The Gorge Magazine - Spring 2021

Page 48




Blaine + Bethany Photography


Cultivating Compassion in Our Communities The Gorge Wellness Alliance works to break stigmas story by JANET COOK | photos provided


CoenFilm, both images

or years, Destiny Stohler was told to be quiet. To keep things to herself. To quit being a baby. She had a rocky upbringing in the Gorge, moving frequently to different communities, feeling unwanted at home and bullied at school. She was put on medication for anxiety and depression at age 12. By the time she was 15, she had developed a severe eating disorder. But Stohler is a survivor. She still battles some demons, but now, at 25, she works as a certified nursing assistant at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, where she finds fulfillment in caring for



others. And she talks about her struggles whenever she gets a chance. “I’m an open book,” she said. “I’m willing to share whatever.” Stohler is one of six Gorge residents featured in a mini-documentary, Cultivate: Compassion, which was produced by the Gorge Wellness Alliance (GWA) in 2019. The film debuted in the fall, with a screening at the Columbia Center for the Arts. The GWA had planned to take the film “on the road” last year, to area high schools, health fairs and other organizations interested in spreading its message. Those plans had to be shelved when the pandemic hit. But the GWA continues its work to promote emotional health and wellness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues in the Gorge.

The screening of the documentary, Cultivate: Compassion, above. Richard Withers, left, during filming.