survivor of multiple suicide attempts now writing books and making films to support others, to a Ghanaian women who lost her job due to bipolar and psychosis, now receiving treatment and back working. The many everyday objects featured in the museum vary from the riding boot of an Australian teenager who died by suicide, to an installation depicting the story of a then 9-year-old Nepalese woman, just returned from human trafficking, finding stability through cooking.
Summary of the stories in the London premier of the Museum
Jazz Thornton, New Zealand
Jazz had an extremely challenging childhood, as a teenager she attempted suicide multiple times and was homeless for a while. The last time she attempted suicide, she formed a life-saving relationship with the police officer that came to support her. Jazz has since rediscovered her self-worth and has become a mental health campaigner in New Zealand, advising the Government on their recently announced, unprecedented, $1.8 billion mental health and wellbeing budget. Jazz’s lost and found objects in the Museum are: an Auckland police badge, a school sheet with grades, a letter she wrote to her suicidal self (‘Suicidal Me’) and a tree branch.
Jazz said: “As someone who nearly lost her life to mental illness, being part of this museum means so much to me. I battled with suicidal tendencies, PTSD, Depression and Anxiety for many years, and having now come through the other side, I love being able to tell my story in a way that provides hope and provokes change. The Museum is telling stories in a way that has never been done before and I know that it will have the kind of impact that creates conversation and changes perceptions on Mental Health in a positive way.”
At 12 years old, Florence was prescribed medication that helped her cope with bipolar disorder. She received great support and started a job that she loved, as a physician’s assistant. However, in 2014, Ebola overran Liberia's healthcare system and Florence found herself without medicine and her mental health suffered greatly. When she contracted the Ebola virus and was not able to get the medication she needed, she lost everything, her job, her family, her community, and was isolated for 18 months. At one stage she was chained in a church until her aunt found her and took her away to a support worker. Florence’s lost & found objects are: Chlorpromazine (pill bottle), baby weighing scale and a flip phone
Florence said: “I want to be part of the Museum of Lost & Found because I want to tell my story. I almost lost everything. I lost material things since my possessions were destroyed because of the contagious nature of the Ebola virus. My husband divorced me. If I have support, I will pursue a Masters or PhD degree. Mental health conditions should not pose any limitations. I love reading novels and walking on the beach.”
When Graeme was 13, he broke his back and the impact that this had on his life and his ability to be active, lead him to start experiencing depression. This controlled his life for many years. Following this, he experienced two breakdowns and was unable to leave the house for two months. When he returned to work he struggled to feel present, both at work and at home. He discovered mindfulness, which made a huge difference to his mental health. He has since become qualified in teaching people mindfulness and arranged to get 20 on-site mental health first-aiders at HSBC. Graeme’s lost and found objects are: two badminton rackets & shuttlecock, shopping basket with vegetables, wind chimes, blank floppy discs, dvds and a tree branch.
Graeme said: “I have battled my mental health for 26 years of my life, for the longest time it was a battle I undertook alone and hidden. However I now realise how important it is for people to talk about their struggles. I now use my challenges to help support others going through similar battles, to help them see that you can overcome mental health issues. Being a part of this museum exhibit is an amazing way to let others see they are not alone, which for me is vitally important.”
Deeksha experienced a lot of bullying throughout her life, which had an incredibly negative impact on her mental health. She developed strong feelings of inadequacy and a toxic relationship with food. When she was trying to deal with bullying, she developed a skin condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa. This extremely painful condition, added to the mental health challenges that she was experiencing. Depression set in for Deeksha after her grandmother died and she completely isolated herself. She has since received therapy and completed her undergraduate degree. She has found therapy mentally exhausting but is starting to feel hopeful for her future. Deeksha’s lost and found artefacts are: cups, loose leaf tea, pearl collar, jazz shoes, iphone, clothing.
Deeksha said: “Having struggled with depression for many years, I have always felt that it is really important to foster an inclusive environment where people feel safe and welcomed to talk about their journeys and issues. I chose to be a part of this museum because hopefully, this museum will give us the space to start having difficult conversations and help in decreasing the stigma around mental health.”
Annette & Stuart, Australia
Annette and Stuart lost their daughter to suicide when she was 15 years old. Mary had been struggling with an eating disorder for three years, she was admitted into hospital for two months and did not receive proper treatment. After Mary died, her parents received writing that she had done for a school project, which told Mary’s mental health story. Mary’s lost and found objects are: Horse riding boots, rocks, paper boat.
Annette & Stuart said: “We have included Mary’s story in the museum as we believe it is imperative to show the human face and lost potential of the beautiful soul we grieve for. We understand that this constant unrelenting pain will never pass and every 40 seconds around the world another life will be lost and that person’s family and loved ones will be left to pick up the pieces. For those suffering from mental ill health, their carers and for families afflicted by a suicide death—we hope that this exhibition will help to create positive change.”
Joshua, Sierra Leone
When Joshua’s father lost his job, poverty struck his family. Joshua had to go and live with his grandmother. It was a challenging time in his life; Joshua once misplaced money that his grandmother had given him for food for the family and he became so distressed he considered ending his life. This stuck with him for many years and school was extremely challenging. He went on to became a qualified teacher and is now a vital mental health campaigner in Sierra Leone. Joshua’s lost and found objects are: Rice measuring cups, local broom, walking stick, writing pad, musical drum.
