Tonight, LiveWell and Lafayette Activities Forum (L.A.F.) will aim to lessen the stigma around mental health, increase positivity and warm hearts with the coffeehouse open-mic night they’re hosting.
Students will perform for the first hour before poet Sierra Demulder, who has been invited to speak, will close out the event with her own performance. According to her website, she’s “an internationally touring performance poet, educator, mental health advocate, and two-time National Poetry Slam champion.”
According to LiveWell Director of Intellectual and Professional Wellness, Kyra Helfrich ’20, the event is an add-on to L.A.F.’s usual coffeehouse events as well as a bookend to LiveWell’s Emotional Wellness Month.
“[LiveWell] wanted to co-sponsor an event like this with other organizations on campus…and L.A.F. had the Coffeehouse event already set up so they offered to help us host a speaker, which gave us an established space for her to perform,” Helfrich said.
According to Helfrich, the goal of the event is “to spread positivity and have [the audience] hear stories about people who are strong and can overcome their mental health or things that are going on in their lives and obviously bring a sense of community to campus.”
“I’ve been wanting to bring a slam poet to campus since we got here so we invited [Demulder] to speak after the students perform at the coffeehouse event,” she said.
She added that “a lot of the things that are going on in the world right now are hard to hear and look at and I really think [Demulder] is a beacon of light. I enjoy hearing her speak, watching her poems, reading her books [and] listening to her podcasts all the time. She just makes my heart warm so I hope I can help other people feel that way by bringing her to campus.”
The Coffeehouse event acts as a continuation of the “Spread Love on Our Paws” tabling that took place in Farinon earlier this month. The tabling had hoped to spread the message “to write love on our arms and to help people with mental health issues feel more comfortable and be able to talk about it [and] to decrease the stigma,” Kelfrich said.
The movement Kelfrich alluded to is that of “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a movement that had been indirectly started by Jamie Tworkowski whose goal had been to create a platform with which to share the story of his friend who had been struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts.
Tworkowski shared her story on MySpace with the title “To Write Love on Her Arms,” which eventually evolved and grew into a non-profit.
Demulder has spoken and performed poetry, as well as dedicated one of her collections of poetry “Today Means Amen” to the “To Write Love on Her Arms” movement. She also published her writing on the website.
“We were looking for somebody to be a speaker for this month and she immediately came to my mind,” Helfrich said.
About eight people have signed up already and according to Helfrich, “it’s just a normal Coffeehouse event. There’s no theme except for maybe keeping more on this topic, which a lot of people do anyway. It’s the nature of art to write about how we feel.”