2017 was a year of strong stories, to say the least, and Stories Without Borders is proud of the contributions we developed and shared this year with the support of our funders, partners, and importantly, a bold and growing community of storytellers who generously share their experiences on film, in person, and at events.
What did we learn this year? So many things, but the issue that has come to the forefront of all of our projects this year is the importance of mental health: Normalizing it, increasing access to care, and embracing how necessary our own stories are in creating a society and a culture empathy, knowledge and understanding.
Early in the year we worked with Consumer Research Associates to conduct a series of focus groups in Colorado to discern prevailing attitudes about mental health, from people who have accessed care, and the general population.
We learned so much from the research (available for free, by request: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The biggest takeaway for me was this:
People with lived experience (accessing mental health care) were seen as the most trusted at the time of outreach.
How do we know who has lived experience? The simplest answer is by sharing our own.
This information is driving Sharing Stories, funded by The Colorado Health Foundation; and has informed our work on the Lifelines Film Series and our filmmaking for Beyond the Wall, I and II (coming Spring 2018!)
Mental health care has been an important part of my adult life, and I share my experiences with anyone with ears to listen. Why? Because the average time between someone experiencing mental health disturbance, from anxiety and depression to suicidal ideation, and the time they reach out for help, is currently ten years.
This is our current reality. And we have the power to change it, to alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering, by simply sharing our our stories.
My pursuit of mental health and balance has enhanced my quality of life, my parenting, and my understanding of myself. As a result, people know they can reach out to me when they are suffering and don’t know the way forward. And they frequently do! I am humbled and honored by this. And so I will continue to share.
Through our work at Stories Without Borders, I’ve heard similar recollections echoed over and over again from the courageous people we have worked with in Colorado: Moms, children, students, professionals, immigrants, comedians, refugees, firefighters, police, 911 operators, chaplains… the list goes on and on.
This year alone we have gathered testimonies from more than thirty brave first responders who have shared their experiences with mental health across the state.
Why do they do this?
Because more firefighters and police officers die each year from suicide than any other line of duty death.
They share, we share, so that others may not suffer. I’m tearing up as I write this because, over and over this year, the deep urge to help one another at the risk of being vulnerable, is the best of our humanity.
Storytelling is not direct service, per se; instead it is an art we all possess that has the potential to impact every single social issue impacting our society today.
As we honor the humanity in ourselves by sharing our experiences, we humanize others, remind each other that we are never, ever alone in our individual experiences, and give others the courage to care for themselves.
Being an ethical outlet for this desire, and allowing “everyday” stories to take flight and reach more people, drives all of our work at Stories Without Borders.
In 2018, we’re gearing up to host a series of live events with a network of community partners to share films we’ve produced this year to further engage communities across the country in conversations about mental health, trauma, tragedy and redemption. We look forward to working with you to “plug-in” the work at live events, to use films and true stories to present new solutions to existing realities, and bring us all closer together.
You. Your unique experiences, no matter how tragic or empowering, are the gift that truly keeps giving… Sharing them creates a ripple effect. Your worst moment may be the one thing that allows another to reach out from theirs, to save lives, and create lasting change.
I am very, very grateful to have been a witness this year to so many powerful experiences, including my own. SWB looks forward to continuing to produce powerful stories that work for communities in 2018, through live events, new productions, and more, always guided by our mission: To tell underreported stories and empower new storytellers.
Please consider contributing to our work!
See what your donation can do, here.
If you or a loved one are experiencing hopelessness, reach out. In Colorado, you can call Colorado Crisis Services, or visit them online to chat. They’re good, I recommend it.