June Newsletter


We are proud to have accomplished so much in the past year and we want to share it with you! So, we are scheduling a “Showcase” for Wednesday, August 29th. Light refreshments, handouts, raffle items, and opportunities to ask questions are in the works. More details are coming!

This Past Month: Highlights

May was mental health awareness month. It was also a month that featured many other initiatives for other causes so we are especially grateful to those who generously donated to Grow a Strong Family through our various campaigns on Facebook, through the website, and at the Red Heat Tavern.

The winner of the $25 gift card to the Red Heat Tavern is (drum roll), Sharon Connolly from Urgent Care!

We want to send a shout out to the Red Heat Tavern for hosting this event, giving us 15% of the food proceeds from the day, and donating the gift card! The community support is welcome and a win for everyone, not to mention that the Tavern is a great gathering place and has excellent food!

Grow a Strong Family was one of 15 mini-grant recipients from CHNA15 and we participated in their Annual Showcase. It was a good opportunity to be a part of a group of community organizations offering needed services to the community, supported by the generosity of CHNA15. After an hour of showing off our successful projects, we were treated to a panel discussion on Suicide Prevention. The keynote and facilitator, Jon Mattleman (https://www.jonmattleman.com/) did an excellent job of speaking to the diverse audience and increasing their awareness. One of the tools that he shared was, “Tell me more,” when someone says to you, “Life is not worth living,” or other suicidal thoughts. The panelists included Jake Cavanaugh, founder of the Nan Project (https://thenanproject.org/) whose mission is “saving lives and heal families.” The young adult speaker (http://mindingyourmind.org/) was from “Minding your mind,” and offered thoughtful discussion of the collateral impact when a friend is a successful suicide. Tom Denton, the Director of Guidance at Needham Public Schools and a Bedford Resident, along with Robin Krawcyck from Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Elder Services, rounded out the panel. Suicide and its impact on family and friends is not talked about enough. These resources are opening the discussion across generations.

We, too, have added two webinars on the topic on our website: Suicidality is a general discussion and education about the topic: https://growastrongfamily.org/suicidality/ and “managing suicidal behavior” gets to the nuts and bolts on actions that caring loved ones can take: https://growastrongfamily.org/managing-suicidal-behavior/

The group, “Replanting lives uprooted by mental illness: Support for families,” continues to explore the ways that families can build resilience and acquire the skills and tools needed to embrace better outcomes for everyone in the family. The focus of this past month was on “Coping when loved ones are symptomatic: This session explored several resources for family members to manage more effectively when their loved ones are symptomatic. How to detach, with or without love, in a healthy way. What is reasonable to do? What boundaries make sense?” For more information, click here and see both our televised production and our webinar: https://growastrongfamily.org/coping-when-symptomatic/

The evening group discussed Family CPR Specific activities that families can employ when faced with a loved one’s symptoms.


Replanting Lives is a FREE group that meets the 2nd Tuesday morning, 10:30-noon, at the Gleason Public Library in Carlisle MA; and the 2nd Wednesday of every month from 7-8:30 PM at the Bedford Council of Aging at 12 Mudge Way,Bedford.

Directions to the Gleason Public Library in Carlisle are easy since it is right on Route 225 in Carlisle! Directions to the Bedford Council on Aging: take Great Road to Elm Street (between the Bedford Fire Dept and the Unitarian Church). At the end of Elm Street, there is a stop sign, go right and then bear left (there is a sign showing the COA is to the left). There is a large parking area. When you walk in the building, go straight! You are there!

For questions and to register (recommended), please contact Mara Briere at 781-405-8376 or GASFInc@outlook.com

Coming up:

In association with the Gleason Public Library and the Carlisle Council on Aging, we are offering the following events FREE, at the Gleason Public Library, 10:30-noon.

Replanting Lives Uprooted by Mental illness:

Tues June 12: Three legs of a triangle: managing crisis without succumbing to crisis. This discussion focuses on strategies to increase safety, apply “family CPR: compassion, (parental/partner) guidance, reassurance,” and tools for defusing family stress.

In association with the Bedford COA and the Edinburg Center and Central NAMI Middlesex, we are offering the following events FREE at the Bedford COA on Wednesdays from 7-8:30 pm:

Wednesday, June 12: The 7 C’s This session explores the helplessness that family members often feel in the face of chronic brain disorders. How can the conflicting ideas that tend to occupy caretakers and family members be demystified? Journeying on the 7C’s offers the insight and understanding to accept “what is” rather than founder in a sea of misinformation and “what if.” Let’s right our boats together!


Share In the Grow a Strong Family Showcase! August 29th!

The Showcase features Grow a Strong Family’s mission to bring comprehensive multimedia programs to the community in a variety of online and in-person formats. Our Showcase is your opportunity to network, gather new ideas, learn about exciting projects developed by Grow a Strong Family, and be a part of what is going on in your community.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

This has been a battle cry of educators everywhere.  And, as a society, we recognize the costs of ignorance by socioeconomic factors.  In general, people with less education do not earn as much as people with education.  This affects housing, community development, lifestyle, and crime.

Well, this is also true of the issues surrounding stigma and mental illness.  According to Wikipedia (clearest definition I found), “Social stigma is disapproval of a person based on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society.”  In World War 2, Japanese Americans were stigmatized.  During the 1950’s, Russian Americans were stigmatized.  Throughout history, groups of people have been stigmatized including gypsies, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Gays, Blacks, and the list goes on.  In medical treatment, the list has included individuals with developmental disabilities, missing limbs, deformities, diabetes type 2, cancer, mental illness.  Eventually, many of these groups were able to move from social stigma to social acceptance through campaigns aimed at education and solutions.

