Philanthropy Expands Public Education Effort at McLean

September 7, 2019

Like other family members of McLean patients, Jim and Doreen Clappin attended a four-week educational program at the hospital while their loved one was in treatment. They learned about her illness, how best to provide support, and ways to employ some of the same coping skills she was learning. “After four weeks, the program is over, but your experience with your loved one isn’t,” explained Jim. He wondered if there was a way to extend that education beyond the four walls of the hospital and over time.

With a gift from the Clappins in 2015, the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Patient and Family Education Initiative was born. The initiative, led by Christopher M. Palmer, MD, director of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean, and Dawn E. Sugarman, PhD, was created to support individuals and families affected by borderline personality disorder.

The duo worked with colleagues across the hospital to produce educational webinars on an array of topics specific to living with this diagnosis as well as the intersection of BPD with other diagnoses. A hit with families and clinicians alike, the webinars were watched across the country and around the world with a live attendance of nearly 4,000 viewers and more than 60,000 archived views over the three-year pilot period.

Now, with generous support from the Clappin and von Rickenbach families, McLean is expanding those webinars into a more comprehensive education and public awareness platform to create and distribute a huge array of content—via multiple vehicles and channels—about major mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and substance use disorders.

“We’re thrilled to be supporting this expanded initiative,” said Jim Clappin. “People have a tendency to avoid talking about mental health because it’s still so stigmatized. The more public outreach a place like McLean can do, the more it will reduce stigma and offer the support families like ours need.”

Woman at podium delivers speech
Adriana M. Bobinchock delivers a lecture at a recent education conference in Quito, Ecuador

McLean Trustee and donor Josef von Rickenbach and his wife, Therese, said that their family had a difficult and frustrating time finding the right treatment for a loved one, until they brought him to McLean. “We meandered around the mental health system for a long time, and also had a terrible time trying to educate ourselves about his condition,” said Josef. “We’d like to do what we can to get the word out about mental health and about McLean specifically.”

Expanding McLean’s Reach

While there is an overwhelming quantity of mental health information to be found on the internet, much of it is unreliable and of uneven quality. For this expanded initiative, McLean taps its staff experts to write articles and, when possible, the content is enriched by the patient voice, explained Adriana M. Bobinchock, senior director of Public Affairs and co-leader of the public education initiative. For example, McLean’s new twice-monthly podcast, Mindful Things, is hosted by filmmaker and former McLean patient Trevor Chamberlain, who lives with borderline personality disorder and works as a digital media specialist at the hospital.

“Trevor speaks candidly about his own ups and downs and injects his own experiences when he talks to guests,” said Bobinchock. “We are trying to weave in the lived experience of patients and families. Our approach is a little more forward-thinking than most of what’s currently out there. We also want to interest a younger and more diverse audience that might not be familiar with McLean.”

In addition to offering substantial written content and the podcast, the McLean team is developing short- and longer-form videos, webinars, and an expansion of McLean’s Deconstructing Stigma campaign, which features larger-than-life photographs of people affected by mental illness accompanied by narratives in their own voices.

McLean also is working with several clinical partners to develop courses targeting professionals and laypeople who want to go a little deeper into specific topic areas. The first one will be about borderline personality disorder. All of the educational content will be available on McLean’s website.

Reaching Diverse Audiences

For years, McLean has sent its clinical experts into schools to educate teachers and administrators on various mental health topics. Now, the hospital is broadening its reach to include other types of professionals, starting with a recently developed partnership with the Maine Department of Corrections.

“There are a great deal of mental health concerns within the corrections population, so we want to help staff better understand their own challenges around stress management and managing post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Scott J. O’Brien, director of digital strategy for McLean and co-director of the public education initiative. “We’re developing a curriculum that we hope to make available to prison staff nationally. Knowing that the majority of offenders have experienced trauma early in life, we’re also working to create self-help resources for offenders to encourage them to seek help and hopefully make some positive changes in their lives.” The Deconstructing Stigma exhibit will also be displayed in Maine prisons, as well as in various locations in cities across the United States and around the world, including Ecuador and India.

“People are hungry for this information,” continued Bobinchock. “The support we’ve received from the Clappins and von Rickenbachs has enabled us to take our public education efforts to a whole new level.”

For information on supporting this initiative, contact Elizabeth Fieux at 617.855.3453.

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