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A high energy hip-hop concert is the framework for a presentation on mental wellness to be held at the Wheeling campus of West Virginia Northern Community College to commemorate national Disabilities Awareness Month in October.
A special Lunch & Learn event is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the B&O Building auditorium, 1704 Market St., downtown Wheeling, featuring Kai Roberts, a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, who will blend the hip-hop culture with an honest narrative about his mental illness and recovery. Roberts tells the story of his battle with anxiety and panic disorder through interactive dialogue and hip-hop music.
The presentation is open to the public along with students, faculty and staff at WVNCC. The B&O auditorium will be open at 11:30 a.m. when a light lunch will be available. Roberts will be on stage from noon-12:50 p.m. followed by a 10-minute question and answer session. There will be a 15-minute break and then Roberts will offer a 45-minute workshop.
“Be prepared for good music, meaningful messages and an overall good time,” according to Kevin Serig, Northern’s counselor, student disabilities, and CJ Farnsworth, director of academic student support services.
Farnsworth and Serig explained this program is part of their goal for the new academic year to have “no stigma attached” when discussing mental health. Roberts, they added, is part of Active Minds Inc., a national non-profit organization that empowers individuals to speak openly about mental health to educate others and encourage help-seeking. Active Minds was established in 2003 by Alison Malmon after losing her only brother, Brian, to suicide.
Active Minds works with student leaders on college campuses in nearly all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Canada, “to educate students so they know where to turn for help, empower students to engage peers, administrators and communities on every campus about mental health, teach student leaders to be the next generation of mental health advocates and connect all who are passionate about college mental health to energize a movement for change.”
As an example, it was explained, the speaker, Kai Roberts, “developed anxiety and panic disorder while a student at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and discovered the healing power of writing about his feelings, creating a series of hip-hop lyrics to illustrate what he was going through.”
Roberts ultimately recorded and released an album, “Carnegie Café,” with the support of the university. That project “became key to his recovery and eventual return to stability” and evolved into his gaining local and national acclaim through his contributions to several Pittsburgh-based music groups.