by Curlan Campbell
- ‘Touch of Grace’ and ‘IDMC Gospel Soul Choir’ produced a music video of Mahalia Jackson’s ‘If I Can Help Somebody’
- Mental health advocate, Sandra Johnson, connected choirs to produce rendition
- Video officially released today for World Mental Health Day
As global activists join together to recognise World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020, during a global pandemic, there is a push for policymakers to address a lack of investment in mental health leaving millions without access to services.
Locally, founder of ‘Still I Rise,’ Sandra Johnson, a mental health advocate, a survivor of domestic violence, has brought together 2 prominent gospel choirs — over 4,000 miles apart — virtually, to remake a gospel classic released by Mahalia Jackson entitled ‘If I Can Help Somebody’. This rendition was dedicated to the millions of people globally who are coping with mental health challenges in a time where limiting social interactions are advised to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Gospel choirs ‘Touch of Grace’ (TOG) in Grenada and ‘IDMC Gospel Soul Choir’ in the UK produced a music video performing the gospel classic. The video was officially released today for World Mental Health Day.
Johnson has been known to champion the cause of improving access to healthcare services and support for people with suffering in silence. “So, as the founder of ‘Still I Rise’, and someone who has lived experience of mental health, I thought it was imperative to highlight the importance of reaching out to people. As a member of IDMC Gospel choir in the UK, when I first heard the song it resonated about my own mental health struggles and how I believe if at the time I had persons around me that understood, what it was like living with a mental health illness, then maybe things would have been different.”
Stranded in Grenada due to the global pandemic, Johnson saw first hand the challenge that isolation will have on those coping with mental health issues and felt the need to respond. “Being in Grenada during Covid times, again my only outlet was through singing and joining TOG was the best decision that I made. It gave me the opportunity to meet new people and socialised and get to know and understand the culture more. I realised that World Mental Health day was approaching and I just had the idea. What if the 2 choirs collaborate on one of my favourites songs which carries a powerful message of hope, inspiration and encouraging people to indeed help somebody.”
Johnson has joined the movement initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), calling for “massive scale-up in investment in mental health.”
“More education around mental health to erase stigma but not just from a clinical perspective but holistic. There is not enough knowledge about general wellbeing and from what I see, Grenada is so blessed to have everything home-grown. In addition, early intervention is crucial, especially with children. We also need to hear more from persons who have overcome some mental health challenges. You will see from the collaborations videos that there are indeed organisations in Grenada that support those who are experiencing challenges, and I openly say that some of these organisations have supported me very well through the last couple of months providing me a platform where I am able to be listened to with no judgement and with compassion. On the subject of collaborations, more joint partnership work is needed to support both individuals, even persons in the workplace and especially the vulnerable members of our community,” she said.
A team of local professionals including clothing designer Janelle John, and Sonix Production worked on the inspired music video to create awareness about mental health.
IDMC Gospel Soul Choir director, John Fisher, mixed and edited the song. “The song was already recorded and was waiting to be mixed for our next album. She invited Touch of Grace to record their vocals and they did that and sent them to us, and we’ve created an amazing sounding song with additions from their tremendous vocalists alongside our team here. The video is a combination of IDMC’s live show, individual videos, touch on location in your beautiful islands and we hope some meaningful images of support, hope and gestures of love.”
Fisher, an award-winning choir director, music teacher, and youth mentor, has been in the music business for over 40 years. He has called for greater awareness and support for people with mental health challenges.
“Firstly I feel that our people need the stigma of being classed as being mad or stupid taken off them, and that they must feel comfortable to be able to talk about their situations with qualified people that will give them helpful solutions. We are a proud people, but sometimes this can be to our own detriment. Can’t really speak for the Grenadian system, but black people are pretty much the same the world over. These situations are echoed throughout the world,” he said.
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