Carysbrook presents program focusing on mental health awareness

By Page H. Gifford

May is mental health awareness month and with so much buzz nowadays surrounding mental health, the Fluvanna County Arts Council teamed up with others in the mental health field to create a program regarding the recovery of those with mental health issues. The program will be held May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Carysbrook Performing Arts Center.

“Always. Already. Enough: Flipping the Script on Mental Illness”, presented by the Fluvanna County Arts Council, is a collective effort. The aim is to produce a multimedia event to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health and encourage wellness in the community. The Fluvanna County Arts Council hopes to draw on the power of the arts to build community. The arts have the power to bring people together, educate, inform, and promote individual health and well-being.

The project was the brainchild of Lisa Wessner, a mental health advocate by passion and a microbiologist by profession. Lisa knew of a national organization that does this work on a much larger and more expensive scale. And she set out to raise funds to bring that program to the community.

“However, it proved much too cost-prohibitive and was designed for much larger cities with businesses and organizations able to offer sponsorship,” said Sharon Harris, president of the Fluvanna County Arts Council. A mutual friend and local business owner Erika Mitchell connected Wessner with Jessica Harris and Sharon Harris. “We wanted to see how we could find a way to draw on the power of stories and shared experiences to shed a light on the journey to recovery and to reduce the stigma of mental illness that is so often present in rural communities. We know that one powerful way to reduce this stigma is through sharing stories. People feel less alone and more understood through hearing the experiences of others.”

While trying to reduce the stigma and offer hope, FCAC, and Wessner also wanted to focus on a resource in the community. Resources for rural residents can be limited by insurance and financial obstacles that people face once they take the often long-awaited step towards seeking help. Important information will also be shared about On Our Own, a community resource to help raise awareness and offer help to the community.

Wessner took a moment to mention her journey with mental health.

“As I went through phases of my mental illness recovery, I did not have anyone outside of my therapist as support. It was all during a time when talking about mental illness made people uncomfortable or inappropriately compassionate. I did not have anyone to relate to during my process, which compounded the notion that I was alone with my struggles,” said Wessner. “Simple fact is we are never alone. Hearing someone share their journey navigating mental illness is a first step in understanding that it is okay to not be okay.”

This is a multimedia event that features various art forms. Jessica Harris, an experienced director and the creative visionary for the project, worked with the storytellers, helping them find their voices and craft stories that are meaningful.

This event will feature six storytellers, sharing their personal mental health and wellness journeys. Stories will be told in a variety of forms, from monologues to spoken word, to original music and dance performances. This multimedia event will also include artwork and writing from others who will not be performing but will be sharing their story through their creative projects.

Telling their stories can be traumatic by dredging up feelings and emotions, yet cathartic to share with others their journey in hopes of a better understanding of what they and others have suffered.

“This event will be an immensely powerful experience. By hearing narratives of recovery, transformation, and triumph, we hope that audiences resonate with these stories in some way and feel inspired to seek help and connection,” said Jessica. “The main theme of this event is that we, as human beings, are Always. Already. Enough. We are inherently enough in and of ourselves, and deserve to live full and well lives.” This reinforces for many of us that we are not defined by others but only by ourselves.

While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. Most of us either experience challenges with our mental health or know someone who struggles with their mental well-being.

“It is important that we begin to have conversations to better understand how we can support each other, learn more about ourselves, and collectively seek healing,” said Jessica.

Jessica explained the goal of the event is to break down stigmas around mental health and unite with audiences in the connective experience of storytelling.

“A major hope of this event is to destigmatize seeking help and to encourage the community to gain a deeper understanding of each other. We all experience our journeys in this realm, so through this event, we hope to start a conversation and foster connections that extend beyond the event.”

Proceeds from this project will go to On Our Own, a peer recovery center located in Charlottesville. On Our Own serves individuals in Fluvanna, and its mission is to provide free peer support, self-help, education, guidance, advocacy, and referral services for adults who face challenges with mental health, substance use, or trauma.

“I hope that audiences leave this performance with greater empathy and understanding, and a greater willingness to discuss mental health,” said Jessica. “I also hope that audiences understand that help is available and that we are not alone. We all have a role to play in the support systems around us, and we’re on this wellness journey together.”

 “I hope the audience gains a larger vocabulary when it comes to talking about or understanding mental health. I think the show will easily touch those whose lives have been impacted by mental illness and addiction,” said Wessner. “I also hope that the show touches those who have not necessarily identified as someone with mental illness. Life is challenging. Small traumas that affect the psyche happen daily, and they settle into the mind negatively if we are not mindful of them, and if we do not process the emotions. I want that to be part of the new dialog as well.”

Wessner added, “The Arts Council is leaning in on this project. I hope the community does as well. If one person attends this show and leaves feeling seen and heard or if they take away the courage to open a dialog with someone they know is struggling, then it will have been a stellar success.”

Tickets can be purchased at and donations can be made by adding additional contributions to their ticket purchase. All proceeds will go to On Our Own.

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138