The Story of TMI Project & Denise Ranaghan of the Mental Health Association of Ulster County’s 5-Year Partnership
TMI Project’s work is all about getting people to divulge their deepest secrets. So it should be no surprise that neither Sari Botton, TMI Project’s editorial director, or I have a propensity for small talk. In fact, we both find networking torturous. Yet, at one particular women’s schmooze-fest in the early days of TMI Project we went around the room introducing ourselves and discovered that we were sitting across from Denise Ranaghan, Director of Wellness Services at the Mental Health Association of Ulster County (MHA). We hit it off immediately. When she heard about what we do–we use memoir writing and true storytelling to raise awareness about and amplify the voices of populations who often go unheard– and we heard about her passion for destigmatizing mental illness, we knew that we were destined to partner.
Flash forward 5 years later. Since 2012, with Denise’s support and partnership, twice a year TMI Project has offered 10-week memoir writing and true storytelling workshops specially tailored to meet the needs of MHA’s population of adults with mental illness. Our partnership with this peer-based organization, where a portion of the staff are people who have recovered from or accommodated for mental illness, is designed to destigmatize mental illness while empowering participants to work toward their recovery. In 2016, a documentary about this partnership entitled Vicarious Resilience was shot by North Guild Films and will be released later this year. The documentary follows eight participants as they went through our workshop, from the first session, where many expressed doubts and trepidation, to the final storytelling performance before an audience of over 100, and a final follow-up session where participants voiced the ways in which they experienced positive transformation.
Denise has been with TMI Project every step of the way. Not only has she been our liaison to MHA, she’s sat in on nearly every workshop we’ve taught there and joined us in outside workshops to offer therapeutic support.
Ellen Pendagar, CEO of MHA, has said repeatedly that the partnership with TMI Project has been the organization’s best stigma-busting program to date, an accomplishment we would not have been able to achieve without Denise’s passion and dedication. She empowers her clients by giving them a platform to tell their own stories. She is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that those who live with mental illness are able to do so with pride and dignity. And for that, we are honored to recognize Denise Ranaghan with a Voices in Action Agent of Change Award.
TMI Project is honoring Denise, along with activist Tony Porter and three other Hudson Valley leaders and change-makers, on September 28th, 2017 at Voices in Action: Community Outreach Showcase & Fundraiser. We hope you will join us!