Storytelling Saves Lives: Jennifer Marshall Inspires and Challenges Washington D.C.’s Powerful Women

(10-28-19) Jennifer Marshall, co-founder of This Is My Brave and one of my favorite advocates, delivered the keynote address at Washingtonian Magazine’s recent luncheon honoring DC’s Most Powerful Women.

I’ve cited Jennifer before as an example of how one determined individual can help change the lives of others and have a positive impact on society. I call it the Power of One!

I first met Jennifer when she and my son, Kevin, were in group therapy together. Jennifer was writing a blog about her experiences as a young mother who’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Later, she happened to meet Anne Marie Ames, a kindred spirit, at a neighborhood party and together, they decided to take on the challenge of staging a broadway quality show called THIS IS MY BRAVE in our area. The cast would be individuals with mental illnesses and addictions sharing their stories through personal readings, songs, and poetry.

Their first show in 2013 sold out and marked the beginning of what has become a thriving non-profit organization that now hosts shows across the U.S. and in foreign countries. The sudden death of Anne Marie in 2017 only made Jennifer more determined to build on their earlier successes.

In her keynote to many of Washington’s elite power brokers, Jennifer said:

“Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out. Looking back on my story, the bloggers who shared their stories so vulnerably online were leading me to the way out: the knowledge that I could have a future despite this condition. We’re all going to experience painful events in our lives: from losing a loved one, to divorce, to mental illness and addiction. When we’re able to open up and share our stories, we can connect on a deeper level with others and guide each other through life’s struggles.”

Jennifer spoke about how her personal journey with bipolar had been challenging but had also lead her to the most rewarding work that she’d had the privilege of doing (besides raising her children): helping people share their stories to fight stigma and change the way the world views mental illnesses and addiction.

Being asked to deliver the keynote was the latest in a string of much deserved honors. Jennifer was recognized earlier this year by the magazine as one of its ten Washingtonians of the Year. A coveted award in this area that spotlights residents who are leaders in helping others. She also has been featured on the front page of The Washington Post, Bipolar Magazine, and in Oprah’s magazine

Referring to her own hospitalizations and struggles, Jennifer told luncheon attendees:

“These hard stories are what connect us. I challenge you to consider sharing yours, if not on a stage, then at least in your close circles of friends and family. And watch what happens.”

Bravo Jennifer!

Keep making all of us proud.


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.