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Jennifer Ayers-Moore

Mental Health Advocate
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Biography

Jennifer Ayers-Moore, the founder and chair of the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation and sister to Nathaniel Ayers, the subject of the book and film The Soloist, is a passionate, outspoken advocate for the artistically gifted mentally ill. Her journey began over 30 years ago when her charming, intelligent, talented, and handsome brother, Nathaniel, developed schizophrenia, forcing him to drop out of Juilliard. Ayers-Moore witnessed firsthand the toll mental illness takes on its victims and families.

Ayers-Moore's mother, Floria, never gave up trying to help her son, and Ayers-Moore became her emissary, writing letters and making contact with anyone who would listen to their family's plight. She became her mother's ally, accompanying her when Nathaniel was probated, committed to mental institutions, or admitted to hospitals for treatment. Keeping journal notes, Ayers-Moore documented the pain the family underwent, while continuing to look up to her mother as a role model and visiting Nathaniel religiously.

Ayers-Moore recalls her mother wanting to open a home for the mentally ill and to help other families. For two years, a mentally ill woman whose family had abandoned her lived with the Ayers. Somewhat baffled by her mother's actions, Ayers-Moore asked why she was helping her when they had Nathaniel. Her response was, "I am doing for her what I want someone to do for Nathaniel."

After Ayers-Moore's mother died, Nathaniel disappeared, ending up homeless and on Skid Row. Ayers-Moore never lost hope that she would one day hear from her brother. When she received a call from Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez that he had befriended Nathaniel and wanted to write a series of articles about him, Ayers-Moore was delighted. Eventually, Lopez wrote a book, The Soloist, and a movie bearing the same name was produced.

Not wanting the book and film to come and go, Ayers-Moore founded the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation as the manifestation of her mother's dream. The foundation is establishing an Artist in Residence program, a symposia for mental health consumers and caregivers, and an advocacy initiative to stop the stigma. Consistent with her mother's hope, Ayers-Moore's ultimate goal is to open "Nathaniel's Place" in cities around the nation as havens for the mentally ill, where emphasis is placed on using the arts as a vehicle for treating the individual rather than just the disease.

Topics

Nathaniel’s Place: Assisting Through the Arts

Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness

The Caregiver's Perspective: Family Members with Mental Illnesses

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