Celebrate Mental Health Arts & Music Festival

Rachael Richard, Contributing Reporter

While many students remain quiet on the subject, one group of Tulane students has decided to open the doors to discussing mental health. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, the first-ever Celebrate Mental Health Art and Music Festival will be free and open to the public to shed light on the realities of mental health.

The event is run by Tulane’s National Alliance of Mental Illness and headed by president Jesse Benzell. Benzell said the goal of the festival is to “promote mental health on campus and de-stigmatize mental illness.”

Greek Liaison Chair Alexis Madormo echoed this sentiment, saying that the festival strives to start the conversation about something that impacts a wide array of Tulane students.

“[The festival is] a start to make students at Tulane think that this is something everyone deals with,” Madormo said. “Everyone has their own status on mental health and it really is just to eliminate the taboo and help college students who really do struggle with mental health and stress.”

NAMI’s year-round efforts to combat the stigma of mental illness include tabling on McAlister Drive, having group sessions about mental health issues such as addiction and suicide prevention and meeting with members of NAMI New Orleans.

Madormo, who struggles with depression, anxiety and ADHD, acknowledges that while there are other on-campus options for mental health help, such as Counseling and Psychological Services, yoga and meditation, the NAMI facilitates and encourages discussion about a topic that many are often scared to address.

Through its Greek fundraising, NAMI’s Tulane chapter has raised $1,250, with Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity raising the most money proportionally to number of fraternity members.

“[We want] to show to those who aren’t involved or aren’t Greek-affiliated that we’re not our own little bubble,” Madormo said. “We want to reach out to the community we want to benefit the entire Tulane community. We’re not trying to seclude ourselves.”

The festival will kick off in the Kendall Cram room of the Lavin-Bernick Center with a suicide prevention workshop entitled “Question Persuade Refer,” led by Center for Wellness & Health Promotion Health Educator Carolyn Bacchus and a light breakfast. Other workshops include yoga, led by the India Association of Tulane University, Mindfulness and Meditation, led by Hans Gruenig, Art Therapy, “Release!,” an interfaith dance workshop and many others.

Starting at 3 p.m. in Pocket Park and the business school courtyard, there will be booths, music, free food and food trucks. Tulane Panhellenic Council will be hosting a booth and giving out free candy grams at the event and will be tabling on McAlister Drive this week. Other booths include a make-your-own-stress-ball, make-a-potted-plant and many others. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., there will be a variety of performances by Dat Dance Crew, THEM A Capella, Tulane University Ladies A Capella, NJ Beats, Koby Berman, The Bummers, Alfred Banks and many others.

Benzell’s idea was to have a little bit of something for everyone, so that everyone on campus is drawn to the festival.

“We realize that if you want to affect positive change in the community, you have to have some sort of event that engages all the different parts of the community,” Benzell said.

The Celebrate Mental Health Art and Music Festival hopes to become an annual fall event, with Saturday as its pilot event. The food, fun and music will draw many to the festival, but ultimately it aims to advocate for mental wellness and facilitate discussion.

“[Mental health] is something that you can talk about and needs to be shared,” Madormo said.