How do we change the way society addresses mental health so that the culture of mental health is improved? How do we heighten awareness about the importance of emotional well-being? How do we help people get the care and support for mental illness they deserve instead of the judgment they don’t need? How do we begin that conversation? How about through music.
It’s been said music is a universal language. How fitting, then, for gospel singer, Jennifer Mekel, to lend her luminous voice to the message of mental health, allowing emotion—through pitch, rhythm, and tempo—to speak globally to such a growing concern in our world today.
Mekel’s new single, Change Direction, will make its national debut on SiriusXM® Labor Day weekend. The song, which she co-wrote with her pastor, the Reverend Jeffrey Dennis of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio and CEO of Minority Behavioral Health, was produced with the objectives of the Campaign to Change Direction in mind.
The goal of this initiative, founded by Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD, is to change the direction as it relates to conversations about mental health. Dr.Van Dahlen envisions people everywhere talking openly about the issues they’re facing; committing to being there and caring for others; engaging in healthy relationships; and most importantly knowing the five signs of emotional suffering. Those signs are: 1) personality change 2) agitation 3) withdrawal 4) poor self-care and 5) hopelessness
In 2013, Dr. Van Dahlen put together a steering committee for the Campaign to Change Direction, as a result of a discussion at the White House National Conference on Mental Health, following the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, the campaign has experienced a very successful national launch, consisting of PSA’s by influencers like Michelle Obama and Prince Harry.
While working with the campaign on a national level, Mekel and Pastor Dennis are also focusing on this initiative on a local level, collaborating with the following organizations:
1) the Minority Behavioral Health Group
2) the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board
3) the Summit County Executive Office
4) the Summit County Job and Family Services
5) The Love Akron Network
6) the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Summit County
7) the Akron Municipal Mental Health Court
Along with raising two children, Mekel makes time in her full schedule to host mental health education workshops in schools and faith organizations in her area on a regular basis, using the lyrics of her song as a teaching topic in those workshops. As a minister, worship leader, Bible study teacher and active member of numerous groups at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, she is unquestioningly fulfilling her calling to lead and serve through music.
Mekel’s other releases from her CD Great God have been featured at numerous community and statewide events. Her first introduction of this Change Direction song came when she performed it accompanied by 70-piece Akron Symphony Orchestra and a choir of 200 people. It was received tremendously well evidenced by a thunderous standing ovation. Since 2009, Mekel has served as the Chorus Master and guest conductor during the orchestra’s annual event, Gospel Meets Symphony, now celebrating its 25th year.
To purchase this song, go to iTunes, Amazon and other digital outlets. All proceeds from the sales will go to the Campaign to Change Direction.
For more information about Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen and the Campaign to Change Direction, visit www.ChangeDirection.org.
For more information about Mount Calvary Baptist Church, visit www.mcbcministries.com or contact the office at (330) 253-3711.