From a Fraternity Dragfest to a CD of Children's Songs, Work on Mental Illness Awareness Pushes Forward

denybozeman.jpgA fraternity drag fest and a CD full of comforting songs are part of recent efforts at SSU to raise awareness about the stigma of mental illness in the community.

Having seen students, faculty, staff, administrators, friends and family affected by depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar and other mental illness, combined with a passion for educating others, inspired two SSU faculty recently to team up to produce a children's CD in hopes of comforting families and individuals affected by mental illness. Donations for the CD have already raised more than $6,500 for the non-profit agency.

The CD is part of the fundraising efforts of the local Sonoma County based chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Entitled "Songs for Children and Families," it was produced by retired SSU Music and English lecturer Sarah Baker (who performs blues and jazz in the North Bay and beyond) and English and Philosophy lecturer Denny Bozman-Moss, who also teaches English at SRJC. It has songs for all ages from children's classics to older favorites.

Bozman-Moss, who received SSU's "Outstanding Faculty Award" for "promoting academic excellence, supporting students outside of class and encouraging students achievement" is also passionate about the cause NAMI works to advocate for because of many students, staff, faculty, administrators, friends and family he has witnessed struggling with depression and other mental illness and the stigma attached to it by law enforcement and social agencies.

sarahbaker.jpeg"NAMI has been there like a life raft for my students and so many other people," said Bozman-Moss. "Knowing that one out of four families are affected by mental illness makes me want to put the word out there that we have a resource like NAMI. It can help all of us start to understand and educate people, including law enforcement and social agencies, to work together to provide a society where we can work safely with people suffering from it."

"Songs for Families and Children" not only raises money for the local non-profit but it is also meant to provide comfort and peace to individuals affected by mental illness. The songs, recorded in both English and Spanish, are not just about mental illness. Rather, they are upbeat and positive and meant to bring happiness to families and children, whether affected by mental health issues or not.

Some of the music includes: "Riding in My Car" by Woody Guthrie, "De Colores" the ever popular migrant workers song, "What Did You Learn in School Today" by Tom Paxton and Kate Wolf's "Give Yourself Love".

There are a total of 23 songs on the CD, all sung and recorded by Baker and Bozman-Moss. The CD comes with a songbook with words to all 23 songs. There is no set cost for the CD; people donate what they want. Some donations have been $3, and one was a high as $1,000.

Songs for Children and Families
(Selections from the NAMI CD)

Founded in 1979, the NAMI works to advocate for the rights and needs of community members who live with mental illness. NAMI Sonoma County located in Santa Rosa, works on expanding knowledge of mental illness throughout the community, as well as giving support to individuals who suffer with mental illness, through programs like "Peer to Peer" and for families with loved ones struggling with mental health issues there is "Family to Family."

Former NAMI board member and SSU Professor of Nursing Dr. Deb Kindy works with the non-profit organization because of her motivation to educate and inform students and the community about mental illness.

"I like tackling the stigma (surrounding mental illness). It is the drive to create more balance in the world in terms of allowing people to live up to their potential," said Kindy

In Kindy's Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing course, NAMI spokespeople from "In their Own Voice" program visit her class to speak about the messages the organization works to promote and advocate. NAMI looks to not only educate about mental illness but also be a resource for people who suffer from mental illness and their families.

The non-profit organization is now looking to raise money and promote the CD further in the community. NAMI Executive Director Rosemary Milbrath can be reached at 707-527-6655 or at for those who would like to assist, or who have a loved one with a mental health issue and do not know where to turn.

Earlier this year, NAMI and the Alpha Psi fraternity at SSU held a campus fundraising event that promoted the mission of the organization and advocacy efforts for mental illness. Sonoma State student, Alpha Psi fraternity member and friend of the Bozman-Moss family, Elijah Stephenson, organized the fundraising event.

The self-titled "Alpha Psi Cutie Pie Drag Show," raised nearly $500 for NAMI along with successfully advocating what the organization does for the community. The campus event featured fraternity members dressed in drag wear who competed in dance and singing competition along with performing short comedic skits.

"We wanted to raise money for NAMI and wanted to do something really out of the ordinary and the drag just fell into place. I don't think anyone really knew anything about drag," said Stephenson.

"There was really an impressive outcome and so we want the Green Music Center next time. We definitely can't wait to do it again. Next year we want to include as many organizations as we can; not just Greek organizations. It was definitely a great opportunity."

- Kayla Galloway

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