Breaking The Silence
Lesson Plans, games and posters created to break the silence about mental illness in our schools
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BTS E-Newsletter

Volume 2, Fall 2005


School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

“Breaking the Silence” congratulates you on your hard work and perseverance. Thanks to your efforts mental illness education and BTS is entering classrooms coast to coast. Reports of innovative outreach strategies inspire us all.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
--Albert Einstein

Many of you took advantage of the free BTS made available by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for school/ community mental illness education outreach projects. Thanks to this funding a limited supply of free BTS is still available. If you are interested in receiving a free copy of BTS for your project please fill out the online BTS Request Form. All fields must be completed for your request to be considered. All we require is a progress report prior to December 05.

BTS E-Newsletter is a way for you to network with each other, share successes and frustrations, and collect ideas and resources. There are many ground-breaking projects occurring nationwide and we want you to know about all of them. We encourage you to share and learn from each other. Keep emailing us your news!

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
--Henry Ford

BTS Home Base Happenings:

Janet Susin, BTS Project Director and co-author, and Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Director of Educational Outreach and co-author received a Community Service Award from the Suffolk Coalition to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Dependencies at their Breakfast of Champions. BTS was described as an outstanding curriculum dedicated to the field of alcohol and substance abuse. They have both been very busy making presentations. Lorraine spoke to future teachers about the need for mental illness education in our own backyard at C.W.Post/Long Island University. At Hofstra University she spoke at a farewell tea for graduating education majors. Janet partnered with Lorraine for a well received BOCES teacher training workshop in Suffolk County, LI. Janet was a public health conference panel member co-sponsored by Vytra Health Plans and the Suffolk Branch of the NY State Public Health Association. She also spoke to future social workers at Stony Brook University. With Janet and Lorraine all over town, we were grateful to our active retired teacher volunteers for representing BTS at the Adelphi University Health Fair.

The NAMI Queens/Nassau staff is working hard to get you what you need when you need it! Amy Lax, Director of PR & Development is behind the scene, responding to the many requests for information and materials. Keep the comments, inquiries and requests coming. Our corporate sponsorship with Friendly’s Restaurants of Long Island ended on an up note with $1000.00 from the canister drive in May. Thanks to our corporate sponsorship with J&B Partners, owners of LI Friendly’s Restaurants, university and college professors of health education received free BTS and many requested presentations. Everyone got coupons for Friendly’s too! This fall, Friendly’s Restaurants will sponsor BTS awareness programs for local PTA’s and LI libraries.

Accepted into policy of the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association:

"Resolved, that our AMA work with mental health organizations to encourage patients to discuss mental health concerns with their physicians; and be it further Resolved, that our AMA work with the Department of Education and state education boards and encourage them to adopt basic mental health education designed specifically for elementary through high school students." This resolution was co-authored by Erin Callahan, Robyn Gartner, and Katherine Scott.

Erin Callahan is a second year medical student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and volunteer for “Breaking the Silence”. The inspiration for the resolution came from Erin’s early childhood experience with a close friend who has bi-polar disorder. Despite many early warning signs, everyone failed to recognize that Erin’s friend had a mental illness. After several years of untreated symptoms, the friend finally got the treatment she needed. Empowered by a desire to help people with brain disorders Erin began volunteering with BTS. Erin introduced BTS to her own high school in Minnesota and in medical school she joined the Medical Student Section of the AMA and co-authored the resolution on mental health education in schools.

This resolution is now AMA Medical Student Section policy. In the spring of 2006, this resolution will be presented to the House of Delegates of the Physician Section of the AMA at their national conference. If adopted as policy, specific funding and lobbyist resources may be designated to promote the adoption of mental health education programs in public schools nationwide. Erin looks forward to the continued success of this important resolution in the AMA. If you or someone you know has helpful contacts in the AMA or useful information please pass it on to Erin.
Erin Callahan,

South of the Border

Carla at Voz Pro Salud Mental is busy translating BTS for schools in Cuernavaca, Mexico. She hopes to secure funding and be able to print and start introducing the lessons next semester. We are very excited about the outreach possibilities and applaud Carla’s determination.
Carla Hammeken,

The Girl Scouts of Delaware-Raritan

The Program Coordinator for a Mental Well-Being patch program at Girl Scouts of Delaware-Raritan wants to incorporate BTS into her scouting program. Lisa reports “I found the Breaking the Silence teaching resource to be excellent…I haven’t found any other resource that spoke about mental illness in an interesting, honest and open forum for our young people to discuss. THANKS for making this program available to our youngsters.” We look forward to working with Lisa and her troops. Think of approaching your local scouts too.
Lisa Cheng, Program Specialist,

NAMI Beaufort County , South Carolina

YEA!!!! We may have broken down a few barriers. Having met and introduced the BTS program to the guidance counselors at our local elementary school and a group of teachers at the high school, we are already light years ahead of where we were. Our elementary school is actually four separate buildings, each with their own staff. We have had a request for extra copies of the "Brains can get sick, too...." poster. Is this possible? If so, what is the cost? Thank you for EVERYTHING! Your program really made an impression. FYI, separate posters are available $5.99includes S&H!
Debbie Morris,

Tompkins County , NYS/ NAMI-FL

I have been involved in outreach, consultation, and presentation of BTS for the last 4½ years – supported by our local affiliate and our Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES. I thought that by my actually offering to teach the lessons, we could get more people interested in trying this. We have jointly sent out advertisements to appropriate school personnel throughout the entire BOCES District – 4th/5th grade teachers, health teachers, nurses, principals, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, etc. This year the Youth Development Department at BOCES has added their financial support also.

