The Life and Times of Dan Dragich (1984 – 2014)

Yesterday I got a message from a woman on Break the Stigma Project messages. She was asking me if there are any runs (5Ks) or walks for Mental Health awareness. Her son committed suicide earlier this month. He had struggled with depression for years, he thought that he could “fix” it on his own by drinking alcohol (sounds very familiar to me).

After communicating a little more through messages with her, I realized that she was the other runner I ran into yesterday morning at Salem Hills Park. I only had one more Break the Stigma flyer in my car and decided to tuck it in the car next to mine. It was her car! We agreed to meet and talk today.

Today, I met with Faye, she is the person who sent me a message yesterday and her son committed suicide just less than 20 days ago. What an incredible mother. She wants to join in forces and help us bring down the Stigma and help others struggling with mental health issues, just like her son was. Her story really touched me deep inside. But, instead of any negativity, I felt such an incredible positivity coming from her (of course we both are sad for the loss of her son). She wants to help others to make better choices and avoid the pain of losing a loved one, just like she and I have experienced in our lives.

We are going to plan a 5k walk to honor those who have gone too soon, and her son’s legacy. His name is Dan.

Stay tuned for a date very soon.

Also Faye has been kind enough to share a video of her son’s tribute. He was a musician and it seems like a great songwriter as well. This is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8vAV84f2Mk

Defy the Definition

I was invited to go to Lakeville North High School, in Lakeville MN on May 22nd, 2014.

The occasion was the launching of the project Defy the Definition, created by a group of 30 students, an educational campaign that focuses on raising awareness of mental illness, specifically with students in their school. The reason why they decided to call this project “Defy the Definition” is to help address the stigma of mental health issues. Showing their school community that those affected by mental wellness issues are not defined by their diagnosis, rather that they are people who struggle with very real and difficult problems that need the support of the school community to work through it.

Emily, a student on this project, had contacted me a few weeks ago because while knocking on houses doors in her city to raise funds for the project, ran into a friend of mine who told her about Break the Stigma Project and that I could help her to contact some people to help them raise the funds needed. They only needed to raise $5,000, that’s all, in a few weeks! Funny, since I haven’t really started doing just that for my own project run next year, and I have no idea where the funds will come from!

Anyway, I liked the way Emily introduced herself in her message and it was very clear to me that this topic it is as important to her as it is to me.
So, I gave her the name of a good friend and asked her to contact him. I also went on to post their plea for help on Break the Stigma Project’s Facebook page.

A professional from Eagan, MN answered the plea by stating that she could help and she would love to get in touch with Emily.
So, I gave her Emily’s e/mail to contact her. And it seems like they were able to raise the funds.

Great job kids!

I was at their School to listen to Mr. Ken Barlow* speak about his struggles with Bipolar Disorder. It was a great gathering at the auditorium. It was full of students. Many questions were asked by the students at the end of the speech by Mr. Barlow. My good friend Tom Mork was there from Tom’s Big Ride (check out his FB and Web pages http://tomsbigride.org )

Thank you Tom for helping these young stars! Also, Megan, thank you for hooking them up with Allina.

The simple fact of seeing young people so engaged on creating a project to end the stigma of mental health makes me very happy and even more committed to my own project.

While working on my own project I have learned how hard it is to even get anyone to openly talk about mental health issues, especially older generations. So for these kids to be doing this now, it is amazing, they are our future.

Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Defy-the-Definition/449096891902121 and please support them and let them inspire other students in your communities to follow their footsteps.

I have posted some photos of the event on this web site under the photos tab.

* Mr. Ken Barlow is a very well known meteorologist based in the Twin Cities. Google “Ken Barlow Almanac” to see one of his interviews on PBS.

Running to Mental Health – Podcast

On March 20th, 2014, not even a month into Break the Stigma Project, I got a message from Dr. David Jones. A counselor and runner in Jackson, MS. His colleague and him had recently started a similar project to mine. Running to Mental Health on Facebook and runningtomentalhealth.com. It’s a site devoted to a discussion of the effect of running on all mental health issues.

