Battling a medical disease or disorder is a hard fight. There are plenty of doctor’s appointments, medications to be filled and refilled, and potential hospitalizations for more invasive treatments. Family members and friends all come together for support during someone’s time of need. Food is brought to the hospital. Flowers are sent to the house. Questions are being asked: “How did this happen?” “What caused this abnormality?” “What will the treatment look like and how long will it take before he/she is better?”
For people who are suffering with a mental illness, this support system can look very different. The conversations about the diagnosis can be hushed or even non-existent. With so much social stigma around the topic of mental disorders, no one wants to open up. Whether it is the friends and family who do not want to address the problem because they think they need to “get over it.” Or the person suffering may not want to tell anyone for fear that they may be called names or made fun of. To avoid this negativity, silence may feel like the only option. These two national campaigns are giving a voice to those who suffer in silence – and in a very expressive manner.
This Is My Brave
Founder of This is My Brave, Jennifer Marshall, dealt with a few hospitalizations before her final diagnosis of bipolar disorder at the age of 26. Her blog, Bipolar Mom Life, gave her an outlet as a way of coping with her mental illness. She shared her daily struggles and story of recovery, inspiring many others. Because Jennifer knew how powerful telling her story could be, she decided to create a platform for those who are suffering with a mental illness to share their own: This Is My Brave – a live presentation.
The 90-minute show consists of essays, original music, and poetry all performed by those living with a mental illness. By bravely sharing their stories and experience with recovery, a sense of community and hope is brought to the audience as well as those on stage. A list of show dates is available on their website: www.thisismybrave.org . Each performance is published to the This Is My Brave blog as well as their YouTube channel.
In 2009, Jeff Sparr set out on a mission. After years of battling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), he decided to take up painting which ended up dramatically subduing the symptoms he endured. This self-taught artist felt a sense of control through his expressive art and wanted others to benefit. Jeff brought art supplies to the local psychiatric hospital where he shared his story of mental illness and helped the residents communicate through art. With this simple visit, PeaceLove was created.
Over the last several years, Jeff has been able to reach and help over 25,000 people to create their masterpiece. To meet the demands of requests that flowed in, the CREATORS program was launched. This program trains professionals on how to deliver an expressive arts curriculum to their own communities, including painting, storytelling, mandala poetry, musical creativity, and collages.
Janae Shillito, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Janae Shillito is the newest edition to The Kim Foundation and serves as Project Coordinator. She holds two science degrees with her alma maters including the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Janae’s love of volunteering and helping those without a voice created a strong desire to become a part of the non-profit world. She enjoys instructing kickboxing classes, reading a good book, and being outside with her husband, Cory, and Rottweiler, Hank.