October 21, 2010

A Message from Glenn Close: Happy Birthday BC2M!

Filed under: Event — Tags: , — BringChange2Mind @ 12:38 pm

HAPPY 1ST ANNIVERSARY to the entire BringChange2Mind community! My heart is very full. When we launched BC2M on this day last year, we really had no idea what would happen. We just knew it was the right thing to do. What an adventure it’s been and will continue to be!

At the heart of our vision is the determination to be authentic. If you don’t know the answer to something find someone who can teach you. It’s okay to not know something as long as you can admit it! That’s how we will keep learning and growing. And we have learned how important it is to listen.  Everyone has a story. Everyone has something they are struggling with. We all are masters of disguise, masters at putting on faces that hide what’s really going on inside us. It can be thought of as a survival technique that gets us through the day, but hiding some things can actually threaten one’s survival. It is a courageous act to openly ask for help when, without it, a hidden need can lead to tragedy.

What I have learned this first year is that most people have huge wells of tolerance and compassion. We can see it in the every day exchanges on our BC2M website and on our Facebook page. We all have the potential for hatred and violence, but we are surviving because we have as great, if not greater, a potential for love and compassion. We have in our very genes the capacity to empathize with those around us, as well as with ourselves. Empathy can lead to action and action can lead to change.

I am honored to be part of the BringChange2Mind family. With help from all of you, our numbers will continue to grow and our united voice will keep getting stronger and stronger until stigma,of any kind, will not be tolerated and will become a thing of the past.

Bravo to all!

~ Glenn


May 20, 2010

What NAMI Walks Mean to Robin, by Robin Walker

I feel like the majority of my motherhood career has been like pushing sand against waves from the ocean, always leaving my spirit feeling washed up and wiped out. I have put in countless years trying to swoop my son under my wing to protect him from himself, his illness and the residual effects it has had on his life, it has been isolating. Many a night I collapsed in my bed with the feelings of defeat and many a morning I felt as if the very thought of getting out of bed was going to break me. It took that brokenness in me to surrender.

I attended Al-Anon for numerous years and worked the 12 steps of the program. I admitted I was powerless over alcohol – that my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity and I sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, praying only for His knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out. I surrendered. I experienced two alcoholics and their disease in my life, I was broken and then I surrendered.

One would think that if I could grasp the concept and understanding of AA’s 12 steps as a teenager and young adult that I could apply that to anything in my life as I matured, but somehow I lost that understanding, I lost me. I was so busy taking care of my son. I wanted to give him everything I craved as a child; acceptance, unconditional love, a sense of pride. I started at conception, talking to him inside me throughout my pregnancy. Then when he was born I would tell him daily how special and wanted he was. I have never loved anyone more than Korbin and I know never will.

So when mental illness struck I didn’t understand. I couldn’t grasp how “he didn’t feel like anyone would miss him if he wasn’t here tomorrow”. I couldn’t wrap my head around it! I told him, and showed him, how loved he was. I made that my priority in my mothering. When we hit “rock bottom” three and a half years ago it felt like another defeat and I broke….again. Korbin was going to be okay, he would continue to get treatment and gain coping skills, but this didn’t fix my brokenness. I had to claw my way up and out of the pit I was in. I needed to relearn my steps to recover and even then I didn’t feel complete.

My sense of feeling complete came on the weekend of May 8th, 2010, at the Portland, Maine NAMI walk. I had been busy with my volunteering for BC2M and advocating to end the stigma of mental illness. I was coordinating the BC2M walking teams across the USA and I felt good, empowered, and proud to be a part of such a revolutionary campaign. On May 8th I lead one of our BC2M walking teams in Portland Maine and fully grasped what I was a part of. It was the first time in 12 years that I didn’t feel isolated, it was a day I will never forget. There I was with my son in our BC2M t-shirts not feeling shame because of the illness. We were surrounded by people just like us, we were surrounded by our good friends and family. I saw BC2M shirts on others, some with diagnoses. It was so powerful to watch and experience that live. I listened to Jessie and Calen speak and there were tears in my eyes as I watched them….I felt “normal” for the first time since being a mom, I was hearing the same things I was feeling.

The next day at my sister’s house for dinner, on Mother’s Day, I let the last cat out of the bag. We shared with the last of the family, and even in-laws, about our “secret”. It was freeing and I was finally at peace about mental illness in my family. I feel like the NAMI walk weekend was my first pure and authentic step into advocacy, I was an open book, I surrendered and trusted and now I was not only talking the talk but walking the walk, literally and spiritually. I was doing good works with my advocacy before for sure, but to be transparent….that changes it. I am stronger, wiser and free!

I am grateful for this opportunity to be part of the NAMI walks and to coordinate them. I have met some great advocates and feel blessed by that. I feel blessed by the BC2M community, for because of them I am sharing this joy. To have actually experienced my own walk was life changing and rates in my top three greatest experiences of my life. I encourage everyone to join a BC2M team to feel that sense of oneness. It is refreshing and it has made my soul well.

Robin (bottom center), Korbin (bottom left) and some of the BringChange2Mind family

(Robin Walker is one of our beloved volunteers who has been working night and day to bring BC2M NAMI Walk teams to your city. To find a walk near you please visit our BC2M NAMI Walk site. Here you can join teams in your area, learn how to start your own, or donate! We thank you Robin with all of our hearts!)

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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