Kevin Hines (foreword) is a mental health advocate, award-winning global speaker, bestselling author, and documentary filmmaker who reaches audiences with his story of an unlikely survival and his strong will to live. Two years after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, Kevin dedicates his life to spreading his message of hope and sharing his art of living mentally well. Kevin’s story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder for us to love the life we have. www.kevinhinesstory.com
Suzanne Bachner is an award-winning writer and director based in New York City. Her play, Circle, ran for five months Off Broadway, was called “ingenious” by The New York Times and completed a four-month, seven-city sold-out international tour during the summer of 2013, winning Most Daring Show of the London Fringe. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the United Solo Academy. www.jmtcinc.com
Nikki MacCallum holds a B.M. from New York University. In 2011, MacCallum won the MAC nomination for her writing and performance of her New York City cabaret debut show, Matchmaker Matchmaker I’m Willing to Settle!, which has since had full productions at Ars Nova, MGR Playhouse and N.Y.U. She recently finished 26.2, a coming of age memoir that parallels running a marathon with the struggles of an alcoholic parent.
Carl Ballenas comes from a family of healers. His father, Dr. Carlos Ballenas Laos, was a noted gynecologist, surgeon, and teacher; his mother, Lucy Ballenas Guzman, was a midwife; his brother, Dr. Edgar Ballenas, is an Emergency Room physician; and his sister, Dr. Nancy Baxter, is a pediatrician. Carl is an educator who always knew he wanted to be a teacher. His main area of expertise is History. He believes that the greatest natural resource in our country is children. They need to be nurtured in mind and soul.
Jessie Fahay is a published author and playwright—winning the New Jersey Governor’s award for one of her original written works. She recently earned an MBA. She has also spent years acting in New York with numerous touring and not-for-profit theatre companies along with being cast in several television/film roles. Her performing experience, her passion for making a difference, her business education, and her experience traveling around the country as a public speaker inspired her to co-found Ripple Effect Artists in 2009.
Mary C. Harris is a free-spirited, nature- and travel-loving individual who has a soft spot in her heart for animals, small houses, and living simply. She lives in New Jersey with her husband Cody and their baby son. Mary is a full-time college professor, a certified holistic health coach, and the volunteer director of an educational vegan/vegetarian nonprofit organization. You can connect with her through her healthy living blog, sproutandblossomwellness.com.
Kelly Wilson is a coach, mentor, trainer, and mom to four children with special needs. Her speciality is in bringing the knowledge from research and effectively implementing it in practice—bridging the gap between research and practice.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, PCC is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, an international resource helping parents raise confident, successful children with ADD/ADHD and related challenges. A writer, parenting coach and public speaker, Elaine is a contributing blogger for the Huffington Post, national Board Member of CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD), parents representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the mother in an ADHD Family of five.
Natalie Roy was born and raised in Keswick Ridge, New Brunswick, Canada and now lives in New York City. Natalie is an actor who has worked across North America in feature film, television, and on stage. As a writer, her first book, “30. 30 Years. 30 Lessons” was published in 2012. She is also a passionate teacher of creative and spiritual workshops. Natalie dreams of sharing her passion and talents in service to a more inspired and connected world.
Mariagrazia Buttitta was born and raised in Sicily. She was born with a rare eye condition, Cone Dystrophy. She is also combating an anxiety and depressive disorder. In 2013, after seeing a performance that changed her life--Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt—she opened up about her struggles and sought treatment for the first time. Her dream is to become an advocate for both mental health and disabilities—spreading hope and helping others embrace their differences. She loves hiking, writing, and hanging out with her therapy dogs, family, and friends.
Malini Singh McDonald is a native New Yorker. She earned her BA in Theatre Arts and English Literature from Baruch College and her MFA in Directing from the Actors Studio Drama School. Malini’s greatest personal achievement was in March 2015 when she climbed sixty-six flights of the Rockefeller Center for the National MS Society of NYC. She is recognized as an Elite 66 for her fundraising efforts. She also recently completed an industrial about living with Multiple Sclerosis. www.malinism.com
Ali Stroker was a finalist on Season Two of The Glee Project and then played Artie’s love interest on the fifth season of Glee. She is a graduate of New York University and the first person in a wheelchair to graduate from Tisch’s drama program. Ali has been performing on stage and screen since she was seven years old. Her favorite role on stage is “Anna” in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening. Ali guest stars on MTV’s Faking It. Ali currently lives in LA. www.alistroker.com
Joe Narciso is a writer, and an actor in film, television, theater, and voiceover. www.JoeNarciso.com
Holly Bertone, PMP is an author, blogger, and breast cancer survivor and advocate. She is the president and CEO of Pink Fortitude, LLC and editor-in-chief at the inspirational blog The Coconut Head’s Survival Guide. Holly holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Elizabethtown College, and is a Project Management Professional (PMP). Holly is an Ambassador for the Tigerlily Foundation. She was named a 2014 Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women. Holly is married to a retired Green Beret, is a stepmother, and lives in Alexandria, VA.
