October 18, 2010

Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health 2010, by Ashley Paula

BringChange2Mind attended the 16th annual Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health last month in Rutherford, CA.  It was an amazing and successful event!  The Staglin Music Festival is the top mental health fundraising event in the nation and is hosted and organized by the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), who raises awareness and funds research to find cures for the “Big 3” brain diseases: schizophrenia, depression and bipolar.  Shari and Garen Staglin started IMHRO when their son, Brandon was diagnosed with Schizophrenia his freshman year at college. To learn more about Brandon’s story, check out his recent BC2M blog post.

The Staglin Music Festival takes place each year at the Staglin Family Vineyard located in Rutherfod, CA. IMRHO raised a total of $2.5 million at this year’s festival and a total of $114 million since its first event 16 years ago.  The great thing about this festival is that every single dollar goes to raising money for mental health research.  The Staglin Family Vineyard donates the table settings, wine, etc., and volunteers fly in from all over the country to participate.

This year’s event began with a scientific symposium, which was followed by a fun and vibrant reception, with hors d’oeuvres by Yountville’s Chef Richard Reddington and wine tasting with a selection of 76 West Coast wineries.  Our very own Glenn Close spoke with her sister Jessie and Nephew Calen about the BringChange2Mind PSA before the concert took place, which featured country music star Dwight Yoakam.  The concert was then followed by a relaxing, evening meal with wonderful wine and delicious food prepared by Chef Jon Bonnell.

We were very excited and honored to be a part of such a great event.  IMRHO had reserved a table for BringChange2Mind near the wine caves, where we sold BC2M T-shirts, fleece blankets, and engraved charms and charm necklaces.  Every guest and volunteer that stopped by the table was such a joy, and our volunteers had a blast.  After the concert, we moved our table up to the main house where the courtyard dinner took place.  All we could say at first was, “wow”.  The Staglin’s house is absolutely amazing.  Many of the dinner guests were very familiar with BringChange2Mind and a few were even in our PSA.  We drank a little wine, chatted with guests and sold many charm necklaces.  At the end of the day we raised a total of about $8000 for BringChange2Mind, and much of the money raised came from personal donations.

All in all, the BringChang2Mind team, who attended this year’s Staglin Music Festival had a fantastic time. We were very proud to be representing BringChange2Mind and to take part in such a wonderful event.


June 27, 2010

BringChange2Mind in Seattle, by Cinda Johnson

We were two moms and two adult children chatting at the dining room table after a Seattle dinner of salmon on the grill and salad. We had met each other in person less than three months before yet we were bonded as close as family. Calen and Linea talked about their experiences hospitalized because of psychiatric illnesses. They talked about their “breaks” (these weren’t school breaks!) and how it affected their relationships with their friends. Jessie and I talked about the pain, love and profound respect we experienced as we traveled with our children through their illnesses. Jessie and Linea talked about when suicide was stalking them and how they stayed healthy and stable. We talked about my brother and the others who were no longer with us. Calen connected with Linea as they discussed how sharing their stories and voices as advocates for mental health treatment and understanding had strengthened them. It was just an ordinary evening, yet profound in our shared heartache, heartbreak, recovery and thankfulness.

Linea Johnson, Cinda Johnson, Jessie Close, and Calen Pick

Calen Pick and Jessie Close were in town to present at Seattle University’s College of Education celebration of the 75th year of educating teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, community mental health counselors, principals, superintendents and leaders in higher education. There were a few questions around campus about the connection between “celebration” and “mental illness”. Calen and Jessie spoke of their own battles with mental illness and their slow road to recovery. They shared their commitment to the very mission of Seattle University, “…empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” Yes, there were a few in the audience who looked uncomfortable as Calen described his hallucinations and Jessie her battle with alcohol in addition to her bipolar disorder. But the vast majority applauded the courage and willingness to put a face to frightening illnesses; two beautiful, wise, and “normal” (whatever that is) faces to which the audience could relate.

Mental illnesses are insidious and terrifying but also treatable, manageable and even offer opportunities to connect to others with honesty and love in ways we may have previously not been able to do. Although both Jessie and Calen and Linea and I speak to large audiences sharing our stories in order to assure understanding, resources and care for the millions of people with a mental health condition, it is the personal connections that strengthen this movement. Linea and Calen are examples of the power of young people stepping forward and changing the face and understanding of mental illness yet they are two young people in their twenties who love books and walking and music and art and deep philosophical discussions. Jessie bravely shares her own experiences struggling with bipolar disorder. Yet she and I also connect at a deep and lasting level of “mom”; mothers who will do anything possible to keep their children safe and wish with every fiber of their being for their happiness and safety.

