Who Can Relate?

It’s on the tip of of our tongues, but we don’t dare to utter it. We keep our lips sealed shut, and let the seconds do the talking. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. With every passing 16 minutes, another person falls victim to an irreversible end. It’s the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24. A three syllable seven-letter word that’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It’s muttered in hushed tones. It’s tucked away behind locked doors. It’s shoved into boxes, and pushed to the back of the closet where the light doesn’t reach. It’s left there, engulfed in darkness, to collect every speck of dust. There’s no more pretending it isn’t happening. It’s time to thrust this simple word carrying a world of pain from the shadows out into the open. It exists. It’s real. It’s suicide. It’s mental health. And it’s here on the campus of the University of Michigan.

“Who Can Relate?” breaks the silence. It’s speaking for the 90% of children suffering from mental health conditions who die by suicide. A voice for 41.6% of college students with anxiety, followed by 36.4% with depression. The student-involved event raises awareness about mental health in an attempt to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. It goes a step further in advocating for the resources available in seeking help. “We have the resources, but students don’t know about it. The time has come to make them aware and get them to utilize it. To showcase resources we have and that we’re the kind of campus where these issues can be addressed in a healthy manner.” It all started back in January with the University of Michigan’s two largest advocates for college students’ mental health- Counseling and Psychological Services, CAPS, and the Depression Center. CAPS is the go-to place for any student to receive care, no matter the circumstance, experiencing first-hand the high quality services for providing appropriate compensatory actions to combat mental illness, and thus, maintain a positive mental health. Various groups involved in CAPS began planning a mental health event, but it was missing something- Harris Schwartzberg. Harris may be an alumni of the University of Michigan, but it wasn’t long before he found his way back. He earned a spot on the national advisory board to the Depression Center, and with his daughter attending the University of Michigan, the event struck a chord within him. He took it upon himself to figure out the finale, knowing full well the event had to end with a boom. A moment later, there was a phone in his hand, and “he proceeded to call up Logic for a mental health concert, and just like that a date was set.”

It’s more than just a concert, though. It’s a week-long series of events to eradicate the stigmatization of mental health. Harris got students involved in planning the events, reaching out to all the committee leaders: Max Rothman, the Overall Planning Committee, Shelby Steverson and Meagan Dean, the Social Media and Outreach Committee, and Mattison Ellis, the Activities Committee. Without skipping a beat, Meagan didn’t hesitate to say, “for me, when I got this email that this was happening, I knew I had to do it, and I knew in my heart how special this was. I’m not 100 percent but if I can make other people feel better then that will make me 100 percent.” Their hearts were in it, and when they put their minds to it, they ended up with  seven whole days filled with a wide variety of events for anyone and everyone to take part in. “Who Can Relate?” teamed up with a chapter from Indiana University, U Bring Change 2 Mind, striving towards the end goal of sparking conversation amongst students as a means to tearing down the barriers built up around mental health on college campuses. At Oosterbaan Field, yoga will be held to foster connections between the mind and body, essential for driving away stress and anxiety, and in its place, for a healthy mental state to set in. It doesn’t stop there. It goes on to include NFL Pro-Bowl WR, Brandon Marshall and famous actress, Glenn Close who will take the stage at Rackham Auditorium to start the necessary discussion of mental health, and how its scope goes beyond each and everyone of us, impacting friends, families, and careers. The message of this Mental Health Roundtable is clear: the stigma affects all of our lives, and all of us together can turn the tables. It starts with Mental Health First Aid Training, where PROJET375 provides an eight hour long course on recognizing the risk factors and warning signs of a degenerating mental health to all ages, giving those falling deep into the depths of anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, and substance abuse a chance to be pulled back. “The specific partners were chosen for their focus on mental health and college students, spreading mental health awareness, opening the dialogue, and reducing the stigma.” The proceeds extend to other non-partner charitable organizations like that of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Steven Schwartzenberger’s Foundation, allowing them to keep following their mission of stopping suicide at the hands of mental illness in its tracks, and hopefully, one day be able to see it through. Max counts himself as one of the “44,000 students who can relate to these messages. It’s important for these students to hear these celebrities experiences with mental health, knowing the conversation isn’t just okay but encouraged.”

The moment for mental health to be in the spotlight is now. Thanks to Logic’s latest song 1-800-273-8255 featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid skyrocketing to the top of charts, it is. It’s fearless and breathtaking, putting his derealization and anxiety disorder out into the open for the whole world to hear, but better yet, to connect with: “I feel like I’m out of my mind. It feels like my life ain’t mine. Who can relate?” It comes as no surprise for him to be the headliner for “Who Can Relate?”. Meagan went on to say, “he is that person our generation needed to speak up and stand up, being the number one advocate for mental health as of right now.” The song’s effects didn’t go unfelt, rippling across countries, even across hemispheres, as other people continue to come out and share their own personal battles with mental health. It brings everybody down to earth, touching upon a fact that’s too often forgotten- we’re all the same. We’re all humans, and we’re all struggling. There has to be a conversation, a dialogue with each other. According to Max, “this event makes it obvious and very evident that it should be acceptable to open up and encourage others to do the same in any circumstance. Truly unbelievable to have Logic echo that message.” On March 30th, Logic will be taking center stage at Hill auditorium to talk about the seemingly unspeakable- mental health.

There’s flyers and stickers covering every visible surface of Michigan’s campus about the mental health event. As for outside the limits of campus, there are even digital billboards in Detroit and Ann Arbor mimicking the ones in LA and New York saying “you are not alone,” fully funded by OUTFRONT Media.

There’s a point to all this publicity, as Shelby says “it isn’t a slap in the face, but more of a here’s what’s going on across campus and it can’t go unnoticed. It’s a movement for students to see the positivity of sharing their story, and how it can bring people together, implying that nobody is alone in their fight. That’s the main theme integrating into the various performers.” Logic may be the main performer, but he’s far from the only hard-hitting event.

Over 1,100 colleges suicides happen every year, and around two-thirds of those are the result of mental illness; maybe a change in campus conversation will make these statistics lower. “On campus you start to see people being more open to sharing their struggles after witnessing celebrities sharing more of their personal stories,” Shelby tells us. “It merges the worlds of fame with our normal world even further.” At least that’s the goal of “Who Can Relate?” To Max, it’s about “picking the conversation back up when it’s not always highlighted.” There will never be a right or wrong time for mental health to find its way into daily conversations, so why keep waiting? Ticket sales are being held for strictly University of Michigan students and faculty until March 12, when participation opens to everyone. As a second semester senior, you can trust Max in saying “this has the potential to become a nationally recognized event. It’s about to blow up like Logic’s song.” You won’t want to miss it. Join the fight for mental health, and be a part of the conversation.