Joshua said: “The Museum of Lost and Found Potential has afforded me two key opportunities which serve as motivation to tell my story. First, to help other affected persons to know that they are not alone in this problem and that they can overcome their episode and regain lost lives. Second, to bring family and community actors to terms with the reality that preventative care and the inclusion of people with lived experience cannot be attained without their support. I see myself as a great contributor to national development because I made every effort to overcome my crisis situation - you too can do the same.”
Cecelia was struggling with her mental health but didn’t understand what was happening. After an episode, she was diagnosed with acute psychosis but she became stable and returned to work. Shortly after she relapsed and when her employers found about her mental health condition she was fired. After multiple relapses and losing friends because of her condition, Cecelia was diagnosed with Bipolar, found medication that worked for her and was supported in finding employment. Cecilia’s artefacts are: Jerry petrol can, nail care equipment, (chalks, wooden dusters, chalkboard), cooking utensils, national insurance card
Cecilia said: “I am a person with lived experience of Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAD) and enjoy sharing my experience living with BAD with others to help them understand the condition better.”
When Kamala was very young, she was sold by her step-father and was human trafficked for three years. After this, Kamala was offered free food and accommodation to work as a cook, as long as she agreed to study at a convent, which she accepted. When she was older, she worked as a tourist guide, she was carrying one of the tourists bags and was arrested because police found drugs in their bag. Kamala spent 9.5 years in prison for a crime she did not commit.This is when Kamala became really mentally unwell and was very violent in prison, resulting in her being chained and she received no medication. With nowhere to turn and nobody to turn to when she came out of prison, Kamala was homeless. Eventually she was supported by the rescue centre with the right medication and counselling and now has a stable job. Kamala’s artefacts are: reading glasses, paper plane, two trumpets, sewing machine, wish box, hiking torch, lighter, pen,
Kamala said: “After I realized I have mental illness, I had no hope in my life. I became suicidal. But as on today, because I got timely help and treatment I have reached a position where I can be a hope for others. Being a part of the museum, I feel I am worth something. I mean I can set up a positive example for others to follow.”
Rachel, South Africa
Rachel was in a very stressful marriage for seven years. Rachel dealt with years of infidelity and rejection from her husband’s family. Work was also a source of stress as she filed a sexual harassment case against a co-worker but this wasn’t received well and nobody wanted to speak about it. Moving to a new place of work and getting a divorce were positive changes for Rachel but after these occurred, she had an episode with her mental health where she ended up in hospital. At hospital she was diagnosed with bipolar and started to receive treatment. Rachel’s artefacts are: mannequin leg, police badge, ludo figures, telescope, microphone, water bottle.
Rachel said: “Years also went by trying to understand the illness I have because it was difficult to understand it without much knowledge of bipolar. The first time I heard of bipolar was when I got diagnosed of the illness.”
Bill was diagnosed with Bipolar when he was 22. When he started to experience psychosis and bipolar, the treatment was unknown. At first, his parents found him faith-based support but this treatment did not work for him. His older brothers tracked down a mental health hospital and after 60 days at the hospital, Bill was stabilised. Bill went on to study broadcast journalism and got a scholarship, the excitement from this caused Bill to have a relapse and the employer retracted the scholarship because of Bill’s mental health. He took this as a challenge and has since started his own practice, became a teacher and re-established an NGO in Liberia. Bill’s artefacts are: Chains, taxi sign, killer bee, vintage radio, rocks
Bill said: “I was diagnosed with the mental health condition of Bipolar Disorder. I accessed treatment at MH Hospital and got stabilized. I struggled 30 years in denial until 2006 when I finally realized I could escape no longer. I then decided that, come what may, I will take my medication. For the last 13 years, I have lived in stable recovery.”
When Sodikin first started experiencing challenges to his mental health, his family didn’t know how to support him. At first, his family took him to a faith healer and then a mental health hospital, a day-and-a-half walk from their home. He was given medication that helped but nobody provided a refill. After being sent back and forth between the local health care centre and hospital, they gave up. Sodikin then spent more than 8 years in shackles in a tiny hut outside of his family home. His life transformed when NGO came to rescue him. He had to be carried out of the hut because his muscles had wasted away so much that he couldn’t walk. He stayed at a shelter for 7 months whilst he healed. Sodikin is now the main breadwinner in the family and works in a clothing factory. Sodikin’s artefacts are chains.
Sodikin said: “Globally, millions of people with mental health conditions are often chained, confined in small spaces, or locked up in abusive institutions. Many are held in sheds, cages, or animal shelters - sometimes for years at a time - and are forced to urinate, eat, sleep, and defecate in the spot where they are held. They are essentially treated as less than human. Why is this happening? Because of inadequate services and widespread beliefs linking mental health to evil spirits or being possessed by the devil.”
