The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that one in four adults experience mental illness any given year. And yet most of their struggles go unheard or unrecognized due to the taboo nature of speaking out about mental health disorders. With #EndTheSilence, we set out to change that stigma on the UMBC campus.
#EndTheSilence originally began as a video based project where we hoped to encourage people struggling with mental illness to share their narratives on camera so that we could eventually post them on youtube to spread awareness, sort of like a vlog series. It was a great idea, but we had to change our tactics due to an inability to obtain a professional camera and adequate meeting time for all members and potential participants. We then decided to alter it into a written format by having those who were interested in sharing write down their stories so that we could post them to a website for people to read, along with said person’s photograph beside the story to show the normality of people with mental illnesses. We created a Facebook page that received over 100 likes, one of our members came up with a beautifully planned out website, and we had several people contact us saying that they were interested in sharing their personal journeys.
Unfortunately, despite all of this positivity, our project definitely hit some obstacles along the way. Putting up the website and the Facebook page were both relatively easy, as was getting people’s attention (e.g. getting them to look at the website or like the Facebook page). The most difficult aspect, however, was getting people to actually participate. Each member of our group reached out to several of our friends, coworkers, and peers in attempt to get people to share their stories along with us. Unfortunately, in the end, we were only able to get one interview from someone who wasn’t in our group. If we were to do anything differently, we think more time should be spent on getting interviews completed rather that trying to get attention to our project. After all, our message won’t be impactful if we get people to look at a project that doesn’t have much content.
However, overall we feel that we each have a better understanding of activism after our project. Activism is certainly much more challenging than we initially thought, and getting others to participate in our activism is even more challenging. Though it might have been challenging, it was very worth the effort. After having a few people express their thanks for our project, we finally saw the rewarding side of activism. Changing people’s lives and helping them live better ones is really what our project, and most of activism, is all about. We feel that in the future, we really need to push our efforts in getting more people to participate to gain more attention as a movement.
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/endthesilenceumbc
Check out our website: http://umbaltimore.wix.com/endthesilence
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health problem: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition