All travel expenses were paid for by Sunovion, but this post was at my discretion and the opinions expressed are my own.
I had the privilege to attend the annual Mental Health Influencers Summit hosted by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals this past Sunday, May 21st, 2017. With Sunovion’s provision for travel, meals and lodging, my first impression of their company was professional, generous and committed. Going to San Diego was a beautiful place in and of itself, so getting picked up by shiny black SUVs and Lincoln Continentals was the icing on the cake. And the cherry was the summit.
A group of ten trending bloggers, writers and influencers gathered in the beautiful Sparks art gallery Sunday morning, as warm sunshine graced us with light and ambiance. As I was nervous and knew not what to expect at first, so it was a surprise to me to arrive in the friendly intimate atmosphere and table seating for around fifteen people. “It’s like a focus group,” a fellow summit veteran said. I was impressed. We had a cozy setting, with about five Sunovion associates there to guide us through the program for the day.
At first, we introduced ourselves, going around the table and answering the cue question, “Why are you committed to mental health?” At my turn, I gave a brief overview of my history with bipolar and found the response to be warm and welcoming. I gave my why: “We have a ways to go in the sphere of faith and the church in educating and helping those with mental illness, and I want to be a part of that solution.” The energy in the room was almost euphoric – not totally, we were all on our meds – but we had some good vibes going.
After introductions were made, a Sunovion rep gave an overview of the current status of a project started in a previous year’s summit with entertainer Demi Lovato and the campaign #BeVocalSpeakUp. Then we looked at some examples of Getty Images library of responsible photography of mental illness. You can see the free photography collection here.
Following this, the founder of the blog BipolarMomLife.com and campaign project ThisIsMyBrave.org, Jennifer Marshall, stood and gave some of her story and a letter to her former psychiatrist (you can read it here). She encouraged us with her work she is doing with the nonprofit organization This Is My Brave and then challenged us to draft a letter to someone we knew who influenced us in our sickness, and then share it.
After sharing our letters and feedback for each other, Sunovion’s Head of Global Clinical Research & Medical Affairs, Dr. Robert Goldman updated us with some new research on the horizon. Because of the confidentiality agreement I signed with them, I cannot disclose any of that information. But my reaction was being encouraged and understanding that we are still on the final frontier: that is, the brain. There is a lot we don’t know yet.
Overall, the summit gave me confidence because I was able to relate to each person there on a different level than those I’m usually surrounded by. We were honest, passionate, forward-thinking, forward-speaking, and forward-soldiering on to the playing field, making camp on the grounds of scientific support, years of experiences with bipolar and the open hearts and minds we have labored endlessly to pursue one common cause: mental wellness. Using the tools we have, collaborating, we are stronger put together than we are apart. Each person brought something beautiful, gracious and powerful to the pow wow. We raised our glasses to recovery and toasted to braving life with bipolar.