Jennifer Marshall is the founder of “This Is My Brave,” the leading platform for individuals to share their stories of overcoming mental illness through creative expression. Jennifer formed the organization after experiencing a positive outpouring of support following the publication of her story on a well-known news website.
She wanted to provide that same opportunity to others living with mental illness. She envisioned a theater show concept, and together with her Co-Founder Anne Marie Ames, launched the project on Kickstarter. The project was successfully funded within 31 days, raising over $10,000 to create the inaugural show.
“This is My Brave” continued to expand and became a national non-profit organization that has created over 90+ shows in cities across the country (and in Australia).
Jennifer routinely speaks on the importance of sharing stories of triumphing despite mental illness to end stigma. She speaks regularly at mental health and storytelling conferences. Listen in for some great takeaways about how Jennifer is bringing mental health to the forefront and helping others share their stories to help themselves, their communities, and the world.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Learn more about Jennifer Marshall and This is My Brave [3:43]
- What the “This is My Brave” platform looks like [5:47]
- What prompted Jennifer to step out of the shadows [8:32]
- How Jennifer’s transparency impacted her children [11:06]
- Why it’s important to normalize talking about mental health [14:11]
- Jennifer shares a story that impacted her from their 2015 show [15:15]
- Why you shouldn’t be afraid to share your story [17:56]
- How can we lower the number of attempted suicides among teenagers? [19:45]
- How we can leverage social media to make a larger impact [21:45]
- How to talk about mental health with your children [24:54]
- The next big things for Jennifer Marshall and This Is My Brave [26:45]
- What Jennifer did today that put her in the right mindset for success [28:37]
Learn more about Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer is a wife, a mom of two kids, and has a lifelong condition she’s learned to manage: Bipolar Type I Disorder. Jennifer experienced some rough years with four hospitalizations in five years. She found that sharing her story has helped her heal. She wrote a blog about her journey which led her to be recognized by an editor who published her work online on a larger platform.
People reached out to her and thanked her for sharing her story. They were grateful to hear from someone living successfully with Bipolar Disorder. She wanted to give others the same opportunity to share their stories, so she came up with the concept of a stage show where people could tell their true stories through creative expression—poetry, music, essay, comedy, dance, etc.
What prompted Jennifer to step out of the shadows
Jennifer originally wrote her blog anonymously but felt like she wasn’t being authentic in doing so. She felt like a shadow of herself. She realized that she was proud of who she was and how she was managing Bipolar Disorder. She didn’t know if there would be backlash or discrimination but she was willing to take the risk. If she could help one person by putting her name and face on a story, she wanted to do it.
Why it’s important to be open with your children about mental health
When Jennifer started blogging, her children were toddlers. She believes it’s shaped them into empathetic, supportive, and loving kids. When Jennifer’s Co-Founder passed away suddenly from a heart attack in 2017, Jennifer went through a manic episode and landed in the hospital.
Her kids, who were seven and nine at the time, who had only ever seen her healthy, were experiencing a manic episode for the first time. We need to talk openly about mental illness with our kids from an early age. The more you talk about it, the less scary it is for them.
Jennifer firmly believes that we will never end the stigma surrounding mental illness until we put our names and faces on our stories. It normalizes it. It is equivalent to physical health. It’s just as important if not more important. The more we share our stories, the more people can understand and the less judged they will be.
How to talk about mental health with your children
Jennifer has struggled to manage her disorder over the last year and she is honest with her kids about that. She knows that when she’s having a depressive episode that her kids can see it.
She chooses to say, “I’m going through a tough time. I’m working with my doctor.” They know that she’s getting the care that she needs and that she will get better. Show them that you’re reaching out for the proper support.
And if your child is struggling with mental health, you need to have open conversations and create a supportive environment in which they aren’t afraid to ask for help. Adult caregivers are the front lines. You must be aware and be there for your children.
Learn more about Jennifer’s passion for ending the stigma of mental health by building awareness in this episode of Mitlin Money Mindset®.
Resources & People Mentioned
- Danielle Fiorello
- The “Our Turn to Talk” documentary
- Principle Pictures
- Our Turn to Talk
- Our Turn to Talk podcast
- Jennifer’s blog
Connect with Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer Marshall is the Creator/Founder and former Executive Director of This Is My Brave, Inc., the leading platform for individuals to share their story of overcoming mental illness through creative expression. Jennifer formed the organization after experiencing a positive outpouring of support following the publication of her story on a well-known news website.
Wanting to provide that same opportunity to others living with mental illness, Jennifer envisioned a theater show concept and together with her Co-Founder Anne Marie Ames, launched the project on Kickstarter. The project was successfully funded within 31 days, raising over $10k to create the inaugural show and the movement became a non-profit organization the following year.
Jennifer’s personal blog, originally titled BipolarMomLife.com (now jennifermarshall.me) has been named Healthline Bipolar Blog of the year for four years in a row (2014 – 2017). She’s been featured on the front page of The Washington Post (June 2, 2016), in O, The Oprah Magazine (August, 2016), in BPHope Magazine (fall 2015), on local news stations NBC4 Washington, DC Fox5 and WJAL ABC7News, as well as having been interviewed for podcasts and local publications, speaking on the importance of sharing stories of triumphing despite mental illness to end stigma.
Jennifer gave a TEDx talk in October of 2016 entitled “Mental Illness: Being Brave Saves Lives,” and the following year she spoke at the National Council on Mental Wellness. She speaks regularly at mental health and storytelling conferences. In June of 2018 Jennifer was awarded the prestigious Clifford W. Beers Award by Mental Health America and in December of 2018 Jennifer was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine.
Jennifer and her husband Ben have been married for 18 years and live in the Washington, DC area with their two kids, Owen (13) and Vivian (11). In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys yoga, watercolor, writing and reading memoirs.
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