During an onstage dance production, the audience can only observe the visual structure of a dancer’s movement and the direction of the stage each dancer is prancing towards with grace. Beyond the surface of a marvelous performance, the audience is not able to recognize a hidden hardship a dancer has to continue to encounter once he or she completes another production. This particular hardship is mental illness.
Several conditions of mental illness exist due to an individual’s surrounding environment, genetics, or a childhood event. In such cases, a person who is battling a mental health disorder can have an effect on his or her community, friends or families. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, seventy-five percent of mental health conditions begin to develop by the age of twenty-four, and about half of mental health illnesses start by age fourteen. A variety of these disorders include: Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, Major Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the most common one, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Currently residing in New York City, New York, professional ballerina and mental health warrior, Mrs. Sydney Magruder-Washington, lives with a daily challenge to attend ballet classes, being a strong advocate for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and unafraid to express her values as a gay Christian. While being extremely passionate about ballet and unashamed of her identities, it still remains a challenge for Mrs. Magruder-Washington, because of her mental illness. Sydney suffers from her diagnosis of the following conditions: ADHD, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, Major Depressive Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome. Having to experience these conditions while pursuing her dream everyday to land a contract with a ballet company or work on Broadway only heightens her anxieties of one day accomplishing her dreams, but she continues to push through. She uses her social media platform and newly launched blog, The Black Swan Diaries, to encourage all of her followers to break the stigma of mental illness.
On Thursday, August 3, 2017, Sydney created and introduced Warrior Swans (Ballerinas for Mental Health) on Facebook. Warrior Swans is a community for pre-professional and professional dancers struggling with mental health issues. This community of individuals with similar issues strives to connect dancers all over the world who lives with a mental health impairment. It is a private space for mental health warriors to openly express their issues concerning their condition and to provide comfort and support.
Sydney wants dancers who face mental health issues to know that it is okay to not be okay. Dancers do not have to hide who they are, and their difficult state of mental conditions. Dancers and non-dancers can find Mrs. Sydney Magruder-Washington on Instagram: @theblackswandiaries. Join the movement. Break the stigma.
Sydney's Blog: www.blackswandiaries.com
Dancers' Mental Health Community on Facebook: Warrior Swans (Ballerinas for Mental Health)