By: Carie Gueswel

Mental health affects how a person thinks, what they feel, how they act, and the way they cope with life. The state of one’s mental health can strongly influence how they see themselves, their lives and their relationship to others, as well as influence the successes and achievements one will accomplish throughout their lifetime. Mental illness is considered by professionals to be any condition that causes atypical behavior patterns, creating a disturbance in the way an individual is able to cope with the demands of day-to-day life. Mental health issues cover a broad spectrum of disorders, ranging from emotional to psychological. Conditions and symptoms of mental illness can be moderate to severe and causes can be genetic, an imbalance in brain chemistry, psychological trauma or brought on by environmental triggers. Stigmas linked to mental illness can leave an individual feeling disgraced, discarded and isolated from society, as well as open to discrimination and the unfair judgments of others.

Starting a conversation about mental health can help break down the stigmas and misconceptions surrounding mental illness as well as shed some light on a topic that today, affects millions of Americans. On October 14 and 15, the first annual Break Open Festival, founded by Caitlin Solsky and held at the Downtown Artery, located at 252 Linden Street, is designed to provide the community with the education and tools needed to challenge these misconceptions. When asked about the origin of the festival Solsky explains, “My family experienced the loss of my brother after a long battle with mental illness and substance abuse. I didn’t feel ok talking about it, nor was there a forum to do so; there was this notion that everyone has these challenges and nobody talks about them, so let’s give them a place to talk freeley.”

Break Open is a free festival that will include the First Friday art exhibit titled Stigma, also held at the Artery, and is scheduled to run from October 7 through the 21. “By appealing to artists, musicians, and creatives with exposure to mental health issues, we are able to explore the relationship between creativity and the mind and can work to promote positive mental health and well-being,” explains Solsky. Break Open is not a typical music festival. Layered with music and art, this festival will also hold presentations, workshops and feature the film: Touched with Fire, which will be shown at the Lyric Cinema Café, Saturday the 15.

A mixer at the Artery will kick off the Break Open festival, and will include food, beverages, and live music. Saturday, October 15, will feature presentations by organizations like Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County, UCHealth, SummitStone and many more. There will be workshops, which include wellness through nutrition, as well as stress management by the use of herbs, oils, and teas. The festival will conclude with a very special Story Slam: The Day That Changed My Life, hosted by Nathan Scott and Kenny Wistz, where anyone is welcome to pick up the microphone and share their stories of great change.

For more information about Break Open, and to view the festival schedule, please visit: or

For information or support regarding mental health issues, please visit, Colorado Crisis Services at or call 1.844.493.TALK (8255)

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