Brian Wilson’s lifelong struggle with mental health issues is at the centerpiece of his acclaimed new biopic Love and Mercy. On Thursday, the Beach Boys co-founder announced a partnership with The Campaign To Change Direction to help others people facing similar issues. Wilson appeared at a press conference in New York alongside Love and Mercy actor Paul Dano and director Bill Pohlad to announce details of the partnership.
One of Wilson’s first acts will be to play a November 4th benefit concert at the Hyatt Regency in Tysons, Virginia. The show will raise funds for Give An Hour, a non-profit and lead organization behind the Change Direction campaign that provides free mental health services to veterans.
“The Change Direction Campaign is not about changing stigmas, but about bringing awareness and clarity to the five key signs of mental health suffering,” Wilson said in a statement. “I was blessed to have the love of my life and partner Melinda support me through a very difficult time of my life. Not all Americans are lucky enough to have a Melinda and be surrounded by people that know the signs of mental illness. That’s why the Change Direction campaign is so important.”
Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, the founder and president of Give an Hour, first recognized the potential for Wilson’s story to inspire others when she saw Love and Mercy earlier this year. “You just want to squeeze the Brian Wilson character and hug him and let him know that people care,” she tells Rolling Stone. “There’s a great scene where I almost jumped out of my chair and said, ‘There it is! There it is!’ He’s sitting on the pool deck with his brothers, clearly spiraling, shifting and disappearing from them. One brother said, ‘I’m worried about you, brother.’ That was right, but nobody did anything since they didn’t know what to do.”
Her goal is to show people facing mental health issues, as well as their families, that they now have many options not available to Wilson in the 1960s. “We still are struggling with exactly the same issues that prevented Brian from getting help,” Van Dahlen says. “When they don’t get help, they can begin abusing substances. I would argue that’s what happened with his brother [Dennis]. He died, and history suggests that substance abuse played a big role. That’s why we start upstream. You don’t wait until somebody is drinking themselves into oblivion.”
After seeing the movie, Van Dahlen reached out to Melinda Wilson. “We started talking and crying,” she says. “We both said, ‘We have to work together.'” In the coming months, Brian, Melinda and various Love and Mercy cast members will take active roles in the Campaign To Change Direction. “We’re going to do some PSAs,” says Van Dahlen. “We’re going to screen the movie to various communities, sometimes with cast members present, and there will be additional interviews and articles to promote Brian’s story.”
A big part of the The Campaign To Change Direction involves alerting the public of the five signs that indicate someone is in emotional pain and might need help: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care and hopelessness. “If you’re going to change the culture, you need something that’s easy to identify,” says Van Dahlen. “Those five signs are something everybody can grab onto. Just look at Brian’s story. He lived it. Melinda saw it and she reacted. Now Brian is happy, performing and we’re just thrilled that we can share his story.”