Mental Health IS America’s Health

(an audio verion of what's below is available at the link below. If you're able to, you can listen to 'the actual me')

Hi, My name is Tom Perri & I'm a writer.

Of the tens of thousand of words I've written over the years, these are the most difficult ones, ever.
I've resisted this until now. Resisted with stubbornness borne of years of shame.
And yes, that was me, gushed somewhere in between the tan air bag and well,
Somebody tell me where a human being fits in between that air bag & all that twisted metal,
And still lives

This campaign has two goals:
1. Immediate Goal: Protect the music, & keep me out of homeless shelters & soup kitchens as I recover - assist in saving one life - save it so that the words, the music, & the message within the music, can be heard & not be lost forever

2. Long-term Goal: Kick-start an advocacy to save countless other lives - To generate, from the ground up, a national movement - To create new paradigm for what we now call "Mental Health"
Give what you have. If you have love, give that. If you have prayers, give those. If you simply share this, that's Huge. If you have $$'s, give that. If you have a voice, a reach of any kind, be it radio, TV, pod-cast, blog, news column, whatever, you might lend those.
If you've got a gift for organization, I need, we will need that as well.

Yes, it's a funding campaign, but that's just where this starts.
Coming from where I do, with the gifts that I have, I feel like I might be uniquely qualified.

In my personal world, there is an urgent need. I will be homeless at sunset on Monday July 10th, 2017
In the time I have left between now & then, I'll try to upload a smattering of songs to my soundcloud page so that if you haven't heard of me, and you haven't, you'll get an idea of what I do. What I can do in the future. The mixes are all home Demos. No recording there is newer than 20 years. yeah.
So what does "protect the music" mean?

When they evict you, the State Marshall comes & guys throw all your possessions in boxes, then throw the boxes in storage for 2 weeks, then auction all of it off.
They let you bid, to buy back your own stuff, but obviously that assumes you have somewhere to store your stuff, and yourself. I do not.

There are many boxes of completed lyrics, & hundreds of scraps of written lyrics - unbelievable stuff - boxes of "writing tapes"; cassette versions, test mixes, reel to reel analog mixes, stuff that never got digitized. All of it, unpublished, unreleased. They are what the music industry calls "my catalog"
They are my life's work to this point.
And then there's Sabrina, my beloved gray tiger cat of 9 years who would be taken to whatever shelter can have her - and that would be that.

It is what it is. If I can save all of it, with your help, I will. If I can save some of it, I will

Gofundme makes you choose just one category for a campaign
I chose "Medical, Illness, & Healing"
I guess I picked it because of the word "healing".

So, a blacked-out driver crossed the divider, and hit me head-on. I was trapped for an hour until they figured out how to cut me out.

I call it "The Event" since the word "accident" makes me Crazy & Angry. The recovery process from the event was, in a way the beginning for me. That, & the follow-on heart attack, plus 2 heart surgeries & six stents may have had impact as well.

You might ask my wife, but she who so lovingly cared for me, both physically & emotionally, for so many years, needed now to be away from the towering mountain of pain I existed in. I watched her try for 16 years to heal something that she couldn't ever heal. I think she probably felt it was the last, best way, that she could actually make a difference in my life.
And I now believe she was right. None of this would have happened, if she were still here.

There are lasting injuries from the car crash that I'll live with for the rest of my life, but the worst injuries, and the most important reason for this campaign are the half-healed wounds that the crash exposed.
The "pre-existing" conditions laid bare. The one's I've spent half a lifetime hiding.

I've hated having to write this. I feel a massive amount of shame for not coming out sooner about who I am, where I've been, what I know, and what I can share.

My own childhood devolved surprisingly early when the abusive behavior began when I was just 7 - Verbal abuse, complete isolation with my abuser, threats of violence, some actual violence - never told, never shared, not even with friends & lovers, because I was absolutely certain they would throw me away if they found out.

Possibly the worst part of it was knowing the other parent wouldn't help, couldn't help.
In group meetings I've heard countless similar stories. I know I am just one of many.
But I can speak & write about it, something not everyone who's been where I've been can do.

