Mental Health

OUR MISSION
We AIM to build a movement devoted to the mental health of children, teens, and young adults by funding clinical research to find better treatments and cures, raising awareness, and improving access to effective treatments.

 

OUR VISION
We AIM to ultimately eliminate mental health disorders in youth.

“The overwhelming support from wonderful, passionate people like you has not only been heart-warming, but a testament to a dire need in our society!”

LETTER FROM THE CO-FOUNDER

Dear Friends,

Starting AIM for Mental Health has been a whirlwind! How many charities can start with a few friends in March and raise over $250,000 by August? The overwhelming support from wonderful, passionate people like you has not only been heart-warming, but a testament to a dire need in our society! When I tell friends about AIM, the response is either to immediately divulge circumstances in their lives that relate to mental health disorders or to simply cry. Mental health issues affect most people in one way or another. It is so prevalent in our society, yet so hidden.

As members of National Charity League, my daughter, Sydney, and I volunteer for many different philanthropies, none of which focus on finding cures for brain or mental health disorders. So it seemed to us the perfect time to start AIM, while she and her brothers are still teenagers and can raise awareness among their peers.

We are more committed than ever to help find successful treatments and cures for mental health disorders in children and young adults. There is an epidemic in our country of diagnoses, especially ADHD. The consequences of not having successful treatments and cures for kids are horrific, including suicide (the #3 killer of our youth behind accidents and homicides), school failure, juvenile hall, homelessness, self-medication and addiction, sky-rocketing health care costs, and violence (not to mention the toll it takes on family members).

We want AIM for Mental Health to be a community based campaign for everyone, not just for those directly affected by mental health disorders. AIM focuses on raising money and awareness similar to the American Cancer Society and Meals on Wheels. You may not have cancer, but many people donate to finding cures for cancer. You may not be delivered meals, but you may donate to Meals on Wheels to support people confined to their homes. I see Mental health disorders as our nation’s biggest problem, and not only do we need to recognize this, but we need to do something about it NOW!

Chances are that you have never been asked to donate money to help find cures for ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD…..

The need is urgent. The interest is there. NOW is the time to fill a huge void in our community and create a campaign model for all communities to bring awareness to the tremendous increase in brain/mental disorders in our youth and to raise money for mental health research.

Let’s all speak out and raise money for brain/mental health research for children and young adults. Let’s start talking about mental disorders as a brain disease and bring awareness to the tremendous increase in psychiatric issues among our nation’s youth. And let’s talk about cures!

Gratefully yours,

Susan Stilwell

TIMELINE

2008:
• Garen and Shari Staglin form the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO.org) with the goal to find cures for mental health issues in our lifetime
2009:
• IMHRO teamed with Actress Glenn Close to found Bring Change 2 Mind with the goal of erasing the stigma surrounding brain disorders
2011:
• Garen Staglin and Congressman Patrick Kennedy launch the One Mind for Research Campaign to unite industry, academia, government and advocacy groups
2014:
• The Stilwell Family forms AIM for Mental Health
• “AIM for the Cures” inaugural fundraising dinner raises over $300,000 for research
• “AIM for Awareness Walk & Rally” inaugural community walk draws over 200 people to Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove to support youth mental health
• AIM disburses an $180,000 grant to the UCLA Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
2015:
• Second annual “AIM for the Cures” fundraising dinner raises over $660,000 for research
• Second annual “AIM for Awareness Walk & Rally” draws over 300 people to support youth mental health
AIM funds a $250,000 Rising Star Award to Dr. Katie McLaughlin
2016:
• Third annual “AIM for the Cures” fundraising dinner on August 18 and “AIM for Awareness Walk & Rally” on October 23 are planned and underway
OUR HISTORY
A local Monterey Peninsula family, Mark and Susan Stilwell and their children founded AIM for Mental Health in 2014. Susan and her daughter Sydney, as active members of the National Charity League, realized none of the local charities were focused on mental health for youth. Despite raising a family and managing several businesses, Susan Stilwell heads AIM for Mental Health, pro bono, to fill the critical void in our community. She has made a personal commitment to become knowledgeable about youth mental health research to find better treatments and cures and confers with our nation’s top experts. AIM for Mental Health has created a community fundraising model that can be replicated in cities, big or small, consisting of a fundraising event and a community-based sporting event to raise awareness. Through Susan’s outreach, future AIM chapters are expected to be formed in Sacramento, Los Angeles, the Bay Area and other states.