Evita Ochel is a consciousness-expansion teacher, who lives by being the change she wishes to see. Her diverse passions and expertise include being a writer, speaker, holistic nutritionist, web TV host, and author of the book Healing & Prevention Through Nutrition. To learn more about her or her work, visit EvitaOchel.com
Julie Ryan is a freelance writer, and maintains her own blog, Counting My Spoons. She lives with a growing list of chronic illnesses that includes, fibromyalgia, TMJ, chronic migraines, cluster headaches, and endometriosis. Her goal is to inspire and inform others living with chronic illness, to remind them that there is still a life worth living, despite the pain. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Barby Ingle is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the board for the Power of Pain Foundation. Barby is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. She has been a pain patient since developing endometriosis in 1997, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy in 2002. www.barbyingle.com www.powerofpain.org
Megan Starshak lives in Milwaukee with her dog and boyfriend, and when she’s not working on projects in the IBD space, she has a career in marketing. She loves trying new things, which has resulted in too many hobbies such as running, cycling, hiking, photography, archery, and even crocheting.
Suzanne Paire resides in Nether Providence, Pennsylvania with her husband, Paul, and four children. She holds degrees in the field of education from Millersville University and Cabrini College. She has written on a myriad of topics for Examiner.com, edited two books, and is penning one of her own entitled, The Things Kids Say. Of her other accomplishments, she can claim All-American athletic honors and giving birth to triplets and their big brother, Tim.
Jane Beller has lived and worked as an actress in LA, Paris, San Francisco, and New York. Seen on stage, screen, and behind a thousand microphones, her favorite voice over job was the thrill of simply saying: “This is PBS”. She is equally thrilled to be part of this meaningful project.
Dana Kukin recently graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University with a degree in Psychology. She worked as a research volunteer-extern for Dr. Yulia Landa, working on the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Psychosis Program. Dana is the founder of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel Mental Health Awareness Month.
Jenny Rietveld is mother and a grandmother. She worked in sales for many years. After retiring she volunteered in soup kitchens and spent eight years volunteering in palliative care. She loves traveling, history and reading. She believes in world peace and believes we all need to do more for mental health and suicide prevention in school and in the work place.
Rachel Brummert is the President and Executive Director of the Quinolone Vigilance Foundation. www.SaferPills.org, a non profit international organization dedicated to advocacy, education, and research into Fluoroquinolone Toxicity. She resides in North Carolina with her husband.
Bob Brader is an award-winning actor, writer, and monologist. His acclaimed solo show, Spitting In The Face Of The Devil, tells the gripping, true story of discovering that his abusive ex-Marine father is a pedophile. It has won numerous awards including “Best Show” in the London Fringe. Bob has also toured internationally with his second solo show, Preparation Hex, a hemorrhoid tale and love story. He is currently working on his new solo show, Smoker. www.bobbrader.com • www.spittinginthefaceofthedevil.com
Mae L’Heureux is a twenty-something college graduate trying to find her way in the world. Passionate about diminishing the stigma surrounding mental illness, Mae speaks openly about her lived experience. Mae has recently started her career in the mental health field through non-profit work. She loves spending time with her family and friends, traveling, reading, writing, and immersing herself in all things psychology.
