End the Silence

Yesterday morning I attended a NAMI Ending the Silence presentation at an Orange County high school. I hope to soon train to become an Ending the Silence presenter for my local NAMI Orange County chapter. Since I’m running on empty, here I simply quote verbatim (yes, once again, I just copied and pasted the content) NAMI’s Ending the Silence home page (www.nami.org/ets/):

NAMI Ending the Silence

Helping middle and high schoolers understand mental illness makes a big difference. We can teach them about the warning signs for themselves and their friends. NAMI Ending the Silence helps raise awareness and change perceptions around mental health conditions.

Through this free classroom presentation, students get to see the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the 50-minute presentation, a young adult living with mental illness and a family member tell their stories about mental health challenges, including what hurt and what helped.

Why Ending the Silence Matters

  • 1 in 5 kids experiences a mental health condition; only 20% of them actually get help
  • About 50% of students ages 14+ with a mental health condition will drop out of school
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds
  • The earlier the better: early identification and intervention provides better outcomes

What Your Students Get

Moving stories from positive role models have the power to change kids’ views. The discussion gives students the rare opportunity to ask questions about mental health challenges to people who have lived it. The presentation’s message of empathy and hope encourages students to actively care for themselves and their friends. It also teaches them it’s okay to talk about what they’re feeling. NAMI Ending the Silence covers:

  • Early warning signs
  • Facts and statistics about youth and mental health conditions
  • When, where and how to get help for themselves or their friends
  • When it’s not okay to keep a secret

What People are Saying

“I’m really grateful and glad that you talked to us. I often feel very alone or weird because many kids my age don’t understand. But, now I’m sure they would be more supportive of me.” -Student

“It is amazing what just one day, one talk can do. You never really know what’s going on in the brain of any particular student.” -Teacher

Schedule an Ending the Silence Presentation

If you would like to host a NAMI Ending the Silence presentation at your school, contact your local NAMI. If the presentation isn’t already available, ask to bring it to your community.

Eric Arauz

Eric Arauz How Written and Oral Storytelling Saved MY Life 2-12-14 8.58 AM from International Bipolar Foundation on Vimeo.

Sunday I was particularly impressed by Eric Arauz‘s presentation on Conscious Storytelling. He gave us each a copy of his autobiography, An American’s Resurrection: My Pilgrimage from Child Abuse and Mental Illness to Salvation, which I am enjoying reading. The first thing I did once I grabbed a copy of his book was to check out his End Notes and his Arauzian Original Concepts. I was impressed and immediately knew I was going to like a guy who referenced Hesse, St. Augustine, Camus and Emerson among other great minds. This guy is an intellectual powerhouse. As I’ve been reading his book, I’ve been most impressed by the quality of his writing. For those of you who love well-crafted story-telling with an intellectual punch, read his book.

An American's Resurrection

IBPF Consumer Track Meeting

Yesterday I attended the IBPF (International Bipolar Foundation) Annual West Coast Meeting – Consumer Track. The one-day consumer track meeting covered quite a bit which I outline here, providing links to more information.


David J. Miklowitz, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University

Coping with Bipolar Disorder: Eight Practical Strategies for Enhancing Wellness

The 8 Self-Care Principles

  1. Monitor your moods daily/know your early warning signs
  2. Recognize and manage stress triggers
  3. Stabilize your sleep/wake rhythms
  4. Know your position on medications
  5. Develop a mania prevention plan
  6. Work on communication with your family/partner
  7. Obtain reasonable accommodations at work or school
  8. Get regular therapy or join a support group

Eric Arauz, MLER

Adjunct Faculty Instructor, Rutgers/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Psychiatry.

Conscious Storytelling: Integrating somatic, cognitive, and emotional lucidity in oral storytelling as a recovery tool for serious mental illness, trauma, addiction, and suicidality.

  • Trauma-Informed Recovery
    1. Trauma-Informed Storytelling
    2. Relational Reconstruction
  • Fluencies of Self: Physiological, Cognitive, Spiritual, Social, and Emotional
  • Narrative Identity Processing: “…well-being is associated with the capacity to construct a coherently structured story about a difficult experience.” (Pals, J. L. (2006), Narrative Identity Processing of Difficult Life Experiences: Pathways of Personality Development and Positive Self-Transformation in Adulthood. Journal of Personality, 74: 1079–1110. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00403.x)
  • Read, Write, Speak
  • Polyvagal Theory: TherapeuticDyad
    • Autonomic Nervous System
    • Social Engagement System
    • Neuroception: Pro-social, Fight or Flight, Freezing/Imminent Death
    • Interventions: Heart to Face, Heart to Voice, Heart to Eyes
    • (Porges, SW, The polyvagal theory: phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 2001 Oct; 42(2):123-46.)
  • Conscious Storytelling — Speak — “What is Shareable is Bearable.” (Dan Siegel, MD, author of Mindsight)

Genevieve GreenLynn Hart Muto

A Perspective from a Patient and Caregiver

Genevieve Green, 20-year-old mental health activist and public speaker, and Lynn Hart Muto, IBPF Board Secretary and one of IBPF’s founders, gave their perspectives as consumer and caregiver and answered questions.


