Layer Reveal

Empowering artists. Reimagining mental health.

New Membership Model

Our new membership model will launch with the new year in January 2024. There will be two membership levels: Root (Basic) and Onion (Premium). Membership NOW includes the print version of The Shallot: Journal of Mental Health, Art, and Literature. Root membership also includes interview promotion through our podcast, newsletter, and community platform. Onion membership will surround you with social media promotion and gallery and marketing opportunities along with the Root benefits.

November 10 Update

We’ve connected with our members and have an update that we would like to share. The Layered Onion will move forward with the new membership model! 60% of survey respondents said they would continue to be members with the new model.

For those who might be financially strained, we will be launching a scholarship fund at the same time as the new model. When you apply as a Root member, you can apply for a scholarship for Onion membership. There will be more details to come in our upcoming newsletters for both artists and supporters.

This was a tough decision for us, and we are so happy to have your support in moving forward – you are the best part of The Layered Onion. The number one reason listed for being part of the community is supporting each other. And we see that every day, especially on Instagram! We’re so happy to have played a part in helping bring such wonderful and talented people together.

Sending good vibes!

The Layered Onion Staff

September 9 Original Post

The Layered Onion is dedicated to empowering artists from all walks of life. Whether you’re an aspiring painter, a seasoned musician, or a budding poet, we provide a safe and nurturing space for your creativity to flourish. We challenge the stigmas surrounding mental health. Our mission is to break down barriers, foster understanding, and create a community that embraces the full spectrum of human emotions.

The world is in the midst of a cultural and social revolution. As the world shifts, we have had the opportunity to empower artists and reimagine mental health. By embracing creativity and opening up the conversation around mental health, we can transform our world into a brighter and more inclusive place.

Reviewing our efforts and goals

Before we started, I was working on a novel that I wanted to publish about mental health and stigma. When I tried to pursue publishing, they told me to find an established literary agent or self-publish. The process of publishing quickly exhausted me and stopped me in my tracks. I reached out to the other artists with mental health challenges and found out that I wasn’t alone. This is how The Layered Onion came to be.

Two and a half years later we have accomplished so much, but the current model is not sustainable. We have reached a fork in the road. We have an amazing community all over the world which lets us know that a place for creators with mental health challenges is important. The summer accelerator we participated in gave us the space and experts to think about how to serve our community more effectively with our limited resources. We love our community and have been doing everything we can to ensure its future, but unfortunately, determination alone is not enough to keep it going.

This will entail reviewing all our efforts to decide what can be done on a limited budget or if we continue to carry on. Currently, 78% of our members have chosen the free Root membership tier. Our crowdfunding campaign earlier this year helped us pursue a focused approach to sell subscriptions to The Shallot but print publications at libraries and health facilities were downsized or eliminated during the pandemic. We have been unable to create a sustainable revenue flow from that avenue.

As a result, we are faced with three options.

  1. Revise our membership model to two paid tiers and at least one supporting tier.
    • Root (Basic) at $10/mo—which focuses on the community and includes a print version of The Shallot, networking platform access, newsletters, and being part of our podcast.
    • Onion (Premium) at $25/mo—which includes the community also provides access to the permanent gallery space at Hodge Podge, pop-up art sales events, and website space and artist promotion through blogs, podcast shorts, events, and social media.
    • Patron—for supporters that understand the importance of art and mental health which will include The Shallot, newsletter, and will form a scholarship fund for our artists to move from the basic to the premium tier.
  2. Downsize our efforts to focus on maintaining a presence on Instagram for artists to connect with the mission and learn about others who are in our network, suspending all other efforts.
  3. Finish my book and reflect on all that I have learned from all of you to make another run at publishing it.
The Layered Onion updated membership model - Root at 10$ a month, Onion at $25 a month.

And now it comes to you all, should we revise the membership model? Would you continue as a member?

<This poll is now closed.>

We know this is a complex question that takes finances into account. Know that we have loved and will continue to love being part of your journey, no matter how the cards fall. Please feel free to email us any thoughts you have at [email protected].

We’ll wrap up this layer reveal by sharing that The Layered Onion is two years old. The organization has so many things to be proud of, the best of which is this wonderful community we are all a part of.

  • We are a community of artists all over the world.
  • We created and published The Shallot: Journal of Mental Health, Art, and Literature
  • We have a long-term partnership with Hodge Podge in Verona, WI, for gallery space and have hosted three unique shows so far.
  • We launched a podcast talking with our artists about their art, mental health, and how they intersect.
  • We have hosted four art events with sales for participating artists.
  • We had a successful crowdfunding campaign.
  • We have been in three social good accelerators with grant funding.

