Celebrate Mental Health Festival enjoys third successful run


Lauren Duncan | Contributing Reporter

POCappella performs at the Celebrate Mental Health Festival. The event also featured a number of other musical performances.

After a week of pushing for the destigmatization of mental illness, Celebrate Mental Health concluded its campaign last Saturday, with the annual Celebrate Mental Health Festival. With another year of the festival came another year of bustling attendees, booths and performances.

Organized by the National Alliance for Mental Illness, the event united a diverse range of students and clubs on campus. The festival attracted a large crowd, and students swayed to the live music, visited the pop-up art gallery and organization tables, and participated in a wide range of activities centered on mental health.

Just as in past celebrations, Celebrate Mental Health held workshops during the week leading up to the festival, including guest speakers such as Neil Hilborn and other activities like Yoga on the Quad. This year, freshman participation increased, and more organizations were involved, according to Isabelle Elderkin, a member of NAMI.

Haylee Martinez, a freshman member of NAMI and the Spark Residential Learning Community, played an important role in getting her RLC involved in the festival. When asked about the perspective of a freshman, she emphasized how important it is to pay close attention to mental health.

“College is such a big transition, and so you really need to prioritize your mental health before all other things,” Martinez said.

Greek organizations were also involved in promoting mental health. Jack Wood, a member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), said he believes talk about mental health should happen everywhere and should not be overlooked in fraternities.

“I think [mental health is] incredibly important in almost any organization, but Greek life especially because there is a stigma about drinking, drug use that does take a toll on mental health,” Wood said.

Julia Cooper, one of the co-chairs of Celebrate Mental Health, has been associated with the festival since it first started in Pocket Park three years ago. One of her responsibilities was to manage the musical artist line up, which she saw as an integral aspect of the event, and she prioritized getting student performance groups involved.

Local artists also performed, including Alfred Banks, who recently performed at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Cooper said she strongly believed that music contributed to the success of the event and described a situation in which a mother with a young, mentally ill child approached her and expressed her appreciation for the musical aspect of the festival and the positive impact it had on her son.

“She said that music is really important to him and makes him feel calm, and I think that’s part of the vibe of the festival. It gives sort of a chill atmosphere – or a hype atmosphere – but it kind of just sets the tone, you know?”

As a continuous stream of artists took the stage to play their sets and people meandered around the quad visiting different booths, there was a refreshing sense of escape from the regular rush of daily college life that both students and members of the community at large were able to enjoy.