[Video by Denise Hibbard & Jesse Gleaton]
On November 13, 2016, we had the opportunity to attend the In This Together Festival held at Avalon Hollywood. With an aim in advocating for mental health awareness, the event included a mix of talks, performances, and various vendors. When we arrived, Matt Shepherd was hosting a live podcast taping for the Mental Illness Happy Hour with former NBA player Royce White. It was fascinating listening to him discuss how sports psychology is embraced in the NBA, but mental health counseling is a big no-no (Royce has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder). He actually mentioned how he does not have anxiety issues while being on the court in front of thousands of people, but gets major anxiety while being in a room with greedy NBA owners.
Outside the staging area, vendors lined the hallway and upstairs room. Attendees could learn about different organizations, try out a virtual reality headset, purchase health foods, or even get a short neurofeedback trial session. We met Shanna from Organifi, who had an incredible conversation with us about health and nutrition. The turnout of vendors was impressive given that this was the first year for the festival.
Comedian Beth Stelling performed a funny, uplifting act on stage, and props to her for having the courage to open up about rape and abuse from her ex-boyfriend, which is how her Instagram went viral. Later some of the cast of “Mortified” got on stage and read stories of past diaries. The hilarious, and also serious, diaries shed light on how much we change as we mature and grow, and that all of us go through problems and struggles. It also reminded many of us about our own past memories of childhood, depression, and mental issues, where we embraced that mental illness is a very serious subject, but having the newfound knowledge that we all go through problems in life and can unite to be comfortable discussing issues with the people around us. The music performers were Deqn Sue, Kimya Dawson, and Daniel Johnston, which I largely missed due to being upstairs testing some EEG biofeedback (neurofeedback), where sensors were attached to my scalp to record my brainwaves. This, for me, was similar to meditation, and my mental clarity was stronger after the testing.
I did not know what to expect at the first ever In This Together Festival, but by the end of the night, I was a different man. The event was heartfelt, fun, and emotional. My girlfriend and I opened up to each other in ways we never have, laughed at ourselves, and we have the festival to thank for giving us the courage to talk about our own past mental issues. I myself have gone through depression and anxiety in 2016, and the event helped me realize that I am not alone in the fight to beat the mind. Everyone has issues inside themselves, and we must continue to spread the word that it’s ok to communicate about problems and not just bury them all internally. Having a small community open to discussing mental illness created an atmosphere of togetherness, and it was absolutely amazing to be a part of this caring group.