Subgoal 2a: We must end the stigma associated with mental disorders, and all brain disorders. We must get better at intervention at the earliest age possible. We must train & hire tens of thousands of counselors & social workers who's sole job, in every school, is just that.
And there must be enough of them everywhere to be able to spend the time needed. One specialist for 100 students, for 200 students, for 300 students, is not nearly enough... Not nearly enough.
And we must commit to this as a full part of our health care system.

We save & rehabilitate wounded pets, even wild animals, and that is profound & heroic work.
Why are we struggling as to whether we can afford to treat wounded human beings?

I've developed over time, some partial mechanisms to avoid the pain.
When we talk about the epidemic of addiction, we're simply talking about people trying to numb the pain.

I've tried & failed, and tried again & again, to full-on face what happened to me, and the scars it left, & find a way to fix it all, like I was car.
But life has a way of coming at you...and coming at you...and coming at you. Life doesn't stop coming at you until well, it never stops coming at you.

Some manage to find their way through situations that I'd consider immensely more challenging than mine.
I did not.
I've heard literally hundreds of stories with completely diverse details, but the same outcome.
That's why I'm doing this. We need to change the outcomes.

Mental Health is America's Health.
It is The World's Health

Quick Bio: I was a child, born of what's been called "The Greatest Generation". Middle-class in most ways, living in a two-parent home in South Huntington, NY. I did some things that many kids do: rode my bike to school, took swimming & piano lessons. I was bullied & beat up back in the late 1960's & early 70's, when the word "faggot" was just an epithet that we'd now probably call something like "non-tech-oriented-artsy-geek", if that wasn't so verbally ridiculous.
Still, always there, something inside me was terribly wrong. I felt bad, really bad, a lot of the time. I hid it fairly well, but that just meant sinking into deeper & deeper isolation.

There were no shootings at any school I ever attended. I auditioned for & won a four-year full-tuition talent scholarship at Adelphi University's BFA Theater Program. But something inside was terribly wrong. Living as I did, in constant fear, with near daily migraines, I left after just one year, I actually walked away from a full scholarship, with a 4.0 GPA.
With fear & depression as my constant sort of, "bad-ass side-kicks", I felt frustrated, caged, anxious, & worst of all, completely alone. I know that the women, the loves in my life suspected, but nobody really knew. By then I'd learned the cardinal rule of isolation..."don't ever let anyone know. Try with all your might, to never let it show"

I went from Adelphi to The Juilliard School of Music in New York, while at the same time, teaching, writing, & directing back at Adelphi. I now can see that I was to "do my way" out of the emotional pain.
This was my day: At 7 am I'd take the uptown subway to Juilliard: classes & practicing all day, then a standing-room only train out to Adelphi where I helped teach a class, then work on a show I'd co-written, then maybe perform in a late-night show, then a train back to New York at midnight or 2 am - then got up and did it all again.
I left Juilliard after less than a year, feeling even worse than I did before.

So, out of the city to the ocean, I'd always loved the water, so I moved to Mastic Long Island, where I wrote a ton of music, & then moved back home. I Moved to Hollywood CA where I wrote even more music... & then back home.
I moved to New Hope PA, still more music pouring out...but then back home.
It's like I kept returning to the scene of the crime, like maybe there was something there I could figure out. Something I'd missed. Something that might help me, fix me. But that's not the way it works.

In 2002 my wife & I moved to Bethel, CT. We've lived in six other towns around the state since then.

I wrote & recorded music at a near furious pace from ages 15 to forty five, when it all finally caught up with me, and the pain deepened into major depression with that artful expression "suicidal ideation". I was beginning to feel I didn't belong here anymore, that the universe itself, didn't really like me very much.
So, how does a sensitive brightly-shining child become so wounded that he shrinks away, with a lifetime of art locked inside, left unshared & unplayed?
A psychologist I worked with for a few years in the 90's, told me that some kids find or simply stumble on coping mechanisms that not only save them, but allow them to thrive. Some kids...

