Tulane NAMI festival to destigmatize mental health

Josh Axelrod, Associate Editor

In a country where one in five adults suffer from a mental health illness, and stigma intensely surrounds the topic, many would argue a major change in attitude and atmosphere is needed. The National Alliance on Mental Illness at Tulane aims to do just that, hosting its second-annual Celebrate Mental Health Festival. 

The festival will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday on Bruff Quadrangle. NAMI hopes that through the event, the organization can create an open space where students are aware of how mental health affects others and themselves. 

Joel Hochman, funding chair for the festival, helped to organize the celebration and is optimistic about what it can accomplish.

“I think that in order to make life happier and safer for everyone we need to be able to talk about mental illness without the negativity that often shows up in such discussion,” Hochman said.

The festival will feature student organizations, musical performances, speakers and an interactive art installation. Groups like the Tulane Black Student Union, Students for Sustainable Drug Policy, Red Cross Club, Queer Student Alliance, Women in Science and Team One Love, among many others, will be participating.

NAMI encouraged clubs to orchestrate mental health-related activities. Women in Science is leading a workshop where they teach attendees how to make stress-balls, and Active Minds Tulane is conducting a positive note activity, where participants can take notes from others or leave notes to spread support and encouragement. 

Performances will include a cappella groups, dance troupes and individual singers. Sarah Narrow, President of THEM A Cappella, feels passionately about the cause and is excited to appear at the venue. 

“Keeping my mental health in check is very important to me… I try to emphasize the importance of using rehearsal as a time to decompress from the day and outside stressors and focus on the music we can make,” Narrow said. “We are looking forward to sharing the music we’ve been working on with everyone at the Celebrate Mental Health Fest this Saturday.” 

NAMI sponsored workshops leading up to the festival and asked students to send in writing samples or visual art. Submissions have the option to remain anonymous and will be featured in a “Story Labyrinth” and student gallery that attendees will walk through on Saturday.

Last April, the club held its first Celebrate Mental Health Festival with over 350 people in attendance. NAMI President, Emma Bassin, believes this semester’s event will be an even greater success, and will encourage meaningful dialogue.

“All components of the Celebrate Mental Health Festival aim to frame mental health as something to celebrate, rather than stigmatize, in an effort to truly create compassionate, honest and reflective conversation about mental health on campus,” Bassin said. 

The club has more programs in store for the rest of the year, to keep the momentum flowing after the festival. NAMI will continue to create open spaces on campus, foster conversation and cultivate an environment of acceptance around mental health.