Local artists who are struggling with mental health just gained a new resource for help.
The do-it-yourself collective Spiderweb Salon and the nonprofit Denton Music and Arts Collaborative have teamed up to give local creatives mental health support.
Spiderweb Salon’s founder Courtney Marie said she was inspired to create the initiative, called the You Are Here program, because many of the town’s artists are hurting.
“It just became very apparent that a lot of people are struggling,” the Denton-based poet said. “Looking around I was like, there is nothing. There’s nowhere even to direct people.”
Marie hopes the You Are Here program will give solace to those in need. The program will offer weekly peer-run support groups. It will also provide a scholarship program for those who would prefer one-on-one therapy sessions led by a licensed counselor.
Over the last year, Marie worked in tandem with the collaborative’s program director Aubrey Mortensen. Together, they recruited local therapists to help them devise the initiative’s guidelines.
And because of their persistent appeals, City Council decided to divert $900 from its 2019-20 budget to You Are Here.
Council member Keely Briggs said she’s sympathetic to the program’s cause.
“Music and art is an institution in our community, an institution that sets us apart as unique. The lifeblood of this institution is the artist,” Briggs wrote in an email.
Spiderweb Salon will host its annual Spiderdead bash at Rubber Gloves this Saturday, Nov. 2. The event includes a bake sale as well as a music, poetry, theater and art showcase and more as a part of a collective grieving process. All proceeds will go toward the You Are Here program.
Collaborative representatives will also attend the event to show support and raise awareness about the 2020 Open Enrollment period — a time when people select health care insurance and access — which is active from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
Mortensen said she was motivated to help form the initiative because many of her friends have struggled with mental illness.
“We’ve lost a lot of really fantastic musicians and artists to suicide — drinking themselves to death, being on the road, stress from family life, all of that,” she said. “If you’re not mentally healthy, your body’s not healthy.”
But, You Are Here isn’t the first of its kind in North Texas.
The nonprofit Foundation 45 has firmly planted roots in Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff and Fort Worth. It plans to expand to Denton sometime next year. The organization hosts weekly counselor-led support sessions, as well as art therapy and substance abuse programs.
Foundation 45’s president and executive director Lauren O’Connor said she created the nonprofit after two Dallas musicians, both from the band Spector 45, died by suicide within 77 days of one another. O’Connor said there weren’t any local organizations at the time to help artists who struggle with mental illness.
O’Connor said since its inception in 2016, Foundation 45’s popularity among local artists has exploded.
“If something happens in your city to one of your favorite bands or one of your close friends, it can snowball very quickly,” she said. “I think that’s why we’ve grown so well.”
According to a 2017 study by Swedish distribution company Record Union, 73% of musicians reported struggling with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Another study by Sydney University found that musicians die 25 years younger than the average person due to higher-than-average suicide, accident and homicide rates.
Mortensen said that even though the You Are Here program is still in its infancy, scores of people are interested in participating. They won’t have to wait much longer.
Soon, Spiderweb Salon will begin hosting its peer-led counseling sessions in a discreet location near downtown Denton. Several members will be working to become certified peer counselors with Via Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to training peer specialists. They’ll then be equipped to lead the You Are Here program’s weekly support groups.
Additionally, four local counselors have volunteered to participate in the scholarship program for a reduced hourly rate.
For now, the peer-led group sessions will focus on those who are struggling with mental health issues. Eventually, though, Marie hopes to add sessions centered on substance abuse issues and ones geared toward helping families affected by a loved one’s illness.
Launching the You Are Here program has been a long time coming, but Marie said all her hard work will have been worth it.
“I don’t really see [the program] having a big overarching goal. Like we’re not going to change the suicide rate in Denton County or anything,” Marie said. “But we are going to help the health of our members and help the people we’re surrounded by, and I think that’s important.”