When February 19, 2011 rolls around, Guy Fessenden will have run 100 marathons (in 140 days) to raise awareness of how widespread and devastating mental illness can be. Guy’s cause is mental health research and because of how underrepresented the psychiatric field is in research funding, Guy is “getting off the couch” to make a difference. His daughter Suzanne, who lives with schizophrenia, is his inspiration. His goal is to raise money that can be invested in NARSAD grants to fund the best and brightest psychiatric researchers in the world.
Last month I interviewed Guy for an article in News from NARSAD. At that point Guy was finishing up his grueling training regimen for “A Father’s Journey” and looking forward to the start of his cross country journey from Savannah, Georgia, to Los Angeles.
Guy told me that Suzanne’s illness presented around puberty and led to multiple years of hospitalizations. Through great perseverance, she’s doing better today. She now lives in a group home, takes medication that help reduce her symptoms and she goes regularly to outpatient therapy. She is also pursuing employment or volunteer opportunities with the help of a New York state program developed to assist people with mental illness.
Guy is blogging about his journey at www.afathersjourney.org. Suzanne has also joined Guy and is writing for the blog as well.
Guy is an inspiration himself, making the commitment to train for and run 100 marathons. Wow. He has deep concern for the well-being of his daughter. He hopes that research will reveal better treatments and eventually a cure for Suzanne and the one in four Americans living with mental illness.
“I’m doing this for my daughter and a ton of people who have opened up to me and shared their personal stories,” Guy said. “I think there is a huge opportunity to do things differently. It’s time to start talking about mental illness, reduce stigma and support research that will make a difference.”
As Guy runs across the United States people are encouraged to join him for a few (or many) steps. Tweet @afathersjourney or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with Guy on A Father’s Journey. Go to www.afathersjourney.org to read his blog, track his progress and support his cause.
by Barbara Wheeler, NARSAD manager of communications and media relations