Our History

What helps you through adversity?

Our personal power concept is based on work by Patricia Deegan, Ph.D.  She did a research study asking people what helped them through emotional struggles. It turned out that most people talked about activities they did and people that gave them meaning in life, rather than medications they took. Dr. Deegan coined the term “personal medicine” to describe this. Personal medicine is what we do, but pill medicine is what we take.

Sharing our stories and increasing personal contact is one of the most effective ways that we can start to change images, perceptions, and fears about emotional suffering that often get labeled as mental illness. Our project objective is to enhance the personal power of participants by helping them communicate the many ideas, visions, and emotions of their toughest moments. This can be done in a short amount of time using the very dense and tight art form of spoken word poetry.

This is storytelling as prevention – a creative outlet for our emotions and energy, and a way to express how our most intense experiences have molded us.

Jenny McGee, a resident artist at Orr Street studios, with personal power about breast cancer
Jenny McGee, a resident artist at Orr Street studios, with personal power about breast cancer. She didn’t even know we had an event that evening but became one of our surprise winners.

We are planning to further the work done with SAMHSA’s “Stories that Heal” Campaign, appealing to the African American community with the theme, “Share Ourselves…Healing Starts with Us.”  This campaign was launched by Terrie Williams, who says, “How do you wake up a community?  How do you help them acknowledge something that has been ignored for generations? ….One story at a time.”

Spoken word poetry is a uniquely powerful vehicle to share the message that all people can recover from mental illness. This is art in which poems are performed, rather than read. The performance can include costumes, gestures, musical accompaniment, and audience interaction. A feature poet is the star of the evening and usually does a whole set of poems. Through poems we hope that people can take their most difficult moments and transform them into sources of personal power and unique strength and ability to impact the world.

Brian Gallmeyer finding personal power on bicycle tour outside Topeka, KS
Brian Gallmeyer finding personal power on bicycle tour outside Topeka, KS

We plan to share basic mental health information in a way that promotes the recovery possibilities inherent in each of us. We plan to promote social networking, building friendships through common difficulties, and using personal strengths to develop self-supporting strategies. Although we believe in the importance of traditional mental health services, we will also capitalize on the ability of youth to access each other for support in person as well as online resources.  This project idea comes from the Firewalkers book of VOCAL Virginia, a previous Campaign for social Inclusion project. This will make some of our most difficult moments into transformative life experiences from which we rise and fly like a phoenix into powerful, world-shaping people able to harness even more of our own human potential.