Zak Sandler, a GDS lifer, is breaking new ground: he is a mental health advocate with a musical twist. In line with GDS's values of social justice and serving the greater good, Zak is openly sharing his journey with bipolar disorder, in order to inspire people with mental conditions to speak out, and to create an environment where we approach mental health from a place of love, not fear. After just two years in the mental health community, Zak has won the New York State Young Leader Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization. He has also spoken at NAMI's National Convention (attended by over 1,000 people), and is a presenter for their In Our Own Voice program. He is about to receive training from The Moth (podcast downloaded over 50 million times a year) to join the Storyteller program at the JED Foundation, a nationwide organization focused on suicide prevention among students.
Zak's "musical twist" comes from his creative projects. His original musical, INSIDE MY HEAD, tells the story of a young man learning to work with his bipolar, and was produced by NY Theatre Barn. His docu-series, INSANELY TALENTED, explores the link between creativity and mental conditions among both celebrity and up-and-coming artists, and is being considered by a major up-and-coming distributor. And his song, "I Am Me", which asserts that he is not an "illness" or a "disorder", but rather, himself, was performed with This Is My Brave, an organization that produces mental health concerts worldwide and has designated Zak as a Featured Speaker.