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UF College of the Arts hosts panel conversation on men’s mental health

A group of panelists discuss their definitions of mental health to the audience Monday evening at UF Innovate, 747 SW 2nd Ave. in Gainesville. (Brendan Bulling/WUFT News)
A group of panelists discuss their definitions of mental health to the audience Monday evening at UF Innovate, 747 SW 2nd Ave. in Gainesville. (Brendan Bulling/WUFT News)

These men didn't meet to talk about sports, movies or work — but to discuss their mental health, connect with each other and help their peers.

The University of Florida College of the Arts hosted a panel conversation Monday evening in collaboration with the Art Prevails Project. Attendees were able to discuss and improve each other's mental well-being. Artists, as well as experts from the University of South Florida, Florida A&M University and local community, were in attendance.

Roderick Jackson II, 22, said he was thrilled with the number of attendees eager to discuss their mental health.

“People showed up,” he said. “That’s one step to a thousand steps on the journey. Taking yourself outside of the insecurities, fears and allowing yourself to exist in a community that you have been actively seeking is the groundwork to continue to grow.”

During the discussion, each panel member had 30 seconds to answer a topic question. When the panelists were asked for their definition of mental health, Micah Jonson was eager to tell the audience his version.

“For me, mental health is a state of peace and joy, despite whatever goes around you,” he said.

David H. Hepburn shared his definition after Johnson.

“Mental health is the biggest commodity that we have,” he said.

The panel included eight members, with Osubi Craig as the moderator. Members in the panel included Micah Jonshon, Darius V. Daughtry, Denzel McCauseland, David H. Hepburn, Peter Lange, Douglas Khan-Stanell and Watson Louidor.

Turbado Marabou, a local artist, brought in his work to show the audience. Marabou said he was eager to listen to the discussion regarding mental health.

“I was really curious to hear what the other men were discussing,” he said. “I am the last of the baby boomers and my mentality of manhood is not what it is today. I was interested to hear perspectives of the other generations.”

The panel conversation was funded by the UF Creative B Summer Program. The program was established in 2010 for students to bring together creative resources and energies across the campus to provide unique opportunities throughout the summer term.

Sarah Silberman, college events manager for the College of the Arts, said the goal of these conversations is to connect art as a way of improving mental health.

“Men, in general, can struggle to talk about mental health,” she said. “The arts are not just something extra, but it’s something that we can use to heal ourselves and have a better sense of wellbeing.

The College of the Arts will be hosting multiple events throughout the Summer B term that sponsor diverse, creative, innovative and imaginative activities related to the theme of “Recovery through the Arts.”

Panel organizer Alana Jackson said she discovered a unique way for men to improve their mental well-being.

“I recognized the opportunity that was there,” she said. “All of us can find our grounding with our mental well-being and social support, then figure out what this does for our collective health.”

The next activity hosted by the College of the Arts and Art Prevails Project is the “Poem is Where the Heart is” on Wednesday at 6 p.m. This event will be held at the Santa Fe Blount Center, located at 401 NW 6th St.

Brendan is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.