NAMI”Pieces” play unites community

The MATC Times partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to present the play, “Pieces, the Voice Inside.”

The original screenplay, written by Brenda Wesley, Director of Education and Outreach for NAMI, is a creative approach to bring awareness to Mental Health issues. “Its meaningful and a lot of the issues hit close to home.”

Chasity Washington, actress and comedian, stated when asked why she got involved with the production, “I knew it was going to be something special.”

Held at the Downtown Campus, the Cooley Auditorium was packed with a diverse crowd. Audience members consisted of not only students, faculty and curious passers-by but also Dr. Vicki Martin, Vice President of MATC and retired former State Representative, Polly Williams.

Five mental illnesses were addressed in the production: Schizophrenia, Depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Bi-Polar and Suicide.

The play opened with dancers garbed in white masks and hospital gowns.

There movements were graceful yet chaotic, symbolic of the inner turmoil involved with mental illness. The stage was minimally decorated – consisting of six chairs and a human-figure cutout with names of the addressed illnesses placed on various body parts. It caught the attention of audience members and set the tone for the rest of the production.

The disorders were addressed in the form of monologue, each beginning with the same dialect, “I am a whole person made up of a million wonderful pieces. My mental illness is just one of those pieces.” Following a personalized account of the specified illness, the closing dialect was also the same: “Who was I before I became ill? I was just like you.”

Each presentation depicted that although each illness is different, they are all similar in the fact that they are isolating, there is a certain stigma attached to them.

“It (mental illness) should be dinner table conversation. We need to take the shame away from it. If we can do that, then I think we’ve gone pretty far,” Wesley stated.

Q&A was held following the production. There were many inquiries about various methods of treatment; however, the session quickly turned to the sharing of experiences.

People came forward to tell how mental health issues have affected their lives, whether dealing with it personally or knowing someone struggling. “Recovery is a process, not an event,” Peter Hoeffel of NAMI said as he talked about the challenges involved with the healing process, “It isn’t something that can be fixed overnight.”

As the exchange of experiences continued, various audience members consoled each other with hugs, tears and, ultimately, a sense of understanding.

The importance of advocacy was irrefutable. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, seek support.

Resources can be found at www.namigrm.org, or call (414) 344-0447. Don’t suffer alone, talk to someone.