DeKALB – On Sunday, 13 local people will take the stage at the Egyptian Theatre with the goal of saving lives.
This Is My Brave, a nonprofit organization that works with communities across the country to tell stories about living successful, full lives despite mental illness is bringing its mission to DeKalb County in a performance at 3 p.m. at the Egyptian, 135 N. Second St. in DeKalb. General admission tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for students. The show will contain some adult content and language, so parental guidance is advised for children younger than 13.
Under the stewardship of producer Laura Devine and DeKalb County Mental Health Board Executive Director Deanna Cada, the organization will put its motto “Storytelling saves lives” into practice.
Devine got involved about a year ago, fueled by a desire to help other people with mental health issues. Devine has bipolar disorder, and has been hospitalized twice for mania and once for depression. But after two years of stability, she felt ready to tell her story and help others share theirs.
“It’s exciting because people usually don’t talk about this, and we’re just being open and brave and saying what it’s like,” Devine said. “It’s about, most importantly, the hope that we can not only function, but we can thrive and inspire others.”
The stories in Sunday’s show will come in many forms: personal narratives, poetry, slam poetry, funny and serious songs, and an acrostic.
At rehearsal on Saturday at the DeKalb County Community Outreach building, Bethany McAnly told a story about intense workplace stress and anxiety. Mark Walters sang an acoustic rock song he wrote called “The Nameless,” a reference to the unnamed negative voice in someone’s head.
Autumn Santeler performed a spoken-word poem about finding help in combating anger and anxiety through faith, yoga and counseling.
Chris Walters told the story of his suicide attempt. In the year since the incident, Walters started working out, lost 70 pounds, found a new community at Sycamore CrossFit and began going to therapy.
“My ex-girlfriend was in school for counseling ... so I was very exposed to it,” Walters said. “But me being a guy, I always kind of pushed it off to the side and said, I’ll take care of somebody else first, or I’ll take care of this first, and self later, self later, self later.
“And that just ended up being a spiraling thing that I did for 20 years, and it took major events for me to take care of myself ,” he said.
This Is My Brave’s purpose is to open up that kind of dialogue. It’s a goal near to Cada’s heart, and a central goal of the mental health board, which awards $2 million to $2.4 million in grants each year.
“We are a funding agency, so 50 years ago, the people of DeKalb County got together and voted to have part of their property taxes levied to fund services for mental health, substance use disorder and developmental disabilities,” Cada said. “... But, we also see our role as furthering conversations about mental health, making people realize that mental health is part of physical and overall health.”
Cada encouraged Devine to reach out to This Is My Brave’s national office to bring it to DeKalb. Devine is hoping that Sunday’s show pays it forward, encouraging others to reach out; either to help others, or get help themselves.
“I’m really proud of everybody because there is a diversity [but] a similar idea of getting through it,” Cada said. “And come on people, we can do this together.”