Awareness is key to addressing mental health conditions early and effectively. Here are 12 questions all of us should ask about our mental health. Please share this checklist with your family, friends and colleagues to start the conversation about mental health.
Stories connect and comfort us in our shared struggles, help us know that we are not alone, and give us HOPE to cope, survive and thrive. Personal stories have the power to save lives and create social change. On May 29, 2019, in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, ASHA International is delighted to present the My Story My SUPERPOWER storytelling show to shine a light on mental health & end stigma one story at a time. A diverse group of storytellers will share their journey of courage, hope and resilience to increase public awareness of mental health as an integral part of overall health and well-being. The event will be held at the Intel Hawthorne Farms Auditorium (HF3), 5200 NE Elam Young Pkwy, Hillsboro, OR 97124, from 7 – 9 PM. Admission is FREE. To RSVP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Diane Kaufman, M.D.
Diane is a child psychiatrist, poet, lyricist, and artist passionate about helping people transform trauma into creative resilience. She is an Arnold P. Gold Foundation “humanism in medicine” awardee. Amongst Diane’s many creative works, her story, “Bird That Wants to Fly,” inspired a children’s opera by Michael Raphael, performed by Trilogy: An Opera Company, and narrated by the actor, Danny Glover.
Diane suffered trauma starting at a very young age, and experienced episodes of anxiety, depression, hypomania, mania, and suicidal ideation. She graduated magna cum laude and phi beta kappa from Mount Holyoke College. While attending Downstate Medical Center, Diane attempted suicide and required hospitalization. She went on to complete internship, residencies and fellowship (pediatrics, psychiatry and child psychiatry) at New York University/Bellevue Hospital.
Prior to her moving to Portland, Oregon in 2014, Diane was an outpatient child psychiatrist for twenty-eight years at UMDNJ, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in Newark (now Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences). She was Assistant Professor at New Jersey Medical School and was Medical Director of both Preschool Services and the Crisis Intervention Mobile Outreach Program. Diane secured many grants on behalf of children’s well-being, such as Parents are People Too!, a parenting and child abuse prevention program rated “exemplary” by the Children’s Trust Fund. Diane also initiated UMDNJ’s Poetry in Medicine Day, inspired Creative Arts Healthcare, and developed the Cry of the Heart poetry contest.
Upon her move to Oregon, Diane initially worked as a child psychiatrist at Morrison Child and Family Services in Portland. Since November 2016, she provides child psychiatry care and treatment at Mind Matters, PC in Hillsboro. Diane is the Founder of Arts Medicine for Hope and Healing. For more information, please see www.artsmedicineforhopeandhealing.com Diane serves on the Board of ASHA International, and is an ASHA Storyteller dedicated to changing the culture around mental health in the medical community.
John Boylston, J.D.
John Boylston is an attorney, not in spite of his mental health condition, but potentially because of it. John was not diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Dysthymia until he had already been practicing law for a few years. Upon seeking treatment and learning of his diagnosis, however, John realized that he had been suffering most of his life.
Lawyers are hired to examine every detail, think ten steps ahead, and see potential risks that others might miss. But John realized that he couldn’t “turn it off” when he went home for the day. He was being suffocated by the anxiety. It got so debilitating that he was ready to quit his job and leave everything behind, but he agreed to see a counselor first. After two years of regular therapy and medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Dysthymia, John manages his anxiety, but it is something he will always live with and it still affects his daily life.
Attorneys suffer from mental health conditions at twice the rate of the general public, and as a result experience substance abuse at significantly higher rates as well. It is often hard and complicated for attorneys to address mental health conditions, because there are elements of anxiety that are seen as a good trait in a lawyer. John wants to raise awareness about mental health conditions for attorneys, and other professionals, so that they can learn how to separate themselves from their work while learning healthy habits to combat the excess stress and anxiety that comes with the profession. He is also passionate about encouraging young people who have mental health conditions to still strive for challenging professional careers.
John serves on the Board of ASHA International, and is an ASHA Storyteller dedicated to changing the culture around mental health in the legal community.
