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Ringing in a New Narrative

Ringing in a New Narrative

Shelly-Farnen-takes-a-selfie-with-the-bell-and-Meg-Wagler-behind-her

A creative approach to increase brain health awareness and access to resources.

Burrell Behavioral Health is a community mental health center with a mission of forming meaningful connections and inspiring hope. Burrell’s outreach efforts fall under three main pillars: accessible care for the public through free, online experiences; a wellness program for Burrell staff and outside organizations; and collaborative community partnerships through the Be Well initiative.

The Be Well Community Movement

Burrell has provided traditional therapies for nearly 50 years, and the Be Well Initiative is an extension of these offerings as a support network for local communities and individuals nationwide via online platforms. This brain health wellness program is led by licensed mental health providers who bring brain science to life through evidence-based practices. 

Burrell gave the Be Well Initiative the “green light” to extend its continuum of care into preventative spaces.

In March of 2020, Shelly Farnan, a doctor of psychology at Burrell, worked with a team of other licensed professionals to create a plan that would help Burrell staff cope with the unknowns of COVID-19. The team quickly realized their plan would be beneficial to communities at large, so Burrell simultaneously launched the program to the public. Farnan says, “We were offering private wellness experiences for our Burrell colleagues, and we were also doing that for an online community that ended up spanning the east and west coast because anyone could join on Facebook.” The Be Well movement has quickly made Burrell a leader in the field of brain health.

The Be Well Bells

Burrell is ringing in a new narrative for brain health by providing resources that foster community connection, spread mental health awareness, and reduce stigma. To achieve this, Burrell has enlisted the help of local artists to create the Be Well Bells. These bells represent communities’, businesses’, and other organizations’ commitment to brain health and wellness. 

But why bells? In the 1950s, people with mental health illnesses were often placed in institutions with inhumane restraints like metal shackles and chains. Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting mental health, requested these institutions send in their shackles and chains to be melted into the very first Mental Health America bell. Farnan explained, “They wanted to signal hope for new treatments . . . so that bell really inspired us because it felt so connected with what we were trying to do with community mental health.”

The Artists

Burrell received a flood of applications from artists wanting to use their gift to promote the mission. However, artists were chosen carefully — Burrell wanted contributors who were personally invested in the mission.

Meg Wagler, an artist from Springfield, was chosen to design one of the first Be Well Bells. She recognizes her connection to the mission, saying “As somebody who has struggled with mental health alongside people who I’ve known and loved in the community . . . to see these rally cries of people supporting each other is super special.” 

Wagler’s art style balances bright colors with black to represent lightness and darkness, and she felt this approach seemed to naturally align with the campaign. “Creating something for this initiative felt really personal,” she says. “I think my style of art is very bright and lighthearted, so I loved lending that optimism to something that’s typically a heavy subject.”

The Be Well Future

The first set of Be Well Bells reside in southwest Missouri. Burrell just selected the first artist from Columbia as part of their expansion into central Missouri and northwest Arkansas. The Burrell community is thrilled with how quickly the program is expanding and hopes that, eventually, the Be Well Bells will be a nationwide movement to offer a creative, accessible approach to brain health.  

Stay up to date with the Be Well Movement on Burrell’s website and Facebook page.

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