New bestseller is choice of local Wellness Center’s virtual book club
To celebrate Mental Health Month in May, the local Mental Wellness Center, in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Santa Barbara County, decided to try something new — a virtual book club with an inaugural read that enlightens such a circumstance.
Their timing couldn’t have been better.
“Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of An American Family” by Robert Kolker (Doubleday, $29.95) was released last month, has just been selected for Oprah’s Book Club and is at the top of the bestseller lists.
Mr. Kolker plans to talk to the Mental Wellness Center’s virtual club about his book.
In “Hidden Valley Road,” Mr. Kolker chronicles the nonfiction saga of the Galvins, a Colorado family who seemed to have it all until one after another, six of their 12 children, were diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“We weren’t sure what the response would be, but on the first day, 40 people signed up for the book club, and now we have maxed out at 80 members,” said Amanda Conroy, development and marketing director for the MWC, which is based in Santa Barbara.
“This is very exciting because the goal of the club is to enlighten readers about the struggles and journeys of those suffering from different mental health diagnoses and to help friends and loved ones gain insight and hope about the paths to wellness.
“It is particularly relevant at this time when our lives and sense of well-being have been severely impacted by the stresses imposed on us by the worry, fear, and financial concerns caused by COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown and upheaval to our daily lives — so much so that clinical anxiety increased close to 20 percent during the first months of the outbreak, according to Mental Health America.”
The MWC and NAMI Virtual Book Club is free and provides a suggested weekly reading schedule through May, culminating in a live, virtual fireside chat with the author.
“The next live discussion on Zoom will be at 5 p.m. Friday, and on May 27 at 5 p.m. Mr. Kolker will be talking with us. And thanks to a generous donor, limited copies of the book are available through the MWC Lending Library,” said Mrs. Conroy.
During the chats, she suggests that members might want to sip some wine from Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards, which is donating 10 percent of its sales this month to the MWC.
“Bob Sorich, the owner, is very passionate about mental health and advocacy. In the fall, we will be participating in a special community walk at its vineyards in support of mental health,” Mrs. Conroy said.
Besides the book club, the MWC provides the following services:
— Support groups such as SPOT (Support for Parents of Teens and Adolescents), which includes an evening group and Spanish support group; Family Support Group, Keeping Connected, and NAMI support groups.
— The MWC Family Advocate serves individuals and families in need. For more information, call 805-884-8440, ext. 3206.
— The MWC Fellowship Club provides members with daily lunches during the week. The Rosewood Miramar Beach and Catering Connection have donated thousands of lunches during the pandemic.
— The MWC Youth Wellness Clubs and Council promote social connection through weekly virtual meetings and during phone calls.
— YouthWell leads weekly connection and enrichment workshops for youth called quaranTEEN. For more information, visit youthwell.org/teens.
“We are also observing Mental Health Month with our virtual Stigma Buster Celebration,” said Mrs. Conroy. “People can take the Stigma Buster Pledge and make a donation to the Mental Wellness Giving Society by visiting www.mentalwellnesscenter.org/stigma-buster.
“According to the NAMI, each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. Stigma harms the one in five Americans affected by mental health conditions.
“This May, help the MWC break the stigma and raise awareness about mental health in our community. Let others know that there is hope and understanding. You can change the way the world sees mental health.”