Jennifer Marshall: THIS IS MY BRAVE Co-Founder Chosen As Washingtonian Of The Year!

(Jennifer Marshall holding photo of This Is My Brave co-founder Anne Marie Ames)

(1-7-18) I’m delighted that Jennifer Marshall, co-founder of This Is My Brave, will be honored this month by Washingtonian Magazine as one of its ten Washingtonians of the Year for achievements during 2018.

This prestigious award recognizes Washington D.C. area residents who are helping improve the lives of those of us who live in the metropolitan area. I first met Jennifer when she and my son, Kevin, were in group therapy together. Jennifer, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, started writing a blog about her experiences as a young mother. Later, she met Anne Marie Ames at a neighborhood party and together, they decided to stage a broadway quality production that spotlighted individuals with mental illnesses sharing their stories through personal readings, songs, and poetry. Their first show in 2013 was sold out and marked the beginning of what today is a fast-growing non-profit that has produced shows across the U.S. and internationally.  Kevin was proud to be an original cast member!

Sadly, Anne Marie died in 2017, which caused a resurgence of Jennifer’s bipolar disorder, but she battled through her grief and depression, and came out determined to launch even more quality This Is My Brave shows and to expand even more deeply into social media platforms to offer hope to others.

Jennifer is a tireless advocate whom I’ve always admired. She epitomizes the power of a single individual to change lives and her community. She’s been featured on the front page of The Washington Post, Bipolar Magazine, and in Oprah’s magazine. And now she has been recognized again for her work. I would strongly urge you to visit This Is My Brave and either contribute to it or learn if you can get a This Is My Brave production in your community.

Congratulations Jennifer. You are an inspiration!

Here is the magazine’s announcement about her selection.

Washingtonians of the Year 2018: Every year, Washingtonian highlights people who make our region better. Here are this year’s choices.

Among the thousands of responses Jennifer Marshall received after speaking out about mental illness on her blog, Bipolar Mom Life, one woman’s will stick with her forever: “I found your blog when I was in my darkest moments, and your writing saved my life.”

“That was all I needed to know that what I was doing was making a difference,” says Marshall, a mother of two who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 13 years ago at age 26.

Before her diagnosis, the Ashburn, Va., resident was hospitalized four times in five years, including once for postpartum psychosis and another time while pregnant.

After receiving treatment, she started her blog anonymously in 2011—a forum that became therapeutic for her as well as others. But she still was hesitant to put a face to her disease: Her family feared she’d be judged or, worse, unemployed. (She was a corporate recruiter at the time.) It wasn’t until an editor for the online pregnancy bible What to Expect When You’re Expecting asked her to contribute that she decided to come forward.

“This is me,” says Marshall. “I don’t want to just talk about everything that’s great in my life. I want to talk about troubles.”

Now she’s helping others end the stigma around mental illness, through her nonprofit, This Is My Brave. The organization—whose motto is “Storytelling saves lives”—helps produce as many as 19 live shows a year in different cities, from LA to Cedar Rapids. The cast comprises about 14 storytellers from each community who share their personal tales—via spoken word, music, and comedy—in a production designed to support as much as it entertains. In the next year, This Is My Brave is launching on the college level as well as introducing a podcast.

“You always see fundraisers for cancer and hear the stories of people going through it,” Marshall says, “but no one celebrates people doing well despite mental illness.”

As for the reader whose comment she can’t forget, last Marshall heard, she’d just had her second child.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.