Open mic events allow artists to share their talents in a spontaneous and relaxed setting.

Whitney Young wants to employ the same concept for mental health.

Young is the community engagement manager for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. While walking through downtown Rochester, she passed a coffee shop hosting a poetry event.

The wheels in her mind began to turn.

“As someone who lives with mental health issues myself, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was some sort of poetry night for mental health,'” Young said.

Whitney Young at NAMI Rochester's Mental Health Open Mic. Young is the Community Engagement Manager for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Whitney Young at NAMI Rochester’s Mental Health Open Mic. Young is the Community Engagement Manager for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI Rochester’s Mental Health Open Mic takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 16 at Happy Gut Sanctuary, 1115 E Main St., Door 6A.

NAMI hosted a similar event in June 2021.

“We had a roomful of complete strangers who not only have the courage to show up, get in front of an audience and perform but also share deep personal parts of their mental health journey,” Young said.

The event welcomes poetry, music, comedy, or an unscripted piece of your mental health story and promotes a safe space to share, support and connect. The affair is free and open to all. No pre-registration is needed to participate and masks are required for entry.

Mental Health America, a national nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, released its 2022 State of Mental Health in America Report in November 2021.

Here are some key findings:

  • Suicidal thoughts continue to increase among adults in the U.S. 4.58% of adults report having severe thoughts of suicide, an increase of 664,000 people from last year’s data.

  • Over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, totaling over 27 million adults in the U.S.

  • Both adults and youth in the U.S. lack adequate insurance coverage. 11.1% of Americans with a mental illness are uninsured.

  • Rates of substance use are increasing for youth and adults and had been on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My goal for this is to above all else provide a safe space for connection for folks and an avenue to normalize conversations around mental health,” Young said.

“Specifically, mental illness, addiction, and suicide, which of course, are often topics that are discussed in clinical settings. I want this to be a place for the community to come and not only feel like mental illness is destigmatized but normalized and a part of our culture.”

NAMI Rochester is hosting a Black & Brown men’s mental health group virtually on March 9 and 23 and an annual walk for mental health on May 21.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Mental Health Open Mic event to be held at Happy Gut Sanctuary