Efrem Epstein is the founder of Elijah’s Journey, a 501c3 focused on Suicide Awareness/Prevention in the Jewish community. He is also a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention's Faith Communities Task Force. www.elijahsjourney.net
Audrey Dimola always wanted to be a trapeze artist, but acrobatics of the written word have always been closest to her heart. She is the author of Decisions We Make While We Dream, an original collection of poetry and prose; founder of the roving reading/live writing series Nature of the Muse; and curator of the first-ever Queens Literary Town Hall, bringing together the growing literary community in her home borough. Audrey has been featured on NY1 and in the New York Daily News, and has performed at venues such as Brooklyn Museum and the NYC Poetry Festival. http://audreydimola.com
Jenny Pacanowski is an Iraq veteran, writer, poet, and public speaker. She joined the Army in 2003 at age twenty-three and selected the M.O.S. of health care specialist/combat medic. In 2004, she was sent to Iraq. During her eleven-and-one-half-month deployment, she worked as a combat medic driving a military ambulance and serving as first-responder medical support for convoys in Iraq for the Army, Air Force, and Marines. Her poetry work has been published in Remaking Sense, After Action Review, and the Warrior Writers’ Fourth Anthology. www.warriorwriters.org/Artists/jen
Jessica Gimeno is a health activist, writer, and public speaker. Her website, Fashionably ill, is about surviving pain with style and humor. Jessica is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and Bipolar Out Loud. She has spoken at conventions for organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Psych Central named Jessica a Mental Health Hero. MSNBC did a mental health documentary on Jessica’s life. You can follow Jessica on Twitter and Facebook. In her free time, she likes giving makeovers to women with different illnesses, spending time with her nieces and nephews, and all things New Kids on the Block.
Judy Thrasher lost her husband, Allen, to suicide in 1998 at the age of forty. She was a single mother and raised their three children following their loss. Judy has been a nurse for thirty-eight years and continues to advocate for those struggling with mental illness. Her desire is to be a beacon of hope to those who may be at the depths of despair, hopelessness, or grief. Her belief is that we must continue to live for those who have been taken from us so abruptly. Her hope is that someone may find strength in her story.
Rick Strait is a suicide attempt survivor who currently works as a therapist in Missouri as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. Rick’s passion is working in suicide prevention and mental health awareness. He is a board member of the Eastern Chapter of Missouri AFSP and SOLOS. He provides educational trainings including Mental Health First Aid. He has helped organize multiple Suicide Awareness conferences in Missouri. Rick’s unique ability to bridge his knowledge and experience provides him with a depth of understanding and practical application to better serve his clients and create effective programming.
Jennifer Burton is a passionate mental health advocate and has worked in the field for ten years. She finds joy in her cherished husband, Mark, and her children Nathan, Jonathon, Jenna, and Mikayla. Her free time is spent enjoying music, writing, good books, and laughter. She resides with her family in Missouri.
Barb Smith is the founder and facilitator of the Saginaw Survivors of Suicide, which has been supporting families left behind after suicide for the past twenty-five years. Barb has received training and certifications from numerous experts in the field of suicide prevention, intervention, and the aftermath of suicide including Bill Steele, Iris Bolton, AFSP, and AAS. She has been recognized as the “Saginawian” of the year, and in 2003 she received the “Volunteer of the Year Award” from United Way.
Ashley Kowalczyk is a recent college graduate from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. While attending Bradley, Ashley was the founder and president of Bradley's Chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms for three years. After graduation, she accepted a teaching position in the Peoria Schools District and decided to stay in town. When not preparing the future of America, she enjoys Netflix, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
Jennifer Haussler Garing is a native of New Hampshire. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Jennifer has spoken about her experiences with suicide, mental illness, and resiliency at the American Association of Suicidology National Conference, Texas Suicide Prevention Symposium, and Austin Community College. She works as an epidemiologist in Austin, Texas where she lives in her dream home with her husband and her chocolate Lab-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, Frannie. Jennifer is also one of the survivors profiled on livethroughthis.org.
Dana Sayre is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. She has a background in theatre and a MA in Performance Studies from Texas A&M University. Ms. Sayre often writes about issues of gender, sexuality, popular culture, and mental health, as well as Austin artists and events. She is also on the board of Austin’s OUTsider Festival. Ms. Sayre is grateful to Josh Rivedal for this opportunity to speak on a topic about which our culture normally demands silence. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, cooking, and attending or participating in performance events and festivals around Austin.
Marcia Resnick is a wife, mother, and grandmother to her grandson and grandpuppy. Professionally, she has been a math teacher and a lawyer. She is also a survivor. She has buried three of her four children, the most painful being her son who took his own life. She is active helping others who have lost a child to suicide, facilitating a support group for parents. She is also active in The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She skis, plays tennis, and loves the theater and traveling. Most importantly, she loves her family, her many friends, and life.
Kenya Casey is the Associate Director of Program Support for The Carter Center’s Health Programs, providing operational support to international health programs in nine countries. Before joining The Carter Center, Kenya spent eight years at Emory University’s Center for International Programs Abroad, beginning as an Advisor for students traveling to Africa and Asia and leaving as an Associate Director. For over seven years, Kenya co-facilitated dozens of diversity workshops and published manuals on recruiting underrepresented students to education abroad. Kenya obtained her B.A. in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University and her MSW from the Howard University School of Social Work.
