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  • Diana Altieri

NAMI Tennessee: Using Storytelling to Fight Stigma

Updated: Sep 29, 2020


With such a heavy word tied to mental illness, how can we expect people not in our close knit mental health community to find the courage to join our movement? We must work to find words and tools that powerfully tell our stories in an effort to inspire others to do the same.

NAMI Tennessee saw an opportunity to do just that, using the increasingly popular tool of video. To challenge the stigma surrounding mental health, NAMI Tennessee launched the “Faces of Mental Health Storytelling”campaign for The Big Payback, a 24-hour, online giving event created to increase philanthropy in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee.

All sorts of Tennesseans—from former Tennessee Titan Gerald McRath to Nashville-based duo TRYON to Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall—were invited to tell their mental health stories. They all spoke openly and honestly in a two-part video. In the first part, each advocate spoke anonymously, concealing him or herself using a large printed emoji face. In the second part, each advocate removed their emoji face and revealed their identity. These Tennesseans chose to remove the stigma! They then went on to explain why they decided to come forward, share their story and help break the stigma.

Each advocate brought a unique perspective to the “Faces of Mental Health Storytelling” campaign: one advocate discussed her experience with depression, while another opened up about his journey with post-traumatic stress disorder and offered advice to those who might also be struggling.

Every participant had a different story, but they all became spokespersons, storytellers and voices for a new generation of mental health advocates. And you can join them! Sharing your story using video and finding your strength to fight mental health stigma is easier than you may think.

Check out some of NAMI Tennessee’s tips to get started:

1. Be brave and open. In the words of NAMI Tennessee advocate Michelle Bellamore, “It’s important to know that courage is more important than criticism.” Sharing your experience can be hard, but remember that your story can and will help others. You are not alone.

2. Write your story. Writing your entire story in a diary or journal can help you organize your thoughts before putting it all on video. Pull out key points you’d like to mention, and take your time editing as much or as little as you’d like.

3. Practice! Start by reciting your story aloud, and then once you feel comfortable, record a video on your phone or laptop. Speak naturally and openly about your mental health experience. Then you can post the video on social media or just email it to close friends and family. By sharing your personal story through a powerful medium such as video, you can help rid the negative perception of mental illness, and perhaps even impact someone else’s life—just like the NAMI Tennessee advocates.

At the end of their campaign, with the support of donors, advocates and the local Nashville community, NAMI Tennessee received a jump in followers across their social media accounts. The campaign itself received positive engagement and feedback and reached its fundraising goal for The Big Payback. Most importantly, NAMI Tennessee encouraged others to bravely challenge stigma through storytelling. Will you share your story next?

Diana created the Faces of Mental Health Storytelling campaign for NAMI Tennessee’s Big Payback Campaign. Diana is Senior Account Manager at rumbo, a multicultural advertising agency that specializes in cultural marketing, consulting, and company culture. She has a special connection with all things mental health due to her own personal endeavors and triumphs, and those of close family and friends. @LoveDianaRose

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