With love – more to come!

The Layered Onion Staff

We leave you with a beautiful view of a mountain path with rock stairs. Lush with vegetation, the sun sets far away.
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Mental Health Awareness Month: Quiz

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – an important time when the broader world focuses on the crisis we face. And it is a crisis. 

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services goes so far as to say:

“Our country is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. The crisis isn’t just affecting adults, [it is] devastating young people, and people from every background are impacted.”

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon. Mental Health Awareness Month.

And mental illness is international, with millions of individuals from all nationalities and all continents affected. This is not an issue that any one country faces alone.

The stigma of mental illness is universal… There is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without mental illness.

The American Psychiatric Association and a study by Wulf Rössler via the National Library of Medicine

The term mental health is an umbrella term – it contains both awareness of mental illness and general care of one’s mental health. While both are important, The Layered Onion’s focus lies on the first. 

Mental illness has been stigmatized, something previous generations pretended did not exist or never happened.

Now, it is so important to focus on mental illness support as part of Mental Health Awareness Month – mental illness support and the healing power of art.

Around the world, those with mental health challenges face and are affected by stigma. 1 in 5 Americans is negatively impacted by stigma in their lifetime (NAMI) but – 

The stigma of mental illness is universal, notes the American Psychiatric Association. A 2016 study on stigma concluded “there is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without mental illness.”

Mental illness is present in all cultures, though global data is hard to come by. IHME’s Global Burden of Disease (GBD) remains one of the only sources producing estimates at the global level. All said, the data is still only as good as what is reported and it can be hard to get data. As of 2017, about 10.7% of the global population, or 792 million people, encountered a mental health challenge. The language we use to speak about mental health challenges is important.

The way we talk about and view mental illness is not innocuous. Take film for example. The APA describes it well in the following example:

‘Media representations of people with mental illness can influence perceptions and stigma, and they have often been negative, inaccurate or violent representations. A study published in April 2020 looked at a recent example, the popular film Joker (2019), which portrays the lead character as a person with mental illness who becomes extremely violent. The study found that viewing the film “was associated with higher levels of prejudice toward those with mental illness.” Additionally, the authors suggest, “Joker may exacerbate self-stigma for those with a mental illness, leading to delays in help seeking.”’

Movie poster for Joker (2019 film). Features a character with mental illness and describes him with negative language which contributes to stigma.

The character is in mental health crisis.

That was a popular film. Did reading this encourage you to reflect on your own impressions of the movie (if you saw it)? What thoughts are you having? An internal and external dialogue is often a very valuable thing. 

It’s okay to recognize that you’ve been looking at from a perspective that might not be totally correct and want to alter your views.

“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”


There is great strength in admitting and learning from those with lived experience and organizations that specialize in the area. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers some suggestions about what we can do as individuals to help reduce the stigma of mental illness (summarized by the APA):

  • Talk openly about mental health, such as sharing on social media.
  • Educate yourself and others – respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences.
  • Be conscious of language – remind people that words matter.
  • Encourage equality between physical and mental illness – draw comparisons to how they would treat someone with cancer or diabetes.
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness.
  • Be honest about treatment – normalize mental health treatment, just like other health care treatment.
  • Let the media know when they are using stigmatizing language presenting stories of mental illness in a stigmatizing way.
  • Choose empowerment over shame  
    • “I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. to me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” – Val Fletcher, responding on Facebook to the question, How do you fight stigma?
  • Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma
    • This is what our collective voice sounds like. It sounds like bravery, strength and persistence—the qualities we need to face mental illness and to fight stigma. No matter how you contribute to the mental health movement, you can make a difference simply by knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault, no matter what societal stigma says.

You, too, can break the stigma. Support those with mental and emotional health challenges.

    You will be glad you did.


    Data for this page came from the below sources if not listed above.

    American Psychiatric Association. Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People with Mental Illness. APA blog, Aug. 2020.

    Fact Sheet: Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 HHS Press Release

    Facts about Suicide. CDC

    Greenstein, L. 9 Ways To Fight Mental Health Stigma. NAMI blog, Oct. 11, 2017.

    National Institute of Mental Health Mental Illness

    Rossler, W. The stigma of mental disorders: A millennia-long history of social exclusion and prejudicesEMBO Reports, 2016. 17(9); 1250-1253.

