by Kevin Elliott04/01/2014 - Elizabeth Guz's middle child, Michael, would have been 22 years old in March.
"He had been anxious and depressed for a long time," Guz said. "I knew something was wrong, and it became worse as an adolescent. He had been to a therapist and psychologist, and it was very frustrating. He started self-medicating, and ended up overdosing."
Michael was only 17, just finishing his junior year at Groves High School, when years of struggle with bipolar disorder came to an end in 2009. Later that year, the Guz family formed the Michael Guz Memorial Fund at the University of Michigan Depression Center, as well as Ella Designs Jewelry. The jewelry business works with her son's fund, donating half of the profits and all donations to the fund to the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund.
"I felt I had a choice," Guz said about moving forward and transforming her grief into something more positive. "I talked with others who lost children. I realized I can't change the past, but I can change the future and how I handle this. I wanted to make a decision for my kids to overcome this, and to take a more proactive approach.
"I started looking into charities, and found Prechter, and it was perfect for us. My mother in-law suffered from mental illness, so there is a genetic link in the family. I wanted to prevent it from happening to my other children, and grandchildren."
The goal of the fund is to find genetic solutions for individuals with bipolar disorder and help them live better lives. Bipolar disorder is a medical condition caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and marked by significant changes in mood, thought, energy and behavior.
The Michael Guz Memorial Fund has generated about $70,000 in gifts to support bipolar research. Last year, Guz donated $25,000 to the fund, which was generated from the jewelry business she and her daughter started.
"I look for things that I like, and then I usually try to find pendants or something and put my own twist on it," Guz said of the jewelry designs. "There are different chains on things, and beautiful magnetic clasps that can be attached. It's very versatile, like modular jewelry"
The pieces, which will soon be available online at www.elladesignsjewelry.com, run between $35 and $295. Guz sells the pieces at various shows throughout the year, and they are available by contacting Guz directly through information at the website.
"I wanted it to be affordable and fun," she said. "Something people can add onto. I want them to be able to buy lots of different pieces."
Guz's work now allows her to honor her son and help others who may be suffering from bipolar disorder themselves or who have loved ones looking for help.
"It's amazing to me when selling at a show, everyone has a story," she said. "People are starting to talk more about it. With more commercials and medications available, people are talking about it more. There's still a stigma, but people are realizing it's a legitimate illness, and I do have hope that there will be more attention given to it.
"The fund is doing amazing things and more groundbreaking research to make treatment more tailored for the individual by testing stem cells and finding what medications will work best. Eventually, I think it will save lives."