The Power of One: Are You Making A Difference?

Not long after my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, was published, I was contacted by Muffy Walker, a California mother whose youngest son, Court, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She asked if I would lend my name to a fledgling group that she was starting to educate people about bipolar disorder. Muffy seemed earnest and I was impressed by her enthusiasm so I agreed, but I quietly questioned whether much would ever happen.

Wow, was I wrong!

Muffy is a true tour de force!  In less than six years,  Muffy has made the International Bipolar Foundation into a well-respected, advocacy organization that has helped thousands of parents and their loved ones who have bipolar disorder.  The IBF’s most recent achievement is the publication of a book entitled Healthy Living With Bipolar Disorder that can be your’s FREE for the asking.

Every parent or person who suffers from bipolar disorder should get a copy and read it!  I have and yes, it’s that helpful.

The International Bipolar Foundation also has a free newsletter that contains educational and inspiring materials.

When my son had his first psychotic break, I was at a complete loss about what to do. Most parents are. That’s why the IBF’s newsletter and new book are so helpful.

Muffy holds master’s degrees in psychiatric nursing and business administration, and she put both to good use in founding IBF with three other women whose sons have mental disorders. She and her husband, John Reed, the CEO of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Researech Institute in La Jolla, California, were distraught when their son began being taunted in elementary school because of his mood disorder.

“They called him mentalhead, psycho and told him to go back to the mental hospital,” she recalled in an interview with The Rancho Santa Fe Review  newspaper.  “And it wasn’t just children.” Other parents were afraid to let their children play with Court and when he had a manic episode at a supermarket that led to emergency personnel being called, Muffy was told that her son simply needed stricter discipline.

Determined to fight the stigma that was harming her son, Muffy began contacting other mothers, raising money and speaking publicly. The  nonprofit IBF has three major goals: “to eliminate Bipolar Disorder through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support services for all affected; and to erase associated stigma through public education.”

Those are lofty ideals, but Muffy has put her words into action, as evidenced by $240,000 in research grants that the IBF has awarded, the publication of Healthy Living and the monthly webinars and lectures that she coordinates. You can read more about this month’s webinar and lecture by visiting the IBF site. 

Obviously, getting an international nonprofit launched is not easy task. Muffy spends 60 hours per week working on IBF projects. “It’s my life, it’s what I do,” she said.

We are all better because of it.

Meanwhile, her son is doing well. It takes four medications to manage his illness and there are side effects, which is why Muffy’s group is so determined to advocate for research, but Court is stable and doing what other young men his age enjoy.

In every speech that I give, I urge the audience to believe in the power of one. Margaret Meade said it best:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Muffy is an example of what Meade proclaimed.

Take a moment and visit the IBF website. It’s a good group to help, either with your time or money. Get involved. If not you, who will do it?

Oh, and if Muffy Walker telephones and tells you that she is going to do something to improve the lives of our loved ones — don’t doubt her.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.