Knowledge is power and empowering
Understanding the problem and carrying out the research is only half of the puzzle. Once a deeper understanding has been established, the next step is to apply these insights to prevent aggression and violence, and education is essential.
Understanding and education reduces the fear of the unknown. When we increase our understanding of the brain, we can educate our parents, teachers, students, law enforcement, and community leaders. The Avielle Foundation is dedicated to creating programs and brain health courses that will educate both youth and adults on the world of brain science. One example of our programs is the Spark Project which aims to foster social and emotional learning, leadership, character building, and compassion skills on a community wide basis. Through Spark, we have sponsored a collaborative flagship project, The Spark After School Program, which develops these qualities and skills in the youth community.
Additionally, the Avielle Foundation hosts “Mental Health First Aid” classes for both youth and adults in the community. Ultimately, we are working to create our own Brain Health First Aid classes to educate and empower individuals of all genders and ages to not fear the invisible world of brain health. We want to promote a level of comfort and understanding with brain illness so the judgement, fear, and stigmas associated with seeking treatment are erased. These brain health courses can then be implemented in schools, educational and administrative development, and law enforcement programs so that the early warning signs do not go unnoticed. Preventing violence begins with understanding its origins and is carried out with education and awareness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Avielle loved all things that glowed, particularly fireflies. She believed their flashing illumination was magic. When we explained to her the chemiluminescent process of the protein luciferase cleaving luciferin to create the firefly glow, Avie responded “Yeah, that’s what I said, it’s magic!” The firefly is a luminary in the dark and we like to think it represents innocence and wonder, the magic in our world. We imagine the research we will foster as pointing a light into the darkest regions of the brain, guiding us toward effective therapies and cures for those afflicted with brain illness.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” We think this particularly applies to scientific research. Any biochemical or pathological pieces of the puzzle that help explain compassionate or violent behaviors are meaningless unless communities are engaged and educated in clear ways, so that the findings can be transformed into action. We not only want to understand violence, we want to prevent it.
We want to change the language from all things “mental” to those of “the brain.” Mental things are invisible and intangible. As a result, they cause a lot of fear and trepidation because they are unknown. We know there are real, physical manifestations within the brain that can be measured, imaged, quantified, and understood that make the invisible…visible. The brain is amazing. But we must remember it is also just an organ and, as such, it is not always healthy. The Avielle Foundation is championing efforts to understand what happens in an unhealthy brain that leads to violent behaviors. When we understand something, we are not afraid of it. Using the term brain health demystifies the invisible and steers us away from labels, fear, and trepidation and towards hope and potential cures. Try it yourself- talk in terms of brain health instead of mental health in your normal conversations. You may soon find it easy to talk about the health of the brain when it is recognized simply as an organ, much like the heart or kidney.
When you imagine people doing scientific research, you likely envision bubbling beakers and white lab coats- and you are right! Our research goal is to search in those bubbling beakers for the biochemical and structural basis for violent behaviors. In the same way that high cholesterol correlates with heart disease, or low serotonin activity ties in with depression, we want to identify the biomarkers that correspond with violent and impulsive behaviors.
You may be surprised to know that the Avielle Foundation does not have its own laboratory facilities. What we have is better, we have an elite science advisory board comprised of the world’s thought leaders in the fields of compassion, psychiatry, neurology, neuroscience, education, ethics, and philosophy. Our Science Advisory Board helps us to identify luminary researchers from around the world who can build bridges between the biochemical, genetic, and environmental causes of brain illnesses that lead to violent or malevolent behaviors. The research we are proposing will be performed in many laboratories around the world, and this will raise the chance of our success and decrease the amount of time it would otherwise take one laboratory working alone to find the answers. The answers will become the platform on which early diagnostics and effective therapies can be developed for those suffering from brain illnesses. This research is an enormous unmet need and your donations are directly funding these efforts.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken [adults]” – Frederick DouglasIt’s never too early! Focusing on the first few years of a child’s life, when the brain is still developing, is one of the best investments the public can make in preventing future violence. Some of these preventive efforts can begin even before the child is born. It’s never too late! Even an adult’s brain can be helped with mild treatment and support.
MYTHS & FACTS
about brain health and illness
Fact: Our personality and behavior are influenced by both our biology (our genetic makeup or our “nature”) AND our environment (how we are “nurtured,” our circumstances). Both our nature and our nurture play a role in our everyday lives, but it’s not the whole story–we still can control our choices in life.
Fact: Every day, new technologies and innovations are developed to understand the brain a bit more. The ability to study the brain and determine why it may not work properly is becoming rapidly more accessible. As we learn more and expand our ability to understand the brain, we can develop medicine and therapies to treat–and even cure–brain health problems.
Fact: Isolating and ignoring people with any type of illness will only make the problem worse–and we will all suffer as a result.
Fact: Most people with brain illness are not violent or a danger to the public. However, brain illness can contribute to impaired judgment and an increased potential for violent behavior. To ignore the link between brain illness and violence can result in more harm than good – by not being aware of the danger and treating aggression or violent behavior, in addition to the brain illness, lives might be lost that could have been saved.
Fact: Violence is a jigsaw puzzle made up of lots of different pieces, both social and biological (Behavioral and biochemical – “tell me about your mother” and “pee in this cup”). We need to piece them together to understand and prevent future violence, to learn how the social pieces interact with the biological pieces to shape violent behavior. We need to research how the pieces fit together. Once we understand, we can then create effective interventions and therapies to help overcome the causes of violent behavior.