I could easily have died four different times in my life so far: 3 major car accidents & the heat attack.
Some have told me it's because I have a purpose here, as yet unfulfilled.
So here, I'm asking you, to help me fulfill it.
Both my mother & my father were soul-sick
I watched my dad, a genius airplane designer, trudge his way through fatherhood, after surviving The Great Depression AND World War II.
As an elementary school kid, I co-existed in the heartache of my mom, as she rage her way through motherhood, her career as a concert pianist & Opera Coach, sort of cross-faded with the sorrow & depression, until there was, only the sorrow.
In the middle of suburban America, I was unconsciously trained by 2 Jedi Knights of heart & soul-suffering, and I learned it all really, really well.

So "Mental Health"
But it's really much more than that, because the body, the mind & the soul dance together
And where is your soul? In in your mind?
Can you think your way out of hell?
A few claim to, but we must come to the realization as a society, as a species, that the body, mind, and soul, all dance together - they, are you.
Is a life truly rich & realized if these all, together, are not addressed?

We've gotten pretty good at the body
My story is a simple, direct, almost brutal testament to that
But the brain, the mind, the soul, we still struggle mightily with

As a nation, we spend massive piles of money developing new and better ways to kill. There's big money in that.
Doesn't it make common sense to invest in healing & helping all children, but especially impoverished & wounded children, so that we might not need to spend so much on ways to kill them or incarcerate them when they grow up so damaged that they become the predators we now so terribly fear?

Crippling depression, fear & anxiety, & a galaxy of other disorders
Many of these, left untreated, unhealed, lead to abuse, addictions, violence, despair.
Violence against women & children. I've come far enough to know that you work it through or you pass it down.
We cannot save every single person.
But in "One Nation under God", shouldn't it be our highest aspiration? our goal, our laser-focussed intention?

I mean, how is it that in the richest nation on the planet, does it seem we're still so confounded with mental & emotional disorders?
The short answer is there is no big money in any treatment except medications, where there's money beyond all imagining. Riddle me this. Which multi-national corporation stands to make billions from human intervention, from therapy?
It's a trick question. There are none.
It's been left to the people to figure it out. That's why I'm here today.

In 50, maybe 100 years from now I know we'll have better answers, in the same way that the expressions "he's mad" or "she has bad humours" have given way to hundreds of diagnoses & treatment modalities today that they couldn't imagine back then.

But for now, we as parents, some of us as children of wounded parents, must move the ball forward.
We must pro-gress, we must never digress

I believe the great problem of our current generation, is that we are now failing each other, far too often
Dog eat Dog...
Zero Sum Game...
If I Win...You Lose

This is inescapable in times of war, but who are we at war with? Us? Our children?
What we need to do, far better than we're now doing, is invest in each other, personally
Also, our system of self-governance puts it in black & white.
The Constitution states that, among the many purposes of government, two key elements of government are "to promote domestic tranquility" & "to promote the general welfare" of the people. So the advocacy I speak of in this campaign's long-term goal, is to work from the grass roots up, to get our representatives to do their job. The one they swear an oath to do.
Coulmbine, Aurora, Orlando, Sandy Hook - where I did my laundry barely a quarter mile from the school...

The list of perpetrators is a list of pain.
Pain, which they in turn, rain-down on their victims

Doesn't matter if it's abuse, or war, or desperate poverty that starts it.
Grow up in it, or get dumped into the middle of it, or exist in a community where hope is a hollow word
It's the same. Pain breeds pain.

Because human misery exists, do we accept it, battle & incarcerate each other, until our beloved countryside is paved over with for-profit prisons?
Our brilliantly conceived society, without our intervention can, collapse on itself

Our current so-called "safety net" in many many areas is patched with fake gossamer netting
You can fall right through it.

So why here, why now, and why me?
Because I have been to hell, and somehow I lived, and now, I'm going to tell

As I await the divorce & Monday's eviction, as I sit alone in a house meant for a family.
In the silence, I've come to realize that my purpose in life
The purpose I've searched for in vain for half a century, had fallen right at my feet long ago, when I was a child
It was always there. It was so close I couldn't see it.

You see, I thought, that when I got healed, then...
then I'd know who I was
I've come to realize that to ever really know who I am, to truly display & show who I am
I must do this.
The clarity is that this is the only way I'll truly heal
It's the only way that any of the rest of the countless uncounted, can ever heal.

