“Not everyone has mental health disorders, but everyone has mental health,” said Jasmine Paz, the co-host of INSPIRE. “[It] is not something that anyone can ignore. Not when it affects you. Not when it affects your friends. Not when it affects your family. And not when it affects your peers.”
Last Saturday, I joined Active Minds at the Rodin rooftop for INSPIRE, the organization’s biggest mental wellness event of the year. It was started two years ago by Active Mind’s former President, Devanshi Mehta with the aim to bring community together and inspire one another. For this year, INSPIRE presented 3 video stories and featured several performing arts groups and student speakers in which different perspectives on mental health were brought to life. As Kathryn DeWitt, Co-President of Active Minds said, the event has “captured the anguish and the joy of life that occupy our inner thoughts… Made visible the invisible, heard the unheard, and empower the disempowered.” In this post, I’ll attempt to capture the essence of several performances and talks so that you too can be inspired by them.
Peter Moon, Co-President of Active Minds, challenges the way we use language. Essentially, we are free to express and say anything that we want. However, he notes that we need to be mindful whenever we do so. Think about how might a victim of rape feel when she heard someone say: “I got raped by my chem test.” Think about how might an OCD patient feel when the phrase “I’m so OCD” is casually thrown about. As Peter described, it is “belittling” to those who had to face those struggles, so be careful with your words.
In her spoken word poem entitled, Stigma, Crystal Delmonico shared with us her personal struggles with suicide. She recounted episodes of her family and friends who had taken their lives and encouraged hope throughout her performance. “Mental illness is here. But we may think not me, not you, not a single person in the crowded room,” she said. In the end, she urged all of us to destigmatize mental illness and always reach out if we ever need help. One major take-away from her speech is the knowledge that there is and will always be hope.
Makayla Reynolds was the last student speaker of the night to brave the stage. In her monologue, she talked about her difficult childhood and walked us through her story of recovery from depression. She was forced to “master ramen noodles at the age of five” and internalize her own struggles growing up and didn’t seek treatment until she was 15. “All that I can say is that you really got to keep going,” she said. “There’s no quick fix for any mental illness…[And] I don’t think there’s any university policy that is going to eliminate mental illness or that is [going to] fix any type of battle that students have with mental illness. I think it really starts with us, so that is why I stand here today.”
Other performances that night include Zoe Stoller’s spoken poetry, Arts House Dance Company’s “Summer” dance piece, Dischord’s a acapella on Sia’s Reaper, and two songs brought by Tong Pow and Megha Nagaswami.
Throughout the program, Active Minds also played three videos that gave voice to Bailey Scott, Carson Keller, and Jack Park, who have all battled with mental illness in the past. Together, they shattered the silence surrounding mental illness and encouraged others to open up and share their experiences as well. Click on their names to listen to their stories.
One of my favorite quotes of the night came from Makayla. She said, “At the end of the day, we are all equals, and even though struggles come in different shapes and forms, I think that struggle is struggle and pain is pain. So the most you can do and the least that you can do is reach out.” And with that, I’ll leave you with a reminder from Active Minds. “If you know anyone who’s been affected, reach out; if you don’t know anyone who’s been affected, ask. People’s response may surprise you.”