At the 2015 IBJJF No-Gi Pans, there were several black belts on the podium holding up a sign that read #submitthestigma. Erin Herle, the powerhouse behind this movement, wants to bring awareness to mental health in the Jiu Jitsu community. She reminds us that “We, of course, take care of our bodies and we nurture injuries and we replenish our muscles when we train or compete. But we rarely take the time to make sure our mental wellness is at top notch.
Erin, a brown belt under Marcelo Garcia, has had her own share of interactions with mental illness. From working with Graciemag and making connections to her own family issues, she saw first hand how mental illness affected those around her, and feels that talking and becoming aware of it can really drive this movement.
This movement started when Erin first started training. She talks about how her own experiences have influenced her.
“Since being diagnosed with my own anxiety, ADHD and depression, I never wanted to hide from it. While not an excuse, I’ve always made it known that I’m not okay or I’m not going to ignore what’s going on with me.”
Her real push for making this conversation more visible happened when her father killed himself last July. Erin talks about how that affected her, and the steps she took to cope.
“I really didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t know what the next steps were but I knew I wanted to tell people. And when I told people, I didn’t want pity, and I didn’t want condolences in the form of flowers or cards or even money…there was a story involved that needed to be told. In the process, I knew there was a very important message attached and a stigma that was being crushed. I chose to announce my father’s death and story on a GoFundMe page that sent donations directly [to the] National Alliance on Mental Illness for its grassroots foundation, [because of] the fact that they have affiliations available all throughout the country and they offer many different programs and links to help. It was the kind of place I would have, and should have sent my dad to so he could get the help he never received.”
Like many of us, Erin found solace when she started training. She found that her instructors “had great advice for training that also translated to life as well.”
She is looking forward to her pushing her movement farther this year with the help of some of those confidants.
“The 2016 #submitthestigma Charity Seminar will be held on March 21, 2016, the day after the 2016 IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship. The venue is Studio 540 in San Diego. I planned it this way so that people who are near San Diego would be local for it, but also so that all the competitors traveling in for the tournament would be able to stay an extra day to make the event. Teaching will be Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, Romulo Barral, Abraham Marte, Caio Terra, Gianni Grippo and Kristina Barlaan. This group is so close to me as they’ve either been my mentors, my good friends, and my instructors. They’ve pretty much all known me for a while and are supporting this cause and my story.”
Erin was also recently certified in Mental Health First Aid, which is first responder teaching that are catered to mental health.
For more information, visit www.submitthestigma.org and see how you can help raise awareness, and further the movement.