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Soloist Fights Stigma of Mental Illness with Violin and Guitar

Celebrating World Mental Health Day – Oct. 10, 2010

“The best way to overcome stigma is to learn that the man who sits in the next office suffers from depression or the neighbor you chat with on summer evenings is battling bipolar disorder. You know them; you’re not afraid of them…Together we can eliminate stigma and bring a better life within everyone’s reach. ”– Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

A tall man wearing a crisp, white tuxedo and satin top hat steps quietly into the bright spotlight on the stage. The soloist sits on a simple wooden stool and brings a violin to rest on his shoulder. With a subtle nod, he and an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra pianist begin to improvise a wistful melody together that lasts for the next 10 minutes. When the music finishes, 400 people rise to their feet in applause, in awe of both the beautiful concert and the soloist’s incredible bravery.

Nathaniel Ayers is a musician in high demand—he recently played for President Barack Obama at The White House—though his performances are rare and have a purpose.  Ayers, whose musical genius and struggle with schizophrenia were profiled in the best-selling book and 2009 feature film “The Soloist,” uses his talent to help fight stigma against mental illnesses. That’s why the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program invited him to perform in Atlanta earlier this fall.

Although we know more than ever before about mental illnesses and how to treat them, stigma and discrimination still prevent one in five people suffering from these disorders from seeking medical help.  And with half of Americans experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime, The Carter Center believes fighting stigma is an important way we can help ourselves or our loved ones enjoy better health.

Research shows that one of the best ways to fight stigma and discrimination is to have communities meet and talk with those suffering from mental illness.

In honor of World Mental Health Day, we invite you to take a moment to enjoy an excerpt from Ayers’s performance and be a part of our fight against stigma.

Click image below to watch video.

Earlier this fall, musician Nathaniel Ayers, accompanied by pianist Peter Marshall, treated a full-house audience at The Carter Center to a rare public performance during the panel discussion “The Soloist: Through the Eyes of Neuroscience, Journalism, Policy, and the Arts.” The event was sponsored by The Carter Center, Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, Jr. Foundation, and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine.

Posted in Health, Mental Health, Videos

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    Nate Dean on October 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Tremendous article, and video. Thank you for posting this!

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