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.

What I’m Working On Now

NAMI Ending the Silence Program, This is My Brave, Transformed by Postpartum Depression

Last Thursday, I interviewed at NAMI Orange County to participate in two of their programs:

NAMI Ending the Silence

NAMI Ending the Silence is an in-school presentation about mental health designed for high school students. Students can learn about mental illness directly from family members and individuals living with mental illness themselves.

NAMI Provider Education

The NAMI Provider Education Program presents a penetrating, subjective view of family and consumer experiences with serious mental illness to line staff at public agencies who work directly with people with severe and persistent brain disorders.

Saturday January 31st, the next NAMI Orange County Provider Education program begins. I’m taking the course as a provider, even though I have not practiced psychotherapy since I was thirty. Perhaps I will later be trained to be a provider educator myself, if it is not too socially stimulating. Honestly, after my interview, I became hypomanic. Not sure what I can do without triggering symptoms.

Another project I am working on is finishing a 750-word piece for This is My Brave. Thank you, founder Jennifer Marshall who blogs at Bipolar Mom Life. I have writer’s block and finding it difficult to complete.

This is My Brave

This Is My Brave, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, provides a community and platform for people living with mental illness to speak out to end the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

Transformed by Postpartum Depression

Along with many other books I want to read, I REALLY want to finish reading my good friend Walker Karraa, PhD‘s new book Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth.

Transformed by PPD


I am a proud contributor to Walker Karraa, PhD‘s groundbreaking website STIGMAMA.COM. February’s theme is storytelling and fiction. Contact STIGMAMA.COM to submit your piece.

STIGMAMATM provides a nonjudgmental, supportive, creative community for women to speak their truths OUT LOUD, for with the wisdom and support of others we can unpack the stigma of mental difference in motherhood.

NAMI Ending the Silence

Today is the first day of 2015. I’m bundled under covers in my bed typing on my laptop. My husband brought me cornflakes and coffee, so he could watch The Omen downstairs in Spanish. I am a scaredy cat and cannot watch movies with ominous (get it? the Omen, ominous) music tracks, even if I have no idea what’s being said.

NAMI Ending the Silence

NAMI Ending the Silence is an in-school presentation about mental health designed for high school students. Students can learn about mental illness directly from family members and individuals living with mental illness themselves.

Just now I completed the Ending the Silence volunteer application for my local Orange County chapter of NAMI. Pretty in-depth application, so thought I would share my answers with you.

List other NAMI programs you have participated in and your role in the program:

I participated in NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer training as a peer participant or student. Although I have an MA in psychology, an MFT [Marriage and Family Therapist] license, been in therapy since I was 18 years old (over 30 years), have participated in group therapy at South Coast Medical Center’s once excellent program (too bad it no longer exists) ten years ago for two weeks inpatient and months of partial hospitalization, I learned A LOT. I feared that I would feel out of place, but did not. NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer training is excellent and covers much information, perhaps too much information. I wanted to get my hand on the instructors’ manuals so that I could go into greater depth. That’s how impressed I was. The program introduced me to the concept of recovery vis-à-vis mental illness, and gave me hope. HOPE!

Describe any background in education:

MA in psychology (1990) and LMFT (licensed in 1992, though I have not practiced in over twenty years). When I practiced psychotherapy, I worked with severely emotionally disturbed (SED) latency-aged children, pregnant and parenting teens, and severely emotionally disturbed (SED) adolescents in residential (level 14, which is the most restrictive private setting in CA – one step from state hospitalization or CA Youth Authority) and day-treatment. My son is 14. I have experience mothering him and volunteering in his elementary school classrooms.

From my LinkedIn profile:

Seneca Treatment Center, San Leandro, CA
August 1993 – November 1993 (4 months)
Individual, family, group, and milieu psychotherapy of severely emotionally disturbed adolescents in day treatment program.

Berkeley Academy for Youth Development, Berkeley, CA
June 1990 – August 1993 (3 years 3 months)
Individual, family, group, and milieu psychotherapy of severely emotionally disturbed adolescent girls in residential treatment program.