They had also just started a podcast to go along with it. Dr. Jones asked me if I would like to work along with him on his project since we have such similar interests. And maybe we could work out an interview for his podcast sometime. Well that time is here now and the podcast interview is now available on ITunes under Running to Mental Health or by clicking on this link: http://runningtomentalhealth.com/

I’ve gotten to know David, we have exchanged a few e/mails and a phone call and now the interview and more discussions. I am very happy that David and I are on the same page about Mental Health Issues and the work that he is doing is just what we need to do in order to bring down the obstacles of the stigma that surrounds Mental Illness.

They have 4 podcasts now, and except for my interview, I really enjoyed the previous 3 and can’t wait to hear future ones!

Welcome Break the Stigma’s Official Sponsor, Paragon Billing

Paragon BillingFor over 10 years Paragon has been providing billing services to mental health professionals in Minnesota, but Paragon is more than just a billing service…

  • We developed our own billing software specifically for mental health professionals and have refined it over many years based on feedback from our clients.
  • We recently launched a web-based EMR built specifically for mental health professionals and designed from the ground up to be refreshingly simple. It integrates seamlessly with our billing software providing bi-directional flow of information. We’re now hard at work developing the next release that will be both ONC compliant and meet the interoperability requirement with HL7.

We’re not only passionate about providing the best billing services and software for mental health professionals but also about creating awareness for mental health. As such we’ve partnered with the “Break the Stigma Project” which creates awareness through running. We will be running in future races to help support this project. Our first race will be the Minnesota Voyageur on July 26th. In addition we will be donating the first month of our fees for any new clients that sign up between now and race day to NAMI.

A Month to be Grateful

May is a month to be grateful. It’s my wife’s birthday.

Almost 29 years ago I ran into this young “chick” in High School and after communicating with her for just a brief moment, I knew that someday I would end up marrying her. It has been 22 years now, and 2 healthy and beautiful kids. When the priest said for better or worse, holy crap, I don’t think she knew what she was getting into with me!

We have had incredible years and some years, recently, that were very challenging for us and for her especially. Yet, when the things got very tough and I was the one pulling away, she continued to be there for me and never gave up on me, even when anyone else would have done just that.

I have learned so much from her in the last few years. One of the most important lessons is to never give up, we all hear about it, but sometimes we have to see it to learn about it and believe it. Never give up, ever!

We all go through hard and harder times, yet we are all survivors. We all have the tools inside of us to learn how to cope and deal with the challenges that come across our paths in life.

We all carry an unknown load to others. We all matter! We are here because we have a reason to be here, and the sooner we find out what our call is, the sooner we are going to be helping others and ourselves to become a better human being.

God bless my wife for teaching me the true value of love and compassion.

Video Link – “It Gets Better”

I received a message from Nick, from the beautiful province of Ontario, Canada.

He was kind enough to send me a link to the video titled “it gets better” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmWfz4YpwjU Please click on it, or cut and paste in order to watch it.

Also his friends are working on this amazing Project Cinderella Story (it can be found on Facebook under this name) it’s a project to turn everyone’s life around, away from bullying, mental illnesses, and to prevent suicide. They are a group of kids looking to making a difference, and THEY WILL! Darn Right!
Please like their page and help them build up a momentum.

I am very proud to see teenagers taking this kind of leadership and making such an important difference in the world. Let’s remind ourselves that this is a worldwide epidemic that can be cured only if we are willing to do so.

What’s stopping you from doing just that?

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, May 4-10, helps raise awareness around children’s mental health.

May 8, 2014 marks National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. On this day, NAMI joins communities around the country in raising awareness about the mental health needs of America’s youngest citizens. It is a day to focus on children and youth living with mental illness and to come together to advocate for a full array of effective services and supports for children affected by mental illness.

Wear green and support Mental Health awareness in the month of May!

May is Mental Health Month

Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the month of May, NAMI and the rest of the country are bringing awareness to mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger. In 2013, President Obama proclaimed May as National Mental Health Awareness Month and brought the issue of mental health to the forefront of our nation’s thoughts.

We believe that these issues are important to address year round, but highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the tens of millions of Americans affected by mental illness.