As more people begin to acknowledge and understand the importance of mental health, one NATS member has started a commissioning project to support genuine discussion around the topic. Enter Black Dog Commission by Joel Balzun.
A singer, voice teacher and composer, Balzun is a member Los Angeles NATS chapter.
Balzun describes Black Dog Commission as a platform for the creation of new music for voice and piano, which he hopes will inspire meaningful conversation about mental illness. The goal of the project is to encourage and initiate authentic conversations about mental illness as well as its implications on day-to-day life. Black Dog Commission also wants to help eradicate the social stigma associated with mental illness.
“In March of 2018, I presented a recital called ‘The Beautiful Black Dog,’” Blazun explains. “The title borrows its name from a metaphor created by Samuel Johnson and made famous by Winston Churchill, which describes the medical condition of depression as ‘the black dog.’ This recital was one of my first performances following a prolonged performance hiatus due to me needing to take care of my own mental health.”
Balzun was diagnosed with depression in 2012, but he says he had been experiencing symptoms for most of his life.
“I quickly learned what the stigmas are surrounding this condition and the very real physical and emotional impacts it forces upon oneself,” he says. “The recital allowed me to foster a discussion between me and the audience about this topic. I’ll never forget the togetherness we experienced that evening.”
The newly launched project aims to contribute to commissions of new repertoire from living song composers and foster a growing body of works to create a social impact.
Black Dog Commission will use poems from artists who also have been affected by depression.
“I hope that by creating this project, the song recital can be used as a vessel to #endthestigma,” he says.
To learn more about the series, visit his Kickstarter page.
If you are struggling with depression, please know you are not alone and we encourage you to seek out help. Below are more resources.
Crisis Hotline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's 24 hour toll-free crisis hotline, 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) can put you into contact with your local crisis center that can tell you where to seek immediate help in your area.
Crisis Text Support: The Crisis Text Line provides text-based crisis support from any cell phone enabled to send and receive text messages. Individuals are connected with a Trained Crisis Counselor and can chat via text 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals send MHA to 741-741 to get connected and start the text-based conversation.
Online Therapy Programs: This article from Verywell Mind offers top-ranked online services if you want to talk with someone. Many health insurance providers offer coverage for mental health support. Check with your provider to review your options.