College is a crucial four-year period of incredible self-discovery. For many of us students, we are presented with unparalleled freedom like we’ve never seen before. We may be living away from home for the first time, and leaving behind the security of a rigid, predictable daily routine. We are spending less time with family and more time with people we hardly know. We have to be able to self-advocate, while positioning ourselves for our future careers with every action.
All of this occurs just underneath the facade of what college is “supposed” to be: we are told it’s a raucous ride filled with parties, new friends, day trips in the city, and total independence. But in reality, there can also be an unfathomable amount of pressure that comes with a time of such great transition like our college years. Adulthood is no longer a vague notion, but an impending reality. We must confront our own futures, and every single day, we must make decisions that will determine who we become as people.
Given these stressful circumstances, it’s no wonder that mental health conditions can easily become aggravated, or surface for the first time, under these newfound or unexpected pressures.
But there is one organization, This Is My Brave, that aims to open up conversations around this less-glamorous side of the college experience.
This Is My Brave is a spoken-word program that encourages individuals to share their experiences with mental health, through storytelling, song, or poetry. Through their art, cast members catapult topics such as anxiety, addiction, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder into the spotlight. This fall, the organization will host an inaugural college speaking tour with Boston-area students, to normalize conversations around sensitive topics, with an eventual goal of ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.
This year’s college cast is made up of students from a number of area colleges, including Boston University, Harvard University, Berklee College of Music, and our very own Lesley University (I will be representing our student body, along with Sara Armstrong, a sophomore Special Education major). Each student will be bringing a unique story to the table, sharing their thoughts on living, coping, or loving someone with a mental health condition, making use of their chosen medium.
While our cast will be presenting our work at various schools around the Boston and Cambridge area, our first stop will be at Lesley on Thursday, October 10, 2019, which is World Mental Health Day. From 5:00-7:00pm in Marran Theatre, on the Doble Campus, cast members will present their essays and original pieces; they will also chat with the audience after the show.
If you’re a student, you’re invited to attend our show: you will realize that you are not, and have never been, alone. As college students ourselves, we hope to speak to what you’re going through. We want to remind you that it is okay to have down days, despite our existence in a society that still heavily (and incorrectly) regards mental illness as a weakness. Though at times, living with a mental health condition may seem hopeless or overwhelming, the cast of This Is My Brave would like to extend a hand, offer words of advice, and point towards a brighter future– one where honest displays of vulnerability like this show can be the accepted norm.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these remarkable students. Each of them has something unique to share and I know audience members will leave with a new, positive perspective on mental health, which has been our goal in creating this pilot program,” said co-Founder and Executive Director of This Is My Brave, Jennifer Marshall.
For anyone currently struggling, or caring for someone who is coping with a mental health condition, this show will be an incredible display of hope. Seeing such bravery through firsthand accounts is proof that mental illness can be managed and lived with effectively. Even if it is difficult right now, you too can be brave, just as we have learned to be.
Our experiences are real, honest, and no longer able to be silenced. This Is My Brave has provided us with an incredible platform to be seen and heard, and I am eternally grateful for it. Our cast has put in countless hours creating, composing, planning, and rehearsing for these upcoming shows- we hope you’ll come out to see us on October 10 and at our other shows around the city!
More show dates, when finalized, and additional information about This Is My Brave as an organization can be found at https://thisismybrave.org.