JACKSONVILLE, Fla — An empty storefront in the heart of downtown Jacksonville is being transformed into an innovative pop-up to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Month.
It's the brainchild of Gabrielle Magid, Founder/CEO of Stronger than Stigma, a local non-profit dedicated to mental health advocacy for millennials by millennials.
"This is a pop-up installation for conversation, and that means you come in here and it's a space where you can be you, no matter what you bring to the table, no matter what you're struggling with. You can walk in here and feel safe to either share your story or listen to someone else's or just take it in," said Magid.
The 26-year-old and a team of millennials are creating The Living Room to change the public perception around mental health. It's a space where Magid hopes people will engage in real talk over small talk.
"We are all about breaking down the barriers that keep people from reaching out for help and creating a community for people to belong to so they understand you're not alone," said Magid.
It's designed to be interactive. Upstairs you can listen to the personal stories of locals opening up and sharing their struggles. The venue will also host live music, comedy shows and game nights.
"I understand what hopelessness feels like," Magid said. "I just hope if someone out there is watching that they understand there is hope. They may not believe it today but just one more day, tomorrow things could be better and each day after that it builds."
She started Stronger than Stigma five years ago while attending the University of Florida. She felt compelled to let millennials struggling with mental health issues know that they're not alone. Help is available.
"We got together and said we need to change this culture and make sure people know it's cool to reach out for help and to take care of yourself and that it's a strength and not a weakness," Magid said.
The Living Room will open to the public May 1 at 5:30 p.m. and will be open for the month of May during hours posted on Stronger than Stigma's website. It's free to visit, but you will need to purchase a ticket to attend the concerts and comedy shows. You can find a list of the events on the organization's website and Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages.