Story of Hope and Success with Connie

CAHM Interview with co-founder and supporter, Connie!

Tell us how CAHM came about…

CAHM was founded a few years after the death of our son, Todd—a vibrant and talented young man who lost his battle with mental illness and took his life in 2005.  Rex and I were overwhelmed with shock and disbelief.  As we grieved, we realized that we had entered a strange new neighborhood of broken people who resonated with our pain because of similar losses.  When we could remember to breathe, we began to tell our story.

We saw that this enabled other to begin to voice and embrace their own stories.  We discovered that this neighborhood was more expansive than we could have imagined.  We learned of others, both adults and youth, facing mental health or substance abuse challenges.  We walked alongside families who were struggling to cope with their loved one’s mental illness.  As we faced our own reality authentically and hopefully, others were helped…and heard.

As Rex and I reached out for assistance, we were introduced to partners in the mental health community who were anxious to collaborate with us.  They offered their professional skills, experience and compassion to the new work that was rising from the ashes of our loss.   We soon discerned that this was a collaboration of a lifetime—that as partners, we were better together.  CAHM—Community Alliance for Healthy Minds—was the result.  We hold this conviction:  Together we can change the landscape of mental health in our communities.

What is your favorite thing about the CAHM Forum?

The sense of community that exists in this organization is staggering.  Rex and I were introduced to the world of mental health by Todd’s suicide—a hard and quick education.   Even before we had a name, this team of colleagues and friends surrounded us with support, skill, time, love, learning—everything we needed to make the shift from surviving to thriving. These partners empowered us by sharing our belief that Todd’s death would not be in vain.  They have been onsite to see the redemption that is emerging.  My favorite thing about CAHM?  The people of CAHM.

What is your message of hope to others struggling with mental illness?

Mental illness impacts at the group level—families, schools, neighborhoods, circles of friends, faith fellowships.   Healing, help, and support happen best in the context of community.   Wherever you find groups that reflect safety, authenticity, and the absence of stigma—go there.  And for the caregivers, never give up.  Never stop fighting for those whose lives have been dwarfed by mental illness.

What is your favorite color and why?

Pink is my most memorable color.  Todd liked it and enjoyed the rise he got from people who insisted that pink was for “girls and sissies”.  Todd was unique and alternative and anything but a sissy!  He just enjoyed setting people’s teeth on edge, and his pink t-shirts seemed to do that.  I think the color reminded him of the pink clouds set in a great sunrise or sunset.  That’s where I “see” Todd now—in the atmosphere, exploding with the colors that splashed through every day of his life.  Sometimes I see a bank of pink clouds and say, “There’s Todd!  He’s giving God a High-Five!”