Seattle University's 75th Anniversary Celebration

BringChange2Mind is a powerful movement with almost 13,000 Facebook fans and emails and requests for help coming in every day and from all over the nation. Requests that are responded to within 36 hours! This movement is taking hold and taking off. The conversations on Facebook are powerful, the walks across the country with our NAMI partners were life-changing for many, and the support and understanding developing within this community is awe-inspiring. Together we are an influential and significant grass-roots movement started by Glenn Close. Yes, a famous actress but also a sister who is connected to every family with a mental illness because she knows. Just like the connection around the dining room table, into the community and across the country. This BringChange2Mind community gets it. Together we can change the face of these illnesses and together we can be the leaders needed for a just and humane world for all people, particularly for those with mental illnesses.

May 8, 2010

2010 Fountain House Luncheon

Photo courtesy of Leslie Barbaro

Glenn Close, Nancy Evans, Karen Pratt, Linea Johnson

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of nineteen. At that point in my life a diagnosis was like being given a life sentence. I felt terrified, ashamed, and most of all, utterly alone. I felt that suddenly everything was wrong with me and that I was the only one going through this. Though I had wonderfully supportive family and friends, I thought that the only person I would be able to discuss this with was myself. Just me, scared and alone, in my own head.

Since then life has changed drastically. Five years later, having been stable for the last three, I was invited to attend the Fountain House Symposium and Luncheon: Visions and Voices, Understanding and Treating Psychosis; New Research, New Hope at New York City’s Pierre Hotel. On Monday May 3rd, almost four years to the day of my first hospitalization, I was sitting with the Close family (Glenn and Jessie Close and Calen Pick), Nancy Evans, Executive Director of BringChange2Mind, Rosalynn Carter, author, activist, and former first lady, and Kenneth Dudek, President of Fountain House. Having spent many years hiding my illness I was suddenly at a table full of friends and people who “get me”, who “get it”. I was sitting at a table full of people with much larger resumes, bigger titles, and more impressive histories, and yet because of our shared understanding of mental illness we were all equal. We all understood one another. These are people who understand what it means to be psychotic, depressed, bipolar, etc. without even asking.

The event addressed never-ending hope through education, research, and personal stories. It provided infinite hope through community, courage, and love. The event began with the Symposium in which a panel of psychiatrists discussed psychosis. On the panel were Beth Baxter, MD, Donald C. Goff, MD and Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD. Each panelist shared their own thoughts on psychosis before the Master of Ceremonies, Consuelo Mack, asked more individualized questions. We heard about the newest discoveries in research and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. We heard Dr. Baxter’s personal story as a psychiatrist who also has schizo-affective disorder. And we heard the importance of sharing stories and the importance of research in the battle against stigma and discrimination.

After the panel the BringChange2Mind PSA and accompanying videos were played and Glenn Close was given the 2010 Humanitarian Award. Glenn’s speech was extremely powerful as she reminded us of the importance of saying the stigmatized words in order to take away their power. For example, it is important for me to say, “I have bipolar disorder” not simply “I have a mental illness”. After a short speech Glenn asked Jessie and Calen to come to the stage to share the award. Their speeches were moving and powerful and once again reminded me that I am not alone. They reminded me that 1 in 6 people have a mental illness, yet few are willing to talk about it.

Attending the Fountain House Luncheon renewed my drive and once again inspired me to share hope for all those afraid to share their own stories. I never want another person to go through the pain of feeling alone in their illness. Things are changing and I am so lucky to have been able to see it first hand at this wonderful event. We are going to change the world.

April 24, 2010

Change a Mind, Change a Life

Filed under: Event — Tags: , , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 1:25 am

Last weekend we combined forces with the Karla Smith Foundation (KSF) for an amazingly inspirational weekend of events in St. Louis called “Change a Mind, Change a Life”. The KSF/BC2M teams held two events, a formal Gala at St. Louis’s Four Seasons Hotel, and a mental health focused Cardinal’s baseball game.

At the Gala we heard from the Smith family as they shared Karla’s story and the need to support the families and friends left in the wake of a suicide. For more information please visit their site: These were intensely emotional yet empowering speeches. We then heard from Glenn Close about her families’ journey through the world of mental illness and her reasons for starting the BringChange2Mind campaign. Hearing these words were a powerful reminder that everyone has the potential of being affected by mental illness (1 in 6 suffer from a mental health condition), and that through our shared stories and love we can help to make it easier for the next generation.

The second event was the Cardinals/Mets game at Busch Stadium. A portion of each ticket sold through “Change a Mind, Change a Life” went to KSF and BC2M. The game was a huge success and the crowd watched closely as BC2M’s Public Service Announcement played on the JumboTron. It was at that point that we once again remembered that 1 in 6 individuals in the Stadium have a mental illness. The fun continued when Glenn threw out the first pitch and some of the BC2M volunteer’s children went out on the field with her.

With the help of the amazing Smith family we were able to raise a gross amount of $85,000 dollars that will help us in our combined efforts to fight stigma and provide help and resources to those suffering with mental illness, the people who love them, and the families and friends who may have lost a loved one due to a mental health condition. Forty-eight media spots (on radio, TV, and in print) were released all over the country and are still coming out this week. It was truly a phenomenal weekend of events!

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