This Is My Brave - The Show
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.
This Is My Brave - The Show is an innovative way to get people talking about mental illness, as stigma has discouraged people from talking about it openly. Sharing mental illness experiences can reduce stigma by educating others that people with mental illness are just like them. Brave shows are the leading platform for creative ways to share stories of living successfully with mental illness. Amateur volunteer storytellers write original essay and poetry, compose original music, and choreograph original dance to express their mental health experiences live on stage. Brave's show is the only one of its kind to bring together a group of everyday people who face common challenges and coach them into sharing those difficulties through creative performance. One in five Americans suffers from a mental illness; therefore, Brave is able to recruit new storytellers in cities around the country to share stories and help end the stigma.
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.
Since 2013, Brave has built a loyal following of individual and organizational donors through its recurrent donor campaign as well as grants, awards, and sponsorships. Through healthcare providers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies, Brave has a steady base of funding. In addition, each Brave show provides ticket and advertising revenue to expand the organization's mission. Since inception, Brave has grown from an idea to an organization with one full-time staff member, one part-time staff member, multiple volunteers and interns, and a full Board of Directors. Brave is growing, particularly through partners and grants such as the $25,000 award given by the Hope & Grace fund, a project of the New Venture Fund in partnership with the global skincare brand philosophy, inc., to produce a Women's Mental Health Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on June 1st. Brave will produce a show and host keynote speaker Elizabeth Vargas.
This Is My Brave - The Show can be replicated through both volunteer individuals and organizations aiming to end the stigma around mental illness. Individuals can work together to produce a Brave show in their own communities with their own community members, theaters, advertisers, and sponsors. They can market their shows through local media and partner with local mental health agencies to raise money for and further the mission of This Is My Brave. Nonprofit organizations can take on the task of producing a show through a licensing model that requires them to comply with all brand requirements but allows them to produce the show as a fundraiser for their own benefit. Both models encourage the expansion of the goal to end stigma through creative storytelling. Brave is looking to develop adapted versions of the show specifically for high schools (April 2017) and college campuses.
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.
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