By Mrinal Gokhale
For the second year in a row, the play ‘Pieces: In My Own Voice’ was showcased at Milwaukee Area Technical College Downtown (700 W. State St.) as part of Mental Health Awareness Day at the campus. The approximately two hour production took place on Wed, Oct. 25 in the Cooley Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.
Pieces was the final Mental Health Awareness Day event on campus. During the day, different community health and faith-based organizations staffed tables at MATC’s S-Building Atrium to inform passersby of their services. At noon, a workshop on adverse childhood experiences took place.
NAMI Greater Milwaukee, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Upsilon Mu Omega Chapter, and MATC’s Multicultural and Men of Color Initiative have worked together since 2014 to bring Pieces to different Milwaukee venues.
Using spoken word, song and dance, performers depicted life with schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and PTSD and how suicide can result. Two overhead screens displayed eye-opening statistics. For example, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in Wisconsin, according to wisconsinwatch.org.
Each performer asked the same compelling question to end each monologue: “If I had cancer, you call me a cancer? If I had heart disease, would you say ‘Look, there goes Heart Disease!’?
Berthena Brister, President of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Upsilon Mu Omega Chapter, said that AKA’s president in 2014 started a family strengthening and mental health awareness program in 2014, which lead to their involvement with NAMI Greater Milwaukee.
“We want to bring people and resources together and show that mental illness can be treated like other illnesses,” she said.
Brenda Wesley is the Director of Education and Outreach at NAMI Greater Milwaukee. She stated that her son deals with mental illness, which inspired her to write and become the director of Pieces. The production has gone nationwide for seven years.
Pastor Walter Lenier is the Director of Multicultural Services and Community Engagement at MATC and a Milwaukee County Mental Health Board member. He said that MATC’s downtown campus was chosen for Mental Health Awareness Month for its diversity.
“We are a diverse collaborative, and MATC is a community college that’s very diverse,” he said. “In fact, MATC is the most diverse college in Wisconsin with factors like race, gender, religion, and socioeconomic status.”
He said that many health, community and religion based organizations made this day possible such as Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, MATC, MICAH, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc., Cade Law, and Hurtado Zimmerman