“Music certainly has saved my life multiple times, and continues to do so every single day,” songwriter Janel Nabong said.

She’ll be one of the participants in a Mental Health Storytellers forum. The virtual forum will include two other musicians — Fernando Ufret and Jae Havoc — along with People Incorporated Training Institute speaker Russ Turner.

Together, Nabong, Ufret, Jae Havoc and Turner will explore music’s power in mental health while also presenting an online concert. The free event will take place on Thursday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 3 p.m.

“Going through struggles with mental health myself,” Nabong said, “I felt that I relate very much to what this event is about and want to share this experience with others who go through similar things.”

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Timothy Hunter has organized regional mental health forums like this Mental Health Storytellers event for the past three years. He is a regional programs coordinator for the CREST Adult Mental Health Initiative.

CREST stands for Collaboration, Resources, Education, Services, and Technology, and it works to enhance the mental health delivery system in a 10-county region in Southeast Minnesota by identifying mental health challenges, priorities and solutions.

The pandemic has had a significant effect on mental health.

“Our communities are faced with an unrelenting threat to our way of life,” Hunter said. “This has caused new stressors for individuals and families. Many people need human connection to cope and be healthy, but we cannot achieve this in the same way we have historically.”

He said mental health providers have been reacting to the new conditions of the pandemic to offer alternative methods of care.

Since the mental health forum this year needed to be virtual due to the pandemic, Hunter thought music might make an engaging topic.

“Music has a long history of being connected to our emotions and how we can cope,” he said. “We thought mixing a little music into this year’s forum would be a bit more engaging. It is a universal topic that anyone who attends could find something to take with them when they leave.”

Russ Turner will focus his talk on the neurobiological benefits of music and the connection between music and resiliency. Nabong, Ufret and Jae Havoc, the forum’s musical participants, will be performing music but also elaborating on how music impacts their mental health and the ways they’ve seen it help others.

“Music is something that connects us,” said Ufret, who performs as a guitarist and singer. “Using that as a mental health tool can help many at the same time.”

The way Ufret sees it, “there is music for everyone,” and he said that music helps him get through difficult times but also to “celebrate well-being victories.”

Jae Havoc
Jae Havoc

Jae Havoc, who goes by Joe McShan offstage, is a rapper. He feels that music can serve as a catharsis.

“Creating music can help you release tension and find ways to open up,” he said.

He said his participation in the forum is an opportunity to connect with others in a meaningful way and examine the way music has shaped his own identity.

“This event is open to anyone that has or is experiencing mental health challenges or having a difficult time coping with everything that is happening in our world right now,” Hunter said. “This event is meant to share how music can be a tool to help you cope with the many challenges we’re facing right now. If someone could benefit from that, they are more than welcome to attend.”

If you go

What: Mental Health Storyteller (a virtual, music-focused, mental health forum)

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5

Registration: Register in advance at https://www.traininginstitute.org/courses/101-crest-mental-health-forum?t=f7c24779e61144acb72da50e0e8951ad.

Cost: Free

More information

If you or someone you know needs support for mental health, here are some places Tim Hunter recommends: