I wish I was like you
Find my nest of salt
Everything's my fault ...
When Kurt Cobain of Nirvana wrote the 1993 hit song "All Apologies," few understood it as a cry for help. But Cobain suffered from severe mental illness, and soon took his own life. To reach out to the millions of less famous but equally tormented young Kurt Cobains, the NYC chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has partnered with five New York bands to launch the "I Will Listen" album and movement. The participating bands are Controller, Sweet Lorainne, Boola featuring Jeni Fujita, Romans Are Alive and Jenna Kyle.
"After 9/11, the stigma about going for help for mental health issues was reduced because everyone was affected by the tragedy," says Robert Goldblatt, former director of psychiatric rehabilitation for the NYC Department of Health. "What is important now is continuing to reduce that stigma."
Beverly Cobain can attest to that. Kurt's cousin, Beverly was affected by his death. Now a registered nurse and mental health professional, she speaks nationwide about suicide prevention and other mental health issues. "Kurt's risk was very high: untreated bipolar disorder, family history of depression, his drug addiction and alcohol abuse," Beverly Cobain told HealthDay. Beside medication and talk therapy, she believes "the primary antidote is the presence of caring people in one's life who know when something is wrong and take appropriate steps to help."
The campaign encourages people to do just that. Participating musicians received guidelines asking them to compose songs about their experiences with mental illness, citing as examples "All Apologies," The Who's "The Real Me," about schizophrenia, and "Manic Depression" by Jimi Hendrix.
The "I Will Listen" album's official launch show will be Monday at NYC's Mercury Lounge. Meanwhile, the album is free and available on IWillListen.org. Guidelines on how to listen to people in need -- including being nonjudgmental, letting them know they're not alone and knowing when to call for help -- can be found on the site.
Spread the word.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.