Suzanne Edison ’82, ’76 (Antioch University Seattle, MA, and Antioch Yellow Springs & Baltimore, BA in Psychology and Dance) was appointed to the position of Mental Health Coordinator at the Cure JM Foundation. Her responsibilities will include oversight of Cure JM’s Mental Health and Emotional Wellness program. The goals of this new Cure JM program are to assist and provide support and resources to pediatric rheumatology departments across the country to expand mental health counseling and awareness to patients and families.
“Many children and adolescents with juvenile myositis not only struggle with the physical aspects of the disease, but with emotional and mental health aspects brought about by the disease and the side effects of the medicines used to treat it,” says Edison. “Parents of JM children have been very clear that they would welcome more mental health support from their providers as they see their children suffer from anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. My job is to help providers recognize challenges and build mental health services into JM standards of care.”
Edison serves as a member of the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) Mental Health Task Force and has helped to devise consensus treatment protocols for including mental health assessment and treatment pathways for pediatric rheumatology illness diagnosis. CARRA is the professional training and membership organization serving pediatric rheumatologists in the U.S. and around the world.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and families living with a Juvenile Myositis diagnosis,” added Edison. “JM is a rare, autoimmune disease primarily manifesting as skin rashes, and weak muscles, but can target any organ system in the body. Mental and physical health go hand in hand and all my training, both undergraduate and graduate work done at Antioch, was about the body/mind relationship.”
Edison filled many volunteer roles at Cure JM after her daughter was diagnosed with JDM in 2007 at the age of six. She started the coping skills workshops for parents at Cure JM’s annual meetings. She has continued to support parents through Cure JM as the International Family Support Director, the co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Cure JM Chapter, as a former board member and Research Committee co-chair. She was instrumental in initiating the Cure JM Center of Excellence at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was a parent advocate in the clinic, and has continued on the Center’s steering committee.
Edison has a background as a counselor in high school and private practice. Edison’s early work in college and graduate school focused on the body/mind aspects of illness and healing. She has a background in movement education, kinesiology, and movement analysis as well as psychology. In 2016 she completed her MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on illness, trauma and healing.
Edison has published many poems about hers, and other parents’ journeys with a chronically ill child, as well as two chapbooks of poems. The last chapbook, The Body Lives Its Undoing, was funded by three artist grants and produced in collaboration with The Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle.
She has presented her work at The Examined Life Conference in Iowa, at The Mayo Clinic Medical Humanities conference in Arizona, and at the 5th International Health Humanities Conference in Seville, Spain. She is the recipient of a 2019 Hedgebrook Women Writer’s Residency and has a book of poems forthcoming in Spring 2022.