Narratives of Pain is a community-centered storytelling event that’s part of the 15th Muslim Mental Health Consortium and Conference at Michigan State University.
Dr. Zain Shamoon is one of the organizers. In 2015, he and Hammad Ali were talking about creative ways to connect with people at the conference.
“I wanted to do something creative with the conference, something different with the conference that wasn’t just poster presentations, the keynote speech and panels,” Shamoon says.
Shamoon is a professor of Couple and Family Therapy at Antioch University Seattle, and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Hammad Ali is the founder and executive director of Ally Learning, a tutoring and test prep center.
“It doesn’t have to be a performance and if people want to do a poem or a song they can, but really, people deserve to be witnessed for whatever they’re going through. So it was about destigmatizing conversations,” says Shamoon.
He says they wanted to create a space for people to talk through what they are going through.
The program creates a safe space for people, equipped with mental health professionals and boundaries. Photos and videos are not taken and guests are expected to keep the information they hear at the event to themselves.
The event honors the space in which it takes place. This year it will honor the MSU community.
Shamoon says Narratives of Pain provides an alternative space to talk about healing through storytelling.
“I think it’s just a way that a lot of our cultures and traditions have dealt with healing in the past,” he says. “I think there’s an important distinction between needlessly saying things about people’s private lives versus not getting any support about major things that are happening in the private sphere. You (people) need support. We deserve support.”
Shamoon says while mental health and self care is “in” right now, he hopes the event is one way mental health stays in peoples’ lives. He believes people often share that they benefit just from listening to the program.
“Narratives of Pain is an ongoing community gathering,” he says.
The first half of the program is for people who have reached out to perform. The second half allows audience members to share.
Anyone can attend on Friday, March 10 at MSU’s Brody Hall Auditorium. The event is free and starts at 7 p.m. People who are interested in performing can contact Dr. Zain Shamoon at email@example.com.