Negative connotations often pair too easily with mental illness, and the lack of education about people living with it today leads to misperceptions. Helping to combat these misperceptions, however, has just one basic rule for Tom Fuller. "We are very anti-stigma," he says.
Fuller is a spokesperson for the 16th annual Staglin Family Vineyard Music Festival for Mental Health, which takes place on Sept. 11. The event has succeeded in raising over $95 million for the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO) since 1994. The majority of the money goes to IMHRO, but a small amount of the profit is turned over to local Napa County organization Aldea Children and Family Services. "We receive $50,000 a year. We have an agreement that that will continue for a 10-year period," says Aldea development manager Katie Bullard. "It's a huge help to our organization. The funds that are provided to us help cover the cost of our child psychiatrist, who provides things that are very unique to our organization. He helps us care for the kids in a very unique and helpful way."
For its part, IMHRO funds scientists who focus on what they call the "big three" brain diseases: schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. The money from the Staglin Family fundraiser aids scientists who are looking at these diseases in new and innovative ways.
The fundraiser is an all-day event broken into four parts, starting with a scientific symposium featuring USC Provost Professor Pat Levitt. Levitt is the director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, whose research objective is to study the components of children's brains that control emotion, learning and social behavior. The symposium also features speeches from 2010 Rising Star research award winners about projects they are working on.
A reception after the symposium spotlights over 70 wineries paired with hors d'oeuvres prepared by chef Richard Reddington from Restaurant Redd. Following the tasting, two-time Grammy-award winner Dwight Yoakam performs; actress Glenn Close presents and dinner follows.
While the event does raise huge amounts of money for mental health, Fuller says he hopes that they accomplish something else through this fundraiser. "We want to raise awareness about mental health issues," stresses Fuller. "A lot of families face challenges on a day-to-day basis when it comes to these things. We want the general public to be aware of this."
Join the Staglin family in raising awareness about mental health on Saturday, Sept. 11, starting at noon. The science symposium is free of charge. Tickets for the symposium, winetasting and concert are $750, and tickets for all of this plus dinner are $5,000 (which is a speedy way to raise $95 million). www.staglinfamily.com.