About 50 people gathered Friday night in the Forum Hall of Palmer Commons for the 2019 Mental Health Monologues, sponsored by the University of Michigan’s chapter of Active Minds. This is the fourth year Active Minds, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about mental health among college students, has put on the show. Students and alumni prepared monologues about their personal struggles with mental health.
Nursing junior Laura Halprin was an organizer of the event. She said the purpose of the event was to humanize to the broad issue of mental health by allowing people to share their stories.
“It’s supposed to put real faces behind real stories,” Halprin said. “As students I think it’s really empowering to put faces to what we maybe just hear in the media.”
Halprin hoped the event would educate people on what mental health looks like and help get rid of the stigma often associated with it.
“It makes things more personalized and normalized for the experiences that many people have,” Halprin said. “For people who don’t necessarily identify as having a mental illness, it really helps open their eyes to what others around them may be experiencing and how they could potentially play a role in helping that.”
LSA junior Jessica Kolbe also organized the event, and was one of the speakers. She wrote an eight-minute monologue and performed it for the audience, and said she wanted her story to help normalize her illness.
“I'm just hoping to educate people, because with my disorder, I have bipolar disorder, it's very stigmatized and people fear it a lot,” Kolbe said. “So if I can like help normalize it, it would just be really great. And it's also just empowering to like be there, standing in front of other people and be like, ‘Yeah, I do have this, and I'm a perfectly functioning human being.’”
In her monologue, Kolbe recounted the details of her journey with mental illness that led her to where she is today. She reflected on how far she has come.
“There are no cures for my struggles so I will have to fight my disorders for the rest of my life,” Kolbe said. “But I know I will be okay. Life gets worse, but it also gets better. I have the tools to persevere and I will use them.”
Kolbe finished her monologue by discussing her hope for the future.
“Although there is no happily ever after in this story, there are happy times in store for me, and I will continue to live so I can experience them,” Kolbe said.
Engineering freshman Ben Firstenberg attended the event to support his friend, LSA freshman Jordy Garcia, who was one of the speakers. Firstenberg hopes the event will showcase the seriousness of mental illness, as well as how it can affect a person’s overall health.
“I also think it’s important because mental health is an important issue today,” Firstenberg said. “And I think a lot of people should be aware of how their mental health can affect their physical health and their overall well-being.”
Garcia’s monologue built on the show’s themes of acceptance and normalization.
“Now I’m at a point in my life where I can be completely honest about my mental health,” Garcia said. “I hope that one day I could be cured I guess, of all these mental health problems, but realistically these are things that I’m going to have to fight through for the rest of my life.”
He ended his monologue with a moment of reflection on his journey.
“The thing is, all of my mental health struggles don’t define who I am,” Garcia said. “They’re just a part of who I am. They make me perfectly imperfect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”