AIM for Mental Health distinguishes itself from other organizations by its work to build a movement to fund clinical research to find cures for mental health disorders in youth. These disorders include ADHD, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. We also address the bi-products of some of these brain disorders including eating disorders, addiction and suicide.

AIM is not disorder or institution specific, which means that we fund research for all mental disorders in youth and we fund the best cutting-edge research regardless of where the research is being done. As Susan has explained, “Someone with autism may also suffer from depression. Someone with schizophrenia may have anxiety, and someone with ADHD may have depression and OCD.”

Upon its founding, AIM affiliated with the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), founded by Garen and Shari Staglin, to provide fiscal sponsorship, support and nonprofit status. Currently, AIM for Mental Health is a charitable campaign under the IMHRO umbrella and, through this relationship, AIM utilizes IMHRO’s Scientific Advisory Board, comprised of ten top brain scientists to inform us where funding will have the greatest impact.

In 2014, AIM for Mental Health’s inaugural fundraising dinner, AIM for the Cures, was planned with a several week lead time and resulted in a 180-person attendance which raised over $300,000; the 2015 fundraising dinner resulted in a 400-person attendance which raised over $660,000. In both years, AIM has hosted a community walk and rally at Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove with key mental health speakers and exhibitors, food/beverages, musical entertainment and children’s interactive games – all with the purpose to raise awareness of youth mental health and the services our community provides. AIM has raised a little over $1 million for kids’ brain research in only 18 month’s time. Since its founding, AIM has disbursed a $180,000 grant to UCLA’s Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience to study the human brain and neuropsychiatric disorders that affect children. AIM recently disbursed $250,000 to fund a 2015 Rising Star Award to Dr. Katie McLaughlin to investigate the biology of how stress can lead to anxiety and depression in youth and a second Rising Star Award is being planned.

AIM’s purpose touches lives in a very personal way, and gives hope to children and families facing the challenges that mental health disorders bring.

OUR FUNDED RESEARCH
AIM’s investment in finding treatments and cures is actively at work through a 2014 $180,000 grant to UCLA’s Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience which studies the brain and neuropsychiatric disorders in children using advanced brain imaging, specifically functional and structural MRI. AIM funds have supported several new projects and provided seed money for future federal grants.

MRI-based research, directly fueled by AIM, includes: 1) studies into understanding the sensory hypersensitivity of children with anxiety and autism to better inform treatment; and 2) a pilot program to examine the unique brain chemistry of children with schizophrenia which may lead to new pharmacological approaches.

The UCLA Center, dedicated to identifying risks for mental disorders and new preventative treatments, also used AIM funds for a study of adolescents at high risk for developing psychosis, to identify early changes in social responsiveness. These results will be submitted to the National Institutes of Health for a larger grant.

In 2015, AIM funded a Rising Star Award in the amount of $250,000 to Dr. Katie McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. Dr. McLaughlin’s proposal, “Neural Mechanisms of Stress Vulnerability Underlying Anxiety and Depression in Youth”, employs neuroimaging and mobile-device-enabled monitoring to better understand the biology linking the stress of adolescent life with the development of anxiety and depression.

FAST FACTS
Mental health disorders are the most common diseases of childhood.
The most common psychiatric disorders in childhood are anxiety disorders, ADHD and disruptive behavior, depression, bipolar disorders and eating disorders.
1 in 5 children, ages 13-18 have, or will have a serious mental illness.
Almost 50% of American youth will have had a diagnosable mental illness at some point before they are 18.
Sources: Child Mind Institute and NAMI