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National Council members Carroll C.D. Pierce and Kristine M. Trustey didn’t know each other until they agreed to co-chair McLean’s new Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council. Established only a year ago, the council now boasts 36 members, all women committed to learning about mental health issues facing women and girls and providing philanthropic support for the pioneering work done in this field at McLean.
“I have two daughters with anxiety,” said Pierce. “When they were first diagnosed, I was embarrassed and isolated—I couldn’t even say the word ‘anxiety.’ It took time, but I finally understood that we needed to be open and honest in order to change things. I realized that there had to be other families experiencing the same thing.”
As Pierce became more comfortable with the diagnosis, she recognized that education was critical to de-stigmatizing mental illness. Working with McLean’s development office, Pierce helped conceive the “On Women’s Minds” luncheon series as a venue for women to learn from experts and talk openly with each other about mental health issues affecting women and girls. To date, there have been seven luncheons on topics such as mindfulness practices, the college transition, eating disorders, and anxiety.
Trustey first discovered McLean when her son struggled with depression as a teenager. Like Pierce, she was worried about stigma, so she initially kept silent. As she became more involved with McLean and spoke more openly about her son, people would confide in her and she encountered, like Carroll, a hunger for greater openness regarding mental health issues.
After losing her son to complications from epilepsy, Kris suffered another devastating tragedy less than a year later when her husband and 18-year-old daughter were killed in a plane crash. Kris and her two other daughters were left to pave a new path for themselves.
“This work is so important to me,” said Trustey. “Now, as my daughters and I rebuild our lives, I am even more determined to help improve the lives of women and girls.”
The successes of both the council and the luncheon series have energized Pierce and Trustey, who now realize how much they have in common. They hope ultimately to expand the initiative beyond Boston so that women across the country can participate.