Twelve years in, Signs of Hope has evolved into a summer tradition: dressing up, mingling over cocktails somewhere scenic and supporting someone brave enough to come forward and talk about their mental healthcare journey.

“We get together and have conversations about mental health,” event host Sheri Boulos said. “Approximately 40 million American adults, or roughly 18 percent of the population, suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder.”

Event host Susie Marshall with Spring Harbor Hospital President Mary Jane Krebs and event host Sheri Boulos.

The Aug. 14 event at the Portland Country Club raised more than $123,000 for Spring Harbor Hospital, a division of Maine Behavioral Healthcare, to treat patients with severe anxiety and depression.

“I was 66 and planning – no, dreading – retirement,” said former healthcare executive Gerry Vicenzi, who fell into acute anxiety and depression in the spring of 2016. “I was too embarrassed to ask for help.”

Eventually, he was admitted to Spring Harbor Hospital, stabilized, then sent home. Months later, he was still struggling enough to try electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments in the summer and fall of 2016.

“I have an opportunity to share a great story of mental illness and recovery,” said Vicenzi, who interspersed his narrative with excerpts from his wife’s journal describing his mental state.

Lynn Vicenzi’s journal describes the loss of the man she loved; he was there physically but was at times in a near-catatonic state. And then, six ECT treatments in, she saw signs of hope. Nine treatments in, she wrote: “Gerry makes pasta carbonara all by himself.”

Several more weeks of ECT followed, as Vicenzi began coming back to himself, started exercising and eventually reconnected with family, friends and colleagues. Finally, he began to find meaning in his journey back to wellness, joining Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s development committee and sharing his experience through a program called Voices of Recovery.

“The challenge for leadership and organizations is to heighten awareness of mental health and encourage people to get help,” he said. “That’s difficult to do, just as it was difficult for me to ask for help.”

“We all have emotions and at any point can get dysregulated,” said Mary Jane Krebs, president of Spring Harbor Hospital. “Just like people need medical care and hospitalization, people can need mental health care and hospitalization.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance photographer and writer based in Scarborough. She be reached at [email protected].


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