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This Is My Brave: The Show

This Is My Brave, Inc.

This Is My Brave: The Show Logo

Program Website
Year:
2017
State:
Virginia
Winner Status:
Applicant
Program Type:
Awareness
Target Population:
Community
Setting:
Community

Program Description

This Is My Brave, Inc., exists to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing personal stories of individuals overcoming mental illness through original poetry, essay, and music, live on stage, through stories submitted and published to its blog and via its YouTube channel. This Is My Brave shows are community-based events held at local theaters, where volunteer producers audition and select a cast of individuals who are ready to share their stories of living with mental illness creatively on stage. Audience members purchase tickets to each 2-hr. show which features readings of touching personal essays, original music performances, energetic slam poetry, and other art performed by local artists whose lives have been affected by mental illness. This Is My Brave – The Show debuted in 2014 in Arlington, VA. In 2015, it expanded to six shows (Boston; Iowa City; Arlington, VA; Harrisburg; NYC; and LA), and in 2016, nine shows were held nationwide. In 2017, This Is My Brave will perform in 16 cities in addition to holding a special Women’s Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Hope & Grace, a project of the New Venture Fund in partnership with philosophy, inc., with keynote speaker Elizabeth Vargas.

Creativity

Individuals with mental illnesses are among the most creative among us, yet their disorders, shame, and stigma often prevent them from using their talents, especially to communicate their feelings in public forums. This Is My Brave liberates their creativity. It encourages them to use their poetry, story-telling, comedic, composing and singing abilities to recount the obstacles, pains and successes they have experienced. We have high production and creative standards that demand our participants dig deep and create original material based on their personal lives. Each show is different because each performer is unique. Their combined stories create a one-of-a-kind creative experience. By shining a spotlight on individuals seldom heard or understood, we enable them to shed the humiliation and distress that can shackle them while demonstrating to the public that while these illnesses and addictions often are crippling, overcoming these challenges can be an empowering reflection of their creative individuality.

Leadership

Designed specifically to be replicated, This Is My Brave – The Show aims to expand nation and world-wide. Sharing experiences of living with mental illness helps to erode the stigma associated with mental health disorders, which encourages more people to share their stories, propelling the movement forward. Brave recruits volunteers across the country to produce new Brave shows from start to finish. Volunteers create teams to produce the shows held in community theaters by following Brave’s step-by-step Playbook and receiving one-on-one coaching with the revenue returning to This Is My Brave. In addition, Brave provides an option for other nonprofits to license the brand and create their own shows as fundraisers for their organizations. Licensees receive the Playbook and mentoring too, making the Brave model easily replicable in any geographic area. Brave staff and volunteers publicize Brave and its mission through email, word of mouth, and all social media platforms.

Sustainability

Our original show was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2013. Since then, we have expanded with financial backing from grants, sponsorships, ticket sales, advertising and individual giving. Existing partner organizations include national sponsorships from Alkermes, Talkspace, Lunbeck, and Sunovion, as well as NAMI affiliates which have licensed our show to use as a fundraiser for their organization. NAMI of Greater Wheeling, WV produced a This Is My Brave show this past November – view highlights: https://youtu.be/sTauB-eAtag There are nearly 10k This Is My Brave followers on Facebook. Our YouTube performances and website traffic continues to grow. In 2014 we became a 501c3 nonprofit entity. Our sustainability was tested last year with the unexpected death of one of our Co-Founders. While greatly missed, our Board and executive leadership continued to produce shows in key demographic areas, including our first international venture. Currently, we have more demand than we can meet.

Replicability

Our program of creating professional quality shows featuring individuals with lived experiences can be duplicated, transferred or adapted by other institutions and organizations. It is clearly replicable, but This Is My Brave is much more than a hastily thrown together theatric performance that can be found in any high school setting. What we have created is a meaningful and captivating, cultural peer -driven therapeutic experience that empowers those who participate and educates audience members. This is why we are in the process of developing guidelines that will assist others in understanding the essentials of elevating shows to create a This Is My Brave experience which involves transforming individuals lives by offering them an opportunity to courageously speak out. This is fundamental to our success because each cast member is capable of having a “brave” moment when they acknowledge their illness and take control of their recovery.

Results/Outcomes

The goal of the show is to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness through sharing stories to educate, encourage conversation, and connect people with needed help. Intended outcomes are an increase in knowledge of signs and symptoms of mental illness, a reduction in stigma-based thinking, and increased comfort with accessing mental health services. A validated pilot audience research study conducted with University of Texas – El Paso at 2016 shows concluded that This Is My Brave – The Show performances have a positive impact on public stigma, attitudes towards recovery (the belief that people with mental illness are capable of recovery), and attitudes towards seeking help for mental illness. The scientific results of this survey will be presented by Dr. Kristin Kosyluk, Professor and researcher, at the National Council on Rehabilitation Education April 19-21 in Anaheim, CA. Future research will capture the performances’ short and long-term impacts on cast members.