BringChange2Mind

September 22, 2010

Community Engagement: How You Can Change a Mind

You may have read my last posts and thought, “I can advocate for myself, I can make a change, but where do I begin?” When I finally reached the point where I felt comfortable enough to step it up a notch I started writing, but as I became more confident in my ability to advocate for myself and share my story I started to use different forms of media and community engagement. Here are some of my favorite ways to reach out to my community and make a change in the mental health world. Don’t feel like you need to do it all at once, or ever, but doing just one thing can be healing for yourself and others.

Spread the Word: Start sharing your story in a bigger way. Blogging, Video-Blogging, Tweeting, or just interacting on a mental heath related social networking site (check out our BC2M Facebook page) can really make an impact. You are not only allowing yourself freedom and honesty, but you are showing others that it is okay to talk about these things. There are some great health blogging websites and communities out there that can help you to spread your story and educate the community. Here are some of my favorites:

· WellSphere: http://www.wellsphere.com/health-blogger

· WEGO Health: http://www.wegohealth.com/

Language surrounding mental health and mental illness can easily become stigmatizing, even unintentionally so be careful about the words you use. For a great guide on language check out these “Quick Tips to Improve Mental Health Reporting” or visit BC2M’s “Watch Your Language” bullet on the “Be Involved” page.

Volunteer: Many mental health websites and organizations are seeking volunteers. My involvement and volunteering with BringChange2Mind has changed my life in so many positive ways. The ability to help an organization that I believe in, the opportunity to share my voice, and the privilege of working with volunteers that I now consider family is healing and empowering. There are so many things you can do as a volunteer whether it is spreading information about an organization, helping as a peer, or responding to emails or help requests. Here are a few organizations with volunteer pages:

· Active Minds often has amazing Internship Opportunities.

· The Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has a great page on Volunteer/Intern Opportunities as well as other ways to help.

· The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) often has volunteer positions in the regional offices in your area. Click this link to visit a map and find an affiliate in your area.

Take Action: It is important that you contact your state and national representatives to make sure that they are on the side of individuals struggling with mental health conditions. By taking action and contacting you representatives you can help organizations that you trust get the support they deserve as well as help change laws that may be harmful to the mental health community. Here are some great websites to help you take action:

These are just a few of the ways you can get involved in the growing movement to change the mental health world for the better. Don’t forget to visit BringChange2Mind’s great “Be Involved” page to learn more!

Next time: Empowerment: How my move from Acceptance to Advocacy has changed my life.

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August 30, 2010

Strength of Us, By Dana Markey

Our newest guest blog focuses on an amazing resource for young adults. Dana Markey, project manager for NAMI’s Strength of Us, is here to tell us all about it…

I am always excited to have the opportunity to write about StrengthofUs.org, a new online community and social networking website for young adults living with a mental health condition. This project is very close to my heart so I’m thrilled to share this valuable resource with the BringChange2Mind.org blog!

I know how valuable it is to find peer support and with that, the comforting knowledge that you are not alone. After an isolating and traumatic childhood, I was lucky enough to go to college where I started up a NAMI on Campus chapter, a student-run, student-led organization that provided mental health support and education to college students.

Through this group, I got to connect with my peers and exchange stories, support and hope with those who could understand. I saw time and time again how just one meaningful connection with a peer could change the course of someone’s life, mine included.

Yet, the reality for far too many young adults, ages 18 to 25, living with a mental health condition is that this kind of peer connection can be hard to come by. College in so many ways saved my life but even then I knew that not all young adults have ready access to a supportive community like a campus—a more universal space was needed where any young adult could access peer support and resources specifically geared toward their needs.

Thus, when NAMI received a grant from the Rodwell Dart Memorial Foundation to create just such a space for young adults, I jumped at the chance to become involved with the project.

As project manager of StrengthofUs.org and a young adult myself, I had the great fortune of meeting many inspiring, candid and empathetic young adults while developing and eventually participating in StrengthofUs.org. As part of this project, we surveyed over 250 young adults on their social networking habits, support needs and resource preferences. We also assembled a wonderful young adult Expert Advisory Group that advised us on all aspects of the project.

Since our launch in March 2010, the website is growing rapidly with young adults opening their lives, minds and hearts to help others by sharing their personal stories, providing mutual support and offering friendship to those in need of a listening ear.

Their stories reflect an amazing amount of resiliency in the face of adversity. One young adult describes how filmmaking saved his life during a time he was battling severe depression, another talks about taking charge of his life after experiencing delusional thinking and paranoia and yet another discusses making it to Harvard after overcoming debilitating Anxiety. These stories are only a snapshot of the amazing young adults who are on the site to offer lessons learned, hope and encouragement to others whose lives have been impacted by a mental health issue in one way or another.

StrengthofUs.org users are connecting with their peers by sharing their personal stories, creativity and helpful resources by:

  • Creating profiles;
  • Writing and responding to blog entries;
  • Posting to “The Wire,” a Twitter-like feature;
  • Engaging in discussion groups and chats;
  • Expressing themselves creatively by posting their original music, poetry, photographs and other artistic endeavors; and
  • Sharing videos, photos and other media.

