NAMI Queens / Nassau
1983 Marcus Ave. Lake Success, NY 11042 516-326-0791

Amy Lax

Students Nationwide View the New Face of Mental Illness

Lake Success, N.Y. - August, 2004-The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Queens/Nassau (NAMI Q/N) announces the latest edition of “Breaking the Silence; Teaching the Next Generation About Mental Illness” (BTS). These updated versions for upper elementary and high school students include uplifting narratives of inspiring young people who are living successfully with mental illness. Teachers, school administrators and mental health advocates nationwide have praised BTS as innovative teaching tools for educating upper elementary, middle and high school students about brain disorders.

“Each narrative is a realistic account of living with mental illness. High school students will easily connect and identify with the young people in each story,” explains BTS co-author and NAMI Q/N co-president, Janet Susin.

Jessica Lynch, Miss New York State 2004, is featured in both the elementary and high school plans. She used her platform to inspire and educate young people about suicide and depression. As told in the high school plans, even when counseling other students Jessica spent her high school years denying her hospitalization had ever happened, “Although I was amazed at how many others seemed to be suffering from similar problems, I was afraid of how they would react if I, the straight A ‘perfect’ student, admitted to being ‘crazy’”.

Ross Szabo, who has bipolar disorder, is director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign. He explains in his narrative, “I always thought I should be able to deal with it. I wanted to fit in, and felt that by admitting I could not deal with problems, people would view me as being weird or weak. Thinking like this almost killed me.” Today Ross is proud to say that he is a graduate of American University in Washington, DC.

Meera Popkin, who starred as Miss Saigon in London, is actively pursuing a theatrical career despite her diagnosis of schizophrenia. Meera describes her illness as…” just like a broken leg and you need to work hard to get better.”

In addition to these true faces of mental illness, there are follow-up questions designed to encourage empathy, insight and discussion. The high school packet also includes an informational page on the science of mental illness, “Understanding Brain Chemistry”.

The newest edition of the upper elementary booklet includes, “Stay-at-Home Mondays”, Jessica’s story of her battle with childhood depression. There are age appropriate role-plays for cutout cartoon brain puppets that reinforce the lessons learned from reading about Jessica’s struggle. Due to the popularity of the middle school game, “The Brain Game”, a new engaging bingo style game called BRAINO, challenges students’ understanding of all the lessons in the packet and completes the elementary school module.
BTS is an innovative teaching package which includes lesson plans, games and posters on serious mental illness for three grade levels: upper elementary, middle school, and high school. BTS meets national health education standards. Through stories and activities, students learn the warning signs of mental illness, that mental illness can be successfully treated, and how to recognize and combat stigma. BTS is designed to put a human face on mental illness, replacing fear and ridicule with compassion.

Each lesson packet is available with board game or poster for $15.00 or 40.00 for all three, upper elementary, middle and high school. NAMI is a grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families and friends of people with mental illness. For more information and to order BTS, please visit For questions or comments, email or call 516-326-0797.