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Spotlight on Volunteers

Energy, passion, and dedication to a cause: these contributions can go further than anything else in making a difference. With gratitude, we profile a few generous spirits, each of whom used personal struggle or tragedy to inspire unique efforts toward supporting research, raising awareness, and eliminating stigma around depression, bipolar, and related disorders.

Going the distance for those fighting depression

Nick Shannon after completing his marathon

Running 26.2 miles requires dedication, perseverance, and a special inner drive to keep on going when aching muscles and exhausted lungs beg to call it quits.

Nick Shannon of Ann Arbor derives that motivation for the long haul from a particularly meaningful place, and he used that momentum to propel himself through the course of the 2013 Phoenix Marathon. Nick entered the race in part to generate funds for the Depression Center and the Center’s Under the Helmet program, which promotes mental health education in high schools.

Nick chose the Depression Center to benefit from his long-distance effort because of his own personal experiences with depression, which he shares quite candidly. Read moreā€¦

Making Great Strides Toward Raising Awareness

Each May, hundreds of participants pound the pavement in the running of the annual Mind Over Matter (MOM) 5K Race in Royal Oak, Michigan, an event organized to raise awareness about mental illness and suicide, and to raise funds for outreach and research.

MOM race day, 2010

Julie Boledovich Farhat (right) with family members on MOM race day, 2010

Mind Over Matter is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through suicide prevention efforts, brain research, and community awareness, and the run/walk has become its major annual event. The driving force behind the race is Julie Boledovich Farhat, who, along with her three siblings, founded Mind Over Matter in 2006 after their mother, Gail, took her life after struggling with a recent schizophrenia diagnosis. Each year Julie has worked tirelessly as race director, organizing sponsors, working with city council to obtain permits, publicizing the race, managing registrations, and much more. This huge labor of love has grown larger and more successful each year. The race also serves as a time for Julie and her siblings, who are spread around Michigan and the U.S., to reunite, and the time of year appropriately coincides with their mom’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, and Mother’s Day.

To date, MOM has raised more than $75,000 for its causes, which include Know Resolve, a grassroots non-profit dedicated to promoting mental health and reducing youth suicides, and the Depression Center, where Julie established the Boledovich Schizophrenia Research Fundin her mother’s memory. This fund has provided important support for schizophrenia research at the Depression Center, including the use of brain imaging to help understand differences in brain functioning in people with schizophrenia.

Accelerating bipolar disorder research

Guz Family

The Guz Family in 2005 From L-R: Lauren, Michael, Liz, David and Brian

Elizabeth (Liz) Guz and her husband, Dr. Brian Guz, of Franklin, Michigan established the Michael Guz Memorial Fundat the Depression Center in late 2009 in memory of their middle child, who passed away in June 2009 at the age of 17. Because Michael struggled with bipolar disorder throughout his adolescence, the Guz family chose to create a fund to help accelerate research into the genetic basis of bipolar disorder through the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research project. Liz’s motivation is to help make a difference in the lives of other patients and families living with bipolar illness. Since its inception, the Michael Guz Memorial Fund has generated almost $70,000 in gifts to support bipolar research, including many gifts given recently in honor of Liz and and her twin sister, Eve Agin’s birthday. Liz and Brian Guz and Eve and Bruce Agin all attended the University of Michigan in the 1980s.

Liz Guz’s personal efforts played an important role in the enormous success of the Prechter Fund’s October 2010 benefit luncheon, held at the Henry Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan. The event, which included 560 guests and generated $200,000 in proceeds for the Prechter Fund, featured keynote speaker Margaret Trudeau, former wife of the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who spoke about her lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder. Liz worked diligently to promote the event, sending hundreds of personal invitations. Impressively, nine tables at the luncheon were filled by her family, friends and acquaintances. Liz’s contributions of time, energy and financial resources in memory of her son have inspired many in the Detroit and Chicago communities and beyond.

Helping Others with Bipolar Illness

Eric and Sue F

Sue Ferus-Mancuso with Eric

Sue Ferus-Mancuso’s story is a powerful example of turning a tragic loss into optimism for others. Sue’s son Eric, who lived with bipolar disorder, passed away on November 22, 2009 at the age of 26. In the months following his death, Sue, driven to help others with the disorder, turned her focus toward planning a fundraising event to benefit the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund at the Depression Center.

“The day my son died, I was in shock. I was frozen. I was crying. The only thing I could say was, ‘I need to do something about bipolar disorder,’” Sue said. "Brighter Days ‘n’ Nights," as the event was called, was a major affair, with all of the proceeds going toward the Prechter Fund. The benefit, which took place in August 2010 at Andiamo’s restaurant in Warren, required months of preparation, extensive organization, and collaboration with local businesses, guest speakers, and other community partners. Hundreds of people attended. Sue organized an auction and raffle at the event that included gift cards, works of art, gift baskets, sports memorabilia and more, all donated by area businesses. Wally Prechter was the guest of honor. The event raised $10,000 for bipolar research.

Sue, who lives in Shelby Township, Michigan, says that organizing this event has been her “therapy,” something to take her mind off of her son’s death and do something worthwhile that will help others who live with bipolar disorder. She established the Eric Ferus Memorial Fundat the Depression Center, and all gifts, donations, and event proceeds will be used to support the Prechter Fund. She contributes an amazing level of energy toward the cause of advancing research and awareness for bipolar disorder, and gave an extraordinary amount of her time to help make this large fundraiser possible. Sue plans to hold more Brighter Days ‘n’ Nights events in the future. For more information about the Eric Ferus Foundation, visit: www.ericferusfoundation.com.