The 35th annual Psych Congress kicked off with the Eric C. Arauz Memorial Keynote Address address featuring the Me2/Orchestra. What did we learn?
Psych Congress 2022 took place this weekend and unveiled some of the latest developments in psychopharmacology. The 35th annual Congress kicked off with the Eric C. Arauz Memorial Keynote Address, titled “Classical Music for Mental Health.” The session featured the Boston string orchestra Me2/ and wove together live musical performances to remind healthcare professionals about the role of music in practical psychopharmacology.
In this session, Executive Director Caroline Whiddon and Conductor Ronald Braunstein presented new performance footage as well as testimonials from Me2/ musicians and featured live performances, insight on mental illness, and a Q&A session.
Background in Me2/ & its Beginning
The musical group Me2/ aims to educate people around the world on the realities of living with mental illness and shed light on the way mental illnesses—from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder—are stigmatized and discriminated against.
Executive Director Caroline Whiddon and Conductor Ronald Braunstein founded the company in 2011 in Burlington, Vermont with the hope of creating a community for both newcomers and themselves. At this point, Mr. Braunstein had already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Ms. Whiddon had already been diagnosed with depression and anxiety with panic attacks.
Together, the co-founders created three orchestras across the country. More than half of the organization’s musicians live with mental health diagnoses. Ms. Whiddon shared the group’s origin story, and musicians from the Me2/orchestra shared renditions of much-loved classical pieces.
Me2/ orchestras have not only traveled to shopping malls, retirement homes, and community centers, but also to more unconventional venues, including treatment centers, prisons, hospitals, and youth centers, to share their stories and provide a bigger community to people struggling with mental health disorders.
Getting the Audience Involved
As part of their process, Ms. Whiddon explained how she encourages new members to conduct the orchestra and invited Psych Congress Co-Chair Rakesh Jain, MD, MPH, up to direct the orchestra for the next movement. On top of Dr. Jain, Mr. Braunstein then conducted the orchestra through a series of classical music.
After the orchestra’s final performance led by Mr. Braunstein, which was met with a standing ovation from the audience, Dr. Jain ended the session by saying that while healthcare professionals “understand the challenges that people face to not only continue their craft but also to publicly come out,” and share their art with others.