After 15 years of suffering from paralyzing onsets of anxiety followed by long periods of intense fatigue and apathy, Kristin Kirby was 33 years old when she was finally diagnosed with chronic depressive disorder. She wished that she had known this diagnosis sooner to understand why she felt “different.”
At the time that Kirby began dealing with depression in her teens and twenties, there was a large negative stigma around mental health that left many people to suffer alone without resources or support. Even Kirby’s loving parents were unable to understand her depression and waved off her symptom as a temporary mood or a lack of conviction. “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” they would tell her; unable to understand that there was more to their daughter’s problems than a perceived character flaw. While the negative stigma around mental health still exists today, there are many people who are working to change it, including Kirby, who is a fundholder at the Santa Barbara Foundation.
“My four siblings and I utilize community foundations around the country to help us manage our family foundation’s grantmaking and charitable giving,” said Kirby. “Through the Santa Barbara Foundation, I receive advice and assistance in making grants to organizations that align with my passions, such as in mental health and youth development, and have learned what an incredible joy it is to give.”
In addition to working closely with the Santa Barbara Foundation to offer financial support to her interests, Kirby also serves on the boards of the Mental Wellness Center and Planned Parenthood, which are also organizations the Santa Barbara Foundation has funded through grantmaking. Kirby also works as a facilitator in teen groups as well as the Development Committee with AHA!, which is an educational program that promotes leadership and social and emotional learning among teens. She believes that providing teenagers with the support and necessary tools to deal with the difficult and stressful situations in life means that there is a greater possibility that they will succeed. Kirby’s enthusiasm for advocating for mental health also spans beyond teenagers into other populations, including veterans.
“My father was a veteran and I have many friends who are veterans and I think that it is amazing that an individual chooses to sacrifice themselves to hold up democracy and protect U.S. citizens,” said Kirby. “At the same time, however, I cannot imagine having to see the things that they have had to see in war. While humans are resilient, veterans need a lot of support to overcome trauma and mental health challenges that are elicited in war, which is why I support organizations that work with veteran populations.”
In addition to supporting organizations like Transition House and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, which both work with veteran populations that often struggle with mental wellness, Kirby also recently contributed to the Santa Barbara County Veterans Needs Assessment, which was commissioned by the Santa Barbara Foundation to identify the gaps in veteran services in the county. The unveiling of the report, which was released to the public on November 9, brought veterans and organizations serving veterans from across the Santa Barbara County together to discuss the findings and recommendations.
“The beauty of the Santa Barbara Foundation is that it affords the opportunity for our fund holders, the foundation and other giving partners to leverage their dollars to make incredible things happen together, like the Santa Barbara County Veterans Needs Assessment,” said Lynette Dunn, Director of Development.
With gifts from donors like Kirby, the Santa Barbara Foundation is able to support such a wide range of issues, from leading groundbreaking work in identifying veterans needs to funding organizations who work to address mental wellness, and strengthen vibrant and resilient communities across Santa Barbara County. You can join Kirby and connect to the communities that you care about across the county by setting up a fund with the Santa Barbara Foundation today. For more information about how to set up a fund, please visit our website or contact Jessica Sanchez, Director of Donor Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.