Irish Dancers Collaborate to “Be the Voice” in Support of Mental Health Awareness

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Provided by McGrath Morgan Dance Academy

More than 50 Irish dance students from studios throughout the DMV collaborated with the Fusion Fighters, an internationally recognized performance troupe, to create “Be the Voice.” It’s a dance video raising mental health awareness and support for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide through education, community programs, research and advocacy.

Youth Risk Behaviors Survey

Sophia Rankin is a student of the McGrathy Morgan Academy in Maryland/Virginia and event organizer. She said, “This year I learned that one of my close friends had been struggling for years with severe depression and thoughts of suicide. My friend stayed silent out of shame and fear of rejection. I hope with ‘Be the Voice’ we can end the stigma and encourage people to talk about mental health, because it impacts all of us.”

In the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, published by AFSP, 7.4 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. Female students reported attempting almost twice as often as males.

“Be the Voice is important personally because I’ve struggled with depression and attempted suicide several times,” said Shawn Dongieux, McGrath Morgan Academy student and “Be the Voice” dancer. “It does not matter whether you are male or female, the struggles are real. You never know the power of the voice.”

AFSP Community Initiatives

AFSP’s community initiatives include “Out of the Darkness” walks, which began as a small grassroots movement in 2002. Since then, communities across America have seized the opportunity to stand up for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Along the way, they’ve raised much needed funds for research, outreach, and advocacy. Participants wear “honor beads” in various colors representing their connection with the cause: AFSP’s trademark royal blue; green to acknowledge a personal struggle with severe depression; teal in support of a family member’s or friend’s struggle; purple and silver to honor family members and friends, including military and first responders, lost to suicide. Be The Voice dancers chose shirts in the honor beads colors.

“Just like in the ‘Out of the Darkness’ walks, the colors helped the dancers connect instantly with others who have similar experiences, so they feel less alone,” said Dongieux, “I am proud of all my friends for being willing to share their personal stories to support mental health awareness.”

“Be the Voice”

Fusion Fighters founder and “Be the Voice” artistic director Chris Naish said, “The Fusion Fighters are thrilled to participate in the “Be the Voice” dance project to support AFSP. Mental health awareness and suicide prevention are global issues that we’re truly passionate about. We hope that projects like ‘Be the Voice’ help everyone in our community feel safe talking about mental health, and most importantly, asking for assistance whenever they need it.”

The “Be the Voice” dance video is the centerpiece of an online fundraising campaign to support AFSP’s life-saving efforts throughout the U.S. Watch the “Be the Voice” video here. The “Be the Voice” documentary, with comments from dancers and parents is available here.

Donations and more information can be found online at afsp.org and fusionfightersdance.com. Or, contact Ellen Shannon, AFSP National Capital Area Director [email protected].

 

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