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August 4, 2011 Volume 2, Issue 28
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I’m So Bipolar, I Should Have Been an Elevator Operator!
By Drew Horn, Turn-A-Frown Around Foundation

The Turn-A-Frown Around Foundation (TAFA) is an organization whose sole mission is to end loneliness. We have been around for 10 years. I humbly share that we’ve won nine awards, including the Governor's Ambassador Award for the State of New Jersey, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare award for Excellence in Family Advocacy, three awards from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and recently, Eli Lilly’s National Award for Number One Achievement of a Consumer.

When people ask me what motivated my co-founding TAFA, I always tell them: MY PAIN. Before I go into this boo-hoo story, I want to highlight that I am the luckiest man alive and that my history is not my destiny. With that being said, I was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until I was 42. I lived the insidious life of sometimes staying up for almost a week, then crashing and not getting out of bed for a month. As a child, my daddy died in my arms at the age of 12. I’m a high school dropout and I was molested for a year and a half by a camp counselor. As an adult, I’ve had three failed businesses, two failed marriages, and been in and out of more psychiatric wards than I care to admit. I have been homeless four times and attempted suicide twice. But the good news is that I’m on so much medication, I am opening my own pharmacy.

After my two suicide attempts, my daughter—who is the greatest daughter in the world—pleaded with me to take suicide off the table. After much tug-of-war (and I would have done it for no other), I burned the bridge to suicide. After I took suicide off the table, I decided to get into comedy. I did comedy for a year, and I’m not so sure how good I was because every time I did stand-up, they kept shouting "sit down!" The thing that was most disturbing to me—knowing my personal background—was that the guy on his third martini did not need to laugh near as much as someone in a nursing home or psychiatric ward. It was from this that TAFA was born.

If you take Patch Adams and combine him with Mother Teresa, you’ll have a full understanding of TAFA. The Patch Adams side is shown by bringing “fortune cookie” entertainment to any and all in pain. We have discovered that bringing a chuckle to people will only last until their next downfall. If you can put healing and love into that chuckle, you’ve given someone hope for the rest of his or her life. This promotes wellness and recovery.

We continued for the first two and a half years to bring this motivational entertainment to anyone hurting. After doing two shows, I discovered at a state psychiatric hospital what Mother Teresa wrote in her final diary. She went to the finest nursing home she’d ever seen. When she walked in, every wheelchair faced the door, but no one was smiling. When she left, the same wheelchairs—facing the same door—still had no smiles. So she went to the head caregiver and said, “Why are they not smiling? I’m used to people smiling.”

The caregiver answered, “Mother Teresa, they wait all day for somebody to come and nobody comes.”

Mother Teresa, a woman in her 80s with a Ph.D. in poverty, wrote, “I have discovered today that the greatest of all poverty is simply not being loved.”

Up to 50 percent of all nursing home recipients die without a friend and 75 percent of my mentally ill friends in New Jersey State psychiatric institutions never receive a visit. The Turn-A-Frown Around Foundation is in the process of changing these statistics by setting up Smile Stations in every city across the nation. In its simplest form, a Smile Station is a gathering or reservoir of Forever Friends. A Smile Station recruits, maintains, and sends forth Forever Friends. Let’s say there is a nursing home with eight people who are dying without a friend. They call the Smile Station, who sends over eight Forever Friends and matches them up, effectively ending loneliness in the facility.

TAFA has been asked by the Veterans Administration of New Jersey to bring its therapeutic entertainment into their psychiatric wards. I was privileged to do a show at a short-term psychiatric facility. When I left, I asked a nurse who had been there for more than 20 years what she thought would happen if it were mandatory in every discharge plan that patients could not be released from the facility unless they had a Forever Friend. I was completely blown away by her answer: “I probably would not see two thirds of them ever again.”

We have found that healing loneliness has become the missing link in wellness and recovery, but we know that will soon change.

Big, big, big hugs.


SAMHSA's Recovery to Practice (RTP) Live Meeting PowerPoint Presentation and Recording for the July 28, 2011 Webinar,

"Step 3 in the Recovery-Oriented Care Continuum: Promoting Recovery Through Psychological and Social Means,"

is now available for download from the RTP Resources Web page at


We value your feedback on the Webinar! For those who participated during the live event, please take a few minutes to evaluate the Webinar by clicking on the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RC58T8Y

Feel free to contact us at recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com with any questions or comments.  

NASMHPD Guide for Peers Working in In-Patient Settings

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) Office of Technical Assistance offers a technical report entitled "Paving New Ground: Peers Working in In-Patient Settings," which details the development of peer roles in mental health settings. This "lessons learned" guidebook identifies some of the most successful hospitals in the country and documents the average day of peer specialists through stories and narratives, highlighting their special challenges and rewards. The guidebook is available as a free download at http://www.nasmhpd.org/consumernetworking.cfm. To order a copy of the accompanying DVD, "Paving New Ground: A Dialogue With Peers and Family Members," please email OTAinfo@nasmhpd.org.

NFL Player Reveals Mental Health Condition

Professional football player Brandon Marshall revealed that he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and received treatment. The Miami Dolphins' wide receiver said proper diagnosis and treatment saved his life. He now plans to raise awareness about the disorder, which he said may have led to the domestic violence issues in his household. For more information, please refer to the full article:


The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in recovery-oriented work and how it has changed the way they practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or other recovery resources, please contact Stephanie Bernstein, MSW, at 877.584.8535, or email

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topics,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS.