Stigma Fighters began like a dream. I had an idea. I wanted to create a space where people could speak their truths. I wanted human beings to feel loved. I wanted them to feel like they are not alone.
I told my story about living with panic disorder on The Huffington Post.
Little did I realize the impact it would have on the world. I had people reaching out to me from all over the earth telling me that I had changed their lives. A woman from South America thanked me for having the strength to speak up. She said she wished there was a place where she could share her story. I realized that she was right; there was no place for her to do this.
So I created Stigma Fighters: a blog series where people could share their stories about living with mental illness in one-thousand-word essays.
People began to speak up. And then an amazing thing happened. A woman reached out to me, Yulia Laricheva, the founder of Fund Dreamer, a crowd funding organization operated and owned by women. She told me that she believed in me. She said I could take Stigma Fighters to the next level. “Transform Stigma Fighters into a non-profit organization,” she said.
It was Yulia’s belief in me that pushed me forward. I began to raise the money to file for non-profit status. I formulated a plan. I was going to change the world for people with mental illness.
Then another amazing thing happened. My friend Rachel Thompson, award-winning author of Broken Pieces, social media guru, and my mentor, introduced me to my future business partner. Her name is Allie Burke.
“Sarah, meet Allie,” Rachel said “She is open about living with paranoid schizophrenia.” She then let us talk amongst ourselves.
To be honest, I didn’t know where to start. I’d never met anyone with paranoid schizophrenia. When I began to connect with Allie, I realized that she was many things in addition to her diagnosis. She was funny, brilliant, empathic, hardworking, and kind. She was what was missing in my life and I didn’t know it. She is the author of Paper Souls – a novel about a woman living with paranoid schizophrenia. It is a lovely piece of fiction that draws the reader in and captivates her into this magical (and sometimes disturbing) literary world.
I asked her to write for Stigma Fighters. She wrote a beautiful essay.
At some point in this dream-like existence, Allie and I decided to form a partnership. I have major trust issues. I automatically trusted her. I cannot explain why or how, but I did. I knew that she could be who I needed her to be: the Vice President of Stigma Fighters. And that is who she became, but she is so much more than that.
Allie Burke is the reason that Stigma Fighters has become what it has become. I started this organization, and she launched it into a profound entity.
I am 35 years old, and I am the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters. Allie is 28 years old, and she is the Vice President of the mental health non-profit organization Stigma Fighters. We are both women. We are both mentally ill. We are going to change the world. Nice to meet you. Submit your story to Stigma Fighters.
Stigma Fighters began as a blog series where people shared 1000 word essays about living with a variety of mental illnesses. The organization was founded by Psychology Today and Huffington Post Blogger, Sarah Fader. The basis of the program focuses on the invaluable benefits of sharing one’s story. Now, Stigma Fighters is coming off the Internet and into high schools and colleges. Stigma Fighters chapters are being established throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, and The United Kingdom, including the world’s teen and deaf communities.
Choosing to bring Stigma Fighters to a school will allow students a place to safely discuss mental health issues. The organization seeks to empower students’ voices and allow them the opportunity to share their stories with confidence and without fear of being judged.
Contributors to Stigma Fighters include ESPN Journalist Keith Law, Bestselling Author and HuffPost Books Blogger Rachel Thompson, Once Upon a Time Actor Michael Coleman, as well as people from around the world including Australia, The United Kingdom, and Canada.