WHO WE ARE
Our Mission & VisionMinds Interrupted gives voice to people living with mental illness. We utilize writing workshops and monologue presentations to educate communities. Showcasing these stories in the dramatic setting of a theater allows for greater public access as well as gives people with an illness and families the respect they deserve.
BeginningsIn 2007, Michele Herling conceived of Minds Interrupted and Rosemary Zibart came on board as co-creator. We decided to undertake developing Minds Interrupted because we knew most people had no idea what individuals with mental illness and their family members experienced.
We first met in a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) education course called Family-to-Family because we both had loved ones with a mental illness. As family members, we recall how overwhelmed and isolated we often felt. We realized how little we knew—there was too little information and almost no support.
We heard family members share their stories on the first night of the course. It’s always an incredibly poignant and moving experience. They are usually extremely relieved to find that there’s someone else who’s been through similar lows and highs. We wanted the larger community to share in these stories. We realized the importance of giving voice to people with an illness as well as family members.
Our original vision was reinforced once we started looking for individuals to participate. We discovered a surprising willingness (even eagerness) among people to participate because of their great desire to transcend the isolation and to make this contribution so others wouldn’t have to feel so alone.
Michele Herling founded the Compassionate Touch Network and is a licensed therapist with 30 years in the healing arts profession. Rosemary Zibart is a journalist, writer and playwright. Both live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Our GoalsSharing personal stories of the challenges and hopes of individuals with a mental illness and family members helps to “normalize” these illnesses.
- Challenges myths which reinforce the silence and stigma
- Educates people to view mental illness as any other chronic illness, like diabetes or heart disease
- Encourages families to talk with and listen to one another
- Supports people in seeking the help they need
- Recognizes the value that individuals living with mental illness bring to their community
Facing StigmaWhen compared with all other disease, including cancer and heart disease, mental illness ranks 1st in causing disability in the United States. While most individuals openly talk about cancer or asthma or even substance abuse without worry of recrimination, the same is not true of those with a mental illness diagnosis.
The numbers are staggering; 61.5 million Americans live with some form of mental disorder. It affects individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or economic status. Yet people with mental illness are one of the most marginalized groups in our country.
A recent comprehensive survey reported two-thirds of people with serious mental illness are unemployed, over half live on less than $10,000 a year, 44% have been detained or arrested for minor offenses, one-third are homeless, and more than 90% who suicide have one or more mental disorders.
Almost 40% of Americans with a mental illness do not seek the medical or psychosocial support needed; many because they are embarrassed or afraid of being ostracized in the workplace; in school; and even by family, friends and religious community.
Stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination lead to the community-wide problem of stigma which is based on—a lack of knowledge and misinformation about these brain disorders…a lack of positive personal interaction and contact with people and families dealing with mental illness.
Dr. Otto Wahl, psychology professor at University of Hartford, has focused numerous research articles on the stigma of mental illness because he believed that stigma prevented people from seeking treatment. In his research with a school-based curriculum focused on mental illness, he found that with education, stigma is mitigated and more compassion generated.
Using Personal StoryPublic awareness of mental illness is frequently limited to sensationalized
news stories relating incidents of extreme violence . . . or noticing severely ill homeless people on the streets of our cities and towns.
Such misleading stories only serve to enhance stereotypes, prejudices, and fears about mental illness. The public rarely hears about the personal struggles, difficulties, resilience and benefit that people with mental illness bring to their community.
Minds Interrupted promises to lend a hand in changing negative attitudes and the character of the conversation about mental illness through:
Theater Productions Across the CountryFrom day one, producer Michele Herling works with each community every step of the way to create a unique production—from choosing a theatre to selecting presenters to community outreach to designing promotional materials to directing the presentation.
Two weeks in advance of the performance, the writing facilitation team arrives in the community and meets with the seven presenters for a writing process that results in the personal 8 to 10 minute monologues they will read on stage.
In developing the program, Minds Interrupted brings communities together through collaborative partnerships with mental health organizations, law enforcement, hospitals, schools, colleges and businesses.
Breaking the Silence (BTS)BTS is a stigma-busting curriculum confronting myths that reinforce the silence about mental illness. The goal is to assist high school students to recognize early symptoms in themselves and others and seek help.
Mentorship ProgramsThe need to erase the stigma around mental illness is great. Therefore we have developed two mentorship programs.
Minds Interrupted—To meet the requests of communities around the country, we began mentoring others in the monologue facilitation process, September 2013.
Breaking the Silence—To meet the needs of middle and high school students, BTS began mentoring others interested in going into the classroom, August 2013.
Impact“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”
—Margaret Mead, anthropologist
Recognizing the value of each person’s unique gift is at the heart of Minds Interrupted. We believe that once you hear someone’s story, it is difficult to distance yourself from his or her humanity.
Sharing these stories educates the community, raises awareness, and challenges judgments and stereotypes. Participants have said that writing their stories and presenting them in public was transformational and even healing. One presenter said, “I feel like I’ve waited my whole life to tell this story.”
The impact on the audience is huge. Often for the first time, people learn of the challenges and struggles that are part of everyday life. . . and witness the “normalcy” that individuals and families work to bring to their lives and connect with the pain, anger, humor and resilience.
From these stories, people also begin to see beyond the disability— they see individuals as fathers, sons, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives. The audience grows to appreciate the grace, dedication and courage displayed by people impacted by chronic mental illness.