Irish Dancers Collaborate to “Be the Voice” in Support of Mental Health Awareness

Over 50 Irish dance students from the Washington D. C. area collaborated with Fusion Fighters, to create “Be the Voice”, a dance video raising mental health awareness and support for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

World Champion Mairead Trainor take the leads in "Be the Voice" 

The AFSP is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, through education, community programs, research, and advocacy.

“This year I learned that one of my close friends had been struggling for years with severe depression and thoughts of suicide,” said Sophia Rankin, student of the McGrath Morgan Academy in Maryland/Virginia and an event organizer. 

“My friend stayed silent out of shame and fear of rejection.  I hope with ‘Be the Voice’ we can end the stigma and encourage people to talk about mental health, because it impacts all of us.” 

Sophia was inspired to work develop this project with dancer Shawn Dongieux in support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  


pictured: Shawn and Sophia who hope to end the stigma associated with mental health issues

After discussing the project with friends, Shawn and Sophia learned that many were silently suffering from depression.

"We found out shortly after that several other dancers close to us also suffer from severe depression with thoughts of suicide. They all suffered in silence.  The stigma aspect bothered us so much!!!"

The duo were determined to help make a positive change and end the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Through Shawn's family connection with the AFSP, together they decided a dance video and online campaign would bring attention to this issue and help end a stigma and help people who suffer from severe depression.

Sophia had previously attended Fusion Dance Fest where she met World Champion Mairead Trainor and Fusion Fighters founder, Chris Naish. Fusion Fighters has a strong history of launching creative videos to help bring awareness to different causes, so Sophia thought it would be helpful to have Fusion Fighters as well as Mairead Trainor involved with the initiative and both were gracious enough to lend their talents to the project.  

"Chris Naish (Fusion Fighters) sent choreography videos, and Shawn and I rounded up dancers," explained Sophia."

The dancers came from several schools including McGrath Morgan, Hurley School, and District Irish Dance, along with World Champion, Mairead Trainor, of the Trainor School, UK!

Soon the video came to life.


“The Fusion Fighters are thrilled to participate in the “Be the Voice” dance project to support AFSP,” said Fusion Fighters founder and “Be the Voice” artistic director Chris Naish. “Mental health awareness and suicide prevention are global issues that we’re truly passionate about.  We hope that projects like ‘Be the Voice’ help everyone in our community feel safe talking about mental health, and most importantly, asking for assistance whenever they need it.”

AFSP’s community initiatives include “Out of the Darkness” walks, which began as a small grassroots movement in 2002.  Since then communities across America have seized the opportunity to stand up for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, raising much needed funds for research, outreach, and advocacy.

During these walks, participants  wear “honor beads” in various colors representing their connection with the cause such as AFSP’s trademark royal blue; green to acknowledge a personal struggle with severe depression; teal in support of a family member’s or friend’s struggle; purple and silver to honor family members and friends, including military and first responders, lost to suicide. 

The Be The Voice video participants utilized the bead color concept with tee-shirt colors worn in the video.

“I am proud of our dancers who chose shirts in the honor beads colors,” said co-organizer Shawn Dongieux  

The Be the Voice dance video is the centerpiece of an online fundraising campaign to support AFSP’s life-saving efforts throughout the U.S. 

Donations can be made to the American Society of Suicide Prevention: DONATE HERE

Learn more, or by contacting AFSP Maryland Chapter Director Kat Olbrich (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Learn more about Be the Voice in Irish Dancing Magazine's upcoming April/May 2020 issue going to press later this month.

Irish Dancing Magazine is a 52-76 page magazine published monthly for ages 7+. Order a subscription now by clicking here!

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