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USF students to use creative performances to talk openly about mental health
USF students who will take part in This is My Brave pose for a photo. The show will bring awareness to mental health and addiction issues.

The show, called This Is My Brave, is part of a national program that aims to reduce the stigma around mental health and addiction and get people talking more about these topics. 

National data shows nearly a third of people between the ages of 18 and 25 experienced a mental health condition during 2020.

A national program called This is My Brave that is coming to the University of South Florida in Tampa this month aims to improve these statistics. Students who take part in the program use creative performances to talk about mental health and addiction openly and break down the stigma surrounding the topics.

Ten USF students who applied to be in the program in January will take the stage April 22, using poetry, stand-up comedy, creative monologues and music to share real-life experiences about depression, anxiety and trauma.

Kristin Kosyluk is an assistant professor of mental health law and policy at the university and is coordinating with the USF School of Theater and Dance and others to host the show.

The hope is that other students who hear the stories will feel less shame about their own experiences, Kosyluk said.

“If we’re delivering these stories to college students who may be experiencing symptoms for the first time, and they hear these stories, and they feel less shame than maybe a previous generation of college students did because of that, then we may be helping to save somebody’s life,” she said.

One of the main goals of the program is to longer have to call it ‘talking about mental illness,’ Kosyluk said.

“We would just call it talking because it would be that common,” she said.

Experts say, one reason why people don’t talk openly about their struggles with mental health and substance abuse is because of the stigma surrounding these conditions.

One of the most damaging stereotypes about mental illnesses is that those who struggle with it are dangerous, Kosyluk said.

The stereotype is often repeated in social media and films, which can lead the general population to fear people with mental illness and avoid them, she said.

“That means if you’re an employer, you don’t hire them," Kosyluk said. "If you’re a college student, you don’t want to be the roommate of somebody living with a mental health condition.”

Which is why this production is important, she said.

“I think that every time someone tells their story, and we see them for the real person that they are, it strips away those stereotypes that are so damaging, and allows us to see them for a human being,” Kosyluk said.

The show takes place at 7 p.m. April 22 in the USF Music Building, 3755 USF Holly Drive. It’s free for students and $25 for members of the public. Click hereto learn more.

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Katrine Bruner