    Saloni Dattani, Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2021) – “Mental Health”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘‘.

    Scarf, D., et al. Association of Viewing the Films Joker or Terminator: Dark Fate With Prejudice Toward Individuals With Mental IllnessJAMA Network Open. April 24, 2020.

    The Lancet Editorial. The health crisis of mental health stigmaThe Lancet, 2016, 387:1027.

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    Mental Health Awareness Week – Fighting Stigma

    The first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week and a chance to join the international movement to raise awareness about mental health.

    Mental Health Awareness Week, Raising awareness for those with mental health challenges - eliminate stigma. At The Layered Onion we support mental health through the arts.

    This year the week is centered around the theme “What I Wish I Had Known” and is focused on the power of lived experience. 

    October is also National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month and so much more. World Mental Health Day is October 10.

    In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in every eight people in the world lives with a mental disorder. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus notes, “Mental health is a lot more than the absence of illness: it is an intrinsic part of our individual and collective health and well-being… Ultimately, there is no health without mental health.” At The Layered Onion, this is central to our mission and this is an important month.

    In a recent Modern Health and Forrester Consulting survey, they highlighted an astounding gap between employers and employees expectations surrounding mental health support. Executives surveyed believe their employees expect too much mental health support (73%); offering mental health benefits is too costly (71%); and mental health benefits should not be a priority current day because they weren’t offered in this capacity in the past (69%). The full report is available for download here.

    This is the perfect week to challenge those notions and work together to promote awareness and well-being – both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

    Each day, NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness – will elevate the voices of people with lived experience on the following topics:

    • Monday Oct. 3: Stigma
    • Tuesday Oct. 4: Medication [National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding]
    • Wednesday Oct. 5: Therapy
    • Thursday Oct. 6: Disclosing [National Depression Screening Day]
    • Friday Oct. 7: Caregiving

    They have a compelling series of videos we recommend checking out – delivered by people with lived experience and talking about what they wish people knew. For example, Krishna Louis speaks on what they wish people knew about anxiety. To truly support, we need to listen and absorb.

    Stigma is out there – we all know this to be true. This is why we speak out – to advocate for each other and others. To give courage to those who have a moment where they need it. To educate the public about mental illness.

    Though we have come a long way, we still have far to go. There is hope here, though – in the work that we and so many others are doing. In employees raising their voices and advocating for mental health support. There is a lot to be inspired by.

    We are proud to be on this journey with you all.

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    Layer Reveal: The NeuroArts Blueprint

    The Layered Onion is excited by the work of the John Hopkins International Arts + Mind (IAM) Lab Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics and the Aspen Institute’s Health, Medicine & Society (HMS) Program which culminated with the release of The NeuroArts Blueprint: Advancing the Science of Arts, Health, and Wellbeing in December 2021. This work confirms what artists across cultures and throughout history have long recognized, though scientific research has only recently been able to confirm: The arts are essential to our ability to heal and thrive.

    A Lifetime of Health Benefits From the Arts

    In 2019, the World Health Organization compiled more than 3,000 scientific publications that documented the role of the arts in improving physical and mental health, preventing and managing illness, and promoting well-being.

    “The health benefits of the arts extend across the lifespan, from enhancing early childhood development to reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Eric Nestler, director of the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co chair of the NeuroArts Blueprint initiative.

    Early empirical research also suggests that neuroarts provide meaningful economic and social benefits by reducing healthcare costs, promoting economic development, and strengthening the social fabric.

    Despite mounting evidence pointing to their value, the arts have yet to be adopted as part of mainstream medicine and public health. Slowly things are changing with governments, NGOs, partners, academics, clinicians, and artists pulling together to build the case for neuroarts.

    The State of the Neuroarts Field

    By its very nature, neuroarts transcends any one scientific discipline, instead demanding partnerships across an array of seemingly disparate fields. Advances in scholarship related to the arts and health have emerged from neuroscience, neurology, medicine, psychology, education, and the social sciences. That work is richly informed by non-invasive technologies, including brain imaging and biomarkers, that enable researchers to study how the arts affect human physiology, from the molecular level to entire biological systems.

    The same transdisciplinary forces influence arts practices, with professionals in creative arts therapy, psychotherapy, social work, arts in health, and community development all translating and applying the arts to health in various ways. Once again, technology has propelled the field forward. “The use of virtual platforms has increased participation and access to art therapy…reaching populations that probably would not be ordinarily exposed to various art forms,” said Emmeline Edwards, who directs the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Edwards serves as an advisor to the NeuroArts Blueprint initiative.

