|empower yourself with mpower
mpower is on a mission to empower young people everywhere.
This national youth awareness campaign is doing so by working with both popular and up-and-coming musicians to help in educating young people about mental health issues like depression and suicide, and by helping give teens to courage to seek help when it is needed.
Sponsored by the National Mental Health Association -- everyone from artists and industry executives, to mental health advocates, to young people with the desire to help -- are joining forces to help raise awareness of mental health issues, and to help fight the stigma, the stereotypes, and the shame associated with them. It is believed that this very stigma is what hinders 1 in 5 youth with mental health problems from seeking help. In fact, suicide is the 3rd larger cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24, taking more young lives than AIDS, heart disease, cancer and lung disease combined!
In hopes to put out a positive message that can reach ALL youth, mpower has gathered together a wide variety of artists, representing all genres of music. Many of the artists, themselves, have suffered from mental health issues, and several speak of their personal experiences on the mpower website. Among others, some artists on the mpower crusade are: Vanessa Carlton, Michelle Branch, Third Eye Blind, The Neptunes, Fat Joe, James Taylor and the Bouncing Souls. You can read quotes and in some cases, personal stories, from these artists about their thoughts or experiences with mental healh issues. Several of these artists have performed in benefit concerts through mpower to simultaneously educate young people and to raise funds for mental health awareness and assistance.
In the "Real Life" portion of the website, you can read the stories of teens and young adults who have dealt with mental health issues personally. They have come together to share their stories and their message, either of their own battles with mental illness or that of loved ones. They do so to fight the stigma of mental health, which so many of them have encountered in their own lives, and to spread the message that music can "carry a positive message of hope and recovery."
Here are some of their stories...
On paper, I am a statistic. A number. One of the 20 percent of people with a mental health problem--depression. However, just like the millions of other people who have had a mental illness, this statistic has a heart and a story to tell.
I was diagnosed with depression in January 1996, during my sophomore year of college. At the beginning of spring semester, I had what is stereotypically called a "nervous breakdown." I remember lying in bed, covers up over my face, crying uncontrollably, and believing that I was going insane. The most unbearable sadness and sense of hopelessness overwhelmed me, and I was more frightened than I had ever been in my entire life. The word 'crazy' frantically paced back and forth in my mind, as I recalled images of people in straight jackets in rooms with padded walls (My preconceived notions reflected my ignorance of mental illness. Where I came from people didn't talk about mental illness--I knew practically nothing about it). After quitting school and moving home (the unconditional support of family and friends enabled me to make that tough decision), I sought necessary help and began to understand that I was experiencing something real and that I was not alone.
I want to talk more about recovery. "Recovery" is a tricky word. It assumes that there is an end to the healing process and that we ultimately return to being the people we were before mental illness entered our lives. In truth, the process of recovery can mean different things to different people. For me, recovery has no ending; although sometimes characterized by as many "downs" as "ups", it is a challenging and positive learning experience that continues to influence my life today. The knowledge I've acquired during the past seven years of recovery has changed me in such a profound way, and I am grateful for the perspective I now have.
While I am healthy and don't currently experience symptoms of depression, I continue to heal--to make sense of it all. Now, my goal is to help ease this healing process for others by trying to increase mental health awareness in my community.
mpower gives me hope that someday the stereotypes and shame surrounding mental illness will be replaced by truth and compassion, motivating the one in five people with a mental illness to seek help without fear.
-Farah Kauffman, State College, PA
My brother Brian experienced symptoms of mental illness for almost three years in college, without telling anyone. During his senior year he went to talk to a therapist at his school, and that's when my family learned how serious the problem was. By then though, Brian had already lost hope-my brother lost his battle with mental illness and took his own life.
Even if it's not as severe as what my brother experienced, we will all go through tough times at some point in our lives. College is especially hard because we're on our own for the first time and are faced with a lot of added pressures.
It's important to take care of yourself and your friends, and realize that by talking about what you are feeling or any differences you notice in your friends, you are taking a huge step towards wellness and recovery.
Please realize that you are at an especially vulnerable time in your life and mental health problems are not abnormal at our age.
But also realize that you are not alone, that it's okay to talk about what you are going through, and that you can get better.
-Alison Malmon, 21, Potomac, Maryland
During the September 11th crisis, I found myself anxious and depressed. The world around me was changing and living near the site of one of the attacks made every day filled with wonder and fear. A week or two later I did something that I wanted to do all of my life, I started taking guitar lessons and putting some of my thoughts in my journal into songs. And I felt better.
I had found an outlet for my sadness over what had happened, and I was doing something that I really enjoyed that helped me keep my mental state balanced.
My earliest memories are of music. My father is a musician and my mother had such a love for music that while I was growing up, I don't think that it was ever quiet in my house. And just as it had in my younger years, music was a healing force for me.
It is great to see that mpower acknowledges the power of music to heal, to inspire, and to help reach people who may be suffering and feel that no one else understands what they are going through.
Julio Fonseca, 27, Alexandria, Va.