Lauren Panobianco watched her brother battle mental illness for ten years. Despite his brave fight, Frank succumbed to the disease and took his own life in 2009. He was just 24. Lauren’s world was shattered. She went from spending weekends with her beloved younger brother to planning his funeral. As she struggled through the overwhelming grief, little did she know that Frank’s suffering would become a lifeline for others.
Lauren, who runs The Linkage Center, a homeless shelter on Long Island, tells WYSK, “The first year was a challenge, to say the least, but once I decided I could not let the loss end my life too, everything changed.”
That pivotal moment came in the most unlikely place… during a work conference. The guest speaker was a woman who had written a memoir about her struggle growing up homeless. Hearing this woman’s story inspired Lauren to pick up her own computer, put her thoughts down about Frank, and see where it would take her. She says, “I had no idea it would lead to a published book.” But, three years later, it did and it was the light that would guide her out of her own darkness and Frank’s disease out of the shadows.
“Now that he’s gone, I need to continue his fight and help raise awareness of an illness that most often remains in the dark.”
Lauren’s poignant memoir, Until We Meet Again – Battling Mental Illness and Suicide: A True Story of Loss and Survival was published in May of 2013 by Hidden Thoughts Press. In it, she candidly recounts Frank’s struggle, determined to not let her brother’s death be in vain. She also takes the reader through her personal triumph over tragedy journey, on a mission to encourage countless others who are touched by the devastating daily effects of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, often in silence.
In speaking about how the book’s purpose evolved through the process of writing it, Lauren shared with us, “My initial purpose of writing this story was to deal with my brother’s loss. Once I discovered there was a chance my story could be published, my agenda changed completely. This knowledge pushed me to complete my story in hopes to reach out to those who are still battling this horrible disease and provide them with the comfort of knowing they are not alone.”
Lauren knows her goal has already been accomplished, even on a small level. She says, “I received emails and Facebook messages from so many who related to my story and thanked me for being brave and sharing it with others. Old high school friends, colleagues, friends of friends and even family members, who never disclosed they had an illness, reached out and thanked me.” Lauren added, “The 10 or so messages I received made the three years I worked on this memoir worth every minute. I only hope I can reach out to more people in need.”
About The Author
Woman You Should Know Lauren Panobianco obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Adelphi University in Garden City. She has worked for Family Service League, a not-for-profit human services agency located in Suffolk County, New York, for the past ten years. In 2008, she was promoted to the Program Director of FSL’s The Linkage Center, which offers overnight accommodations for individuals who find themselves homeless on any given night. The vast majority of clients serviced are chronically homeless and suffer from one or more debilitating diseases, including severe and persistent mental illness.
After her brother’s passing in 2009, Lauren founded the Annual Frank S. Panobianco Benefit to Raise Awareness of Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention. In 2010, she received Family Service League Leadership’s Award for consistently demonstrating a commitment to excellence, exceptional leadership abilities and a positive attitude.