Interview with Garen Staglin
Interview by Nancy Brimhall, March 2, 2022
Sitting down to interview Garen Staglin about the journey that he and his wife, Shari, have taken over the past thirty years to find the right approach and the right organization to express all their interests in the mental health field, it is clear that their scope is big. Very Big. Their interests are bigger than most imagine. These two are on the move for mental health and support for mental health may never be the same because of them.
In 1990, they started to mull over what they could do to support a psychotic break that their son, Brandon, experienced while in college. Sounds tragic you might think. Not them. They wanted answers that would give them, first, an accurate diagnosis and support him getting back in school. They knew that because of Brandon’s intellect and his strong will to overcome the episode, and the love of his parents, that he could make it. And he did. Brandon graduated on time and with honors.
they consider themselves “incredibly fortunate” as they are two people who never walk away from a problem, rather they run towards it and with their entrepreneurial style they had a successful winery (Staglin Family Vineyard, no run by their daughter, Shannon) and other successful efforts under their belt. This approach guided them to start a nonprofit organization 28 years ago, first as the Rutherford Charitable Fund, under which umbrella they started the first Napa Valley Music Festival in support of mental health research.
As they began to accelerate funding and research progress, they decided to create an international mental health research institute but found that the name did not easily roll off your tongue. The search for a name and partner advocates was on. Patrick Kennedy soon emerged to join them during the 50th anniversary celebrating JFK putting a man on the moon. The institute hosted an event at the JFK library in Boston and threw out a challenge to form a global collaboration to solve the riddles of the brain. In 2011 they officially changed the name to One Mind and have emerged as a formidable organization, raising to date over $530M.
The Staglin’s know what we all know only too well that everybody has somebody who suffers with mental health issues. As he so aptly states, “Our aim is to have the conversation about mental health become more open and more friendly to reduce the stigma. Many people believe that we can’t do anything about it. We’re committed to proving them wrong.”
Garen further comments, “We have been using a variety of platforms to dispel those myths and to pull back the veil and get everyone talking about mental health. We want to accelerate science and
participate in global collaborations. So far, we have provided forty rising star scientists with
funds to keep their research at the forefront. We have purposely looked to fund young researchers who traditionally have so much difficulty getting money. We provide $300K awards and
have seen our awards jump start significant research and propel careers. We funded Dr. Akira Sawa 15
years ago, and he now leads psychiatric research for Johns Hopkins. The list goes on, including Dr. Josh
Gordon, now Director of NIMH.”
He is enormously proud of One Mind’s efforts to eliminate the silo approach to research and propel research into a more global collaboration. It is an important mandate as part of receiving One Mind support. As an example, he cites a combined US and European study that enrolled 10,000 patients and developed an FDA approved biomarker for 1/3 the normal cost and 1/5 the time by working together across the globe. One Mind successfully created a “public/private partnership” with the US Department of Defense and the National Football League in this study demonstrating another one of
their strong competencies. Another important outcome of this $90 M research effort, was developing technology so that harmonization between imaging machines could enable scientists to view compatible images from remote locations.
One Mind’s Music Festival for Brain Health is now streamed live and offers free access all over the world
to the lecture series portion where scientists share their current and breaking research, giving access to
cutting edge information and hope to so many. And, just as excitedly, he tells me that through their
efforts, the famous documentarian, Ken Burns has committed to doing three major documentary films
over the next 10 years about brain health to be shown on every PBS station. The first, “Hiding in Plain
Sight—Youth Mental Illness” airs on June 27-28, 2022. And by the way, One Mind, through the Music Festival and other fundraising, now raises and leverages over $30M a year from direct contributions and follow-on research grants to their funded scientists.
As well, One Mind has a Brain Waves series where Brandon has interviewed celebrities and scientists, who share their personal stories and provide insights on the mechanisms of brain illness. The series now
has millions of views. And, just as impressively, One Mind launched One Mind at Work, a CEO roundtable where they have helped to establish, and get others to share, principles for what businesses
need to do to address mental health in the workforce. With a $1M grant from Johnson and Johnson they now have a global reach and a CEO charter where businesses like Liberty Mutual, Walmart and many others have committed to a mental health workforce culture of no discrimination and making mental health insurance coverage equal to physical health.
In the end, of course, Garen would be the first to say, “it’s personal for us.” “It’s a passion for us that allows us to be open and tell our story. Brandon is equally passionate and as the President now of One Mind, we believe that many people support us because we are a family that has joined together, each with a role to play in bringing awareness of mental health to the forefront.” He would add, “We are very encouraged by our progress. I am happy but not content. We are only just beginning.”
For more information: www.onemind.org