There are two versions of Jayne Appel-Marinelli’s childhood. There’s the exterior one of the star athlete, fielding calls from Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt. She was an All-American, and that’s a good way to describe her upbringing. Her hometown is even called Pleasant Hill.
Then there’s the other version, the one with police cars in front of her house. The one where her father is leaving her games early to check on a family matter. This version is where a member of the Appel family suffers from a mental illness.
Jayne said her family member’s illness wasn’t something discussed around the house at the time. But hiding the illness wasn’t healing it either.
That’s why Appel-Marinelli and the Stars are hosting Mental Health Awareness Night on Thursday at the AT&T Center.
Appel hopes to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues by sharing her story.
“Mental health isn’t a subject that’s being talked about, even though everybody knows someone affected by it,” Appel-Marinelli said. “It has the stigma that cancer or HIV used to have, and we need to change that. Hopefully this game can start a conversation in someone’s house.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million —experiences mental illness in a given year. One in five children ages 13 to 18 will have a serious mental illness.
The biggest hurdle with mental health may be that the majority of Americans with mental illness don’t seek diagnosis or receive treatment.
Appel-Marinelli is teaming up with the non-profit Bring Change 2 Mind to start the conversation about mental health in San Antonio.
In her household, it took a decade of therapists and diagnosis to find the correct treatment for her family member.
With the right support system, more than two-thirds of Americans who have a mental illness live in the community and lead productive lives, according to Bring Change 2 Mind.
But more than half of all prison and jail inmates have a mental health problem, and mental illness is one of the largest causes of homelessness.
“It hasn’t been an easy road,” Appel-Marinelli said. “We’re lucky to have had the resources to diagnose and to understand the legal and hospital systems, and even then, it took almost 10 years of anything and everything. I feel for families that are dealing with mental illness.”
Jayne’s family story of mental illness dramatically affected her childhood, but it also filled her with purpose. She remembered her mother, a nurse, once showing her a scan of a regularly functioning brain and another with a mental illness. At Stanford, she majored in psychology to understand more about the effects of mental health.
She’s become involved with Bring Change 2 Mind and locally with Clarity Child Guidance Center, a mental health treatment center for children.
“We have to make mental health more prevalent,” she said. “That stigma means that a lot of people are still afraid to talk about, and a lot of people are afraid to get help.”
A major step in facing the issue is raising awareness and creating a dialogue. Bring Change 2 Mind was co-founded by actress Glenn Close after her family faced the stigma surrounding mental illness. Athletes including NBA player Metta World Peace and NFL player Brandon Marshall have opened up about their struggles with mental health as well.
“We’re still in the dark ages of mental illness,” said Pamela Harrington, executive director of Bring Change 2 Mind. “It’s a broken system, and we have to be better for humanity going forward. People like Jayne, who are sharing their personal stories, are going to lead us in that direction.”
At a recent visit to Clarity, half of the Stars roster joined Jayne to spend some time with the kids. A few days later, Jayne received a thank you card from one of the children at Clarity. She teared up when she recalled how it simply said, “Thank you for not judging.”
“Mental illness is a part of our lives. It’s not going away,” Jayne said. “So we have to address it and do what we can.”
Check out the full story in Jayne’s video below: