This Is My Brave, Inc. (Brave), which was founded in 2014 by two residents of Loudoun County, serves anyone who is or has been affected by mental illness in his or her lifetime. This includes people who live with mental illness every day, as well as those who care for, work with, go to school with, or love someone dealing with mental health disorder(s).
To help eliminate the stigma that many impacted by mental illness feel, as well as to connect people with needed resources, Brave founders created This Is My Brave – The Show. The first show was held in Arlington, Va., in 2014, and Brave has since expanded to nine new and unique shows that take place across the country. All told, more than 243 stories have been shared on stage – and many more have been shared through the Brave blog and on its YouTube channel – since 2014. This year, a slate of 14-16 shows is planned, many in new cities with all new casts and production teams.
Loudoun County has experienced a sharp rise in teen suicides in the past two years, from one reported in 2015, according to the County Sheriff’s Office, to five reported in 2016 and more than three already this year. To concentrate on the urgent need here, Brave is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to facilitate a growing conversation throughout Loudoun County about feelings and experiences regarding mental illness, including stress and anxiety from being high school and college students in an academically high-performing area.
Through the 100WomenStrong grant, Brave will expand its storytelling programming to Loudoun County community college students to educate attendees about the symptoms of mental illness, empowering them to become more aware of how they and others are feeling and when someone needs professional help.
“We know that sharing stories helps save lives,” said Jennifer Marshall, Co-Founder and Executive Director, “by giving residents the knowledge and confidence to seek help when needed. Through this grant from 100WomenStrong, we will be able to bring its live stage production of This Is My Brave to the Loudoun County campus of Northern Virginia (NOVA) Community College.”
“By allowing participants to share personal stories, we hope it will help end the stigma of mental illness and empower attendees,” Marshall continued. “The college community and greater Loudoun County can benefit from openly discussing mental illness.”