Holidays from the Heart Spreads Cheer at UPMC Western Psychiatric

By: Taylor Andres

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital last week welcomed internationally recognized opera performer and artistic director of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Marianne Cornetti, opera singer Kevin Glavin and keyboardist Rob Frankenberry for a holiday concert celebration and gift presentation.

Thanks to a number of donors and sponsors, more than 300 gift bags were given to inpatients at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital as well as several of the residential facilities for patients transitioning to recovery. The bags include gifts like blankets, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, puzzles, stuffed animals, coloring books, crayons and journals.

“It’s really important for our patients to know that they are cared for during the holidays. Obviously, people don’t want to be in the hospital, and certainly not over the holidays,” said Deborah Brodine, president of UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “It’s just as, if not more, important for these patients dealing with a behavioral health issue to know that people in the community are caring about them.”

Last year, Cornetti and friends visited UPMC Western Psychiatric for a similar holiday donation event, where they donated gifts to the children and adolescent units. But over the past year, a larger initiative was formed: the Holidays from the Heart campaign.

Part of UPMC Western Behavioral Health’s Making Minds Matter—a fundraising campaign aimed at improving patient care and supporting employee education— Holidays from the Heart strives to break the stigma surrounding mental illness by encouraging holiday giving for the often-overlooked inpatient psychiatric population.

Kevin Glavin, Will Aikins and Marianne Cornetti at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.

“It’s so heartwarming to see how this has grown, and will continue to grow,” said Cornetti, campaign co-chair of Holidays from the Heart. “The wonderful thing about this whole last year is the people that I’ve been able to meet along the way.”

When Cornetti began her efforts to raise donations for gifts last year, she involved family and friends along the way, including the Aikin family. Unbeknownst to Cornetti, Will Aikins, diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder during college, felt passionate about sharing his personal journey with mental health and his time as an inpatient at UPMC making him a perfect partner and advocate.

Aikins formally joined Cornetti this year as co-chair of the Holidays from the Heart campaign and together they dramatically grew efforts to give back to UPMC Western Psychiatric—a place where he formed bonds with many of those who helped him along his mental health journey.

“My journey with mental health has been a very hard one. I was definitely resistant to treatment and seeking out help,” said Aikins, who is now a peer-support specialist at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. “It wasn’t until I came to Western Psychiatric that I realized recovery was possible and that if I engaged in my care, I could get better. It feels good to be able to give back to an organization that has helped me so much, and let others know they are not alone.”

For further information about Holidays from the Heart, visit UPMC Western Behavioral Health. To learn more about Making Minds Matter, email, or call the hotline at 412-246-6614.