Maricela Estrada

Hope: The Beginning of my Beautiful Life

Maricela Estrada has written Bipolar Girl: My Psychotic Self, is publishing Beautiful Bipolar Bisexual, and blogs at mentalhealthinspiration.blogspot.com. She was a patient of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health for ten years. Now she works as a Medical Case Worker helping patients with Prevention and Early Intervention.

Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Access Line (24/7): 1 (800) 854-7771

Milestones of Recovery Scale (MORS): Mental health recovery is non-linear.


Thomas S. Jensen, MD

Medical Director of IBPF and psychiatrist in private practice in San Diego. He specializes in general and neuropsychiatry treating children, adolescents and adults, but is especially esteemed for his work with patients with bipolar disorder.

Medication Treatment: A 4-Phased Approach

  • Phase 1: Rapidly stabilize mania or mixed state to help assure safety
  • Phase 2: Introduce agents that dampen cycles and lengthen the frequency of cycles, rather than just dampening the mania
  • Phase 3: Address residual depression
  • Phase 4: Address coexisting conditions

Dr. Jennifer Bahr, ND

Dr. Jennifer Bahr is a licensed naturopathic doctor who specializes in natural treatments for mental illness and endocrine disorders. For more information about her practice in San Diego, visit drjenniferbahr.com.

Healthy Living: A Natural Approach to Living Well with Bipolar Disorder

Focus on Right/Healthful Decisions

  • CBT/Mindfulness
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Support
  • Resilience is Health

Acceptance – Not perfect all the time


Jake Roberts and Kayte Roberts

All in the Family: Overcoming Addiction and Bipolar Disorder Together

Panel discussion led by siblings Jake Roberts and Kayte Roberts addressed addiction and recovery from addiction, co-occurrence of mental illness and addiction, and genetic roots of addiction and mental illness.

Choices, Choices

Peering over my glasses as I ponder my choices
Peering over my glasses as I ponder my choices

 

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the proper forum to be weighing pros and cons of volunteer opportunities. So far I’ve shadowed two MHA (Mental Health Association of Orange County) Hearing Advocates to three different hospitals over two Fridays. Last Friday I was sick, and the Hearing Advocate I had hoped to shadow never called.

(I’m using the term patient, not consumer, in this post since I’m talking about hospitals. I consider myself both a consumer of mental health services and a patient of my mental health providers.)

The hospital nearest my home also happens to be the nicest of the three at which I trained. I mean, how many hospital psych wards have ocean views? I do not know if the program is as good as it was a decade ago when I was voluntarily admitted. I was inpatient for two weeks and partially hospitalized for a few months until the program got repetitive. Back then the hospital was under different ownership and their program was highly respected and highly structured. Patients were not allowed to mill about and loiter. You were in group, actively participating, or you were to stay in your room. During breaks and in the evening, we could enjoy the break room, watch TV, and “walk the circuit” since the bedrooms were arranged in a semi-circle with offices in the center. The layout enabled fluid movement, as opposed to walking up and down halls with locked doors at either end, which results in rather unsettling and caged pacing.

I do not know the details of the programs at the three hospitals where I trained. I do know that I felt uncomfortable at the two I visited on my last Friday of shadowing. Patients seemed like they were wandering about without much structure. Perhaps it was too close to lunch time, but many of the patients seemed either too symptomatic or unresponsive to participate in structured group activities. I sensed that at any time, someone could go off and chaos would ensue. (Actually, I witnessed chaos at both hospitals in response to decisions made by the Hearing Officer. Decisions that were clearly well-founded.) Needless to say, I didn’t feel particularly safe, nor did I feel welcome. There, I said it. A couple of patients saw us as part of the system that “imprisoned” them. Honestly, I was at a loss. The Hearing Officer does not want to release someone if they might turn around and kill themselves or hurt someone else. The decisions Hearing Officers make are difficult. They must balance the right to personal freedom against the need to protect. When we (those of us living with serious mental illness) are dangerously symptomatic, we cannot think clearly, and we do not always behave in our best interest, or in the best interest of others.

My other volunteer options rest with NAMI Orange County where I interviewed this morning. They have several volunteer opportunities I may enjoy and for which I may be well suited. I could be trained to be a Peer teacher for their Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course. I could be trained to be an In Our Own Voice speaker. I could volunteer at special events by sitting at their table, handing out information, and answering questions. I could even volunteer in their office doing clerical work. I would NOT do all of these activities. That would be WAY too much. Both the Peer-to-Peer Recovery Educator and In Our Own Voice public speaking require training, which I greatly appreciate and need. I am impressed with NAMI’s structured training programs.

I NEED structure. Perceived risk of chaos and danger trigger me. I do not need that in my life. In writing this, I’m pretty sure I have made up my mind. I cannot handle being a Hearing Advocate right now. Truth be told, I respect people who are highly motivated to seek treatment and am at a loss about how to best help those with serious mental illnesses (brain disorders) who refuse help, whether due to their symptoms, or because they reject the medical model outright. I do understand not wanting to stay in a hospital in which your personal freedom is severely limited and in which you feel punished rather than healed. I am 100% behind improving our mental health system, including making psychiatric hospitals hospitable, healing and safe for patients, their visitors, their advocates, and their mental health providers.