Personal Experience Paves the Path to One Couple’s Dedication

July 30, 2022

Carroll and Bob Pierce understand the heartache of trying to help family members with mental health concerns. Two of their four daughters began experiencing anxiety when they were in middle school.

“We had zero idea what anxiety was when our first daughter was diagnosed. I cannot overstate our ignorance,” Carroll said. “But from then on, we went headfirst into educating ourselves because we knew it was sink or swim.”

Fortunately, the Pierces’ pediatrician connected them with a wonderful psychiatrist, with whom they are still in touch today. Their daughters, now grown, are managing their own mental health care.

The Pierces realize not everyone is fortunate enough to receive such care. They know society needs more mental health clinicians, more research on mental health conditions, and greater access to treatment for all.

That’s why they are both active supporters of McLean. Carroll serves in multiple roles, including as co-chair of the Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council, a member of McLean’s National Council, and a member of the hospital’s campaign planning committee. Bob, a trustee, is approaching 12 years of service on the board.

In their philanthropy, the Pierces support multiple clinical and research programs, such as the Division of Women’s Mental Health, the College Mental Health Program, and the Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research. They recently expanded their giving to include a significant capital gift that will support McLean’s plans to build a new center for women’s mental health.

Bob and Carroll said that in addition to their service work within McLean, their roles outside the hospital are important, too. Often, their association with McLean prompts dialogues about mental health.

“When I tell people I’m on the board at McLean, they become very interested,” Bob said. “It’s then easy to talk about the hospital’s extensive clinical and research programs and its incredible leadership. It just shows how common mental health issues are.”

Bob said that most people he talks with have experiences with mental health concerns to some degree. He added that the couple’s affiliation with McLean places them in welcome “ambassadorial roles.”

“Other people want to connect around these issues,” he said. “They want to know more about a potential resource, should they ever need one.”

Pierce family in fancy dress poses outside museum

Carroll said that people sometimes approach her when they are in desperate need of help.

“It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction to be in a position to share my story and offer them some direction—whether that involves an introduction to McLean or any other mental health resource I have.”

Carroll added that conversations around mental health are definitely changing. She recalled growing up in a culture that did not discuss mental illness.

In retrospect, she noted, while it was understood that certain family members had mental health conditions, “there wasn’t a vocabulary to talk about them, and so they were almost willingly ignored.”

“We were so naïve and uneducated, and we were from a culture where even if you knew what was going on, you didn’t talk about it,” she said.

“I think COVID has illuminated that, forevermore, mental health is part of the conversation,” she added. “It can’t be acceptable anymore to whisper, to lower your voice, to move to the corner. Mental health has got to be as simple to talk about as what you are currently reading or your plans for the weekend.”

Bob and Carroll said they notice this change in perspective in their daughters, who are now in their 20s and 30s. “There is zero stigma,” Carroll said of her daughters’ attitudes around mental health. She added that her children are forthright in the way they discuss their emotional lives and the fact that they go to therapy.

“Either they surround themselves with people who live in that same level of transparency, they attract people who are like-minded, or such openness is just part of this next generation’s DNA,” she said. “Regardless, it is inspiring.”

In their work with McLean, the Pierces foster such evolving conversations around mental health, offering openness and connection in an area where stigma still makes it easy to feel alone. They seek to strengthen McLean by supporting the hospital’s clinical programs, research, and infrastructure.

For their part, all of the Pierce daughters are members of McLean’s Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council, a rapidly growing group of women who seek to learn about, advocate for, and support mental health issues uniquely affecting women and girls. They are part of the “35-and-under” group, who are offered a lower price point to join the council and represent the next generation of women who are actively engaged in mental health.

Carroll concluded, “If you would have said to us—in the baffling, frightening, confusing days when our precious children struggled with going to school, sleeping in their beds, and just functioning in the world—that we would now have the comfort level we do around mental health, I couldn’t have imagined it. We are very grateful.”

Ways To Give

Please consider supporting McLean in one or more of the following ways:

  • Mary Belknap Society – Unrestricted gifts support a range of programs and help launch new initiatives. A gift of $1,000 or more qualifies you for membership in this society.
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  • Legacy Giving – Leave a lasting legacy through your estate plan.

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