Mental Health Monologues

"By my mid twenties, I shot myself" I spoke the words out loud for only the second time in my life to an audience. They weren't my words. It wasn't my story. But it was my heart out there, spilled out for a full audience. 

UMaine Active Minds put on their first "Mental Health Monologues" this past Thursday. Similarly to the Vagina Monologues, MHM was a storytelling event about mental health. The event featured 14 performers, both students and alumni, along with one community member, Father Bill Labbe from the Newman Center, the Catholic Church on College Ave. Not all performers shared their own stories, but instead opted to share someone else's submission. I had the great fortune of sharing the mental health journey of Angela Gilbert, a Mainer and alumni from the University of Maine, who founded our chapter of Active Minds close to six years ago. Nearly 200 people showed up to watch the event, and Active Minds as a unit was overwhelmed with the support of our classmates and community. 

Stories ranged from topics about depression and anxiety, to bipolar disorder and suicide and everywhere in between. The mission of the monologues was to familiarize the community with sharing and hearing mental health stories in an effort to change the conversation and get people talking. More importantly, to get people listening. The more comfortable people shared their mental health stories, the more receptive people were there to hear them. This flow of mental health conversation breeds compassion, support, and advocacy. 

It was our hope as Active Minds members to create an event that would spark conversation among students, faculty, parents and community members alike. It was our hope that people would leave the event feeling empowered, feeling supported, and if they ever were, definitely no longer feeling alone. 

Sharing Angela's story was without a doubt one of the most empowering experiences of my life. This woman battled her way through her mental illness and continues to come out on top every single day. It was overwhelmingly humbling just to speak out loud the words on her heart, just as I know how refreshing it was for each and every performer to get up on stage to let the world hear them, support them, and validate them. The experience performing, as well as watching, was unlike any other.

If you didn't get a chance to catch the monologues this year, keep an eye out for Active Minds events coming up and possibly a second annual monologues in the future.