Our latest CALI Award winner is Jared Wilmer. The founder of “I Am Not Crazy”, Jared is extremely passionate about mental health awareness and education.
Q: Tell us about “I Am Not Crazy”
Jared: “I Am Not Crazy” is a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on mental illness awareness and education. We think differently about mental illness awareness. We believe that mental illness awareness needs a healthy dose of PEP…
Promote – We work with journalists who write positive mental health pieces. We discover and funnel stories of recovery, and stories about community leaders who have a positive view on mental health policy and systems reform.
Educate – We show people what it is like to have a mental illness and educate them on mental health statistics. We help to establish a realistic perspective of mental illness.
Provide – We provide detailed information on national mental health organizations, in order to help people find the right organization for their needs.
We are different from other non-profits because we have a forward-thinking approach to marketing, including using PR software, social media, SEO, email and video marketing, blogging, as well as viral and guerrilla marketing tactics.
“I Am Not Crazy” utilises current business strategies that are not being used in the non-profit sector. These include creating and maintaining a strong brand, media oriented web content, mobile optimized content and “customer” interaction and engagement.
We are taking a new approach to how we view potential Partners. We don’t have “donors”. We challenge the idea that only large corporations, government organizations, private foundations or the wealthy can affect change, through monetary donations.
Every single person we interact with is a potential Brand Ambassador, and our “brand” is mental illness awareness. Monetary donations are not required to affect change – just your time and your voice.
Q: What inspired you to set up “I Am Not Crazy”?
Jared: In December 2012, we witnessed the tragedy of the Sandy Hook shootings. In the weeks following, I was deeply concerned about the overwhelmingly negative rhetoric about how violence and mental illness are related.
I heard talking heads speak about “deranged madmen”, radio show hosts describe people as “sick psychopaths”, and many people on Facebook posting opinions filled with fear and hate when it came to the mentally ill. It was then that I made the decision to get involved and do my part in correcting the course of our national dialogue on mental illness.
My personal experience with mental illness has made this a very important issue for me.
Q: What are you aiming to achieve?
Jared: I have big goals for “I Am Not Crazy”. Since 1970, the number of for-profit businesses that have had massive growth and crossed the $50 million a year in revenue line, is 46,136. The number of non-profits that crossed that line, is only 144. My goal is to become a nationwide voice for mental illness awareness.
We will bust stigma wherever we encounter it. whether it be in the media, in government policy or pop culture. My ultimate goal is to become a household name so that whenever you think of mental illness awareness, you think of “I Am Not Crazy”. I want “I Am Not Crazy” to become the Susan G. Komen of mental illness.
Q: What is the one thing you wish people knew about mental illness?
Jared: That 1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness.
Q: What have you achieved that you are really proud of?
Jared: I have lived through some very difficult times because of my Bipolar Disorder, and yet I have persevered and have been able to create a healthy state of recovery for myself. In addition, I have been able to start a wonderful organisation that has the potential to affect millions of people.
Q: What drives you?
Jared: I have been where most middle class, college educated people have not been, and have returned to tell the world about what I saw there. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was 19. I have seen the appalling disparity in how we treat the under-educated, the poor and the mentally ill, in comparison to the privileged.
I have painfully acquired knowledge of how people with a mental illness are treated in the correctional system, and in society. When I was 24 I lost my health insurance due to non-payment. When I reapplied I was rejected because of my pre-existing condition – my Bipolar Disorder. I have seen the horrors of the pharmaceutical drug industry, as my prescription costs rose to over $1000 a month.
I sought out free healthcare options and have waited months just to be accepted as a new patient. I stood outside of government run healthcare facilities in freezing weather at 6am, because they only took people on a first-come-first-served basis. I have waited hours to see a doctor, for a rushed 10 minute consultation and a hastily written prescription, because they only have one doctor on staff.
I have been turned away from the same government healthcare facilities after spending my last $5 on gas to get there, with the message “I’m sorry, but the doctor is only here on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, from noon to 4”. I have done and seen all of these things, and was saved only by the fact that I came from an upper-middle class white family.
I navigated these complex government and private healthcare systems with the equivalent of a college education, access to the internet, a cell phone, a reliable personal vehicle, and a sense of entitlement. I could walk into a building in a tie and slacks, well groomed, sober, a family with friends in high places on speed dial, and knowledge of the phrase “I need to speak with your supervisor”.
For those reasons, I did not end up like most others in my situation often do. Dead, incarcerated, homeless or some horrible place in between. I am driven to change these problems and many others, for people who are living with a mental illness.
Q: Do you feel there is reward in your efforts?
Jared: Most definitely. I see the rewards every day. I am continually contacted by people who have seen my story and are inspired, or people who have learned about “I Am Not Crazy”, and finally want to come out of the darkness and get involved.
Q: If you had your way, everyone in the world would spend 5 minutes a day…
Jared: Talking to their friends, family and coworkers about their personal mental health. This would help to change how we view mental health and make it a less taboo subject.
Jared has over seven years of business management and marketing experience. He was diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 19 and has firsthand experience with stigma. His experiences over the past 10 years with mental illness have taught him many ways to increase the chances of living in a stable state of recovery.
Connect with Jared:
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- Jay Jaboneta – Winner of the CALI Award - July 6, 2015