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Voices of Support

Each person who is affected by depression, either through their own illness or that of someone they love, has the ability to make a difference in combating this complicated disease.  Depressive illnesses do not discriminate—they affect individuals and families of varying gender, race, nationality, socio-economic status and level of education.  For too long, depression has been able to silence those affected through fear and misinformation, but that is changing.  There is something each of us can do to strengthen the fight against depression, including lending our voices to the ever-increasing chorus of those who are working on behalf of a cure, sharing information to eradicate stigma and seeking help for themselves and others who are affected. 

There are many ways to support the depression cause, both in your own community and at the U-M Depression Center.  By making a donation, volunteering your time or sharing your story with others, you are personally helping to end the suffering caused by depression.  Here is a sampling of the passionate individuals who have used their voice to support the University of Michigan Depression Center and why they have chosen to be a part of a future without depression.

Championing the Center’s Vision

The Wilson family (Tom Wilson, Sr. of Grosse Pointe, along with his son and daughter-in-law, Tom Jr. and Sarah Wilson, of Chicago) joined forces with the Depression Center to support a cause that touches close to home. Tom Jr.’s mother, Lynn Swanson Wilson, lost her struggle with depression at age 42 in 1984, when Tom was a high school student in Michigan. The family chose to be involved with the center as a meaningful way to honor the life of their late wife, mother, and mother-in-law Lynn. The Wilsons emphasize the importance of advocating for those who suffer with depression and other mental health disorders. “We believe that early diagnosis and treatment, as well as removing the stigma often associated with the disease of depression, can positively impact countless lives,” says Tom Jr. “We’ve seen a critical need for vital research and better treatments in this field, and we are most impressed with Dr. Greden’s vision for a comprehensive center,” he adds. Given their deep and longstanding ties to U-M (all three are alumni, as are many York/Swanson/Wilson relatives), Sarah and both Toms are thrilled to champion a cause that is significant to both the university and to the community as a whole.

Accelerating Knowledge Translation

Bill and Anne Hawkins have been passionate supporters of the Depression Center since its inception, and have followed its progress closely over the past ten years. Bill was one of the graduates of the Center’s “Mini-Medical School on Depressive Illnesses” in 2003. The Hawkins’ support is focused on research to advance the understanding of depression, bipolar, and related illnesses, as well as the translation of that knowledge into improved treatments. “We applaud the progress that the Depression Center has made over the last decade to redefine the seemingly unfathomable mystery of mental illness,” Bill and Anne say. They also are excited by the development of the National Network of Depression Centers (NN DC). Now composed of 21 leading depression centers and academic medical centers around the country, the network fosters collaborations to change the way these illnesses are perceived, diagnosed, and treated. “This is a stunning achievement,” the Hawkins say. “It is a privilege to be supporters of such a worthwhile endeavor.”

Outreach Initiatives to Prevent Tragedies

After their niece Sara Beth Williams took her life as a young adult in 2004, AnnArbor residents Peggy and Dennis Carroll established a memorial fund in Sara’s name at the Depression Center. Sara, a social worker, had been passionately devoted to her work helping troubled teens, but was challenged by her own depression. The fund’s purpose is to support depression education and outreach programs for teens and college students, including programs directed at preventing suicide. Later in 2004—the same year of Sara’s death—the unthinkable happened: Sara’s cousin, Chad Williams, tragically took his life. The memorial fund now honors the memory of both Sara and Chad. It is the Carrolls’ hope that this fund, which continues to grow through their generous annual contributions, will help others avoid the terrible fate of the Williams cousins. “I am pleased that we are supporting initiatives that address the need for early recognition of depression and the risk for suicide among youth and young adults,” Peggy says. “By educating students, parents, teachers, counselors, and other ‘front line’ people involved in the lives of our youth, we are raising their awareness about mental illnesses and will hopefully prevent others from experiencing the tragedies that occurred in our family.”

