My sister Suzanne came over this morning to do a recording of a StoryCorps interview.  The focus was on discussing my mental health journey. We touched on faith, advocacy, self stigma, and building trusting relationships.  This is something that I’ve been talking about recording for over a year.  It was good to dig into the StoryCorps app and understand how it works.  It was basically one hour of preparation to understand the app and create questions, then 45 minutes to record (45 minute recording is the max!)

Some things that I learned:

  •          The person who is doing the interview has to be the person who has the official StoryCorps account (basically, you can’t record yourself)
  •          There are many prepared questions, but there is also a way to make custom questions
  •          Prepared questions aren’t necessary, but they can help hit on key points (Suzanne and I strayed away from most of the questions she prepped)
  •          Hashtags/Key words can be added at the end. There are some standard hashtags, but you can also create your own
  •       You can choose an organization associated with the interview
  •          I created “Revealing Voices” as both a hashtag and as an organization
  •          The app will prompt you to take a picture as part of the upload
  •          After completion, it can be uploaded within minutes
  •          A unique URL is created that can be there shared with others

When looking at other StoryCorps interviews online, most of them are 3-4 minute excerpts. I think that StoryCorps staff will review uploaded interviews and then edit small sections and post them. People can listen to it sort of like a preview and then listen to the full interview if they want.

I would say that the majority of these full length interviews probably are not listened to by people other than close friends or relatives.  It would be interesting to know how many interviews are uploaded per month.  It really is incredible how quickly as personal interview can be made public for the world to see.  As with most sharing, the benefit to the person sharing is impactful, regardless of how many people listen to it.

After recording, I sent it to The Stability Network, Faithful Friends, and family.  I made “Revealing Voices” a hashtag and as an organization so it will be easier for people to search.  If this does catch on with others, use of “Revealing Voices” will help in the curation process.

Being interviewed always reveals a bit about me that raises my self-awareness.  It is similar to writing in that way. Until it comes out, it has never been put into words and made into a real thought to consider and reflect upon.  In this interview, the verbalization that “When I think hard, I feel hard” was somewhat of a revelation.  I imagine that focusing on something elicits different reactions from people.  For me, it may be the focus on something makes me more aware of an emotion tied to that thing or idea.  From a “mood disorder” perspective, I think that the attachment to the emotions created from this focus has been what is unhealthy in the past.  That ability to place boundaries on emotions and designate a certain meaning and context to it may be a harder process for me than for other people.

I’m really glad that Suzanne had the time to do this impromptu interview today. Until this morning, I had not even thought of who I wanted to interview me.  As I woke up and saw the opening in the day, I was drawn to Suzanne because she is the oldest of my siblings, has had the most experience with me in recovering from my mental health struggles, and has had some of her own mental health struggles in the past.  She doesn’t feel awkward about talking about the subject, so it is much easier for her to lean into her curiosity. It was a great blessing to pray with her prior to recording.

Now that I’ve been through the StoryCorps process, it will be much easier for me to talk to others about the technicalities of recording, which are not many.  Perhaps Tony will be willing to record an interview with a family member in the next month.  I took another small step in “Revealing Voices” today. I hope that I am able to encourage others to do the same.

– written by Eric Riddle

About the Author
Co-creator of Revealing Voices and resident spiritual poet for the podcast, Eric advocates for the development of better mental health through art and environmental stewardship.