Meet Iowa City cast member Shea Valez-Westphal

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, my name is Shea Velez-Westphal.  I am originally from California but have done most of my growing up in Iowa.  I have one younger brother.  I work in child welfare and study at Kirkwood Community College.  I enjoy writing, painting, movies, the outdoors, and spending time with my family, pets, and friends.

How has mental illness affected your life?

Mental illness has affected my life in various ways.  I have had several ups and downs thus far, but have grown as a person throughout it all.  I have been very fortunate in having a strong support system and have been able to maintain my mental health.  Mental illness has given me the opportunity to live in the world with a different perspective filled with emotion and experiences I would never replace.

Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?

I wanted to be a part of This Is My Brave because I feel it is very necessary to let everyone who is struggling with mental illness know that mental illness doesn’t automatically mean they are “crazy” or alone nor should they be treated differently by others.  I want people to know that despite their mental illness, you can live full, rich lives.  It is important to let others who may not have any experiences with mental illness know that the stigmas associated with mental illness are not ok or accurate.

How do you stay mentally healthy?

I am inspired by my goals and aspirations to stay healthy mentally.  Although, I do have moments of mental instability, I know that I am worth fighting for and my life is worth fighting for regardless of the struggles I may face.

What do you hope the audience takes away from attending This Is My Brave?

I am participating in This Is My Brave with the hopes that the audience can see that people with mental illness are still human just like everyone else and mental illness doesn’t define the people who struggle with it.  I want people to know that they are not alone when they are feeling negative emotions and there is help and support out there for everyone.

Shea will be presenting her poetry about overcoming depression, live on stage this Friday night at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, along with twelve of her fellow brave cast mates. We hope to see you there as we shine a light on mental illness to end stigma.