There's a line of text from the gnostic "Gospel of Thomas"
In it, Jesus tells a story, he makes a point, and then he finishes with this...
"Whoever has ears, let him hear"
Well, most of us do have ears
But do we hear?
Most of us can look, but do we see?
I call this "The Girl From Ipanema Syndrome"
"She looks, but she doesn't see"

Let us each & every one, count on the rest of us all, for something
Let us, make each and every one of us, count for something

So I need assistance. I need you.
We need congress-people who get it.

For me personally, that platform is my music. It is music born of joy and pain.
It must not fade before I do, or it will be a life lost in vain.
My own "mental health conditions" have stifled a career in the same way that it stifled both my parents.
So now I say
It ends, with me. here, with your help

We're always saying "put your money where your mouth is"
So we need to fund the programs that make a difference
But first we need to come out of the shadows
We need to admit that we as a society, have a problem, before we can heal the problem

"Law & Order?...Lock 'em up?" Seriously?
Let these already-damaged souls become more deeply & profoundly damaged, so that they simply rotate in and out of those highly profitable prisons?

I told that same psychologist I spoke of earlier, that in prisons, every single blessed soul who is there, should be given regular & brilliant mental health treatment. The best money can buy.  She hadn't thought of that. It seemed obvious to me, but I knew she didn't come from the world that I came from.
Simple mass incarceration is the biggest waste of money & lives I can think of

Another issue that dovetails into all of this, is that our Veterans, after honorable & often grueling service that would make most of us completely insane, unable to function, seeing the things they see, doing the things they do, just get dumped back into society, many suffering from unimaginable physical & emotional traumas; Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many many others
Are we falling over ourselves to help our Vets? I know Vets from the Vietnam era on. Find one. Go ahead & Ask one how we're doing. If they can't tell you, Ask their loved ones. THEY WILL TELL YOU how we're doing by our Vets.

So here's what we can do
We all need to speak up, reach up, & yes, "act up" - especially those among us who's lives have afforded them the blessings, the ability, the leeway if you will, to do so.

If we commit to this cause, this ground up campaign
We will begin to be, a nation of Minor Miracles. A nation that heals those that need healing
A few days ago, while in line at the Social Services office, I watched a guy with a tube sticking out of his side, wait on line right in front of me, in obvious pain.
He stood there in pain, for 20 minutes.
And the only reason he waited on that line, was because he wanted to thank a DSS worker for being kind to him at his last visit.
He just kept thanking her over & over & over.
And me? I just lost it...
I just completely lost it.

I regularly see the poorest residents of Danbury consistently put donation money in the box at Walmart, for a variety of mental health-related causes that Walmart allows them to set up tables & collect for.

In big bad New York City, I saw a very old homeless man dive, as if propelled by a gang angels,
He dove all the way across the subway isle just in time to catch an even older homeless woman from falling face down on the subway floor. And no one moved, but he did.
I didn't even think anyone could move that fast. But he did, and I instantly realized it was because he had once fallen to the subway floor.

We are the only one's who can rescue each other. We are all we've got
we, the people, must now work harder than ever in this age of desperation outside the castle walls.

So there are even now, every-day miracles, that can lift our souls. And that intent to heal suffering, will as the movement expands & finds allies, that intent will find it's way into the hearts of more and more of our elected representatives, where it should have been all along.

But the tree of us, will grow from the root to the shoot, to the stem, to the stalk, until it reaches the very top.

It will not start at the top in this year of 2017. By now this is obvious.
Unlike the girl in that song,  we look, and we see.

We see that right now, it's the very top of the tree, that's weakest part, & it must be nudged & nurtured, & shown the way to virtue, by the parts deepest in the ground, the root is the key.

And it is that part in every one of us, that working together, can heal the pain, because the root, the grass root, has an almost endless capacity to thrive. Our heart is the root of our soul, and it lives strong through all of everything we face, because it is so close to what an astronaut circling the moon once called
"the good earth"

From the very top to the bottom of my heart, I thank you dearly, for taking some of your time, to be with me here.
Pass it on.
Pass it on.
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Tom Perri Vuozzo 
Danbury, CT