    Despite this broad interest, neuroarts remains a young and decentralized field. Researchers and practitioners, siloed within their own worlds, lack opportunities and structural incentives to communicate or collaborate with one another. As a result, research standards, outcome measures, and terminology are inconsistent, making it difficult to synthesize and apply learnings across disciplines.

    The consequences are evident in a recent scoping review of music interventions to treat serious mental illness, which looked at 349 studies and found that data was being reported inconsistently and that the design and measurements used in the experiments varied significantly. “What we’ve realized from this study is that the extensive time, funds, and expertise being invested in this field will see limited returns until the people involved take the necessary steps to ensure their findings can be understood in the context of other studies and practices,” said Tasha Golden, PhD, lead author of the review and director of research at the International Arts and Mind Lab.

    A Blueprint for the Future of Neuroarts

    More rigorous research and transdisciplinary collaboration is needed, backed by sustainable funding, policy and leadership, for the neuroarts to mature as a field and deliver on its promise of greater health and wellbeing.

    The Blueprint presents both a five-year action plan and a longer-term vision of a robust neuroarts ecosystem dedicated to improving human health, strengthening communities, and promoting culture change.

    To learn more about the core principles, findings, and recommendations in the Blueprint, read the Executive Summary.

    A version of this post originally appeared in Psychology Today

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    Layer Reveal: Working with Davey Feimer, Founder of OpenTree Education

    The Layered Onion has been working with Davey Feimer, founder of OpenTree Education, since Fall of 2021. Davey has provided professional mentorship, invaluable resources, and has generously shared his time with us. The model of education that OpenTree Education is creating is vibrant, unique, and long overdue.

    About OpenTree Education

    OpenTree Education works to facilitate equitable entry and growth in the tech industry. Over the course of 8 weeks OpenTree Education provides free 1:1 mentorship, technical and behavioral training, experience on a real software team, and lifetime support after that.

    OpenTree Mission & Founder Statement

    By creating safe spaces for people to learn, develop, and actualize their own potential, Davey champions diversity, equity and inclusion for a stronger workforce. He’s the founder and CEO of OpenTree Education, an equitable education company transforming mentorship, recruitment and professional development. As a queer founder he is passionate about breaking down barriers and sharing his lived experience through inspiration.

    If any of our readers are interested in moving into the tech industry and would like more information on OpenTree Education, please reach out. 

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    Layer Reveal: Working with the UW Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic

    The Layered Onion has had the opportunity to work with University of Wisconsin Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship  (L&E) Clinic since June of 2021. The Layered Onion would encourage any early-stage entrepreneur to learn more about the L&E Clinic. We are glad that we did!

    About the L&E Clinic

    The L&E Clinic provides free legal services to nascent entrepreneurs and early-stage companies through the work of law students supervised by faculty and private sector attorneys.

    The work of the L&E Clinic closely traces the dynamic evolution of the Madison startup community. Since the creation of the L&E Clinic, they have helped thousands of founders, creators and inventors start innovative businesses. Those businesses have grown along with us.

    Today, they are known throughout the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Madison and beyond for ushering promising, innovative companies through the early stages of their business life cycle.

    The L&E Clinic Mission

    The L&E Clinic provides free legal services to nascent entrepreneurs and early stage companies through the work of law students supervised by faculty and private sector attorneys.

    They have three primary goals:

    • train law students in the practical aspects of transactional law while providing a challenging academic experience,
    • provide high quality legal services to entrepreneurs and startup companies, and
    • impact the Wisconsin economy by helping local businesses launch and grow.

    Who are Services Available to?

    The L&E Clinic is designed to help entrepreneurs develop businesses that create a positive economic impact for the state of Wisconsin.

    They select applicants with a connection to Wisconsin who would otherwise be unlikely to obtain qualified legal advice. This usually means the applicant has not received a significant round of outside funding or financing from investors. They are also interested in whether the work requested presents an interesting educational opportunity for our students.

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    Lived Experience

    Have you ever picked up a brochure about counseling services and wondered who those people are in the photo? They look a bit too staged. Can you see the depth of their angst? Can you see the mask they are wearing? We can’t. They look like photos that could be used advertising an upcoming festival or on a website promoting college. 

    Have you ever looked at a drawing that captured the overwhelming anxiety you feel every time you leave your home? Has a song spoken to you in a way that you were sure they experienced depression so deep that getting out of bed was too much? Or a poem that permeated your mind and gave you hope that manic moments could lead to beauty not chaos?