Molly Van Der Werf
Molly was born and raised in Portland, OR. After starting high school at a public school there was a huge shift in her life. She didn’t know many people there, and started using drugs and alcohol as a social crutch to make friends. This quickly turned in to substance abuse, and she struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. High school was a hard time for her; she was using every day, skipping class and almost didn’t graduate. At the end of high school, the sudden passing of her father sent her in to a deep depression for years. She went to therapists and psychiatrists in order to get help and be properly medicated, however nothing seemed to work. She continuously struggled to keep a job and spent most of her time sleeping. Things spiraled out of control when she was 22 and had a manic episode. She was delusional with grandiose thoughts and impossible realities. None of the people in her life knew what was going on. She was finally hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. After she was stabilized, she went in to outpatient treatment for mental health recovery and was given proper medication. She has been stable for 5 years now and is proud to say she has not had another manic episode.
Her goal is to educate teens and young adults about mental health and teach them about self-care and the importance of speaking up and seeking help. Many teens and young adults suffer from a mental illness and use drugs and alcohol to cope. This can be so detrimental and even lethal. She wants to break the stigma and bring hope to those who are suffering. There are others ways of coping and healing besides drugs and alcohol. Creating a safe and open dialogue with people is so important. By telling her story she hopes that it will encourage and empower others to feel comfortable to tell their story. There is peace of mind and success out there for those who are suffering. She wants to be the living proof that recovery is possible.
Molly is an ASHA Storyteller dedicated to empowering youth take charge of their mental health and well-being.
Austin joined the United States Marine Corps right after graduating high school. Joining the military was something he wanted to do, but the further into his service he got, the more he struggled. His struggles with depression first began when two of his military friends died.
Austin was raised in a loving family. His mom, dad and brother all helped provide a supportive base for him, and when it became clear his pain was too much, they helped fight to get him home.
While trying to learn how to cope with his mental illness, Austin went back to school and work, taking a job at Pepsi, and then moving onto a different job at Intel. He was commuting long hours from Kelso to Hillsboro, and although he was on a strong path, an unexpected tragedy halted that. Another good friend of his died serving. And, Austin didn’t know how to cope with it. The trauma of the losses, in combination with his depression, became too much.
Austin decided he would take his life on Jan. 9, 2018. Just before 5 o’clock that night, he sent out a tweet. ‘Hey, I need somebody to talk to.” A friend saw his tweet, reached out to him, and then his family. And, ended up saving his life. Now, Austin wants to share his story to help de-stigmatize mental health, and advocate for people reaching out to help each other.
Dave, a 24-year NIKE, Inc. veteran, has served in several leadership roles across sales, merchandising and footwear product creation, including four years with the Jordan Brand and an overseas assignment in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He currently serves as a Global Vice President of Footwear, working in the NSW category on AirMax products.
Before coming to NIKE, Dave spent five years in sports media relations and marketing, including stops at the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Rams. He’s a graduate of the University of Arizona and has taken coursework at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, with a focus on leadership.
Dave and his wife, Tory, have two teenagers at home. In his spare time, Dave enjoys traveling, sports, motorsports, music and movies. He’s involved in mentoring programs at his alma mater and with NIKE, and partners with Tory to elevate mental health awareness, with a focus on young people in the Portland community.
In early 2015, Roule’s founder, Paul, was in an unhealthy place. The previous year he saw the end of his nine-year marriage and lost his best friend since childhood in a car accident on Christmas Eve. He poured himself into his work thinking that the creative outlet and his drive to succeed would sustain him. Instead, he had a minor heart attack according to a blip on an EKG. He was overcome by stress from both life and work and didn’t know how to manage it all. Paul was depressed. He felt hopeless. He just felt done.
After some strong encouragement to get outside and exercise, he decided to dust off his neglected road bike and go for a ride. It was slow and painful. He was embarrassed to realize how unhealthy he had become after being active and athletic his entire life. But he noticed something positive amidst the physical struggles—cycling was helping Paul decompress, clear his mind, and manage his depression.
Added bonus: His physical health rapidly improved in a matter of months.
As when he first learned to ride as a child, Paul was again hooked by the beauty and freedom of cycling. Learn more at https://www.roulecycling.com/
Lilly Glass Akoto, LCSW
Lilly is an enthusiastic hiker, a competitive tabletop gamer, and an unabashed adventurer. As a licensed clinical social worker, she is passionate about helping the hurting find avenues and ways to heal. She believes in the power of the journey and understands it is not the end result that matters as much as the steps taken. She sees the beauty in the most broken and carries a beacon of hope in the darkest seasons.
