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 1, Spring 2005


School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

The BTS educational committee congratulates all the innovative school and community projects occurring coast to coast. While you are all engaged in different stages of your outreach work and live in diverse communities, you share determination, perseverance and commitment to educating all children about mental illness.

BTS E-Newsletter is a way for you to network with each other, share successes and frustrations, and collect ideas and resources. Because of your efforts, BTS and mental illness education is entering communities and classrooms nationwide. 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!

Thank you to all that evaluated the Tool Kit. The newly revised Tool Kit is much improved and available at We encourage you to download it. Thanks to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, a limited supply of free BTS is available for school/ community mental illness education outreach projects. 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.

BTS Home Base Happenings:

NAMI Queens/Nassau recently presented BTS at the New York University Child Study Center. Janet Susin, Co-Author and Project Director and Lorraine Kaplan, Co-Author and Director of Educational Outreach, presented a workshop to NYC educators about the importance of mental illness education and how to implement BTS. We are pleased to report that we just received a call from a NYC public school administrator inquiring about purchasing over 100 packets of BTS for her staff. You never know who will be in the audience, but we do know the message is effective!

We are busy this March and April. BTS will exhibit at two health fairs, present a workshop at LaGuardia College, instruct future health teachers at Molloy College, present BTS to Professionals & Executives in Retirement (PEIR) at Hofstra University, and do a teacher training workshop for health teachers in Suffolk County. Janet is scheduled to do a presentation on over coming stigma through education as part of the Long Island Health Promotion Disease Prevention Conference focusing on children’s mental health issues and Lorraine will be the keynote speaker at the Maryland Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems symposium “Defeating Stigma IV, Breaking the Silence”. BTS has just submitted a joint NIMH proposal with Dr. Otto Wahl, University of Hartford, to officially evaluate knowledge learned and attitudinal change resulting from a series of BTS lessons being taught. We will keep you posted on the status of that project.

As the world gets smaller, thanks to the internet, we recently received an inquiry from a metal health organization in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Voz Pro Salud Mental. The president of Voz Pro Salud Mental was surfing the internet for information on mental illness education and found the BTS website. She is so inspired by the lesson plans that she is looking for funds to translate, print and disseminate BTS in Mexico. We are working with her organization and will keep you posted on this very exciting international outreach project.

Our corporate sponsorship with Friendly’s restaurants of Long Island is in its second year. This year, we are mailing BTS to colleges/universities and private/parochial schools along with coupons for Friendly’s ice-cream sundaes. We have already received requests for BTS presentations to future health educators from a local college. Thank you J&B Restaurant Partners, owners of LI Friendly’s!

Pro-Active Medical Students at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NYC, Approach the AMA:

When we exhibited BTS at the annual NYC Picnic for Parity, we had no idea it would lead us to such an awe-inspiring group of medical students, Robyn Gartner, Katherine Scott, and Susan Altman. (You never know where a connection will go!) They were so motivated by BTS that with the support of their medical school faculty at Albert Einstein they decided to write and present the following resolution: An Initiative to Encourage Mental Health Education in Public Schools to the American Medical Association conference in Atlanta, Georgia in June. They propose that, “…the AMA work with the National Education Association to encourage all public schools to adopt a mental health education program designed specifically for adolescents, such as the "Breaking the Silence" program provided by NAMI Queens/Nassau.” We can’t wait to hear the out come and will let you know too. Contact Robin at

Persistence Pays for NAMI Salem County, NJ:

Virginia Saul, President, NAMI Salem County, never gave up promoting BTS in her district. Virginia enlisted her Mental Health Board Administrator and together they taught BTS in both 4th grade classes and 8th grade biology classes. After 2 years of phoning schools, making contacts and giving presentations in her district , the County Superintendent of Schools has not only approved BTS for all districts but has mandated that all 17 superintendents and school principals attend a seminar being held at Healthcare Commons in March. Janet and Lorraine have been invited to speak to all school personnel, NAMI members from neighboring states, a representative from the Governor’s office, Assemblyman Douglas Fisher and Senator Steve Sweeny. The local press has been invited to cover the event. Congratulations Virginia and NAMI of Salem County, your hard work is paying off!

NAMI Central Ozarks, Missouri Combats Stigma:

What Barbara shares many of us can relate to. It is often in the face of these obstacles that we need to persevere as Barbara does . "Our affiliate is not allowed to even talk to teachers and or counselors about kids with mental illness. The school system does not want to invest in IEP's. Children who have a medical history of ADHD, OCD or other disorders are refused services; therefore we are not able to participate in BTS. We hope in the future this will change but it is not going to happen overnight. The teachers are so overwhelmed with so much paperwork and the necessary requirements that they prioritize and kids with mental illness are at the bottom of the list. I also believe teachers are not educated regarding mental illness and therefore they think kids with mental illness only have behavior issues which have nothing to do with brain disorders. If we can get past the school superintendents, the first thing in our rural area is to educate teachers and fight stigma. Then we can teach BTS." Barbara French, Executive Director,

