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Collage of Me2/ Orchestra

By Caroline Whiddon and Ronald Braunstein
With sponsorship and development support from Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc.

This November, National Family Caregivers Month is taking on a new meaning. Caregiving is usually thought of as caring for a loved one, friend, or family member. But 2020 has taught us to take a step back and look at how we take care of ourselves, especially when it comes to our mental health.

Most of us have experienced added stress, anxiety, and isolation due to the pandemic. But for people already dealing with mental illness, these recent months have been especially stressful and difficult. As founders of the Me2/Orchestra – the world's only known classical music organization created specifically for individuals living with mental illness and those who support them - we are passionate about music and know it’s an artistic medium that can lift our spirits, has potential to help those with mental illness, and can even inspire a movement.

In the wake of the increased isolation and social distancing resulting from the ongoing pandemic, communities have had to find new ways to connect. That’s why we’ve partnered with Neurocrine Biosciences for the Monumental Moments™ initiative, a community platform that aims to foster a spirit of togetherness and support people in the mental health community – along with those in the general public – who are experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety and stress during this extraordinary year of social distancing and unrest.

In collaboration with award-winning composer Paul Swartzel, we’ve created an original musical score inspired by the experiences and stories of the Me2/ musicians with an emphasis on moments of discovery, joy, and perseverance through this difficult time – and we hope that it brings to life the emotional impact this unprecedented year has had on us. The score – featuring nearly 100 orchestra members aged 20 to 80 – 50% of whom have a confirmed mental illness – premiered in a virtual performance on October 28th.  We’re now encouraging everyone to share how they’ve been coping, learning, and dealing with their daily challenges to achieve their own ‘monumental moment.’ Maybe it's spending time with a new pet or enjoying a special hobby or socially distanced activity.

By sharing your moments, you can stay connected to your community while lifting up others, so they won’t feel alone. Your public post on social media using the hashtag #MonumentalMoments will help support people living with mental health conditions and challenges associated with mental illness, including those living with an involuntary movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia. On behalf of posts shared, our partner Neurocrine Biosciences will be making donations to mental health organizations as part of its commitment to support people living with mental illness.

During National Family Caregivers Month, take a moment to reflect and always remember to be proud of how far you’ve come! Join the conversation online by sharing your #MonumentalMoments.

Ronald-Caroline_cropped copyRonald Braunstein, the Music Director of Me2/, received his musical background at The Juilliard School, Salzburg Mozarteum, Fontainebleau, and the Tanglewood Music Center. Immediately following graduation from Juilliard, he won the Gold Medal in the Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition and spent the following four years mentoring with Mr. Karajan. Braunstein was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1985. He launched Me2/ because of his desire to support others who struggle to maintain good mental health.

Caroline Whiddon, the Executive Director of Me2/, has more than two decades of experience in orchestra leadership. Caroline received her bachelor’s degree in French horn performance from the Eastman School of Music. She was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder nearly thirty years ago. Braunstein and Whiddon launched Me2/ in the fall of 2011. They were married in 2013.