Chihuly Studio President and CEO Leslie Jackson Chihuly is proud to share her experience with mental illness as an advocate for McLean Hospital’s “Deconstructing Stigma” campaign. Told in the form of first-person stories, “Deconstructing Stigma” gives a face to those who have experienced unwarranted shame when dealing with the widespread misconceptions surrounding mental health.
“Deconstructing Stigma” was launched by McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, and features stories of hope and resilience from people throughout the United States who have been affected by mental illness, including well-known individuals such as Howie Mandell, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and “Jessie’s Girl” singer Rick Springfield. The stories are presented through video and podcast interviews available online, and in an exhibition of large-scale posters prominently hung in Boston’s Logan Airport.
In a short film produced by the campaign, Leslie speaks to the lifelong impact of her Mother’s cycles of depression and mania, and shares her struggle to understand these extreme emotional swings in an era (the ‘60s and ‘70s) when people didn’t openly talk about their own—or their loved ones’—mental well-being.
“When I was in the third grade, I began to notice my mom’s mental health decline, where she had big ups and big downs. It was very hard for me because I was still a child, but I was on the front line. I had to become the parent to my little sister and the caregiver to my mom.”
She goes on to express how time and the evolution of public opinion made it relatively easier for her husband and partner, Dale Chihuly, to become public with his diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder—and for her to be a more empathetic caregiver.
“I think my experience with my family prepared me to be a good caregiver and partner to Dale. The story of Dale and me is a story of overcoming and doing things to make the world a beautiful place in spite of the personal losses we’ve experienced.”
In addition to sharing her message through the campaign film and poster, Leslie was honored to give the keynote address at McLean Hospital’s Annual National Council Meeting Wednesday, October 22nd, during which she praised the organization for its industry-leading research and services, and importantly, for encouraging more individuals to speak candidly about their struggles, without the fear of judgment. Leslie also elaborated on the unyielding support she and Dale have received from friends and arts enthusiasts around the world since sharing his diagnosis and how she and Dale have “found great satisfaction in supporting some other organizations in our region which help […] others suffering from trauma, mental illness, and homelessness like Path with Art, Hilltop Artists, and Hotshop Heroes.”
More information about McLean Hospital’s “Deconstructing Campaign” can be found (https://deconstructingstigma.org/), and information about programs supported through the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation are (https://www.chihulyfoundation.org/what-we-do). Additionally, you can view the above-referenced video on Leslie’s story, and a featured article in the Boston Globe (https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/10/22/famed-artist-wife-joins-effort-combat-stigma-against-mental-illness/xoO69Dm0OGJmEqdlt8AFEI/story.html).