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Shatter the Stigma of Mental Illness

Jennifer Marshall doesn’t want talking about mental illness to be brave. She wants it to be talking.

Jennifer is the co-founder of This is My Brave. If you want a brilliant definition of the stigma engulfing discussions around mental illness, watch her TEDx talk. The stigma, she describes, draws its power from silence, from a fear of speaking out and being seen as weak. When one in five people in a given year lives with a diagnosable mental illness, that silence impacts tens of millions.

To destigmatize mental illness and create empathy, this nonprofit gives people the forum to share their stories through music, comedy, and writing. They’re building a dialogue and creating hope.

This is My Brave encourages those millions to stand up and provides a stage for those impacted by mental illness to shatter the stigma. They produce live performances of song, poetry, and spoken word around the world.

If you have the chance to see a This is My Brave show, you should do it. To see teenagers and war vets, friends and single moms openly talk about their experiences will move you, shed light on a topic often left in darkness, and introduce you to a vibrant, open community. The more people join together to experience these stories, the less power stigma has.

You can be part of that community right now. You can help organize a show near you, you can see past performances, you can share your own story on their blog. Storytelling sparks conversations which create connections. As This is My Brave sees it, storytelling saves lives. That could be a friend’s life, a family member’s life, or your life.https://thisismybrave.org/host-a-mini-show/

This movement is not only being championed by This is My Brave, it’s reaching larger and larger audiences. Last year, comedian Maria Bamford appeared on Fusion’s The Chris Gethard Show, a comedic variety show, to talk about mental health. It was an hour of comedians and callers from around the country swapping stories of medication and manic episodes.

HBO recently debuted Gethard’s one-man off-Broadway show, Career Suicide, which touches on his issues with panic attacks and suicide’s tagline. Bamford, on her Netflix special ‘Old Baby,’ discusses her mental breakdown and the homogenous decorating of psychiatric hospitals.

To destigmatize mental illness and create empathy, this nonprofit gives people the forum to share their stories through music, comedy, and writing. They’re building a dialogue and creating hope.

Bamford’s special is an edited piece of an unedited life. It’s a challenge to open up about your struggles. And so when it starts on her delivering her first joke to herself in the mirror, you’re given a sense of how the journey of sharing begins. Then you see that journey progress. She performs the next bit for a stranger and his dog, then four 30-somethings at the end of a driveway before culminating onstage in front of a crowd. With each joke, she opens herself up a little bit more. She lets more people in.

It captures what a difficult process it is being comfortable sharing your story of mental illness. You have to articulate it to yourself first and then maybe a few people before you even think about saying it in a public space. It’s vulnerable and brave and inspiring and one day soon, it will just be normal.

Watch the This is My Brave video, here.

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