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Sunday, June 7, 2020

Open-mic night redefines mental health

By Nicole Martinson

Mental Health Poetry was the focus at the Underground Coffeehouse during their open-mic night on Thursday, May 24. Speakers were able to read aloud poems they wrote pertaining to mental health.

After signing up to speak, students shared their heartfelt writings to about 20 welcoming audience members.

The first speaker of the night, Josh, read out three of their poems on May 24. // Photo by Nicole Martinson


The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a club that works with college campuses to take away the stigma associated with mental illnesses. NAMI on Campus worked with the Sustainability Representatives Program to put on Mental Health Poetry Night with the intent of giving Western students a forum to express themselves while caring for their mental health.

May being Mental Health Awareness month provided an opportunity to host this poetry night. NAMI on Campus President Sarah Cederberg said putting on Mental Health Poetry Night was a great way to portray mental health in a way that isn’t damaging like it is often portrayed in the media.

Although the poetry shared wasn’t necessarily centered on mental health, Cederberg said most poetry sheds light on the inner thoughts and feelings of their writer. She encouraged speakers to read any poetry they wanted to share at the open mic.

Snapping instead of applause after each reading kept the atmosphere calm and welcoming. When a speaker mentioned that they were nervous before reading, snaps echoed throughout the room. Trigger warnings ahead of some poems also added to the accepting atmosphere of the open-mic night.


“Letters to my mental health” written by students were strung up by NAMI employees in front of the stage. // Photo by Nicole Martinson

Poems about family, love, sexuality, addiction and mental illness were all read with emotion from their writers. Some people gave some background about themselves before proceeding with their poetry.


“I come to you in the dark, I come to you under the sun,” one speaker read.

Students were also encouraged to write “letters to my mental health,” which were then hung up on a string in front of the stage. The notes were along the lines of, “My depression is not my identity,” “I am stronger than my mental illness,” and “Although I hate you sometimes, I love you.”

Cederberg from NAMI ended the night by telling the audience that there are resources on the NAMI website to help those struggling with their mental health.


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