Counselor – Case Manager
Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Project, Family Service Agency of San Francisco
June 1990 – June 1992 (2 years 1 month)
Counseled pregnant and parenting adolescents. Agency liaison to Young Mothers’ Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.

Field Placement
Oakes Children’s Center, San Francisco
September 1989 – June 1990 (10 months)
Individual, family, and milieu psychotherapy of severely emotionally disturbed children in day treatment program.

Administrative Coordinator
La Casa de las Madres, San Francisco
June 1988 – November 1989 (1 year 6 months)
Non-profit administration of battered women’s shelter and counseling center. Crisis intervention. On-call supervision of crisis line and shelter intake.

Why do you want to be an Ending the Silence Presenter?

First of all, as a former high school drama geek, I love getting on stage and speaking in front of an audience. I have a passion for ending stigma surrounding mental illness, educating the public about mental illness, and offering compassion and support to those living with mental illness and their loved ones. Currently I exercise my passion and commitment by mental health blogging at kittomalley.com and prolific social media advocacy and psycho-education on multiple platforms. I am a former psychotherapist. I have lived experience with mental illness, namely bipolar disorder type II.

Ending the Silence is an educational program.  We do not give advice or counsel high school students or their teachers.  Can you refrain from giving advice or suggestions?  We do provide the number for the NAMI Warmline [Orange County, CA: 714-991-6412, NAMI-OC Warmline Online Chat – Click here to enter.], which students and teachers may call for resources for therapists, psychiatrists, treatment, support groups, etc.

Honestly, I could use the practice saying no, as people often turn to me for advice and counsel, and it overwhelms me. That is why I no longer practice psychotherapy. If I ever did return to the profession, I would require distance and clearly delineated boundaries. The distance of being an educator or public speaker rather than providing therapy or even giving casual advice is protective of MY boundaries and enables those in need to get proper care, such as psychiatric care, hospitalization, or psychotherapy.

What does recovery mean to you?

Recovery is a relatively new concept for me, believe it or not. I always thought of it in terms of substance abuse. But NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer course and my involvement in the mental health blogging community this past year and a quarter has opened my eyes to the concept of HOPE. When I first learned that I had bipolar disorder, and not depression, I was devastated. I had internalized shame and stigma attached to that diagnosis. I thought that the only direction my life and my mental health would take was a downward spiral. Not so. Although I must be mindful of my symptoms and adjust my lifestyle to suit my needs, I am still a productive member of society. There are ways of contributing aside from earning an income and climbing some preconceived ladder of success.

For me, recovery means overcoming my own internalized stigma and having hope that I can live well. I can live my life well even though I have a mental illness. I do contribute to society even if I do not earn a handsome salary. I am of value. Recovering means learning how to best live with bipolar disorder.

Recovery means Hope for Now and Hope for the Future.

What are your views on treatment (traditional and/or nontraditional)?

I struggled with the symptoms of depression and cyclical overwork leading to burnout and breakdown for twelve years before turning to a medical doctor for help. In those twelve years, I struggled with my symptoms using psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helped at times, for example cognitive restructuring rescued me from the precipice of suicide when I was 18. Perhaps at other times, it contributed to my depression, digging me in deeper and deeper without a clear way out. Medication in conjunction with psychotherapy helped with my depression, but it wasn’t until I received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder that both my hypomania and my depression were acknowledged and treated properly. I support the use of medication, psychotherapy, and peer support.

I believe in taking care of your body, for the brain is influenced by exercise, sun, nutrition, vitamin D, and omega fatty acids. I believe nontraditional treatments, such as aromatherapy, as adjuncts to medical treatment.  Any nontraditional treatments should be shared with one’s prescribing doctor, for herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are chemicals, too, and can either help or interfere with treatment. I take fish oil, vitamin D, try to exercise regularly, and like the soothing scent of lavender. My son finds that fresh lavender helps him when he is stressed or feeling the symptoms of a migraine coming. [I forgot to mention in my application the usefulness of mindfulness and prayer.]