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Sense of Place: Nuçi's Space changed the way Athens talks about mental health

Nuçi's Space was named in honor of Nuçi Phillips, a young Athens musician who died by suicide in 1996.
Courtesy of Nuçi's Space
Nuçi's Space was named in honor of Nuçi Phillips, a young Athens musician who died by suicide in 1996.

Editor's note: Just a head's up — this World Cafe episode talks directly about suicide.

Nuçi Phillips is a name that most everyone in Athens, Ga., will recognize.

You'll find his name on posters in windows, on bronze plaques as you walk down the street, and on a busy street corner — not far from downtown — you'll see a blue brick building that bears his name: Nuçi's Space.

In the mid-'90s, Nuçi was a promising student at the University of Georgia. He loved playing guitar. He had lots of friends. But he was also struggling with clinical depression, and in 1996, Nuçi died by suicide at 22 years old.

In his wake, Nuçi's mother, Linda Phillips, founded a nonprofit organization to help musicians like her son get the mental health resources they need. Nuçi's Space also has its own recording studio and rehearsal spaces that musicians can rent out, plus summer camp programs for middle and high school-aged musicians.

<em>World Cafe </em>host Raina Douris with Nuçi's Space CEO Bob Sleppy.
Kimberly Junod / WXPN
World Cafe host Raina Douris with Nuçi's Space CEO Bob Sleppy.

For this final dispatch from our Sense of Place: Athens series, we meet some of the people behind Nuçi's Space, including Athens music producer David Barbe, to learn how the nonprofit has become a space beloved the local music scene — helping to destigmatize the topic of mental health in the process.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

This episode of World Cafe was produced and edited by Miguel Perez. Our senior producer is Kimberly Junod and our engineer is Chris Williams. Our programming and booking coordinator is Chelsea Johnson and our line producer is Will Loftus.

Copyright 2024 XPN

Raina Douris, an award-winning radio personality from Toronto, Ontario, comes to World Cafe from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), where she was host and writer for the daily live, national morning program Mornings on CBC Music. She was also involved with Canada's highest music honors: hosting the Polaris Music Prize Gala from 2017 to 2019, as well as serving on the jury for both that award and the Juno Awards. Douris has also served as guest host and interviewer for various CBC Music and CBC Radio programs, and red carpet host and interviewer for the Juno Awards and Canadian Country Music Association Awards, as well as a panelist for such renowned CBC programs as Metro Morning, q and CBC News.
Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.