I recently performed at a Montana high school and was amazed by the experience. There were nearly 600 students in the audience in addition to staff and teachers. I’ve never had a more attentive audience; they were totally in tune with every word I spoke and every song I sang. Their school counselor messaged me the next day saying, “We have had a flood of students coming into our office telling us that ‘if Jason DeShaw can talk about his depression, then I can talk about mine.’ These were kids reaching out for help that no one knew was suffering.” We are all in this together. We all play a part. I am so blessed to play mine.
From the cotton fields of Georgia to the San Francisco bay, I have met with some amazing people this year. I sang and spoke for inpatients on forensic lock-down units, high school students in Canada, and veterans in the South. We are all in this together, trying to find our way home. I strive to humanize mental illness and addiction, because we must replace fear with understanding. When the human connection is made, everything good is possible. When we touch hearts, the mind follows.
I write this from a coffee shop alongside the road that never ends. The Montana Serenity in the Storm tour kept getting extended with more towns and cities, keeping me out on the road for three months. What an amazing experience it all has been. From the kids on the Hi-Line saying they didn’t know there was hope before I came and that they no longer felt alone, to the sponsors who said they could not have been happier. So many special moments came together to form a momentum of goodness. An amazing chapter in my life that I will never forget. And, it is just beginning.
This tour is off to an amazing start, having performed in Butte, Great Falls, Fort Benton, Havre, and Malta, Montana. As I’ve sang and spoke in these places, I am reminded of the connection that we all share. We all hurt, to varying degrees. There is much pain in this world, oftentimes wrapped ’round in fear. But light can pierce any darkness if compassion opens the door. Every human being, no matter who they are, needs an ounce of hope to remain and flourish in this world. Hope is the great translator between human beings, and we get it from one another. I am exhausted right now following 3 events in 3 days, but I rest easy knowing that the more we say the words mental illness, bipolar disorder, and alcoholism, the more we humanize them. And when the world realizes that mental illness is an issue of humanity, we will enter the era of understanding. And with that comes love.
I am embarking on a 10-city tour across Montana this spring. I want to give people hope and let them know they’re not alone with mental illness and addiction. My presentation, Serenity in the Storm, combines my story of recovery with songs of hope. I will also be presenting in schools along the way. This tour is presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and The Center for Mental Health Research & Recovery at Montana State University. For performance details, visit the “Tour Dates” tab on this website or Facebook. I hope to see you at one of the events.
On March 30th I was honored to speak and sing at Napa State Hospital, one of California’s state psychiatric hospitals. I performed on the forensic lock-down unit, and was asked in advance if the patient band could join me for the final song. Of course my answer was yes, and together we sang Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” to an audience that loved every minute of it. The band was awesome. Then the whole crowd sang me happy birthday and gave me flowers. It was very touching, and yet another reminder of why I do this. I try to bring people hope and let them know they’re not alone, but they in turn grant me this gift. My sincere thanks to the wonderful staff at Napa and to those who worked hard to make this happen.
I will be doing a 10-City Tour across Montana this spring, sharing my story of recovery and songs of hope. It will take place in the last half of April and into early May. More details to follow soon as we will announce the tour stops and sponsors.
We recently had an amazing event with 700 audience members. Entitled “The Experience & Science of Mental Illness”, the event was in Bozeman, Montana. I sang and spoke about my experience with mental illness and a great man, Dr. Matt Byerly, spoke about advancements in science surrounding mental illness. The event was presented by The Center for Mental Health Research & Recovery at Montana State University. I am very excited about the Center as it is bringing research and recovery options to Montana. When we give people options, we give people hope. I am just glad to be a part of all of this goodness.
I just accepted the Lionel Aldridge Champions Award from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). I have to say that this honor and the evening spent speaking and singing for NAMI’s National Convention has been the best night of my life. It is hard to find the words to express how honored and happy I felt. I know in my heart that this is just the beginning. Thank you to the audience for being so amazing. I love you all.
I am honored to be receiving the Lionel Aldridge Champions Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I could not be happier or feel more blessed and consider this to be great encouragement in my endeavors to share my story and songs of hope. Here is the news release on the award:
Montana’s own country singer Jason DeShaw has been selected to receive NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Lionel Aldridge Champions Award. This award recognizes an individual living with a mental illness who has exhibited courage, leadership, and service on behalf of all people living with mental illness. In selecting DeShaw for this award, the NAMI Board recognizes him for his efforts to be a voice for those who struggle with mental illness. DeShaw will receive the Champions Award at the 2014 NAMI National Convention this September in Washington, D.C. where he will perform for the attendees. Vice President Joe Biden will also be receiving an award that night.
Thank you for being in my corner and inspiring me to keep rolling.