This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community Series to Premiere January 18, 2021


This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community Series to Premiere January 18, 2021

This Martin Luther King Day, This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community will premiere online. This series, which is co-produced by Dr. Kyaien Conner of the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, focuses on combatting the stigma around mental illness in black communities by sharing authentic stories of healing and recovery.

Dr. Conner has shared her thoughts on the process of producing this series and why its message is vital and timely.

Q: What was the process of preparing for filming like, and how did it impact you?

Conner: Preparing to film This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community was an incredibly rewarding experience. Since moving our episodes to a virtual format, we were able to increase our reach and have 16 African American performers from across the United States who will be bravely sharing their experiences with mental illness or addiction, their process of seeking treatment, and their journey to hope and recovery.

Partnering with groups like the Workgroup on Enhancing Community Advocacy and Research Engagement (WE-CARE) through the Taneja College of Pharmacy, The Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, and the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI), we developed a network of community engagement and interest in shining a light and amplifying the voices of members of the Black community living with behavioral health conditions.

To prepare, we have had bi-weekly cast meetings to help our performers develop and share their stories. These meetings were emotional and powerful. Thanks to our storytelling coach and USF faculty member Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, these stories have been shaped into powerful creative works that will have viewers on the edge of their seats and fully engaged.

Q: Why do we need This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community? 

Conner: Silence about mental illness doesn't have to be the norm. In fact, we know that using our voices to share real stories is powerful and critical to our healing and well-being as individuals and communities. 

Many conversations need to begin and continue, especially now, in a time when the world is grappling with its long-standing history of systematic racism and protests against police brutality. It is important to address the impact of events and the surrounding stigmas by engaging in conversations about mental health in the Black community. We have decided to talk about it! 

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community?

Conner: Talking openly about our experience with mental illness and seeking treatment has been taboo in our community for far too long. Especially in communities of color, there are often social and cultural norms about keeping mental illness and addiction a secret. These taboos frequently lead to people not seeking help when they genuinely need it and isolating those in our community who need support the most. 

Our goal is to reduce the stigmas associated with mental illness and open the door for critical conversations about mental health in the Black community. We also hope that through our cast members sharing their stories, it will encourage others to do the same and to seek help if they need it.

We lastly hope that viewers will begin to understand the intersections of racism, historical and current race-based trauma on mental health in communities of color, which might spread some awareness and understanding. We are ultimately seeking to change the narrative about mental health in the Black community. We use this virtual platform to reach as many people as possible, and we use a culturally meaningful approach through storytelling to engage our audience. 

 Q: What is your hope for the future of This is My Brave?

Conner: This is My Brave provides a creative platform for individuals to share their personal stories of overcoming mental illness and addiction in a stage production. This is My Brave's program has been performed in 34 cities across the US and Australia, featuring nearly 825 storytellers in 70 unique shows.

Research shows This is My Brave is effective for reducing public stigma, reducing discrimination, improving beliefs about recovery from mental illness, and improving attitudes towards treatment-seeking.  Until now, there has not been a targeted effort to address issues of shame, stigma, cultural values, historical trauma, and current experiences of racism in the Black community via this powerful program.

We hope our evaluation of this program via online pre-and post-surveys and sequential in-depth interviews with viewers and cast members will yield additional insights into this program's impact. We further hope that this will be the first in a series of This is My Brave shows that can amplify the voices of other marginalized communities. 

Please join us on this journey as we shine a light on and amplify these brave voices.  Register to watch these two amazing episodes of This is My Brave: Stories from the Black Community. Episode 1 airs on Monday, January 18 at 7 pm in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Episode 2 airs on Monday, February 1at 7 pm in honor of the first day of Black History Month. Both episodes will feature live panel discussions with the cast immediately following the episodes.

Register today for free to save your seat at Donations are accepted to fund future work to eliminate stigma and increase hope for those experiencing mental illness.