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Las Cruces Bulletin - From the Publisher - March 15, 2013

The voice came crystal clear from the kitchen. Micah Pearson, then a teenager, heard his mom yelling the way moms yell at teenagers. Like a typical teenager, he yelled back a few times before finally getting off the bed to go see what she wanted.

Trouble is, when he got there, she was not there. He heard the voice again from the laundry room. Again, when he got there, she was not there. Pearson’s mother, in fact, was not even in the house. Thus began a saga of struggle for Pearson that would eventually lead to his diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age 22. The struggle is far from over, Pearson said from the stage of a packed Rio Grande Theatre Monday, March 11. Pearson, now 35, and six others shared their personal and family stories of mental illness in a powerful presentation titled Minds Interrupted.

If you don’t know someone who struggles with mental illness, you’re the exception, because it affects one in four adults and one in 10 children. However, even those of us who know people who struggle with it seldom understand the grip it holds on the daily lives of the sufferers and their families. That was the point of Minds Interrupted. The seven people sat in chairs on the stage, each taking their turn standing in a spotlight and reading their stories from their binders. The audience was riveted.

If you met Al Barrera on the street, you’d instantly like him. He’s a big guy with a full beard, glasses and a ready smile. When his beard goes fully white, he’ll probably make a great Santa Claus. A few years ago, his world was quite different from what it is now. He was nearing retirement and looking forward to spending more time with one of his favorite pastimes, fishing. Things changed, however, when his younger adult daughter began having serious problems with her bipolar disorder. He retired, moved to Las Cruces and became her caregiver. It has not been easy, he told the audience. Barrera exhausted his retirement savings and now, at age 65, has had to go back to work, taking a job with the U.S. Postal Service. The love he has for his daughter was obvious, but so was the stress of his struggle.

As a journalist, I’ve written and researched a great deal about mental illness. I’ve seen the struggles close hand with family friends. Until Minds Interrupted, never had I seen such a stark, raw illustration of the struggle, heartache and – yes – success, joy and love associated with mental illness. I hope this program can come to Las Cruces again and again, and that as many people as possible get to see it. Dealing with mental illness has been a national problem on many levels for generations. Progress has been limited, I believe, because so few people really understand the scope of the problems.

Seeing a program like this demonstrates the practical issues as well as the issues of the heart that accompany mental illness. Presenters represented bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

Big kudos for Pamela Field, president of National Alliance on Mental Illness-Doña Ana County (NAMI-DAC), for bringing Minds Interrupted to Las Cruces and to Michele Herling, producer/director and founder of the Compassionate Touch Network in Santa Fe. She conceived and created the project.

- Richard Coltharp

Minds Interrupted Gives Voice to Mental Illness, Family, Individuals Affected by the Disease - Las Cruces Bulletin - March 1, 2013

Bringing attention and perspective to an often misunderstood illness is what Pamela Fielding and Michele Herling are hoping to do in Las Cruces. Fielding, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness - Doña Ana County, and Herling, the producer of Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by Mental Illness, have reached out to those affected by mental illness in the community and have asked them to share their experience.

Minds Interrupted will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 11, at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St. The show will feature seven residents from the Mesilla Valley who will deliver a series of monologues about how their lives have been touched by mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression and other disorders.

"We’ve done a production in seven different communities and select people within those communities (to perform monologues),” Herling said. Herling approaches NAMI chapters and reaches out to those who use it as a resource to find individuals interested in telling their stories. Those who are interested go through a group writing workshop and edit their stories into eight to 10 minute monologues.
From there, a select few are chosen based on age, gender, disease and familial relationships to get a varied group of speakers. The speakers range in age from 20 to 73 years old.

“There is so much stigma and secrecy,” Herling said. “It takes a lot of courage to share their stories and challenge fears, stereotypes and prejudices.” Herling recommends an age limit of 13 to 14 years old to attend. “Not that they can’t hear the stories, but seven of them could be a bit overwhelming for anyone younger,” she said.

In approaching local families and individuals about participating in the production, Fielding said she felt those who agreed had a “desire to break the silence and bring awareness.” Herling wanted the production to be intimate rather than feel as though the audience was attending a lecture. “This is not a lecture, these are deep, touching stories,” Herling said. The stories shared are meant to show the positive and negative aspects of mental illness. “It shows the raw pain, coping with it in a society that hasn’t broken through that stigma,” Fielding said.

Fielding said the response from the community has been “fantastic.” “It’s like they’ve been waiting for this to happen,” she said. Both Fielding and Herling encourage those who are touched in some way by mental illness – either through a family member or personal diagnosis – or someone who has never experienced the illness before to attend. “People have a stereotype in their mind,” Fielding said. “The speakers are showing the audience that you can live and function (with these illnesses).” Tickets are $10 each and are available for purchase online at, at the door or call 386-6890. Proceeds from the show will stay in the community and go toward supporting the NAMIDAC to put on free programs and help the local chapter stay afloat.

- Lorena Sanchez

Telling her story — Stigma of Mental Illness Comes Out of the Darkness - Las Cruces Sun News - April 2013

Real-Life Stories of Mental Illness - Albuquerque Journal - March 2013

Ruben Rosario - Pioneer Press - June 2012

Minds Interrrupted - A Candid, On-Stage Look at Mental Illness - The Baltimore Sun - October 25, 2009
Joyce, Shea, and Geraldo after the first Minds Interrupted, 2008

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