Working to erase the stigma of mental illness and help prevent Suicide

Our Story

Newspaper clipping for Joseph J. Laurencelle Memorial Foundation
Joe and His mom

The Holidays are a particularly wonderful time of year for everyone in the world. Agree?

Mike Laurencelle had an idea late in 1994. The best present for the family and friends of Joe Laurencelle wasn’t a plaque or framed photo, but rather he would build a Foundation to support efforts to stem the tide of teen and young adult suicide in Michigan and beyond.  And at Christmas, standing at the basement stairs in the Laurencelle home, Mike announced to the family, ”What happened to Joe, I don’t ever want to happen to anyone else!” And The Jospeh J. Laurencelle Memorial Foundation was created in early 1995.


In the first few years, the Foundation worked with local and regional school districts and organizations to help them get the word out about Mental Illness and Depression and how quickly it can affect young people in our communities. 

Soon after the Foundation began speaking in front of classrooms and civic meetings to share helpful information.  Fundraising also started in 1995 with a Golf Outing in Joe’s name, which would raise funds to further the work of the Foundation.  Currently, the JJLMF Golf Outing is celebrating it’s 30th year in the Foundations’ efforts to raise awareness of our ongoing work. 

Gary holding his sponsorship sign for the Memorial Golf Classic

The Golf Outings and generous support from local businesses helped to grow the organization into one of the most influential resources for the Education community.   As the years passed, Mike brought on key experts including Mickey Cummings and Bob Phillips to assist in the growth and the delivery of the message.  Teen suicide is preventable if you know what to look for and how to help.  These gentlemen spent countless hours in schools presenting the case for Mike’s dream of ending teen suicide.  

“Once we were able to share this vital information with young people and their families and classmates in School, it shed so much light on the effort to erase this stigma and open better doors for communication between everyone involved,” said Mike.  In 2004, Mike engaged many of Metro Detroit’s business leaders to share the JJLMF story at his famous Lobster Dinner fundraising event at the Laurencelle home.  This helped open up a new line of communications with teens and young adults outside of the schools.  The word was spreading. Help was finally getting to young people all over Michigan.

Joe's Mother with supporters

This was Michael Laurencelle’s wish.  His wish for everyone because Joe wasn’t coming back.  No one could ever feel the pressure Joe faced daily. No one was paying attention to the signs of depression and mental illness that so desperately needed to be erased.

Also in 2004, JJLMF produced it’s first of three video Documentary’s to support the work of the Foundation in Schools.  It was shared with audiences across the Country and Canada via Public Television (PBS).  No Ordinary Joe, first premiered on Detroit television in January, then the documentary would continue to air across North America for the next four years.   

Memorial Golf Classic Participants

Mike coined the phrase, “We’re going out to change a lot of Minds” And to this day the Joseph J. Laurencelle Memorial Foundation works tirelessly to promote a better understanding of how and why we all need to help erase this stigma, surrounding Mental Illness.  The direct effect is our efforts can prevent suicide in young people and provide the assistance needed to direct others to the medical and professional help they need to battle this disease.  Over the past 29 years, the Foundation has helped hundreds of schools and teachers with their efforts to share this vital information.   Our efforts have been seen by over 4 million viewers of our television specials and our ‘in school’ programs have reached more than 200,000 teens and young adults since 1998.  Our mission and our focus to this day is to erase the stigma.  It remains our number one challenge. So, by funding programs in schools, communities and sharing our story, we hope to change a lot of minds and help prevent suicide in teens and young adults.  

L to R – The Laurencelle Children. Tim, Charlie, Melissa, Jacqueline, Joe and Paul.

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