NAMI Mercer and the Girl Scouts:

NAMI Mercer was asked by the local Girl Scout Council to help promote a badge on mental wellness. Joanne, a NAMI member and BTS advocate reports that her daughter, Nicole, “presented parts of the middle school BTS with a Girl Scout troop of 11 yr olds. She did the game with the girls and worked on reducing the stigma of mental illness. The girls were great! Nicole loved working with them and was very surprised about how much they knew about mental illness. All of the girls were really sensitive to the feelings of other people. Nicole is part of a heath forum on teen depression, on the NAMI Teen Advisory Board and hopes to present BTS to more Girl Scout troops. Joyce, the Girl Scout leader, will follow up with the BTS evaluation.” We look forward to more news from Joanne and her daughter and hope others approach their community troops and similar student run groups. Joanne,

NAMI Connecticut Aims High:

The NAMI CT Education Committee is putting together a grant proposal to reduce stigma and educate school personnel, students and parents about mental illness. “We want to put together a toolbox of resources and information for each group, one of the major resources being the BTS curriculum. Our executive director, Sheila King, says we may have to think smaller to begin and pilot regionally or partner with someone. We would like to designate a person to head this project. NAMI-CT has purchased the curriculums and gives them to the schools free of charge in order to spread the word. I am aware of 8 schools implementing BTS. Each district seems to approach it differently. BTS is being taught by classroom teachers, school psychologists, social workers and school nurses. It has been taught in psychology classes and social studies classes. One school will be using BTS in an AP English class. Nina Engstrom, NAMI-CT Board and committee member, has taught BTS in two Bridgeport schools to a total of 429 students in their regular ed classes.

“I have also presented the BTS curriculum on several occasions to Southern CT State University 4th year health teacher students; once at Wesleyan College to 4th year psychology students; last year at the Northeast Social Studies Conference; the Suicide Prevention through Proactive Policy and Interventions Conference (for educational personnel and Department of Children and Families staff). We look forward to continuing our work, promoting mental illness education in Connecticut schools.” Barbara Sheldon, Children's Outreach Coordinator,

Mental Health Association of NYC Collaborates with NAMI Queens/Nassau:

The Mental Health Association of NYC and NAMI Queens/Nassau have been successfully collaborating to bring the Breaking the Silence (BTS) curriculum to New York City public schools over the past three years. In 2002 NAMI staff joined the NYC Mental Health Coalition, co-chaired by MHA of NYC and the American Psychiatric Association- Bronx Chapter, which has a strong mental health education agenda. Through the partnership, BTS staff conducted a half-day training to teach interested MHA of NYC staff to use the curriculum. Parent and youth advocates, clinical consultants and public education staff attended this important event. The training also included a brainstorming session where participants discussed NYC youth-serving organizations that might benefit from the program. BTS materials have since been used in classroom presentations in NYC schools and have been included in trainings conducted for school guidance counselors by MHA of NYC staff.

Most recently, MHA and NAMI Queens/Nassau have teamed up to apply for grants to expand and further integrate the BTS curriculum in NYC schools. Our goal is to provide training, technical assistance and BTS materials to teachers and support staff in schools that see the need to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and reduce the shame and silence that often overshadows these illnesses. Since this is a mission that both NAMI and MHA share, our budding collaboration has been both productive and meaningful, and we envision a partnership that will positively impact the sensitivity and directness with which young people address mental illness. Rachelle Kammer, PhD., Director of C.O.P.E Campaign,

Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Co-Author & Director of Educational Outreach:

“While vacationing in Delray Beach, Florida I came across an article in the Sunday Sun Sentinel about a meeting for teens and parents to talk about depression, its warning signs and where to get help. It was sponsored by Boca Raton’s, Promise—the Alliance for Youth, a group with a mission to build caring communities for young people. Naturally, I called and had to find out more. I got a wonderful response from the coordinator of Promise, Rita Thresher, and an invitation to meet with her. My husband, Eli, and I spent two hours talking with Rita and introducing her to our ‘Breaking the Silence’ lesson plans. She was impressed, and invited me to be on the panel of speakers at their meeting on depression.

“It was an excellent meeting of intelligent, sensitive teens from many high schools who came to ask questions to the panel of social workers, community mental health experts, etc about depression. I had an opportunity to tell every one about BTS. I addressed the students by saying ‘If you had had a lesson in 4th grade and a lesson in middle school and again in high school, I believe you would have many answers to these questions! And you would be aware of the warning signs and where to go for help!!! Education is the key to reducing stigma and getting help.’ Also on the panel was the president of NAMI Palm Beach, who is also a social worker. We plan to be in touch and work to get BTS into the schools in that area. It seems wherever one goes the need for reducing stigma is front and center. What a great opportunity for me to be in Florida when this was taking place.” Lorraine, BTS Co-Author,

NAMI CV Remains Steadfast:

