WE RISE isn’t just a call to action, this is a movement to raise awareness about mental health in an attempt to break down all of the stigmas attached to it. Earlier this year, we had Into Action, the “groundbreaking social justice festival of art and ideas.” Now, the focus has shifted to mental health, which arrives just in time amid Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a 10-day festival filled with seemingly endless art, musical performances, workshops, programming, and much more.
Opening its doors on Saturday, May 19, 2018, in Chinatown to beautiful Los Angeles weather, WE RISE’s Day 1 came in the form of a rally with an all-star lineup of musical artists, such as Common, Ty Dolla $ign, Raja Kumari, Los Rakas. While the concert aspect of the show is always enticing, I had to remind myself of why we were here. Each artist on the bill had something to say about mental health and the importance of getting help and helping others locate the resources needed to improve their lives and overall well-being.
“It’s important to perform here because the people need us,” said singer Ty Dolla $ign. “We want to see the people rise in LA, and we want to defeat mental health disorders.”
Arriving in the late afternoon, I was pleased to see a great crowd spread out over the spacious black pavement, reminiscent of a school playground. There were food trucks, vendors, free water, a We Rise mural, and infinite amounts of great energy. Everyone was here to unite and stand together for a great cause. Whether you’re 8 years old or 60, you belonged.
A project of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, WE RISE tries to break down barriers and defy assumptions about mental health care and the related social conditions that affect our youth and communities. As I waited backstage to speak with Ty Dolla $ign, I couldn’t help but notice two kids that were taking pictures with the few press outlets onsite.
Heading back out to the main stage, those two kids ended up coming on stage to speak. There names are Matthew Deitsch and Jammal Lemy, two survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. I was shook. Having my own personal experiences with trauma, I couldn’t even imagine the scenarios they endured.
This is where medical marijuana comes in. In the Psychiatric Times published May 31, 2017, psychiatrists Dr. Christopher G. Fichtner and Dr. Howard B. Moss wrote, “Regardless of the legal status of cannabis, many patients with psychiatric disorders use cannabis and report improvement in their symptoms. Patients use cannabis for symptoms of PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, chronic pain, insomnia, opiate dependence, and even schizophrenia.”
It is possible for all the disorders listed above to stem from a single incident in one’s life, causing PTSD to stick with the individual for the remainder of his or her life. Studies show that the plant provides benefits in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), assisting in relieving haunting nightmares and other symptoms.
Studies published in Science Daily reported the reductions: a decrease in re-experiencing the trauma, less avoidance of triggers of the trauma, and a decline in hyper-arousal.
In between explosive sets from Raja Kumari and Ty$, there was a presentation by USC Keck School of Medicine professor of pediatrics Dr. Astrid Heger, who, in my opinion, gave the most moving speech of the day.
Heger, who is also executive director of the Violence Intervention Program at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, told us the event “reminded me the power of young people. We need to set a new trajectory for our society. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about rising, for households to have access to care.
“I look at this building right here with transformative art, this is a representation of our ability to thrive as human beings. It’s a metaphor, a voice for people who are suffering. A metaphor for healing to open up. At the end of the day, the solutions are collective because the problems are collective. We can only do this together. We have to be unified as a collective. We have to help our brothers and sisters when they’re not doing well. We have to take care of each other and do it together.”
If you’re planning on attending, I highly recommend stopping by the Monday evening program on overcoming mental health. See below for more information.
Monday, May 21 – Courageous Truth: Facing Mental Illness – 7-9p
1726 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
For too long we have lived in fear, denial, and shame of mental illness being apart of our communities. We have allowed our complacency with dysfunction to dismantle families, relationships, careers and even the very will to live, as if such terrors deserved to ever be normalized. Enough. It is time to stand up for ourselves and for one another. It is time to approach mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder with the same love, bravery, and intention to heal as we approach any other illness. Join us for a critical dialogue addressing the urgent call to destigmatize mental illness and bring awareness to preventative mental health care.
Special Guests: Shanti Das, Yashi Brown, and Taboo
Spoken word performance by: Maceo Paisley
Pre-Event Mix: DJ Anthony Valadez