Her passion comes from the lessons learned in her own story of brokenness to wholeness. As a young, brown, adopted girl growing up in Massachusetts, it was easy to fall in to the lies that “she was different”. Depression was her constant companion for nearly 30 years. Her struggle with lack of confidence, sense of worthlessness and failed suicide attempts came to a welcome end in 2008 when she worked with an EMDR therapist and her life completely changed. Her mind was set free, her heart was restored and she began her walk as a strong, independent and confident woman.
In 2015, her husband of 22 years, passed from cancer. She and her two boys have been on healing journeys since that time. The greatest gift from her loss has been that Lilly found herself and fell in love with whom she found. She now lives her life as an accomplished mental health therapist, avid hiker, passionate dancer, table top gamer, and amazing mom. She loves to share her story because she sees the power it has to help others realize they are not alone. She loves to teach and impart wisdom as it warms her soul to see people transform.
She embraces all that life has to offer as she lives by one simple truth…we are here on this earth, and then one day, we are not! Learn more at http://lilocounseling.com/
Erin San Antonio
As a first generation Filipino-American, Erin understood at a young age what having a mental illness meant when coming from an immigrant family. As a child, you are often taught that mental illnesses are things to be ashamed of. This is why after struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-harm for almost a decade in silence, Erin is choosing to take a stand by sharing her story in the hopes of bringing awareness towards mental health and intergenerational trauma.
By doing so, she hopes to impact others with an emphasis on communities of color, women, and those within her Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, to speak up and reach out for help in order to reframe how people think about mental health and normalize dialogues that encompass the lived experiences of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and trauma.
Adam is currently a PhD student working on getting his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. His research interests are how and why depression begins to emerge, especially within adolescents. Unsurprisingly, his research interests are a direct result of many of the mental health struggles he faced while growing up and into early adulthood. Throughout Adam’s life, Adam has experienced multiple episodes of severe depression and anxiety, but now uses those experiences to help him both as a researcher and a clinician in training.
He is passionate about understanding the causes of depression in order to design interventions that can help prevent people from experiencing mental health disorders before they occur. He is also passionate about helping those around him realize that there is hope for a better life, and they are not alone in their struggles. He also believes that a central component of helping those struggling with mental health issues is being open about the impacts of mental health issues. He hopes that sharing his story will reduces the stigma associated with these disorders and increase the chances that the people that need help the most will realize that there is hope and they can reach out and find it.
From the outside looking in, Natalie had an idyllic childhood. She had an active and busy social life filled with soccer, dance recitals and girl scout meetings. She had a diverse group of friends and a family that loved and supported her. Although she could have been described as shy or introverted, her friends probably thought of her as a “normal”, carefree child. But even at that young age she was experiencing sensory issues, generalized anxiety and OCD.
Her parents helped her in every way they knew and brought her to specialists to help give her the skills she needed to thrive. She persevered, still occasionally scared to face the simplest situations. But by middle school, her anxiety was beginning to play a bigger part in her daily life.
During the fall of eighth grade, when she was 13 years old, she was diagnosed with depression. In the months following, anxiety and depression started to take over her life, making attending school nearly impossible at times. Through the help of family, friends, and her therapist along with medical support, she is thriving as a current high school student. Anxiety and depression are still present in her life, but she hopes to use her story to bring awareness to mental health issues and encourage others to seek help.
By talking about our mental health openly, we can make a huge impact. Join us in shattering the stigma!
Thanks to each and every one of our supporters for joining us at our annual fundraising event to celebrate our impact over the last eleven years, and partner with us as we embark on another exciting year dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and wellness in schools, at work, and in the community. Together, we are giving hope and changing lives.
Photos from the Event
According to the report Count Her In published by the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, nearly half of Oregon’s women and girls have experienced childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect. And, Oregon women have the highest incidence of reported depression in the country. On September 28th, we hosted our first annual Grit & Grace: Multicultural Women’s Mental Health Conference a 1-day innovative program to inspire, educate and empower women to take charge of their mental health and cultivate resilience and well-being.