NAMI: Champlain Valley is located in Plattsburgh, New York, a very rural area with many high need rural schools. The Executive Director shares her very determined outreach work with us, “We have been giving presentations on BTS in our local schools for the past 2 years. In addition, we provide a 2 hour training to secondary and elementary education majors at Plattsburgh State University of New York. We use parts of BTS. Once a year, we provide a 3 hour training at our local Teacher Resource Center. Until recently, we have not made headway in getting BTS institutionalized in our local schools. However, a new superintendent for the Plattsburgh City Schools has ordered BTS and is giving it to a school committee to review. We are hopeful. In addition, I will be making a presentation to school nurses in our area in March. We are also having a conference on May 6th and one of the workshops will feature BTS. Things are definitely looking more positive. With everything else that we have on our plate to do, we are still determined to just keep reaching out and finding interested school administrators and teachers. I'm considering using one of our retired people who is a former school teacher to head up BTS in our area. Just got to find the time to sit her down and get her started.” Marguerite Adelman , Executive Director of the NAMI: Champlain Valley,

NAMI PA Wilkes-Barre Chapter, NE PA, Makes Inroads & Finds Ways to Promote BTS:

We applaud Audrey Gozdiskowski, President, for finding an innovative approach to connecting BTS with her district’s needs and interests . She reports to us that she has been trying since last August to get “Breaking the Silence” into schools in a 5 county area and that the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ seems to be the reason that most of the schools aren’t interested. Schools tell her they must teach to the tests and there is little time for other programs. However, she finally came upon a very knowledgeable superintendent of the Wilkes-Barre School District with a background in psychology and counseling who agrees that if we don’t address the emotional and behavioral problems of students, those children will be ‘left behind’. Audrey is finally invited to a regional superintendent meeting in September and has an opportunity to connect BTS with suicide awareness. Audrey goes on to explain, “Our NAMI chapter is also hosting a Suicide Awareness Seminar this April for NAMI members and school personnel. I hope to promote BTS at this time. I have also been invited to be on a Drug and Alcohol and Mental Health Committee for my county this March – another opportunity to promote BTS.

“Our local school superintendent here in Tunkhannock calls mental illness education a Florence Nightingale approach. He just doesn’t get it. I also submitted a press release about the program to area newspapers and none of them have published it. I have found that schools want research evidence based programs. They have stated that there are lots of programs out there and they want to see research based out comes. (A note to Audrey- we are working on this one, and hope to secure the necessary funding to evaluate attitudinal change and knowledge learned as a result of BTS lessons being taught- making BTS a research evidence based program.)

“Until the schools accept mental illness awareness education, I plan on using ‘Breaking the Silence’ at special presentations for various age groups at the local libraries. The Student Assistance Program personnel at some of the high schools are trying to help me by taking the BTS packets to wellness/health teachers at the schools at which they work. Persistence pays off, and I will not give up!!” Audrey Gozdiskowski, President,

Caasi’s Story

“I’m glad that I read Newsday on February 5 th three years ago. A certain article, Informing Students about Mental Illness , had a tremendous impact on my life. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder twenty-five years ago and no prior knowledge about this complex illness, I knew that lesson plans teaching students the warning signs of various psychiatric illnesses was a void that needed to be filled. As the article suggested, I contacted NAMI Queens/Nassau about ‘Breaking the Silence’ (BTS) and met with three wonderful women, Lorraine Kaplan, Louise Slater and Amy Lax. I explained to them how deeply I was touched by the lesson plans and inquired if I could help in any way. Amy asked if I would tell ‘my story’ to teachers and students on Long Island interested in mental illness and BTS. I wrote my story and broke my silence at Molloy College and Natural Helper’s groups at two local high schools.

“I am always amazed at the questions that arise from the students when I share my knowledge of bipolar disorder and my personal experiences. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with the students and have be come very aware of their need for honest discussions about this very misunderstood disorder.”

Alfred’s Advocacy

Alfred became an avid promoter of: “Breaking the Silence” when his nephew self-diagnosed his mental illness (schizophrenia) while hearing a lecture on the topic in a college psychology class. It turned Alfred into a passionate advocate for mental illness education in the Texas schools.

Alfred is beginning his advocacy by finding out what is currently being taught, always a good place to start. He writes: “Attempts to talk to curriculum to determine what is now taught have been challenging, and I am escalating the request to higher levels in administration. Childbuilders in Houston has a contract to teach courses in the Houston [schools] and two other school districts. I have asked to see their material and the extent of instruction. A staff person has been designated to prepare the material for me and I plan to call them early next week as I have not heard from them. They would also like to see how their present material matches up to your product [BTS].”

Alfred closes with the kind of optimism that we all need to keep working on this very important, but often daunting task. “It's always darkest before the dawn. I feel that perseverance will eventually win out and the sun

All of us at BTS share the following sentiment, expressed so well by Victor Hugo, "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." You are proof that educating all students about mental illness is an idea whose time has come and that this army of advocates will make it possible for all of our young people to be aware of these illnesses, 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 the pioneering projects and keep moving ahead! Amy Lax, BTS Director of Public Relations & Development,