While the stigma around mental health conversations is decreasing, they are still prevalent in many places. This is extremely troubling especially when looking at statistics about our youth population: 1 in 5 youth in the United States experience a mental health condition in a given year, 50% of children ages 8-15 experiencing a mental health condition do not receive treatment, 17% of high school students seriously consider suicide, and 50% of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14.
These numbers alone are enough to strike fear into any parent or educator – this is why we need to continue to fight and crush the stigmas associated with talking about mental health. I always tell parents that their child’s struggles are not a reflection of poor parenting and this is especially true when a parent is questioning if what they are seeing in their child needs more support.
My personal connection to mental health is driven by the loss of my mom to suicide. In her honor, I have coined the term, #MichellesVoice. I speak about mental health, suicide loss, and suicide prevention in the community and with organizations.
“In her role as Vice President of NAMI Bucks County’s Board of Directors, Jamie has created the opportunity for our board members to reflect upon their role in the organization’s mission and help guide them to where they can be the most effective. Her leadership and support of the NAMI Bucks County staff enable the affiliate to expand exponentially to be able to meet the increased demands for support and education in the community. Her role in spearheading a collaboration with her local school district and NAMI Bucks County resulted in a stronger bond with the district as well as valuable resources to parents, youth and the community at large. Her experience, heartfelt compassion, care and authenticity is evident in the work she does with our schools to provide support to our youth.”
– Debbie M., Executive Director
In August 1979, my mom died by suicide. She was 17 years old. She battled addiction and mental illness for a good portion of her young life. I was born when she was 15 years old and she celebrated her “sweet 16” in the hospital while recovering from childbirth. Our family supported her in the best ways that they knew how, but services were virtually not available to them or her. One provider actually said to her parents (in front of my mom) that “she was a lost cause.” The stigmas attached to both addiction and mental illness at that time were profound. Now, over 40 years later, we are still facing stigmas but those walls are being smashed each and every day. I have spent a good portion of my life sharing my story, my mom’s story (#MichellesVoice), and supporting those with mental illness.
Prior to finding NAMI Bucks County, I had a very strong heart pull to do more and didn’t know exactly how to do that. In 2017, I discovered NAMI Bucks County and as I learned more about them, the work that they are doing, I quickly realized that this organization was the exact place I was looking to support. I began my work with NAMI doing some volunteer work making financial donations. In 2018, I joined as a board member and was elected as Board Vice President the following year.
Being part of the NAMI community has changed my life. I am able to speak, advocate and influence the community in positive ways. Talking about my mom’s suicide has helped me to heal a great deal of that pain. And now my work is to be her voice, share her story, and be the advocate that she and many others desperately need.