Supporting multidimensional approaches to depression research and treatment

“I am passionate about my involvement with the U-M Depression Center, both as a donor and as a volunteer,” says Kathy Ashton-Miller, the founding chair of the Depression Center’s Community Volunteer Committee. Financial contributions from Kathy and her husband James have supported bipolar research, school outreach programs, and a variety of other initiatives.  Kathy especially appreciates the Depression Center’s multidimensional approach to the study and treatment of depressive illnesses and the importance the Center places on educating the public about the complicated nature of brain disorders. “We are lucky to have a resource that meets such a wide variety of needs through research, clinical programs, and education and outreach, and I look forward to being part of the Depression Center’s future and helping in any way I can.”

Helping veterans overcome challenges

Michigan natives Craig and Sue Sincock are enthusiastic alumni who contribute to a variety of U-M medical research and development programs.  “Being a part of the Ann Arbor community, we feel a sense of responsibility to support one of its most incredible resources – the university.” Craig says.  Most recently, the Sincocks have become supporters of the University of Michigan Depression Center’s “Welcome Back Veterans” project, an initiative designed to create awareness about the reintegration challenges faced by returning veterans and their families, and to develop and implement effective mental health programs to address those challenges. “We are honored to be able to contribute to such a promising initiative in Welcome Back Veterans,” the Sincocks say.  “We both believe that supporting the well-being of returning soldiers and their families will benefit not just those directly touched, but also the country as a whole.”

Support for school communities

Peter and Susan Ordway have made kids and community their philanthropic priorities.  In 2007, they began providing funds for a partnership between the U-M Depression Center and the Gull Lake (Michigan) Community Schools.  This program, now in its fourth year and going strong, was created to raise awareness about depression in children and teens, and to provide education and training for parents, teachers, students and school personnel to better recognize symptoms of youth depression and suicide risk.  “We wanted to bring the ‘block M’ to our community to help prevent the potentially tragic consequences of mental health problems in our youth,” says Peter.  “The expertise of the Depression Center team and the positive impact they have had on the children and families in the Gull Lake community is fantastic, and we are thrilled.” The Ordway’s next goal is to bring the U-M Depression Center and similar programs to their new home town, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Helping Children and Honoring a Life

Todd OuidaThrough therapy and family support, Todd Ouida had successfully triumphed over debilitating childhood anxiety to earn a degree in psychology from U-M, and was beginning his professional career when he lost his life in the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. In late 2001, Herb and Andrea Ouida established the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation as a tribute to their son Todd’s life, and to help other children with anxiety disorders.  In 2002 the family established the Todd Ouida Clinical Scholars Award and Annual Lecture in Childhood Anxiety and Depression at U-M to create a permanent legacy to honor Todd’s life and help other children facing challenges similar to those Todd overcame. “We as a family…try to transform our pain into hope for other people in Todd’s name and spirit,” says Herb Ouida.

Finding it Earlier

“My involvement with the U-M Depression Center has been very meaningful”, says Kathy Briggs Goldberg, a donor and volunteer to the Depression Center since 2006. Kathy and her husband Tom Goldberg have provided significant ongoing support for the “Depression on College Campuses” conference, an annual symposium held in Ann Arbor each spring, because of their awareness of “the importance of early identification in the treatment of depression, which has such a profound effect on the entire family. Tom and I recognize what a valuable resource the Depression Center is, not only to the University of Michigan but to society at large, with its unique and integrative approach to eradicating depression.”

Finding a Cure for Bipolar Disorder

With degrees in Education, Engineering and Business from Michigan, Bill and Val Hall have been loyal alumni and supporters of a variety of University programs. “Every year we try to identify and support an innovative program that truly represents the Michigan Difference.” The Halls met Dr. John Greden when they attended a 2008 Depression Center lecture in their hometown of Chicago. What followed was a gift to support the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund. “The Depression Center is conducting the first and only collaborative, longitudinal genetic study on bipolar in the country. We are proud to be part of the effort to find a cure for this disease.”

Eradicating Stigma

John and Pat Lunden of Big Rapids, Michigan support the U-M Depression Center’s efforts to reduce the stigma still too often associated with depressive illnesses. As Pat has said, “If you have cancer or diabetes, you’re not ashamed to tell people, seek help or have hope. It should be that way for mental illness.” The Lundens’ gifts fund a variety of education and outreach programs, and activities related to improving public policy. According to Pat and John, “the things going on at the U-M are our best hope. We’re ‘all in’ for this program!”

 

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