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One person + friends = change the world

One person + friends = change the world

Nov 2, 2007

Cathy Weaver isn't just getting by with a little help from her friends, she's making a big difference in the lives of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder and their families.

What can just one person do? Absolutely anything, if they set their mind to it - and they get a little help from their friends along the way. That is exactly what Cathy Weaver, Kettering's Graphic Designer in Marketing, did when she founded a not-for-profit business called "Artrageous Minds," designed to raise public awareness of bipolar disorder through the arts.

The focus of the organization's fundraising is to benefit research into Childhood Bipolar Disorder, which, according to Weaver, is very difficult to diagnose and often is misdiagnosed as one of many other disorders.

The inspiration for her starting "Artrageous Minds" is her son, who at age four, was diagnosed with depression, at five with ADHD and at six with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. With each diagnosis, another medication was prescribed on top of the others.

And through the years, more disorders were diagnosed, and more medications were prescribed. Now 17 years old, he is properly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, is properly medicated, and on the road to recovery, according to Weaver.

Bipolar Disorder is a disease, not a condition that a child will "grow out of," she said. Many children are misunderstood by their peers, their community and quite often, their families. Of people with bipolar disorder (many of whom are children), 30 percent end their lives in suicide. "My son's story is only one, of what I am sure are many, many misdiagnosed and wrongly medicated children who have lost their childhoods," she said.

"Bipolar disorder is controllable with medications," Weaver said, "however, just as people with epilepsy can have seizures while taking medications, people with bipolar disorder can have episodes occasionally as well." Weaver said she is bothered by the negative stigma associated with bipolar disorder, and blames the media for perpetuating the negative stereotypes.

"Would you like to have known, or have the chance to be friends with, people like Mozart, Van Gogh, Mark Twain, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Carey, Emily Dickenson, Liz Taylor or Walt Whitman," she asked, referring to famous (and creative) people with bipolar disorder.

Seeking a support network, Weaver set up a profile on MySpace, a computer-based social networking web site. "There is nothing for a parent in this area," she said, "I went on MySpace seeking people with children who are bipolar to share experiences and advice with."

When her group of "friends" had grown to 80-plus people, Weaver started talking on line about developing a place for families to go to help connect with their bipolar children. "They (her MySpace group) encouraged me to follow my vision and "Artrageous Minds" was born," she said.

Weaver created an organizational profile on MySpace for "Artrageous Minds," and some of her new-found friends migrated to Artrageous Minds at MySpace to keep the conversations and support going. This site is generating interest not only in the United States, but is gaining popularity globally. In only a few short months well over 200 people or parents of children with bipolar have joined in support.

Weaver is trying to raise funds to file as a federal non-profit organization with official 501(c)3 status. Her efforts caught attention of Red Ink Studio in Flint, a local artist's cooperative. The studio expressed interest in hosting an arts and music festival to help fund "Artrageous Minds." Her MySpace site also touched Darwin Crossland, founder and CEO of Abundant Life Social Services in Utah. He has offered to help with the fundraising to file for non-profit status.

Other offers to help fundraise include donations of artwork to sell. "I had a Michigan artist stumble across my website www.artrageousminds.net, who contacted me and wanted to help," said Weaver. "He carved a (nearly) five-foot tall bear specifically for me to use in fundraising efforts."

And the friends keep coming forward to help, doing everything from donating works of art to be sold or simply passing along her email address and information to generate more interest in her work.

Other fundraising activities include selling works of art from artists, musicians and writers afflicted with mental illness, or artists who support mental health research, and selling shirts and products on the Cafepress web site. The links to Weaver's on-line stores are www.cafepress.com/artrageousminds and www.cafepress.com/horizondesigns

Still under construction is the organization's web site, www.artrageousminds.net.

Focusing on her long-term plans, including a studio for bipolar artists to explore their creativity and sell their work to be self supporting; a camp for families with bipolar children; a book of collected art, poetry, short stories and words of wisdom; and the hope for a better diagnosis and treatment for Childhood Bipolar Disorder, keeps Weaver moving forward. Her signature line on her email says it all - Cathy Weaver, a mom with a mission.

Written by Dawn Hibbard
810-762-9865
dhibbard@kettering.edu