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Westhampton Public Library talk focuses on families coping with mental illness

In the decade since Amherst resident Jean Beard began traveling the country with “Nothing to Hide,” an exhibit of images and interviews about coping with mental illness, she has seen the impact it has had on families.

“For the 40 families we interviewed, it was more often than not one of the first times they’d been able to speak openly and honestly and feel understood,” said Beard, who co-authored the exhibit’s companion book of the same name.

“People who saw the exhibit felt less alone,” added Beard, whose 40-year-old daughter, Ashley, has struggled with mental illness since she was young. “You’d be standing in front of a photograph and hear someone say, ‘Oh, Johnny acts out in the same way.’ It’s a drawing together of experiences.”

The Westhampton Public Library is hosting an open gallery event with Beard Nov. 2 beginning at 6 p.m. in the library’s Community Room. Participants can view the “Nothing to Hide” exhibit, one of five traveling exhibits produced by the Amherst-based Family Diversity Projects. At 7 p.m., Beard will give a talk and answer questions from the audience. Light refreshments will be served.

“Nothing to Hide” features photographs by Gigi Kaeser of Goshen, and text by Beard and her co-author, Peggy Gillespie, also of Amherst. Since 2002, the exhibit has traveled to hundreds of schools, libraries, medical centers and government agencies in the U.S. and Canada, according to Family Diversity Projects.

“Nothing to Hide” has won awards from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for helping to dispel prejudice and stigma associated with brain illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

Laurie Sanders, a member of the Westhampton Library Planning and Building Committee — who has known Beard for many years — said the library is thrilled to host “an exhibit about an important topic that touches nearly every family.”

For more information about the gallery event and Beard’s talk, call Sanders at 527-5903.

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Smoke detector reminder

Town Fire Chief Christopher Norris says next month’s daylight-saving time change is the perfect time for residents to check the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. Clocks will be turned back one hour on Nov. 4., when Norris hopes homeowners throughout Hampshire County will also check batteries and the date of manufacture of any detection devices.

“All electronic devices have a limited life span,” said Norris, who is president of the county Fire Defense Association, which is promoting the countywide battery checks. “It’s important that older smoke and carbon monoxide detectors get replaced with new ones to protect your family.”

Most smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years, Norris said. He added that state law requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all homes and buildings that contain fossil-fuel burning equipment or have attached garages. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can’t be detected without a metering device. At higher concentrations, it can be deadly if inhaled.

More safety tips are available at the state Department of Fire Services website: www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/dfs.

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Goblins all

Trick or treating for children through eighth grade will be held rain or shine beginning at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 when portions of South, Stage and North roads will be closed to traffic until 8 p.m. Town Hall will also be open for warm-up breaks and refreshments. The Women’s Club has been collecting candy donations for the event. Trick or treaters are also welcome at houses with outside lights on. Participants should gather in the parking lot of Hampshire Regional High School at 6:15 p.m. for a parade to the Town Common beginning at 6:30 p.m. Warm clothes, flashlights and bags for goodies are recommended.

Barbara Solow can be reached at bsolow@gazettenet.com

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