If you think Mental Illness doesn’t affect you, think again. I would bet that each of you knows someone with a Mental Health Condition…and you maybe don’t even realize it. This week we are tragically reminded of how Mental Health plays a part in every day lives, with the loss of Mindy McCready to suicide. Her struggles were well publicized, but she was ashamed of the stigma. For many people their conditions are not known, sometimes not even to themselves.
This was the case of KSTP Meteorologist Ken Barlow. For years he struggled with a series of symptoms, but it wasn’t until 5 years ago, at the age of 45, that a Doctor finally put all the puzzle pieces together that he was bipolar. Ken then found out his late father had been bipolar, but was too ashamed to tell his 5 sons, only his wife knew. In a very candid interview on the Almanac, Ken talks about how and when he made his condition known to the public, at a National Alliance on Mental Illness event last Fall. It wasn’t anything he planned, but the pieces started to fall together after that, for the Wellstone-Barlow Mental Health Initiative.
One of the things Ken hopes to change is the discussion within a family, especially with the younger generations. He says it’s like in the song ‘Teach Your Children Well‘ (Crosby, Stills & Nash). Ken’s son Patrick, a 3rd year Doctoral candidate in Knoxville, is already involved with Wellstone-Barlow Mental Health Initiative. Patrick and his friend, Tiffany, gathered all the information necessary to come up with a Logic Model for the organization. Logic Models include the key elements of a proposed program, including evaluation, statistics and measurements.
Founded by Dave Wellstone and Ken Barlow in 2012 the Wellstone-Barlow Mental Health Initiative seeks to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Fate brought Dave Wellstone (son of the late MN Senator Paul Wellstone) and Dave together at a NAMI event last Fall. Dave has been the key figure with the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act in Washington D.C. Dave had his own struggles with PTSD, following the death of his father, mother and sister in a plane crash. This was a passionate issue with his father, and it has become one for Dave.
Even in it’s early stages the organization has gained a foot-hold. They have received thousands of comments, kudos, and requests for help in finding more information. These have come via their website, Facebook account and Twitter account. Actress Glenn Close (founder of Bring Change 2 Mind for her sister who is bipolar) sent an email of praise after reading about the new organization, and the two organizations are hoping to do a co-event. Ken and Dave’s official website launch will be late April, early May, including a launch party, with involvement from Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda.
1. Your website is fairly young, but your efforts have been active for a long time. What made you want to start the site last year?
We met at the NAMI walk in September and it just clicked…we each have our ‘stuff’ let’s do something together and use our names for good! The web site is still being worked on…I don’t know HTML or WordPress but we have a wonderful volunteer helping us…he just can’t spend a lot of time on it since he has a paying job…so it’s a work in progress!
2. How did you two meet?
NAMI walk, Ken was emceeing and Dave was the keynote speaker that Ken got to introduce.
3. What are your similarities and differences that make this a good partnership?
Dave knows a LOT of people in political circles and a different social circle than Ken…Ken knows a lot of media people and has connections with the community in different way…100,000 people watch on any given night, so he is known…Dave is known nationally with the Wellstone name and by the fact that he is making his own mark in Washington.
4. What is your goal/vision for your website this year, 5 years from now?
We actually think that we only want to be an actual “initiative” for 3 to 5 years…hopefully the website lives on as a source for people with questions and concerns about mental health and addiction.
5. Will you be adding more areas to the website; adding a blog?
When we have enough $$ to hire someone (which will be soon) we will have a much better interactive website allowing for visitors to post their own stories of mental illness and addiction, either personally or with someone they love. We would love to have a blogging area for us as well!
6. It’s one thing to talk to someone one-on-one about a mental health issue, what changes when you are writing to a limitless number of people via the web?
Our reach grows exponentially with the web, especially when it is what we want it to be (see above)
7. You jumped right into Social Media with your website, having a Facebook page & Twitter ID. What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?
We have over 200 followers on both FB and Twitter and we haven’t even officially ‘launched’ we are still in the soft opening phase with Ken doing all the stuff on the sites until we hire someone who will do it full time…again the time is getting near!
8. What is your favorite thing about using Social Networking, personally and professionally, to talk about Wellstone-Barlow Mental Health initiative, or mental health in general?
The people who have come forward to share their stories and to ask “how can I help” has been so rewarding already and we are just starting!
9. What is your best piece of advice to others who are on the Internet talking about Mental Health issues, either as a patient, caregiver, or bystander?
Be honest…we don’t profess to be medical professionals, so it is is really fine line… as long as we say we are not professional medical pros, but rather “care-givers” it’s very rewarding when we get a nice email back from someone we have helped or even inspire to either tell their story and/or seek help for a mental health related issue.
The Nanny Nine brought to you by the Social Networking Nanny