As part of National Suicide Prevention Month, several New Orleans songwriters have banded together for an intimate performance with a focus on mental health to end stigma surrounding mental illness - with musicians as a medium for discussion. The inaugural Music for Mental Health: An Evening of Song and Discussion on Sept. 22 sidesteps the silos in which people typically discuss mental health and centers it among five artists trading stories and songs in a stripped-down, candid storytelling performance.
"One of the best ways of doing that is music. It’s not confrontational - you don’t meet anyone who doesn’t like music," says singer-songwriter and concert organizer Kathryn Rose Wood, who lost her brother following his suicide two years ago. "That medium where people feel a bit more comfortable or expressive."
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-24.
Roughly 43.8 million in the U.S. (one in five adults) experience mental illness, while 9.8 million people experience a serious mental illness that significantly interferes with or limits their ability to participate in one or more major life activities.
The concert is "something we can do to bring to light the discussion of mental health issues, with a little transparency to people who aren’t hearing this as much and might need to,” says Wood, rather than reaching only people working in mental health, or who are receiving services or are in treatment, or have lost a loved one due to suicide.
Performers include Wood, singer-songwriter Mia Borders, Mike Doussan, Kei Slaughter, and rapper Alfred Banks, whose 2017 album The Beautiful illustrates Banks’ reconciliation with his brother’s suicide and his own mental health.
A portion of concert proceeds benefits the New Orleans chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, among the city’s largest mental health advocacy and support services organizations for nearly four decades.
The Brett Thomas Doussan Foundation also will participate and share information about its Music For the Mind campaign, which shares mental health stories from New Orleans musicians.
Music for Mental Health is all ages and runs 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22 at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Mint (400 Esplanade Ave.). Tickets are $15.