I have found that the teachers have been highly satisfied with the presentations and the materials – some have begun teaching BTS themselves. The children involved have been respectful and full of comments and questions. I have felt truly “energized” after each presentation. One teacher told me that after my initial presentation that she, herself, had gone to be evaluated for bipolar disorder – she attributed this to my presentations!!

Although many schools have embraced BTS, there are many, many more who have not responded or “don’t seem to have time” to fit this into their curriculum. Many teachers are very thankful that I have come – but I am still wondering how to get more schools involved on a regular basis. Since I do this part-time, I depend on advertising and networking with teachers within schools. My next step is to enlarge my reach, speak more directly to administrators and more often at staff meetings all over the County. Carol is getting results and making a difference.
Carol Booth,


We are moving slower than we each would like, however, we want to do our grant correctly and have been busy doing research. We want to make our work well rounded with an in-service training for the professionals, “Breaking the Silence” for the students and an educational piece for the parents. We feel strongly about including all three segments.

I recently had a very productive meeting with the Associate Commissioner of the State Department of Education. He is going to review Breaking the Silence and Visions for Professionals and give me feedback on the possibility of partnering with us or at the very least the possibility of their endorsing one or both of our programs. We'll know shortly. We are also taking the summer off from our work and will come back with renewed enthusiasm. We look forward to following this comprehensive project. Barbara C. Sheldon Children's Outreach Coordinator,

Why don’t we educate the “whole” child?

Lyn is studying to become a social worker in Canada. Introducing BTS to Canadian schools has become both a personal and professional undertaking. “Driving one day, to Algonquin College, Pembroke, it suddenly struck me that I would research mental health education in Canadian schools. While researching I was shocked to learn how far Canada lags behind other countries but encouraged when I came upon came BTS. My BTS package arrived. I set to work and read it cover to cover. I was thrilled! This was exactly what I wanted; all the relevant age appropriate information displayed creatively, it was as if I had written it. I was hooked and immediately started networking. I have been a taxi service for the program speaking to teachers, school principals, counsellors, mental health representatives, and parents of children suffering from mental illness. The response has been great.”

“Most teachers like the idea and the principals would include the program if they were mandated (as they are limited to time). One school director enthusiastic about BTS was also concerned about extra work. Not deterred, I wrote to the Minister of Education and was told that our schools already cover mental health. So, I have an uphill battle but one that I will gladly take on. BTS is being presented to a high school by an agency and two principals are presenting BTS to their teachers hoping to integrate it next year. I am also forming a committee to pressure school boards, government, and so forth to get mental health taught in our schools.”

Children are taught many subjects to prepare them for a successful life but without teaching mental health we are not teaching the whole child. I have found my goal in life, getting mental health included in every child’s education.” Lyn’s determination is strong, her goals are clear and I am sure she will get results.
Lyn Smith, Pembroke, Ontario, Canada.

Brandeis University National Women's Committee

The New York Meadowbrook chapter of Brandeis University National Women's Committee (BUNWC) has a community service committee which meets monthly and the people on the committee work daily on diverse community activities. At one monthly meeting Lorraine Kaplan was a guest speaker. Lorraine shared her story and the importance of mental illness education with the group. We were so moved by her story and the need to educate all students about mental illness that we decided to give our service whenever and wherever help is needed for the "Breaking the Silence" project. To date the committee has made phone calls, applied 5,000 labels, attended health fairs, contacted school districts and colleges as well as community outreach to promote the "Breaking the Silence" curriculum. All of us at NAMI Queens/Nassau and BTS are grateful for the dedication of BUNWC.

BTS in the Classroom

I had a wonderful time at two Safety and Education classes at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California this week using BTS with sophomores. We discussed the common characteristics you associate with people with mental illness followed by the True/False Test and talked about the negative images of people with mental illness covered by the media. I gave a lot of examples of people I serve at the Mental Health Association; how the illness affects their functioning, some able to get jobs and go to school, while others cannot. We discussed the difference between psychopath and psychotic as well as delusions and hallucinations. Several students talked about the people they knew with mental illness. My second visit began by talking about movies and shows such as "A Beautiful Mind", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", and "Monk". I went through a list of famous people with mental illness and how they achieved great things. BTS materials were used and we discussed where to turn for help. Before I left, the teacher asked 7 students to voluntarily stand-up and tell me what they learned. I was very encouraged by their comments such as mental illness is an illness, mentally ill people are smart and maybe even smarter then the students, mental illness can happen to anyone, mental illness can be treated with medication, and mentally ill people are just like anyone else. I got applause and look forward to another group of sophomores next week.

