At each of our home bouts this season, Burning River Roller Derby will be featuring and donating to a charity that helps the local Cleveland community. The charity for our May 6th home opener is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Cleveland. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, and they have been focusing on helping persons and the families of those struggling with serious mental illness since 1979. With one in five adults struggling with mental illness per year, NAMI offers resources for both those struggling with mental health conditions and those who know someone struggling.
Burning River is proud to support an organization like NAMI that helps those who may fly under the radar when it comes to receiving help and support. While our skaters face tough battles against opponents on the track, many face even tougher battles every day against mental illness and the stigmas they present. Those living with anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness often find themselves unable to speak openly about what they are going through because they fear being misunderstood or criticized.
“People tend to stigmatize what they cannot understand or see outwardly,” says All-Star skater Maloik. “People tend to simplify what mental illnesses are when they just cannot understand them; anxiety is just being nervous; depression is just being sad; OCD is just wanting things clean; it’s all situational. I didn’t even let myself get to a doctor until my mid-twenties because of the stigma. I played down what was going on in my head because of fear of judgement from my peers and family.”
As a provider of mental health services, HazMat skater Pinky Teasadero sees the effects of this first hand. “When someone is reluctant to getting help for their mental illness, it can lead to very negative outcomes with family, friends, holding a job, and social interactions. Basically, every aspect of life can be affected.”
Other skaters, like HazMat Jammer Dee Crypt, noted that the cost of the therapies and medications needed may also deter people from seeking help. “It makes it easier to try to ‘self-medicate’ in ways that aren’t as effective as proper therapies.”
NAMI of Greater Cleveland (NAMI GC) seeks to battle the stigmas faced by our skaters and others dealing with mental health conditions in Cuyahoga County. They offer more than 20 support groups, as well as educational programs for individuals living with a mental health diagnosis and for the families or caregivers of those with a mental health diagnosis. They also provide a helpline that offers free information, referrals, and support to people living with mental health conditions.
Support and understanding are pillars when it comes to helping yourself or a loved one who may be struggling with mental illness, and many of our skaters (regardless of their varying backgrounds and experiences) have found both in the derby world.
“Roller derby has increased my social network and the community has helped me to embrace being me,” Dee Crypt said.
MaLoik agrees. “I can honestly say that I can call on any individual in BRRD for help, and they would do anything in their power to be there for me. When I do go to practice after harder days, I leave feeling like a different person. We lift each other up during practices, and it makes me feel like all the bad things just go away, even if it’s only for 2 hours. I’m so thankful that derby exists, and I’m so thankful that I am a part of a league like BRRD.”
For Burning River, it was no surprise that choosing NAMI GC as our first charity this season was a near-unanimous decision.
“I am excited to have NAMI GC at the first bout so we can provide information and resources to our fans, volunteers, and skaters,” said Pinky Teasadero. “It is exciting to partner with an organization that can help so many people.”
The proceeds of our home opener 50/50 raffle will be donated to the NAMI Walk taking place in Cleveland on September 16th. If you or a loved one is in search of support, understanding, or counseling, you can reach out to NAMI GC by calling 216-875-7776 or visiting their website at https://namigreatercleveland.org/