    If creative content is used in all the areas where emotional and mental health is discussed, it can change the dynamics: draw in those that are the audience, provide a financial living for many that find typical employment challenging and provide authenticity to the supporters’ efforts. For this reason, we have created a supporter category that provides access to a set amount of creative content monthly. Our hope is when our supporters use our content we will be seen by all in an accepting manner.

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    World Mental Health Day: Reflecting back on the Tokyo Olympics

    “We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day, we’re human, too. So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.” – Simone Biles

    For many people, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics feel like they occurred ages ago. However, among the stories of victory and defeat, one thread must not fade with time—the focus on mental health. In honor of World Mental Health Day, we would like to share the thoughts one of our founders wrote down around the time.

    Listening to Simone Biles and Michael Phelps during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics bluntly talk about mental health made me so hopeful. Both athletes have a platform to launch this difficult conversation. Simone and Michael have achieved the highest levels within their sports, enduring the highs and lows that come with their success. Their courage will make a difference. All of us have been touched personally by emotional and mental health, but few of us have the ability to truly change the dialogue. 

    The Layered Onion plans to augment the efforts of those coming forward to talk about mental and emotional health by supporting artists with a marketplace that meets us where we are at. Eliminating barriers that make sharing paintings, dance, stories, music, photography, graphic art, and mixed media, examples of our collective creative expression, will also draw back the curtains. 

    Additionally, we encourage all those that control creative content that discusses mental and emotional health to use content from those in our marketplace with lived experience. A stock photo, a graphic element or a photograph originated by an artist with mental and emotional health understanding will lend credibility and respect to our artists. Please contact us at [email protected] if you want to support our work.

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    Asking for your input

    By Linda

    Sometimes stories flow through my brain but I wonder if they are unique. When I share verbally, folks will tell me: that “sounds fascinating.”

    “Can I read it?” they ask.

    Then I panic. I have some of my stories written down, but sharing them means peeling back another layer for others to see. What will they think of the story? Am I ready for the critiques? Who do I trust to  edit? How do I protect my story?  

    I researched many online publishing sites and became intimidated. What do the legal agreements mean? Will I still have a say if I want to take down my story? What if I want to publish in a hard copy format? Can I afford it? Is it worth it? 

    Thousands of questions flow through my head and then I just become stymied… 

    Maybe I won’t share. 

    Maybe it is just too hard.

    If you have ever felt like this, you will understand why we are launching The Layered Onion—To protect and help people like me whose anxiety is getting in the way of sharing. We will be looking out for your interests and protecting you. Making the legal documents understandable and safeguarding your rights. 

    And that’s why we want to hear from YOU. Please share your ideas with us as we develop our publishing site at [email protected]. What is getting in the way for you? What could we help with?

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    Why are we here?

    The Layered Onion is a benefit corporation created to eliminate the stigma of emotional and mental health by sharing and promoting creative content through a digital platform from artists with lived experience.

    The Problem:

    1. Life is hard

    Artists and creative people with mental and emotional health challenges have difficulty finding and navigating requirements necessary to share work and excel in their artistic field.

    The time and energy required to accomplish artistic goals can be impossible to achieve while navigating and balancing other aspects of life.

    2. Sharing isn’t easy

    Current creator hubs lack specialization when it comes time for an artist to move through the process. What is the algorithm? How do you get your work seen?

    We feel that it is advantageous for a unique and individualized approach to editing, publishing, and marketing rather than the historical “one size fits all” method. 

    3. We want to be heard and remembered

    This last problem culminates from failures of the first two. 

    The difficulty of navigating being an artist combined with the lack of specialization in the field leaves the world in a continuous misunderstanding of mental health and even worse: a dearth of art from these talented artists.

    The Plan:

    Our first goal will be forming a community to collaborate, share and grow with as well as providing the resources that will help connect with like-minded creators.

    Our next milestone is a website where supporters can browse creator blogs and support our artists financially through their online store. We will provide resources including editing, publishing, and marketing.

    We intend to build a product that will adapt and connect all artists with mental and emotional health challenges to the resources they need to take their artistic vision to fruition. 
    Our website and community will be tailored and individualized so that every artist has autonomy and assistance to accomplish their goals and make money doing so.

    By excelling at our business goals, we will have assisted The Layered Onion artists in generating quality artwork that will not only change the current attitude surrounding mental health, but ensure that the future includes their history.