During the 18 months that their teenage son Daniel was dealing with emotional difficulties, Lee Maxwell and Laurie Burstein-Maxwell of Bryn Mawr felt that they could not tell anyone about it.
What would people think? Would they treat Dan differently? The stigma attached to mental illness kept their struggle a secret, and that stigma has now inspired them to create the DMAX Foundation in honor of Dan, a recent Radnor High School graduate who died in July.
The purpose of the foundation is to “eliminate the stigma and to generate conversations about mental illness and youth,” Lee told Radnor Patch.
Local parents, teachers and middle- and high school students are invited to attend a meeting on Thursday, September 26 at 7 p.m. in the Radnor Middle School Large Group Instruction Room.
Although many people have already expressed an interest in participating in the cause, the meeting will be an overview of the foundation and a discussion of its goals. You will be able to sign up to get involved with the organization.
Ashley Gubernick, a Radnor senior, is already helping to generate activity in school, Lee said. Members of the middle and high school faculty and administration have also pledged their support, he said. The Maxwells are also hoping to reach out to coaches in Radnor’s athletic programs who may be able to support the mission to open conversations about mental illness.
Dan’s sister Samantha will be selling bracelets to raise money for the foundation.
“The term mental illness sends a funny shiver down peoples’ spines... We need to get away from picture of lunatics,” Lee said.
“When Dan was sick we didn’t feel we could talk to people about it, and that was my impetus for this,” Laurie said. “Because we couldn’t talk to anybody it was even more painful.”
Lee said that 800 people attended Dan’s memorial service, and his parents found out more about him and what he meant to others than they ever knew. “The number of kids his age impacted by him in a positive way is so overwhelming to me,” he said.
Laurie said one of the foundation’s goals is also to generate options to suicide. “It’s really import for kids who think that’s the way out to know…what the unbearable impact is and how it shatters lives. I don’t think kids understand that.”
The Maxwells hope to plant a seed that will grow all over the area and allow conversations about mental illness to be voiced in the community. If they had felt that they could have talked about Dan’s struggles with emotional difficulties, might that have changed the outcome of his life?
“That is one of those horrible questions that were going to have to live with,” Lee said. “That’s one of the reasons pushing us. For someone else, that might make a difference.”