Young adults can also access relevant resources on and talk about the issues that matter most to them, including:

  • Dating and relationships,
  • Making and keeping friends,
  • Doing well in school,
  • Living independently,
  • Setting and achieving goals,
  • Maintaining weight,
  • Overcoming negative thoughts;
  • Finding strength and happiness; and
  • Much more.

These are issues we all explore in our lives at one time or another, but StrengthofUs.org enables young adults to bond and connect over these topics rather than have to deal with them alone—it’s about strength in numbers so to say.

The over 1,000 talented, compassionate and thoughtful young adults on StrengthofUs.org are just the kind of people most of us hope to meet in our lives. They are quick to offer hope, strength and virtual hugs when others are having a bad day and to celebrate with those having a good day. If there is one thing you can take from StrengthofUs.org, it is that clichéd, yet ever so comforting reminder that you are indeed not alone. I encourage you to join this wonderful community today at StrengthofUs.org.

May 20, 2010

What NAMI Walks Mean to Robin, by Robin Walker

I feel like the majority of my motherhood career has been like pushing sand against waves from the ocean, always leaving my spirit feeling washed up and wiped out. I have put in countless years trying to swoop my son under my wing to protect him from himself, his illness and the residual effects it has had on his life, it has been isolating. Many a night I collapsed in my bed with the feelings of defeat and many a morning I felt as if the very thought of getting out of bed was going to break me. It took that brokenness in me to surrender.

I attended Al-Anon for numerous years and worked the 12 steps of the program. I admitted I was powerless over alcohol – that my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity and I sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, praying only for His knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out. I surrendered. I experienced two alcoholics and their disease in my life, I was broken and then I surrendered.

One would think that if I could grasp the concept and understanding of AA’s 12 steps as a teenager and young adult that I could apply that to anything in my life as I matured, but somehow I lost that understanding, I lost me. I was so busy taking care of my son. I wanted to give him everything I craved as a child; acceptance, unconditional love, a sense of pride. I started at conception, talking to him inside me throughout my pregnancy. Then when he was born I would tell him daily how special and wanted he was. I have never loved anyone more than Korbin and I know never will.

So when mental illness struck I didn’t understand. I couldn’t grasp how “he didn’t feel like anyone would miss him if he wasn’t here tomorrow”. I couldn’t wrap my head around it! I told him, and showed him, how loved he was. I made that my priority in my mothering. When we hit “rock bottom” three and a half years ago it felt like another defeat and I broke….again. Korbin was going to be okay, he would continue to get treatment and gain coping skills, but this didn’t fix my brokenness. I had to claw my way up and out of the pit I was in. I needed to relearn my steps to recover and even then I didn’t feel complete.

My sense of feeling complete came on the weekend of May 8th, 2010, at the Portland, Maine NAMI walk. I had been busy with my volunteering for BC2M and advocating to end the stigma of mental illness. I was coordinating the BC2M walking teams across the USA and I felt good, empowered, and proud to be a part of such a revolutionary campaign. On May 8th I lead one of our BC2M walking teams in Portland Maine and fully grasped what I was a part of. It was the first time in 12 years that I didn’t feel isolated, it was a day I will never forget. There I was with my son in our BC2M t-shirts not feeling shame because of the illness. We were surrounded by people just like us, we were surrounded by our good friends and family. I saw BC2M shirts on others, some with diagnoses. It was so powerful to watch and experience that live. I listened to Jessie and Calen speak and there were tears in my eyes as I watched them….I felt “normal” for the first time since being a mom, I was hearing the same things I was feeling.

The next day at my sister’s house for dinner, on Mother’s Day, I let the last cat out of the bag. We shared with the last of the family, and even in-laws, about our “secret”. It was freeing and I was finally at peace about mental illness in my family. I feel like the NAMI walk weekend was my first pure and authentic step into advocacy, I was an open book, I surrendered and trusted and now I was not only talking the talk but walking the walk, literally and spiritually. I was doing good works with my advocacy before for sure, but to be transparent….that changes it. I am stronger, wiser and free!

I am grateful for this opportunity to be part of the NAMI walks and to coordinate them. I have met some great advocates and feel blessed by that. I feel blessed by the BC2M community, for because of them I am sharing this joy. To have actually experienced my own walk was life changing and rates in my top three greatest experiences of my life. I encourage everyone to join a BC2M team to feel that sense of oneness. It is refreshing and it has made my soul well.

Robin (bottom center), Korbin (bottom left) and some of the BringChange2Mind family

(Robin Walker is one of our beloved volunteers who has been working night and day to bring BC2M NAMI Walk teams to your city. To find a walk near you please visit our BC2M NAMI Walk site. Here you can join teams in your area, learn how to start your own, or donate! We thank you Robin with all of our hearts!)

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