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Davy Andrek, a musician and animator who frequents the Iversen Center, created the character Sir Scotty McRockstar, a moon-obsessed Scottish caveman musician and “advocate for strength through mental diversity.” PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVY ANDREK

difficult journey. “I didn’t find working with people with mental health as a cause, it found me,” she said. “It’s who I am, and I feel for people who’ve gone through it because I’ve gone through it.” Wagner said she struggled with depression that led to hospitalization at the PHF in 2005. Still, she got off medication, worked as an intern at the CN&R, graduated from Chico State, became a reporter at the Red Bluff Daily News, and moved to New York with her two children for another journalism job before tragedy triggered another episode. “My oldest son got sick; he had brain cancer and passed away,” she said. “We moved back to Chico because this is where he wanted to spend his last days, and his passing sent me into a downward spiral.” During that time, Wagner said that—like many of the center’s other members—she experienced homelessness, and lived for several months at the Torres Community Shelter. Wagner was introduced to the Iversen Center through her treatment at Behavioral Health, and started organizing the first edition of the Iversen Journal in 2015. She said she was inspired to do so by a poetry book put out by clients of a wellness center she visited in New York, and expanded on the concept to include both writing and artwork created by members. Another journal followed in 2016. The most recent publication—in keeping with a Diverse Minds Film Festival spearheaded by Tate last year—is titled the Diverse Minds North State Journal, and includes contributions from other wellness centers and mental health facilities throughout the region. 22


FEBRUARY 8, 2018

John McMackin, known to some as the “artist laureate” of the Iversen Center, sketches roughly 100 of his signature “linescapes” monthly, and gives most away for free. PHOTO BY KEN SMITH

Each publication is accompanied by a release party, and Wagner said the number of contributions and size of the gatherings has increased exponentially year-by-year. Previous events have featured visual artworks projected on a large screen, readings by contributors and live music by Iversen Center musicians including The Symptomatics, a band born from the center’s weekly music group. Wagner recently started soliciting contributions for the next installment and reached out to the Museum of Northern California Art, which will host a Diverse Minds Art Show and Journal Release event during the first week of November. Wagner and other Iversen staff and members are anticipating it will be their biggest event yet. As for the goals of the Diverse Minds initiatives, Wagner said, “We want to reduce stigma by showing that people with mental health challenges can still create beautiful, amazing and awe-inspiring things, and that we’re not limited by our challenges.” Wagner said the events—the last of which was attended by contributors from as far away as Humboldt County and Yreka—also help build a sense of community, noting that isolation can exacerbate, or even cause, mental turmoil, a situation she sees often. “It also gives the people who submit so much self-esteem and validation. During those parties, when people get up and read their poems and stories, talk about their art … it gives me chills. It’s therapy, and it’s community.”

Self-determination The Iversen Center’s seven-member board meets every Monday morning, and discussions at a recent gathering included planning events: a March outing to the bowling alley, a members-only Valentine’s Day celebration, and the center’s first-ever family night. For the latter, the board decided to temporarily lift the center’s 18-and-up policy to allow members’ children to visit. Presiding over the meeting was Robert Carver, a polite and soft-spoken man who was elected to his position of chairman of the advisory board last year. After adjourning the board meeting, then attending a lively members’ meeting and social with about 40 attendees in the Iversen Center’s main room—a regular Monday event—Carver took a moment to discuss his own journey toward wellness. Carver said he’s been affected by depression, schizoaffective disorder and learning disabilities for most of his life; he also has post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from childhood abuse. He said his condition worsened and he started having suicidal thoughts following the deaths of several family members. He first started visiting the Iversen Center

Robert Carver chairs the Iversen Center’s advisory board, a group of seven elected members who help plan events and set policy. PHOTO BY KEN SMITH

five years ago, but—like many people who eventually become active members—it took him several months to start attending groups and become more involved. “I came because I needed guidance as I was working on my recovery,” he said. “I’m still working on it, but that’s when I started reaching out.” He said he initially found some solace in the center’s grief and loss and WRAP (Wellness and Recovery Action Plan) groups, then started attending others. He eventually completed an eight-week facilitator’s training and now runs two groups himself—weekly meetings for stress awareness every Tuesday, and a men’s group on Fridays. His experiences have also helped him branch out in other directions; though he’s never been homeless, he said he’s very concerned about the plight of those who are, and that he regularly volunteers at Vectors, a local program that provides transitional housing for veterans. “I have a big heart,” Carver said. The trait was evident in speaking with him. In fact, he was the first to submit a piece for the next Diverse Minds journal, appropriately titled