Grow a Strong Family has determined that its mission is to educate and support families uprooted by mental illness.  Through our comprehensive multimedia approach to education and support, it is an effective antidote to the ignorance that represents itself as stigma.  We offer families solutions in the form of information, strategies, resources, and ongoing support.  This enables families to advocate more effectively for their loved ones and demand appropriate change in attitude and treatment options.

In our current culture, once an individual is determined to be an adult, around 18 years of age, the family is summarily dismissed from the care and treatment of their loved one.  The irony is that the onset of most mental illnesses is in the transition age years, between 14 and 30 years of age, with the more serious illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the earlier end of the spectrum.  We expect these individuals to make decisions about their care with their brains that are not working properly.  Consider, if you will, allowing someone with a dementia or a traumatic brain injury to make their own decisions regarding their care.  The brain that is used to discriminate is not able to.  We would no sooner let a loved one with a dementia manage their own medications and environment due to safety concerns than we would a toddler.  This is what we do to individuals with mental illnesses.  Worse, we exclude their family members from information and options due to the misused Hippa Laws (may that be changed very soon).

Untreated and under-treated mental illness leads to instability.  Instability looks like verbal and physical abuse, violence, homelessness, substance use, prison, and other undesirable outcomes.  The solution lies in supervised living environments, assisted outpatient treatment, mandated medical compliance, and family involvement.  Research consistently shows that when families are involved as team members with service providers who know how to treat the seriously mentally ill, the outcomes are significantly better than without family involvement.

Grow a Strong Family encourages better outcomes through our comprehensive menu of online resources, available whenever, however, and wherever families need them.  We understand the crucial role that families play with regards to caring for loved ones with serious mental illnesses.  Every family has someone who is unwell; support them.  Learn.  Educate yourself.  Then, you can offer them the social support they need!

Thank you!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month.  Begun in 1949 by Mental health America, it is the most recognized mental health awareness event in the nation.  This year’s theme is: Fitness #4Mind4Body.  It highlights the importance of Physical Health in achieving Balanced Mental Health.

We are running a fundraiser with the Red Heat Tavern in Bedford MA to support Grow a Strong Family’s mission to partner with families uprooted by mental illness through comprehensive multimedia programs.  The Red Heat Tavern is a gluten-free establishment that provides healthy and delicious food choices.  So, bring this newsletter with the flyer with you and eat in or take out on Tuesday, May 15!  Support Grow a Strong Family and this month’s theme of healthy living!  

Read more here:  May 2018 Newsletter

Our Goal: Services and Care

Instead of using Mental Health Awareness Month to teach the public there is stigma to mental illness, let’s focus on demanding politicians create more housing, more clubhouses, more rehab programs, hire more doctors, build more facilities, and make transportation options available to those who need them. Let’s fight for more research, more hospitals, easier access to Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), and laws that prevent someone from becoming danger to self or others rather than requiring it.

Read more at: https://mentalillnesspolicy.org/dont-use-mental-health-awareness-month-to-fight-stigma/

What do we really need? Consequences of the status quo

Learn more: Insane consequences: How the mental health industry fails the mentally

Please Donate!

Support Grow A Strong Family!

We are being given a wonderful opportunity to support our community and raise funds to continue supporting our families!  On Tuesday, May 15, the Red Heat Tavern in Bedford is donating 15% of the day’s food sales to us.  Eat in!  Take out!  All day from 11:30am-10pm.  The food and service is excellent.  The kitchen is completely gluten-free.  Bring this flyer with you!  Red Heat Fundraising Flyer  THANKS!

April 2018 Happenings!

How many years have you been involved with someone who is mentally ill?


We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from a master. Nancy Pizzo Boucher is a gracious and wise speaker, writer, and advocate. We were all so moved by her presentation and she has offered to do it again, after her next book gets published! In the mean time, I had the opportunity to “interview” Nancy on Bedford TV and it should be airing very soon ( look for a link to the interview on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/growastrongfamily/). See the rest of the newsletter for more! April 2018 newsletter

Replanting Lives: Directions!

Replanting Lives” is a support group that meets twice a month, the 2nd Tuesday morning (10:30-noon at the Gleason Public Library in Carlisle MA) and second  Wednesday evening (7-8:30pm at the Bedford COA at 12 Mudge Way), based on the book, “Replanting Lives Uprooted by Mental Illness: A Practical Guide for Families,” by Nancy Pizzo Boucher.

Directions to the Gleason Public Library in Carlisle are easy since it is right on Route 225 in Carlisle! Directions to the Bedford Council on Aging: take Great Road to Elm Street. At the stop sign, go right and then left (there is a sign showing the COA is to the left). There is a large parking area. When you walk in the building, go straight! You are there! Any questions, feel free to call 781-405-8376 for assistance.

Each FREE session is conducted by Mara Briere, MA, CFLE and a co-facilitator

Unconditional love; conditional participation

When I was walking around trees, following deer tracks, listening to the music of red-wing blackbirds, I realized that I love my family members unconditionally. It does not matter to my loving them that they are unwell. Where the conditional aspects of our relationships come in are around their behaviors when they are unwell. When they are hurtful, dangerous to me, unkind, disrespectful, scary – these are behaviors I don’t let into my life from anyone, and that means, not from them either. I am willing to have them in my life when they are able to behave in ways that I want to be a part of. The strings are, “As long as you are able to be around me, on my terms, we’re good.” I am not closing any doors. I am merely defining the parameters for participating in my life. And my (currently) estranged family members seem to be aware of this. I consider their estrangement from me as a way that they are protecting me from their unwellness. What are your thoughts?