NAMI Smarts for Advocacy is a hands-on advocacy training program that helps people living with mental illness, friends and family transform their passion and lived experience into skillful grassroots advocacy.
Basically, we learned how to turn our story of lived experience with mental illness into a two-minute pitch to ASK for specific change, such as voting for or against a particular piece of legislation, on behalf of those of us with lived mental health experiences.
BREAK & UPDATE
[Had to go pick up my son from school… He made it through two hours… Now back home sick to his stomach, needing to be in close proximity to a bathroom… Even took him to an acupuncturist last week hoping for an answer, a fix… Beginning of June have appointment with pediatric gastroenterologist… Poor kid.]
Here’s my scribbled and scrawled practice sheets:
So, my notes are not exactly neat and tidy. Here’s my transcription of them for those who cannot read them (I know I can’t):
Hello, I’m Kitt O’Malley from Mission Viejo, CA. I’m a member of NAMI Orange County, CA, part of America’s largest grassroots mental health organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I’d like to share my story with you and ask for your support of [ASK – here I would ask for something specific in support of those living with mental illness and their families].
I was an honors biochem student at UCLA when I became suicidal. I had high hopes of someday becoming a neurosurgeon, but had to quit UCLA due to my illness. I still managed to get an education and become an LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) in my 20’s. Over the years I was treated for depression using psychotherapy and antidepressants. My work history during these years was one of many starts and stops, constantly overworking until I again became depressed. Finally, at the age of 39, it became clear that I had bipolar disorder. Still, I tried balancing the demands of coping with bipolar disorder with parenting and working in commercial real estate. By the time I was 41, I was hospitalized for a breakdown.
A combination of medication, supportive psychotherapy, and the support of my family, especially my husband, enabled me to achieve stability. I benefited from excellent hospital and partial hospitalization programs in which group activities offered both structure and peer support.
How I’m Different Today
Today I am an active mental health advocate through my volunteer work with NAMI and through the use of social media, including blogging. I have found purpose in this work, even if I’m no longer making the big bucks.
What is the Need or the Problem?
Far too many people do not receive the treatment that I sought and received.
What Will Help Others
We need public education to fight stigma which keeps people from seeking help, and better day programs and hospital programs for those living with serious mental illness.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me. Can I count on you to [ASK – here I would ask for something specific in support of those living with mental illness and their families]? Thank you.
After this training, four Orange County Mental Health/Behavioral Health Directors gave presentations on the services provided by the county, including those programs made possible through the California Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Then we broke into four groups, each group meeting with one of the four county mental health leaders, and had the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback as stakeholders in mental health services.
Thank you, Mary Hale, Deputy Agency Director Orange County Health Care Agency Behavioral Health Services, Jeffrey Nagel, PhD, Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Coordinator, Anthony Delgado, LCSW, Adult & Older Adult MHSA FSP Programs, and Jason Austin, MA, LMFT, Behavioral Health Services Navigation Administrative Manager.