The Story Behind #IAMSTIGMAFREE

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 <<

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Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)
Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Filmed at Club Alison

FRONT ROW: 
Karli Carr, Megan Rogers, Ashlee Schroeppel, Ashley Sargeant,
Jessica Oberg, Sarah Christensen, Seantay Hall

SECOND ROW:
Maryanne Nelson, Kylie Spilker, Suzy Jordan, Lindsay Titus,
Ashley Frederickson, Rebecca Sato

THIRD ROW:
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.

STIGMA FREE

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!

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Meghan Stolp’s Story

Meet Meghan Stolp — a fearless fighter of anxiety, panic disorder, depression, and ADHD.

“If I had to say one thing to anyone that was going through what I do, it is possible to overcome it. While it may never go away completely, it is possible to be happy and to live life in a normal way — no matter what other people say, no matter what labels you may feel like you put on it. You’re still a person.”

// MEGHAN STOLP
clogger74@yahoo.com

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MEGHAN STOLP_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Suzy Jordan’s Story

Meet Suzy Jordan — a fearless fighter of anxiety, depression, and pornography addiction.

“The message that I just want to share is that there is so much hope out there. We don’t feel it, we don’t realize it because we feel like we’re in this box. We can hear people encouraging us, calling us, asking how they can help but we can’t see a way out. But just responding to what they’re saying is what is going to help lead you to the door that will help you see that light. When we’re open we can connect with more people. It’s all just about connection and talking about it and when we do that then we really can heal once and for all.”

// SUZY JORDAN
suzannejordan22@gmail.com

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SUZY JORDAN_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Rebecca Sato’s Story

Meet Rebecca Sato — a fearless fighter of postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (PPOCD).

“What I would want every woman to know who has been through this or any mental health issue — I want her to know that she has nothing to be ashamed of, that she is a warrior Goddess and that she has survived something really difficult and just how proud I am of her, and all the amazing men and women who struggle through mental health issues and come through on the other side. I just want them to know that there is hope out there. The important thing is to reach out for help and to get the help that you need.”

// REBECCA SATO

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REBECCA SATO_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Sarah Christensen’s Story

Meet Sarah Christensen — a fearless fighter of depression.

“If I had to say one thing to the people who struggle with this, I’d say that it’s real. It can be frightening. It can be hard. But just keep going and moving forward, and bit by bit it will get easier.”

// SARAH CHRISTENSEN

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SARAH CHRISTENSEN_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Kate Lundquist’s Story

Meet Kate Lundquist — a fearless fighter of anxiety and depression.

“There’s so much weight that you carry, but there is so much freedom when you realize that… that is your normal and there is a way to live through it and overcome it.”

// KATE LUNDQUIST
Founder of BENJAKATE.blogspot.com

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KATE LUNDQUIST_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Bree Campbell’s Story

Meet Bree Campbell — a fearless fighter of ADHD, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

“The thing I want people to know is crazy is not real. Crazy is just a made up word. You are who you are. And you learn to deal with it.”

// BREE CAMPBELL
Follow Bree on Facebook
BreeCampbellLMT@gmail.com

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BREE CAMPBELL_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Kylie Spilker’s Story

Meet Kylie Spilker — a fearless fighter of ADD, anxiety, depression, rape, and sexual assault.

“Anyone else that’s gone through any of this: there are so many people out there. It’s amazing once you open yourself up and acknowledge that you have a mental illness but they are treatable. You can do it! But once you acknowledge it, for me that was the first step in being able to be strong enough to get help and be able to look for other people. Now I’m parts of support groups… the support will save you. It saves everything.”

// KYLIE SPILKER
kylie.spilker@aggiemail.usu.edu

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KYLIE SPILKER_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Lindsay Titus’s Story

Meet Lindsay Titus — a fearless fighter of drug addiction, alcoholism, and codependency.

“Addiction has affected me in several ways, mostly before when I was active in my addiction — it took away my life, my family, my soul, everything. And today it doesn’t affect me in that way because I’m grateful for it. It has turned into a strength and it’s a blessing in my life. I’ve met so many awesome people that I wouldn’t know without this addiction, and I’m able to raise my voice and bring awareness to this work and this cause. As far as what I would recommend to other people who are suffering with this affliction, never ever ever give up. There is a way out and it’s through Christ. It’s through Him and by Him that we can be saved. I’m sitting here as a witness of that today.”

// LINDSAY TITUS
Founder of MORMONFACEOFADDICTION.blogspot.com
Follow Lindsay on Facebook
lindsay.michelle411@gmail.com

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LINDSAY TITUS_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<

#IAMSTIGMAFREE // Maryanne Nelson’s Story

Meet Maryanne Nelson — a fearless fighter of depression.

“I just want others to be brave and share their story because it will help spread awareness so that you don’t ever have to feel like no one else understands you. I’m so glad to continue to share my story because I kept feeling this ball of tangled fishing line in my chest every time I tried to share my story and it has become easier and easier to do so.”

// MARYANNE NELSON
Founder of CRAFTYMOMMYDIVA.blogspot.com
Follow Maryanne on the Essential Wellness Diva and Crafty Mommy Diva & Scrappy Gifts Facebook pages

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MARYANNE NELSON_3Videography by Tucker Dansie and Chris Peck
Photography by Martha Keyes
Hair & Makeup by Becky Swasey (beckyswasey@gmail.com)

>> READ THE STORY BEHIND #IAMSTIGMAFREE HERE <<