MSW Student Using Performance to Fight Stigma

FlierIdea Inspired by Field Unit

May was Mental Health Month to raise awareness of mental health, fight stigma, provide support, and educate the public. With one in five adults living with a mental health condition, there is a great need. First-year MSW student, Emily Erwin-Frank found a way to advocate, educate, and entertain locally.


She organized an event called Upstage Stigma a compilation of song, dance, theater, poetry, and spoken word by local artists and performers to, “give voice to the experience of mental illness.”


The School of Social Work co-sponsored the event. 


“In short, in the wake of the election I wanted to do something to make a difference locally, using my resources such as being involved in a few different communities in Madison,” says Erwin-Frank. “I toyed with a few ideas, but nothing felt right. I heard myself advising my peers that using what inspires you is the best way to help others.” She took her own advice.


Erwin-Frank has been impressed and inspired by the work of the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) where she did her social work field placement this year. PACT is an outpatient, clinical research unit of the Mendota Mental Health Institute which provides treatment and services to help people living with mental illness to stay in the community and out of hospitals. She decided to organize Upstage Stigma as a fundraiser for PACT, but the goal of the event was larger – to raise awareness about mental illness and mental health challenges and to convey the message that we need to support each other. In other words, as Erwin-Frank says, “It’s a stigma stomping event.”


Upstage Stigma took place on Thursday, May 18 at the Brink Lounge. Performances “depicted experiences with mental illness, mental health challenges, and shared vulnerable experiences,” says Ewrin-Frank. The overarching theme was, “we need each other and with regard to our emotional lives, we have more in common than we think.”


Click for details and a list of performers.

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Last edited by jmlee29 on Monday, June 26, 2017 | Printer Friendly Version