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The International OCD Foundation’s 2nd Annual OCD Awareness Week

Jeff Szymanski, PhD
Diane Davey, RN
Fugen Neziroglu, PhD
Jeff Bell
Jared Kant
Jeff Sparr
Marilyn Luchini
Michael Jenike, MD

The International OCD Foundation and groups from across the country came together during the week of October 11-17 to educate their communities and the public as a whole about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and its treatments. Several of the nation’s leading experts and pioneers in the field of OCD talked about how they work with those who suffer daily from this debilitating disorder. Drs. Aureen Wagner and Jonathan Abramowitz gave a talk in North Carolina while Dr. Fugen Neziroglu and her colleagues ran a one-day conference of workshops and talks in New York. A support group in Poughkeepsie, New York and the OCD Western Pennsylvania affiliate held story-telling events during the week. A group in Nova Scotia, Canada set up an OCD information booth and PeaceLove Studios held a Paint4Peace activity in Rhode Island. Karen Charles obtained grant money for the purchase of 70 children's books about OCD and distributed these books to public libraries and elementary schools in Delaware (click here to read an article about more of Karen's efforts to raise awareness of OCD in the classroom).

We generated 300 additional Facebook fans due to individuals donating their status updates, and individuals sent in “Letters to the Editor” that were printed in their local newspapers. OCD Awareness Week was also featured in and on New England Cable News. Overall, groups in 13 different states hosted activities during the week. We wanted to thank all of you who organized and attended these events!

The week ended with a live, internet broadcast of OCD Stories. The evening was introduced by Dr. Jeff Szymanski, Executive Director of the International OCD Foundation. He began the evening by reading a letter from former first lady Rosalynn Carter:

Click here to read the letter.

We want to thank Mrs. Carter for her tireless efforts on behalf of all of those affected by mental illness!

Dr. Szymanski then introduced the host for the rest of the evening - Board President, Diane Davey. Diane has been involved with the International OCD Foundation for the last 12 years, currently as the Board President. Diane is also the Program Director at McLean Hospital's OCD Institute. In fact, this event was held at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts and we'd like to thank everyone at McLean Hospital for their collaboration and generosity and helping us with this event.

The idea for a story telling event came in conversation with our public relations firm – Teak Media – it was their idea to have an evening of story telling: about the experience of having, living with and treating OCD. In particular, we wanted to tell stories about the struggle with OCD and the ability to turn that struggle into perseverance, hope and inspiration.

The first story teller of the night was Dr. Fugen Neziroglu. Dr. Neziroglu is the president of the newly formed OCD New York Affiliate and is on the Speakers Bureau and the Scientific Advisory Board of the International OCD Foundation. In addition, she is the clinical director of Bio-Behavioral Institute in Great Neck, New York and professor at Hofstra and New York University. She has published over 125 articles in scientific journals and 12 books on obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders. Dr. Neziroglu is a pioneer in the treatment of OCD and her story was told via video streaming live from an event in New York where she had been hosting an all-day conference (see link at bottom of page for more details on this event). The title of Dr. Neziroglu's story was: "OCD: The Beginning", in which she took the audience back to the 1970's and what it was like to be a researcher and therapist in the field of OCD at the time. We have come a long way!

Back in Boston, Diane Davey introduced the next story teller of the evening, Jeff Bell. Jeff is an IOCDF Board member and National Spokesperson, as well as a 20-year veteran radio and television news reporter. Jeff currently co-anchors afternoons at KCBS Radio, the CBS network's San Francisco flagship station. He is the author of two books about living with OCD and contributes to a Psychology Today blog about OCD. The title of Jeff's story was: "Hit And Run", which depicted some of Jeff''s struggles with OCD symptoms and the difficult process of treatment.

Jeff was followed by Jared Kant. Diagnosed with OCD at age 11, Jared experienced many of the most excruciating manifestations of this illness: dread of deadly germs and diseases, intrusive harming fears, scrupulosity, the unrelenting need to count and check things and a persistent, nagging doubt that overshadowed every aspect of his life. With help through the Foundation and treatment, Jared learned to beat OCD. Currently, he is a graduate student at Simmons College working toward his Masters in Social Work and is part of the IOCDF's Speakers Bureau. The title of Jared's story: "Never Worry" took us back to some of Jared's darkest days when having someone still believe in him was one of the few things he could still hang onto.

Jeffrey Sparr was the next speaker. Jeffrey has suffered much of his life with OCD, first experiencing symptoms in college. He began treatment, started a family and launched a successful career, all while waging a daily war against OCD. Looking for an outlet to cope with this disorder, Jeff turned to painting, quickly discovering that painting helped him gain a sense of control and peace of mind. In Jeffrey's story entitled: "Create Peace of Mind" he told us about how he founded PeaceLove Studios and a workshop series, Paint4Peace, to help others find what brings them peace in facing their own challenges.

Next, was a story from Marilyn Luchini about her son’s life long struggle with OCD entitled: "Losing Michael". Marilyn talked about her battle with OCD from the outside. Her son suffered for years with OCD, and Marilyn and her husband Steve did everything they could to help him fight OCD while also raising two other children. In 2009, an accident, unrelated to his OCD, claimed the life of Michael Luchini. Marilyn has continued her fight against OCD. Her family volunteered at the IOCDF conference and continues working in their son's honor to help others find treatment and overcome this disorder.

The last speaker from Boston was Dr. Michael Jenike. Dr. Jenike is the medical director of the OCD Institute at McLean Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Involved with the IOCDF since 1995, Dr. Jenike is the chair of the Scientific Advisory Board and a member of the Board of Directors. With over 250 published articles and a dozen books on OCD, Dr. Jenike is a pioneer and leader in the OCD community. Many know of Dr. Jenike's famous house calls. On this night he told us of an international house call in which he helped a woman fight back against her OCD in a story titled: "An OCD Adventure in Portugal".

Our final story teller of the evening came from Rogers Memorial Hospital. Kristen Love can remember her OCD symptoms from age 15, when she began to feel the need to have things be "just right" and battled checking rituals. Things got worse when she remembers waking up one day and being "obsessed with everything." After appearing on the VH1 Reality Show The OCD Project, Kristen received intensive treatment at the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin, which she credits helping her regain her free spirit. While still fighting against the cycle of OCD, Kristen hopes to inspire others by sharing her story: "Fighting for my Free Spirit".

“Viewing parties” were held in 9 states nation-wide and we tracked almost 500 unique hits to the live video streaming of the event. In Boston, it was standing room only as 175 people showed up to see many of the stories told live. A newly forming OCD Texas affiliate used this as their “kick off” event attracting 75 people to their event. Rogers Memorial Hospital merged their annual Gala event with our broadcast and we watched Kristen Love tell her story from Wisconsin along with 400 attendees gathered at the hospital that night.

We want to thank our story-tellers for doing such an amazing job of communicating the pain, perseverance, and hope that is associated with OCD. We have been getting feedback daily about how moved and inspired viewers were by each of these individuals’ stories.

Below are detailed accounts from viewings across the United States.