At 40 years old, Alberto’s life changed. His brother died in a car accident and this submerged him into a severe depression for 10 years. He tried to kill myself several times and was hospitalized three times during those years. He committed to a new treatment at Proyecto Suma’s Day Hospital in 2010 and this was key to his recovery. It supported his mental health and he also established a peer support worker. Through this work he felt appreciated and valued, and proud of what he was doing. He has since made presentations in mental health congresses about his work, telling his story of recovery. Life is still challenging for Alberto but he is proud to share his story to help others. Alberto’s artefacts are: passport & plane tickets, coca-cola cup & two straws, fictional certificate, coffee cups, spoons & saucers
Alberto said: “I had very bad depression for ten years. I suffered a lot. But the most important thing is that I was able to recover. Now I am helping other people that are struggling like I did in the past. I do it as a person who understands the suffering, rather than a therapist. I think it is very important to be part of this museum, as it will help spread the world on mental health and will help to reduce the stigma surrounding people with mental health needs.”
When Timiebi was diagnosed with depression at university she didn’t believe the diagnosis but after experiencing a panic attack, she started to accept that she was experiencing challenges to her mental health. Struggling to write her dissertation, she moved back to Nigeria. She reached out to Mentally Aware Nigeria and they were able to help her find mental health support services. Before attending she thought that nobody in Nigeria accesses services like these, apart from severely ill and dangerous people. She was given a ticket when she arrived for her appointment, which was numberered 140, which made her feel less alone. Since her last session two years ago, she has tried to maintain the coping skills that she was taught in her therapy sessions. Timiebi’s artefacts are: Ticket machine, food items, dissertation, bad boys film, post button
Timiebi said: “I am passionate about mental health education and advocacy. I use the art of storytelling to share personal experiences and for me, being part of this museum is important as it showcases how mental health issues impacts every aspect of a person’s life.”
Bipolar has had a huge impact on Allison’s life. She was not able to finish her degree due to the lack of support and has spent most of her money on medical drugs and therapy for her mental health condition. She was unable to fulfill her passion for making music and had her tubes tied after coming to the conclusion that she would never be well enough to look after children.
Her mental health stabilised with support from across her life, a supportive work environment at HSBC has made a huge difference, as well as her newfound mental health routine that involves physical exercise. Allison’s artefacts are: Pregnancy test, box & ribbons, 2 motorcycle helmets, woman in black poster, fit bit, reel-to-reel tape recorder
Allison said: “I live with Bi Polar Disorder but that is not what defines me. Family and friends, travel, music and my career, are what define me as a successful, thriving, joyful person. I am proud to be part of the Museum of Lost and Found Potential and for being able to tell my story of challenges I have faced throughout my life experiences. To showcase people living with mental health conditions and how they not just survive but thrive is important to me and is full of lessons for all people to see. I hope you enjoy the Museum and learn something new about mental health. Let’s overcome stigmas and learn to love the differences we are as people.”
In 2019 Michelle almost took her own life and sought help from mental health institutions. She also sees participating in aboriginal, culturally significant practices as vital to her identity and health. Her mental health has recently improved with the support of an aboriginal psychologist, as they understand the racism and bullying she and many others from first nation groups have experienced. Michelle has struggled with the contrast of the working world and her aboriginal heritage, as it contradicts the concept of what governs time. As well as being a yaye (big sister, in Arrernte and Luritja) to others, she has found a yaye, who she can explore her heritage with. Michelle’s artefacts are: Apmere, Yaye, Yidaki
Michelle said: “I am a proud Arrernte and Luritja woman. I carry over 70,000 years of strength, beauty, resilience and Culture as a First Nation’s woman. My journey is one of Lore, language, kinship and Country. I am a part of the many song lines created by my people. We share stories through dance, language and art and I continue these song lines through my work with young First Nation's people. This is my Dreaming, my responsibility. I share with you an important story. We are more than statistics. We are still here. We always have and always will be. This is the legacy of my ancestors, please listen.”
When Paula felt depressed, she struggled to hide her condition from her teenage son, ultimately failing. She had to leave her home and seek full time help after an evening where her rage led her to grabbing the coat stand and smashing it to pieces against the floor. Her husband and son remain totally supportive of her, including through times where she almost took her own life up until she was given the right diagnosis. Paula laughs about the list of medication she was prescribed before being given the ones that she takes today, none of which worked for her. Paula’s artefacts are: coat rack, basket filled with pill bottles, calendar
Paula said: “I am a wife, mother and former teacher from California USA whose life and career was derailed by mental illness. It took more than 10 years for me to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Part of my recovery is reaching out to help others. By helping people overcome the stigma of mental illness and to stay on the road to recovery, I’m also helping myself. This is why I am sharing my story in the Museum of Lost and Found Potential. I want to help others understand how ordinary people can be helped with appropriate care so they can lead meaningful and productive lives. No matter how long or difficult your journey, you’re never too broken to be helped.”
Creative Concept – Havas and Speak Your Mind Campaigners around the world
Museum Curator – Andy Franzkowiak
Museum Designer – Nissen Richards Studio
Lead Artist – Nestor Pestana
Artists - Unit Lab, Rūta Irbīte
Sound Design - Christian Duka
Lighting Design - Ben Donoghue