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Iowa City residents show their brave in upcoming event

Performers share struggle to remove stigma surrounding mental health disorders

The cast of the This Is My Brave show in Arlington, Va. takes a bow following their performance in May 2018. (Photo courtesy of This Is My Brave, Inc.)
The cast of the This Is My Brave show in Arlington, Va. takes a bow following their performance in May 2018. (Photo courtesy of This Is My Brave, Inc.)

IOWA CITY — Fatima Tall describes herself as a happy person — she likes to smile, laugh and make others around her feel good.

But due to her struggle with depression, the University of Iowa junior has not always felt the best. Tall hopes to share her struggle with her own mental health publicly next month to remind others that those who seem the happiest may need support as well.

“I think that people forget that happy people in their life can also be sad,” she said. “Being happy 24/7 is also a mechanism for someone who is trying to cope with their mental health issues. So I wanted to do this for myself and say ‘I also might be a person you need to check up on even though I’m perceived to be OK.’”

Tall will join a dozen others to share their stories about mental health during Iowa City’s first-ever This Is My Brave, a live storytelling event in which residents share their experiences with mental health disorders.

The one-time-only performance will take place Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. in The Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St.

Sadie Elbert, a co-producer with the show and an Iowa City-based social worker, said the show will feature 13 cast members that range in age from 19 to 70 and are dealing with a mix of mental health disorders, including depression, PTSD, anxiety and more.

Each cast member will present a piece of their original work — such as poetry, essays and song — that centers around their mental health disorders.

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“In those live performances, people are celebrating their stories,” said Amanda Miller, co-producer and program director of the UI Mood Disorders Center. “That doesn’t mean everything is happy go-lucky, it just means we are sharing stories in a way that is not shameful and not stigmatized.”

This Is My Brave first debuted in May 2014, according to the show’s website. The show’s founders formed a nonprofit organization to help others host the show in their local communities and since then, performances have been taking place across the country.

At Iowa City’s event next month, Tall will perform poetry she wrote last fall while battling depression.

“That was the very first time in my life I had felt this particular way about my existence and about myself,” Tall said. “I started really questioning how I was living my life and my happiness, and that kind of scared me because I was contemplating whether my existence felt valuable to me. I was unhappy with my reality and I wished I didn’t exist in this reality at all.”

Both Miller and Elbert emphasized the healing nature the show can have on those who struggle with their diagnoses, but Miller added the performances can be eye-opening for those without a mental health disorder.

Miller said it’s likely that attendees will know somebody struggling with mental illness, “but there are plenty of people who are not directly impacted and don’t have a good understanding.”

“We want to open the door to people willing to have that conversation,” she said.

For more information on This Is My Brave and the Iowa City show, visit thisismybrave.org.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

IF YOU GO

What: This Is My Brave

Where: The Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City

When: Sunday, Sept. 16, 2 to 4 p.m.

Cost: $17 for students, $22 for the public

For more information, visit thisismybrave.org.

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