Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

The Hero’s Journey

This past Monday, we hosted an evening celebrating the unique capacity of the arts to connect communities and advocate for mental health. Our fourth annual event, Love is EleMental, raised awareness and funds that will translate into improved access to care for individuals with mental illness.

The Hero’s Journey is the perfect metaphor for all of us who encounter mental health challenges in our lives. In the beginning of the Hero’s Journey, the protagonist is living an ordinary life. But there comes a moment. A crisis occurs, and everyday normal is no more. The protagonist is called, maybe forced, to leave what is familiar. The journey begins. This departure takes the protagonist – not yet a hero – to that dark cave of the unknown where trials, obstacles and foes await. The protagonist must reach deep inside, must stare the enemy down, must slay the dragon that represents innermost fears. This is also the time when the help of others – family, friends, therapist – comes into play. The metamorphosis begins. The hero is born of one part strength and the other part heart. The courage it takes to face the challenges brings with it the discovery of humility, kindness, and love. In that mix of strength and heart, wisdom emerges and the hero is fully born. Our hero can return home now. Having grown. Having changed. With this newfound self and wisdom, our hero is poised to live a fuller life, sharing what has been learned for the benefit of those awaiting the return.

A heartfelt thank you to the heroes of Love is EleMental 2020:

1. Our Master of Ceremonies, Peter Hermann. Known to many for his leading roles in theater, on film and television, including as Charles Brooks in Younger, Peter joined us for a second time as host. Last year, Peter shared with us his journey of loving and caring for his sister who lives with bipolar disorder. This year, he opened the evening with the grand news that she is thriving today. His and his sister’s journeys are the quintessential Hero’s Journey. And it was with this wisdom that he hosted an evening that took us all on a magical and unforgettable journey.

2. Our Artists: Melissa Etheridge, Janine Divita. Members of Freestyle Love Supreme Andrew Bancroft (Jelly Donut), Aneesa Folds (Young Nees), Chris Sullivan (Shockwave), and Utkarsh Ambudkar (UTK), and our Artist Director and Concert Pianist Elaine Kwon.These artists shared their extraordinary talents and some of their own stories of mental health challenges and recovery. Their performances took us through the stages of the hero’s journey – filled with moments of searching, awakening, reflecting, battling, transforming, believing and triumph. The stage was ablaze with heroes.

3. Our Audience. In today’s busy world, there is nothing more precious than time. Joe’s Pub was filled to capacity with individuals who chose to give over the evening to the cause of mental health. Recovery happens in community, and we need communities that are designed to support mental health and prepared to care for individuals when mental illness strikes. From the community of Joe’s Pub to the corners of the globe, we are grateful to all the members of communities who join and partner with us to make mental health matter.

4. Our Lead Supporters. We are enormously grateful to Bank of America for its generous support of the arts to advance mental health, to Krug for its lavish pour of champagne to open the evening with a splash. We thank all the members of our Benefit Committee: Shizuka Asakawa, Anne Delaney, Virginia Feldman, Coni & Ed Frezzo-Sannini, Donna Friedman, Charles & Laura Ann Goldstein Philanthropic Foundation, Pamela Geld, Leigh Sherwood Matthes, Kathy Matsui, Jessica Nagle, Ann & Bill Sacher, Kylie Schuyler, Ravi & S. Mona Sinha, and Catherine Wolstencroft. And a standing ovation to our Benefit Chair, Janet Montag. The leadership support of these organizations and individuals will provide essential funding needed to conduct research and training so that better mental health treatments and more providers are ready when needed.

5. Everyone how has known the challenges of mental illness. Our greatest heroes. For anyone who has faced mental health challenges, for those who are called on to battle with mental illness over extended time, and for family, friends and caregivers who support this hero’s journey, we celebrate your courage, your resilience, and your recovery.

This past Monday we reveled in the unique capacity of the arts promote understanding of mental health and mental illness. It was an exhilarating and inspiring display of artistry that took us on a journey that was both familiar and unknown. It was a triumphant and heartening journey. Thank you to all the heroes who made it possible.

Picture of Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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