Jamie Myre is a student leader and peer advocate with a passion for spreading empathy and understanding through her writing. She hopes to help others by sharing her experiences, whether that is with her public speaking, or through writing outlets, like The i’Mpossible Project. She tries her hardest to live by the motto “You receive only what you give.”
Ryan Cassata is a singer-songwriter and transgender motivational speaker who—all by age twenty-one—successfully cut nine records, toured the U.S., performed at some of the world’s biggest Pride Festivals, won Bay Shore High School’s first-ever Harvey Milk Memorial Award, became the youngest keynote speaker for the largest transgender conference in existence, appeared on TV several times, wrote two movie soundtracks and starred in and toured with internationally screening documentary Songs For Alexis. www.RyanCassata.com
Matthew Shaffer is a performer, choreographer, and author of the book, So You Want To Be A Dancer. For more information please visit his website www.MatthewShaffer.com.
Claire Kaufman is a suicide prevention advocate with over seven years of planning successful suicide prevention walks. In addition, she helps those who are dealing with depression and/or suicidal thoughts through peer-to-peer programming. Claire is honored to be one of the fifty-authors in this The i’Mpossible Project book, because she wants every reader to know they aren’t alone in their journey.
James Lecesne has been telling stories for over twenty-five years. His short film, TREVOR, won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short and went on to inspire the founding of The Trevor Project, the only nationwide twenty-four-hour suicide prevention helpline for LGBT and, Questioning youth. James is also the founder of The After The Storm Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to offering support to community centers in New Orleans that are working with youth and the arts. www.jameslecesne.com
Brent Buell is a producer, director, and novelist. He is lead producer of New York City’s first big hip-hop musical FREEDOM! starring Maino. He directed the Off-Broadway production of Josh Rivedal’s comedy, The Gospel According to Josh (now known as Kicking My Blue Genes in the Butt). For ten years, Buell volunteered with the nonprofit organization Rehabilitation Through the Arts, directing theater in New York’s maximum-security prisons. His outrageous political action adventure, Rapturous, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller.
David Nathan Scott is a multi-faceted performer, on-air personality, and writer. He trained, lived, and performed for many years in New York City. He now resides in Orlando, Florida. www.davidnathanscott.com
Kenny Medrano is a consultant, social entrepreneur, hip-hop enthusiast, evolving creative, and avid backpacker. He’s a New York native, raised by his mother and aunt in the great Queens County. His family is originally from Quito, Ecuador. Professionally, he started in music publishing. Years later, he became a director for a Boys & Girls Club in his childhood neighborhood. He’s now the founder and chairman of Road to Greatness, Inc. whose mission is to foster leadership within individuals of all ages in order to serve, support, and expand the economic and social progress of communities.
Kathleen Myre is a freelance writer and researcher who advocates for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. By sharing her own story, she hopes to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness and inspire others to do the same. Kathleen resides with her husband and children in Nutley, New Jersey.
Nancy Tetreaux has enjoyed a twenty-plus year HR career at major law firms, a top-four accounting/consulting firm, and large manufacturing and fashion companies, as well as non-profits. As president of SpeakSpin she coaches corporate leaders, managers, and small businesses owners in high-impact business and personal communications that include, verbal, non-verbal, and written strategies. www.speakspin.com
Carlo D’Amore is an award-winning actor, playwright, and Drama Desk-nominated director with decades of experience in the theatre. Credits include Broadway, Off Broadway, regional, and international theater, as well as television and film. He has been involved in ground-breaking productions across the country. His hit solo play No Parole, directed by Tony Award-nominated Colman Domingo, was named one of the top ten plays in the San Francisco Bay Area and was nominated for an Audience Favorite Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
Camilla Ross has over thirty years of theatrical experience and appeared in theatre, film, television, and radio. She has been portraying Harriet Tubman since 2009, when Harriet Tubman’s Dream opened in collaboration with the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Theatre Institute (NTI). Camilla is president and co-founder of the Emerson Theater Collaborative and a faculty member at Three Rivers Community College. Ms. Ross is the Suicide Prevention Advocate of ETC’s “I Am Worthy” project and an advocate for children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. Camilla’s latest directorial project is Hour Father by David H. Greer—actor, playwright, and Tony-nominated producer.