The Voices Against the Stigma charity concert will challenge negative stigmas surrounding mental health through various art performances and displays in the Russell House ballroom.
Fourth-year psychology student Kaitlyn Speiser organized the event to counter the misconceptions surrounding mental health, educate attendees on the realities of mental illness and provide contact with those who struggle with them.
Attendees can donate to three charities focused on mental health advocacy and helping people understand mental illness: the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America and Hidden Wounds.
The charities were chosen because of their local presence, which could allow donors to possibly use their resources and see the change they are making by donating.
Throughout the evening, various artists will perform, including Cockapella and Elon University’s Smooth Progressions a capella group.
There will also be spoken word poetry, short films and art on display for purchase. Artists selling their work will be donating the profits to the charities that will be at the event.
Speiser originally planned the event for a class project in March 2020, but the concert was canceled due to the pandemic.
“I was completely heartbroken,” Speiser said. “I put so much work into this and so much passion, and so I knew I wanted to do it again before I graduated.”
Speiser decided to turn the concert into her senior thesis by working with her thesis director and reformatting it to be more research-based. By expanding her research on the stigma surrounding mental health, Speiser saw how she could use it to educate attendees.
"A lot of people have a misconception that people with mental illnesses are dangerous or that they're, quote unquote, 'crazy,' and the worst negative stigma that surrounds, so it's protesting those beliefs," Speiser said. "Education is educating people on the reality of mental illness and the importance of prioritizing mental health."
Olivia Clay, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology student, has worked with Speiser to help put together the concert since August. For the past two years, Speiser and Clay have been involved with Cockapella together. This year they serve together as President and Vice President, respectively.
“We said we wanted performers to come up and have really a variety of artists. We wanted visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc., just to have variety and show how this theme of mental health awareness can be presented in so many different ways,” Clay said.
The variety of performers and art forms will show attendees people being true to themselves in various ways, giving attendees the ability to learn more artistic means to express themselves, according to Speiser.
Art was an important aspect for Speiser when planning this event, as she uses it as a way of expressing herself.
“Art is unique in that it provides a way for people to express themselves when words aren't enough," Speiser said. "I wanted to give different artists a chance to tell their stories in order to provide that education and contact and start conversation about it."
Maya Thille, a third-year neuroscience student, is a member of Cockapella with Speiser. Thille arranged the piece they will be performing and chose the song because of the way it discusses mental health.
“The song really talks about the chemistry of depression,” Thille said. “I feel like a lot of songs talk about depression and the symptoms 'Oh, like I'm sad. I can't get out of bed,' which is totally valid, but I like the fact that this song, it's pretty upbeat, and so you don't really feel saddened or weighed down by this message.”
The concert is free and will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, in the Russell House ballroom.
“I encourage everyone to come stop by for a little bit. It's supporting a really, really great, three really great charities,” Speiser said.