Breaking the Silence 2016 features
Actor and Comedian Tom Arnold

There was plenty of laughter to go with the serious topic of mental illness and addiction at the 2016 Breaking the Silence event.  This year’s program featured actor and comedian Tom Arnold of True Lies and Rosanne fame.  Speaking to a near record audience of 700 at the Holland Performing Arts Center on October 6th, Arnold spoke poignantly of the loss of his nephew to suicide earlier this year, as well as the friendship and common struggle with depression that he had shared with fellow comedian Robin Williams. 

Born and raised in Iowa, Arnold praised the values of hard work and perseverance that he gained while being raised by his father, while also recognizing that these same values often keep Midwesterners from seeking out help for themselves. “We are the kind of people that keep things secret and shameful,” he said. “Mental illness and suicide are things we don’t talk about.” His battle with alcohol and drugs, he said, were his answers to depression.

In between personal anecdotes and humorous stories, Arnold cited the need for more awareness and more education on mental illness and addiction. During the Q & A session, a young veteran who had seen Arnold’s USO show while deployed in Afghanistan told Tom how much his performance brought relief and much needed laughter to him and fellow troops. In response, Arnold spoke forcefully about the need for mental health and addiction services for all veterans and called upon elected officials to provide much needed additional mental health services for all citizens.

In speaking to over 250 clients earlier in the day, Arnold praised these individuals strength and resiliency as well as the staff and resources at Community Alliance. “You guys being here is the biggest step of all,” he said to the clients. “There’s nothing braver than saying ‘I need help.’ ”

Even though in recovery for more than 16 years, Arnold acknowledged that overcoming mental illness and addiction is an ongoing challenge for everyone. He said he still works every day to stay sober and keep himself from falling into an isolating depression.

Attendees at the Holland were welcomed by honorary chairs Ken and Ann Stinson, who spoke of the importance of ‘Breaking the Silence’ about mental illness and the work of Community Alliance. Carole Boye, Community Alliance’s chief executive officer served as emcee and took to the podium to note the agency’s 35th anniversary, including progress made and milestones yet to be achieved.

The many sponsors and supporters of this year’s program led to a record amount raised in support of Community Alliance’s services and ongoing educational efforts. Community Alliance expresses its sincere thanks to all who contributed of their time, talents, and financial support to making Breaking the Silence 2016 such a success and through it, helping individuals with mental illness to overcome the stigma, and live, work, learn and contribute within our communities.