Featured speakers included U.S. Olympians Suzy Hamilton and Chamique Holdsclaw, performance artist Kristina Wong, visual artist & peer wellness leader Meghan Caughey, award-winning advocates and authors Dior Vargas and Gayathri Ramprasad, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leader Sandra Wilborn, and healthcare professionals Dr. Nicole Cirino, Mari Alexander and Pari Mazhar, and yoga teacher Diana Hulet. To learn more about the conference and speakers, please click here…
275 women and a few brave men, including family members and healthcare professionals joined us in a day filled with love, hope and inspiration.
Here’s feedback from our participants:
“Life changing conference both personally and professionally!”
“It was deeply nourishing to be enriched by this diverse, inspiring circle of women sharing their truth. The Grit & Grace Conference was the best conference I have ever attended.”
“I just wanted to tell you what an amazing experience the conference was. Last week was a really hard week for me and countless other women emotionally due to what’s going on in our nation right now. The Grit & Grace conference was just what I needed to feel empowered and hopeful again. Thank you so much for the amazing work you do with ASHA international! You’re changing the world!”
- Discover the Light Within – Gayathri Ramprasad, MBA, CPS
- How Hormones can Affect Your Mental Health & Wellbeing – Nicole Cirino, M.D.
Photos from the Event
On May 17th, in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, ASHA International was delighted to present Grit & Grace, a storytelling show to shine a light on mental health and end stigma, one story at a time. Ten fearless storytellers shared their journey of courage, hope, and resilience with a packed house of 200 people and were honored with a standing ovation. We salute the Grit & Grace of our storytellers, celebrate their resilience and honor their humanity.
To learn more about ASHA Storytellers, please click here…
Photos from the event
As former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi said, “Life is a continuous process of adjustment. “When my father suddenly passed away nearly twenty years ago, I never thought my privileged happy go lucky life would crash. Gradually, within two years, my mother’s mental state started to decline with clouded decision making, irritability, and her million-dollar-watt smile faded and eventually became non-existent. Hindu Priests manipulated the fact we are Brahmins, and created a paranoia in her delicate mind because they reassured her we did not perform my father’s rituals properly. Their solution was to instill fear at an emotional and financial price. My mom, my best friend, my sister suddenly felt like my enemy because we could not see eye to eye on anything, creating major meltdowns.
It was impossible for me to comprehend what was happening. Was she severely depressed, brainwashed or just losing the plot. It was very challenging for me to confide in people because I was ashamed to air our “dirty laundry” in public or even admit my mom possibly had a mental illness. I wanted to cry for help, but people would say my mom is naïve and delicate like a flower. Fast forward nearly two decades, at the age of 69, my mom has been officially diagnosed with dementia, a disease of the mind. Earlier this year, when I interacted with some Aunties and they inquired about my mom, and I told them about her diagnosis they said… she did it to herself.
The fact is she did not do it to herself, nor does she deserve to go through this journey alone. Dementia particularly vascular dementia does require a medical diagnosis and sadly cannot be cured. For those who are not aware dementia symptoms include: cognitive decline, disorientation, mental confusion, irritability, personality changes, wandering off, hallucinations, etc. There are days when her personality is non-existent, yet there are days when she behaves like a child at Disney World. Believe it or not, there are even days when she can’t even register my brother’s name and calls him by another name, or does not realize that she has three beautiful grandkids. The reality is, we cannot even talk about our papa because she thinks he is not dead, but rather ran off to be with another woman. No, she is not crazy, she has an illness that is slowly eating her brain away.
Just recently, I asked her if she would like to go to Patel Brothers to shop for groceries. The child in her immediately lit up and agreed to join my friend and I. Then suddenly in the parking lot, she became hesitant and withdrawn. She told me to buy the groceries and she will sit in the car because she does not want anyone to see her using a walker. She was terrified someone we know would recognize her, ridicule her for her appearance and dependence using a walker. I reassured her, and told her who cares what the world will say, I am your daughter and no one will say anything to you. She smiled got out of the car and walked the entire store aisle by aisle by herself with her walker.
Our Indian culture is beautiful, and I am proud to be Indian, yet I believe our culture is intolerant especially in regards to mental health issues. As a first generation Indian-American who works full-time, and is a caretaker for my mother, I want to be the guiding light for those reluctant voices who want to seek help, but afraid to. Yes, my life is in a continuous process of adjustment but when I go to bed I can confidently say I am trying my best and I do not care what the world has to say about my mother’s illness.
The author, Usha Tewari, is a first generation Indian-American who works and lives in Orlando, Florida.