The History of Inside Our Minds
Though Alyssa Cypher officially founded Inside Our Minds on March 30th, 2016, the idea for the storytelling movement began to bloom much earlier, in November 2014. Alyssa was in her last year of graduate school and met a seemingly never-ending series of difficult life circumstances. Even though she logically knew that others must be experiencing similar hardships, she felt isolated from her community and unable to reach out for connection. Ultimately, as a last-ditch effort, she decided to post about her mental illness publicly on Facebook.
The response was overwhelmingly positive: Alyssa received hundreds of likes, comments, and private messages. Friends, family, and even strangers applauded her effort to bring the conversation about mental illness out of the shadows. The response got her thinking about the benefits of storytelling, community engagement, and connection in the mental health community.
However, Alyssa noticed a problem. Many people living with mental illness did not have the privilege to speak out like she did. For many people, stigma could lead to social isolation, job loss, family separation, discrimination, violence. This realization planted the seed that about a year later became Inside Our Minds, a website where people living in Pittsburgh could anonymously share their own stories.
Over the next year, Inside Our Minds outgrew that first tiny website, expanding to a professional website with numerous social media accounts. After receiving a Grand Ideas Seed Award from The Sprout Fund, Inside Our Minds was able to further expand, starting a podcast and a series of live events. Today, Inside Our Minds functions as a nonprofit with a small group of amazing team members leading the way in educational programming and community storytelling.
Inside Our Minds builds collective community narratives on mental health and mental illness in Pittsburgh. Through anonymous storytelling and personal narratives, Inside Our Minds works to reduce stigma by asking individuals to view mental illness through the written, verbal, and performative experiences of other Pittsburghers.
Visions for The Future
Inside Our Minds envisions Pittsburgh as a city on the forefront of discussions on mental illness. However, in order to help our community get to that point, we are planning a number of goals for 2017:
- Launch The Mental Illness Spotlight, a podcast that features several panelists with the same mental illness discussing their own experiences.
- Hold a series of social events around the Pittsburgh area, hoping to organize people around the common goal of better treatment for Pittsburghers living with a mental illness.
- Organize two open mic nights, directly bringing our stories into the limelight in a safe and understanding atmosphere.