Free the Silented People! Talk about mental illness

”The only way I can truly help my son who has paranoid schizophrenia is to help the world by freeing the Silented People -- those with a mental illness,” explains Mary DuBose McAliley, Integrated Marketing Communications, Emory University and owner of Chat rocks!, a new website devoted to encouraging people to talk about mental illness. Mary describes Chat rocks! as a “knowledge village on the internet”. It is currently a work in progress dedicated to dialoging about mental illness. While searching the internet for Chat rocks! Mary found “Breaking the Silence” (BTS). So enthusiastic about the concept of mental illness education for all students, Mary immediately ordered the teaching packets and began her own outreach project promoting and raising funds for BTS. Go to and order your blue jelly Chat rocks! bracelet. Thanks to Mary, the profits go to “Breaking the Silence.”

Mary shares Joel Barker‘s interpretation of Loren Eiseley’s The Star Thrower:

Once, there was a wise man, much like Eiseley himself, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man. The young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something, and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, ‘Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?’"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely then bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference to that one!"

His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn't know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed out on the essential nature of the young man's actions. He realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe but choosing to make a difference. He was embarrassed.

That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach, and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man's actions represent is something that is special in each and every one of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, be come aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.

“In April of 2004, my son was hospitalized with a serious mental illness. The diagnosis fell to bipolar/schizophrenia. The only way I know to keep an enemy from winning is to do something positive to fight back. Like the starfish, there are many students but we believe Chat rocks! partnering with Breaking the Silence can make a difference--one student at the time!”
Rev. J.R. and Mary McAliley,

NAMI of Champlain Valley

A recent teen suicide in Plattsburgh, NY is drawing crucial attention to the need for mental health education for our young people. The unfortunate suicide of a very good family friend, high school senior and class president devastated so many of us and took our community by surprise. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Champlain Valley (NAMI: CV) has been providing information about Breaking the Silence to the North Country through a number of outreach strategies. Dr. Otto Wahl was the keynote speaker at NAMI: CV's May 6th conference, entitled Stigma: Maddening Images of Mental Illness. Marguerite Adelman, Executive Director of NAMI: CV; Dr. Michelle Kavanaugh, Superintendent of the Plattsburgh City Schools; and Laurie Shutts, PBIS Coordinator with Families Together of New York State, co-presented a workshop on Stigma in the Schools that featured BTS. In May Marguerite made a BTS presentation for educators at the North Country Teacher Resource Center and for special education teacher candidates both at SUNY Plattsburgh. Thanks to Marguerite and her dedicated group, Kathy Bedore from Westport Central School is taking BTS back to her administration and the need for mental illness education is beginning to be addressed in this NY community.
Marguerite Adelman, Executive Director, NAMI: CV,


Boca Raton 's Promise, an affiliate of America's Promise- The Alliance for Youth, has launched a mental health initiative to identify resources, problems, and needs. “Breaking the Silence” was first introduced when Lorraine Kaplan visited a youth forum held in Boca Raton. Interest in introducing the program in local elementary schools was expressed on June 27 during a follow up meeting of the mental health focus team. Discussion is underway! Lorraine keeps going, even on her vacation! We look forward to hearing more from Rita.
Rita Thresher,


I presented BTS to a school district superintendent and curriculum director. They are reviewing the materials and will be called for follow up. This district has some 30,000+ students. Another district was given BTS at a County MH Summit in June. This summit, created to develop strategies for creating a world class mental health system for Harris County included 350 providers, advocates, consumers, professional and political figures. I am on the education committee and visualize this group as an avenue for approaching the population/educational system with the need for mental illness education. The trustees of the 41 Texas Community MH/MR Centers meet in July. This training conference will allow us to present the mental health educational needs and training materials to community leadership throughout Texas. This key first step will be a barometer of our ability to obtain the support and backing of important community leaders.

In July we present to the Clear Lake Rotary. With the national advocacy strength and community presence of the Rotary, we hope to find a community partner to lead a state and national effort to educate and identify those children with needs without the present stigma and fear. We are attempting to schedule meetings with other local rotaries.
Alfred Forsten,

You are all living testament to the following quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Our “trail” paves the way for all young people to become aware of these illnesses, be able to seek treatment, and no longer live in the shadows of the stigma associated with misunderstanding and ignorance.

The BTS Newsletter is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. We encourage you to send your comments, questions, success stories and frustrations to

Congratulate yourself for all of the pioneering projects and keep moving ahead!
Amy Lax, BTS Director of Public Relations & Development,