A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. If something has stigma attached to it, people think it is something to be ashamed of.
WHY IS STIGMA SO DANGEROUS?
For people living with mental illness, the presence of stigma can complicate how they are perceived and treated. The more we work to disarm the stigma by sharing our stories, the closer we get to make sure others are treated fairly and justly.
It started with a small group of people in the back of a coffee shop reading their stories aloud. The conversation that followed lasted for hours and Erasing the Distance was born. Since 2005 the organization has travel across the country collecting and sharing stories, facilitating conversations with audiences of all sizes and creating space for necessary conversations.
EXECUTIVE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Heather first joined Erasing the Distance in September of 2013 as an actor in the original production of 'Veteran's Voices'. It was the conversation following the opening night that solidified her dedication to the mission of disarming the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Since then, she shifted her focus to directing, story collecting, and facilitating. In August of 2016 she joined the staff in the role of Associate Artistic Director, stepped up to the role of Artistic Director in April of 2018, and in June of 2019, she moved into her current role as Executive Artistic Director. As both an artist and a mental health advocate Heather speaks openly about her own experiences living with and managing depression, anxiety and ADHD. She is deeply dedicated to radical curiosity and lifting the deadly stigma that prevents so many people from seeking healing.
Courtney joined Erasing the Distance first as an intern while attending North Park University, then joined the staff as a Marketing Assistant and Program Coordinator. Courtney cares deeply about the mission of Erasing the Distance and is passionate about how sharing our stories can lead to disarming stigma around mental illness, and how it can invite community conversations to promote healing.
Shelita M Shaw is an Assistant Professor at Moraine Valley Community College. She began her teaching career over 20 years ago; and matriculated her way from primary and secondary schools to the collegiate level. Shelita focuses a large part of her curriculum on Mental Health Education; creating workshops and projects including anti-bully campaigns and incorporating mental health days into her curriculum for students and teachers to take a break to ensure Classroom Wellness. As Sheilta has focused on Mental Health education, she spent a couple years co-teaching Black Male Leadership at Cook County Department of Corrections. This served as an opportunity to pour into the (often forgotten) incarcerated population. Currently, Shelita travels across the country speaking on Classroom Wellness and being the voice of teachers and their mental health. Also, she works with the non-profit Erasing the Distance performing real life stories from people of diverse backgrounds to expose mental health challenges that occur in daily living.
Charlotte Ostrow is a Master of Social Work (MSW) student at Erikson Institute, with a concentration in Youth, Family, and Community. With ETD, she is focusing on developing an extended residency format for high school custom programs. She is also an experienced actor and theatre artist, with performance and writing credits at a number of Chicago theatres. She holds a BA in theatre from Northwestern University.
Allie Wright is a student at Dominican University currently working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Criminology and Master’s degree in Social Work simultaneously. Allie is at Erasing the Distance because she believes in the power of authenticity and connection as a way to heal ourselves and our communities. During her time here, she is excited to focus on fundraising and copywriting initiatives while also exploring her own narrative about her journey with mental illness. In addition to her internship at ETD, Allie works in theatre arts at Dominican University and leads restorative justice and voting efforts on campus. Her passions lie in advocating for accessible mental health and eating disorder treatment, dismantling white supremacist structures, and celebrating all the love that is in her life.
Brianna Bracy is a student at Dominican University, and works at Rush University Medical Center. Bri is using her time at Erasing the Distance to work with high schoolers in terms of scheduling for future shows and working on a future virtual performance. Bri is also a first generation collector student with a bachelors in psychology.
Haley Sandlow is a student at Brown University, and is focusing on editing and copyediting stories for distribution at Erasing the Distance. Haley also loves reading and creative writing.
Rebekah Lubar is a UIUC student using her time at ETD to learn more about ways to destigmatize mental illness and the organization of a non-profit.