This #IAMSTIGMAFREE music video is a symbolic and artistic expression of our message as fighters of mental illness who are seeking to break free from the negative stigmas. At the beginning of the video, everyone is disactivated and frozen in their solitude. But one person reaches out to another symbolically by placing her hand on her back, setting into motion a domino effect that spreads through the entire group until all are activated and united. This represents the power of one person to touch many lives. You may be “like a small boat” or “only have one match,” but that small boat can send out big waves and that one match can make an explosion. You can change and even save someone’s life who is battling mental illness by reaching out them in kindness and in love.
“Living with a mental illness is like a tarring of the soul. It’s dark. It’s scary. It’s heavy. But we are not afraid to get up and fight every day.” That symbolic representation of the ‘tarring of the soul’ is found in the black handprint on the back of each fighter’s baseball tee. The individuality of each fighter is highlighted through her movements and facial expressions, showing that we all have a unique contribution to make in this conversation about mental illness. The energy, vitality, and power you see in each of these fighters is evidence of their passion to end the stigma and be seen as they truly are.
“We are fighting to break free from the negative stigmas placed on those of us with mental illness. We are fighters. We are not our labels. We have each other’s back. And we are breaking the silence.” A symbolic portrayal of breaking the silence and stigma is literally created as boards are broken over the fighter’s leg and tossed to the floor, leaving the fighter victorious and free. Once all of the boards are broken, the fighters form a circle around the broken stigmas with their arms around each other. The one who initially set the waves into motion lights a match and drops it on the boards resulting in an explosion of light and freedom.
All fighters join together in unity of movement and song like an army marching into battle. All hands go into the air with the declaration, “I’ve still got a lotta fight left in me!” The closing shot shows one fighter reaching out and dedicating the project to Delia — a friend and fellow fighter who was the inspiration for the creation of #IAMSTIGMAFREE.
My hope in releasing this project to the world is that those of us who are living with mental illness — no matter our age, gender, ethnicity, or social status — will be seen as the fighters that we truly are and that one day we will be free from the negative stigmas that are so prevalent in our society. It’s time to break the silence. It’s time to break the stigma. It’s time to tell our stories without shame and without fear of judgment. This is our fight song. Please share this message with those who are fighting mental illness and help us end the stigma.
>> VIEW THE PLAYLIST OF ALL 17 FIGHTER’S INTERVIEWS HERE <<
Karli Carr, Megan Rogers, Ashlee Schroeppel, Ashley Sargeant,
Jessica Oberg, Sarah Christensen, Seantay Hall
Maryanne Nelson, Kylie Spilker, Suzy Jordan, Lindsay Titus,
Ashley Frederickson, Rebecca Sato
Bree Campbell, Saydee Taylor, Kate Lundquist, Meghan Stolp
About a month ago I heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” for the first time and instantly fell in love with it. This was during the month of September and my social media feeds were exploding with posts about mental health awareness and suicide prevention, as is tradition each year. I felt impressed to add my voice to this very important conversation in a creative and memorable way but I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. As one who lives with Bipolar II, anxiety, depression, and strong symptoms of ADD, OCD, and PTSD I have a lot to say (read more about my personal story HERE and my process of receiving a diagnosis HERE). And then a close relative had a devastating experience with mental health that really motivated me to follow through on that impression. I had this crazy idea to make a music video to “Fight Song” with as many other women as I could find to spread awareness about mental illness and to break free from the negative stigma. I believed then just as much as I believe now that our message will change the world.
As I listened to “Fight Song” over and over and over again, I could see in my mind exactly what this music video needed to be — the messaging, the tone, the apparel, the setting, the lighting — everything. I remember where I was when I visualized this project — standing by the window in my art studio looking out at Mount Timpanogos during a hail storm. How right that I should be looking at a mountain during a storm when the vision hit, as it was quite the stormy climb in every possible way to bring this all together. I just remember feeling completely overwhelmed with emotion and a strong sense of urgency to launch this music video by the end of October, but I knew there was no way I could fund a project of this scope on my own. I have sponsored myself on every Don’t Stop Sargeant project up until this one. After consulting with several friends, I came to the conclusion to launch a Kickstarter campaign to crowdsource enough money to pull it off. I gave myself 14 days to raise the $2,000 on Kickstarter needed to cover all production costs, and miraculously we reached the goal by the seventh day. It was then that I really knew that there was enough demand and support by my friends and family and even complete strangers to pull out all the stops and go full force into making this dream a reality.
I honestly had to take this entire project by faith. I had no idea if anyone else would really have the courage to put themselves out there with me. All I had to go off of was that powerful impression I had that day of the hail storm looking out at Mount Timpanogos. But the response was phenomenal when I personally invited friends to be in this video with me, who jumped on board then shared the invitation with their friends who also jumped on board. We ultimately had a cast of 16 incredible women (17 total, including me) who took a huge leap of vulnerability to share their personal story about living with mental illness with the world, in addition to being featured in our group music video to “Fight Song.” The miracles just kept coming. I was led to find the best videographer and editor, the best hair and makeup artist, the best choreographer, and the best photographer to be members of our production crew. It just all came together so miraculously. As I look back on the events of this past month, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion as I write this, seeing how everything worked out the way it did. God’s hand was in absolutely everything with this project. Because of Him what started as a simple impression became a powerful reality.
There were so many moments during the day on Saturday October 24th when all these women came together to film their stories and this music video that I just kept asking myself, “Is this really happening?” It felt like I was in a dream! I would find myself looking around at the girls wearing their #IAMSTIGMAFREE baseball tees and dog tags and practicing their choreography just feeling like I was in a daze. (That probably had something to do with the fact that I was running on 2.5 hours of sleep from the night before, ha!) It was so moving to see them reach out to one another in love and kindness, to encourage and lift each other when it was their turn to film their segment. It was unforgettable to be the one sitting across from each one of them as they told their story on camera. To see the beauty in each of their faces, the light in their eyes, and the courage in their hearts was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. They came in as strangers and left there as sisters. It was truly an amazing day of hope, healing, and friendship. I’ll never forget it. One of the most powerful moments of this whole experience was at the end of the day when we filmed several of the participants breaking boards over their leg with different mental illnesses painted across them. Then we stood in the circle with one foot in and took this picture. This serves as a powerful reminder to me of what we accomplished in this project — we literally broke the stigma and we did it together.
I hope you will take the time to listen to the powerful and personal stories of each of the 17 fighters HERE and share them with your friends and family, especially those who are struggling and need to know they are not alone. There is no need to suffer alone. Like Rachel Platten says in her song, I might only have one match — just one voice — but I can make an explosion. Please help us share our stories with others. There is such strength in numbers. Thank you so much to everyone who has shown unbelievable love and support through this whole experience. We could not have done this without you!