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 4, Summer 2006

School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

Greetings from BTS!

We continue to be a presence in our community and beyond. Most recently Janet Susin, BTS Co-Author and Project Director, presented BTS materials to 175 guidance counselors in Region 9, NYC public schools. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Two of the many enthusiastic guidance counselors shared, “Please provide staff developments to our schools teachers, support staff and families” and “Very motivating to have actual lessons to use as guides for presenting information to children.” We are grateful to the Mental Insight Foundation for making this outreach possible. We were able to give every guidance counselor a copy of BTS. It took awhile but we infiltrated the NYC public schools!

Both Janet and Lorraine have been introducing BTS and the need for mental illness education to community groups at local Long Island libraries and Parent Teacher Associations. Funding was provided by our local Friendly’s Restaurants. Schools received framed posters and there were ice-cream coupons for all! So approach your library and try the PTA’s- they are always looking for presenters. (Keep in mind some libraries will pay a small stipend to presenters- always ask!)

We have been getting around- Janet and Lorraine presented to medical students at Albert Einstein Medical College, Bronx, NY and Lorraine had a great response to her advocacy while on “vacation” in Florida (see Promise below).

We are moving ahead with Dr. Otto Wahl and re-submitting our NIMH proposal to evaluate knowledge learned and attitudinal change resulting from a series of BTS lessons. Many thanks to those affiliates and schools who agreed to participate. We will keep you posted on the status of this significant proposal. We have our fingers crossed!

Both Janet and Lorraine have been recognized as outstanding volunteers by their communities and peers. Janet is being awarded the, “Outstanding NAMI Member Award 2006” at the NAMI National Convention in June. As stated in a letter to Janet, “In choosing you for this award, the NAMI National Board applauds your untiring efforts to promote mental illness education in schools. Your work to convince schools around the country (along with the work of the many partners you have attracted to aid you in these efforts) to adopt the Breaking the Silence program will go a long way toward ensuring that future generations of Americans will look at mental illnesses with far less fear and stigma than previous generations. All of us at NAMI are extremely grateful for your efforts." Lorraine was recently awarded “Distinguished Volunteer of the Year 2006” by the Town of Oyster Bay, Nassau County, NY. Lorraine was presented with a town citation. Her story and dedication to BTS was written up in her local paper, “Venditto Announces TOB Women of Distinction Award 2006.”

"Impossibility—a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools."
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France

American Medical Association Resolution PASSES!!!

A year has passed since the American Medical Association (AMA) Student’s Section of the AMA passed the resolution to encourage teaching about mental illness. Two Medical Student Section delegates, Jana Montgomery and Kenan Omurtag presented the amended resolution, currently listed as, "Increasing Detection of Mental Illnesses and Encouraging Education" at the “big house” AMA assembly and it was just passed!!!


HOD ACTION: Resolution 412 adopted as amended.
Resolution 412 asks our American Medical Association to work with mental health organizations to encourage patients to discuss mental health concerns with their physicians and to 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.

Significant testimony was heard in support of this resolution. Testimony was heard regarding the stigma surrounding mental health issues that prevents children and families from seeking help and the need for education. Recommendations were made to expand the organizations working to encourage discussion of mental health issues and the groups for which education was designed. Your Reference Committee agreed with these recommendations.

The original proposal was developed by a "Breaking the Silence" (BTS) advocate and volunteer, Erin Callahan, who rallied support from other medical students at Albert Einstein Medical College and Lauren Scott, a medical student at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, respectively.

Miller Ave. Elementary School Teacher Reports

“A parent of one my 4th grade students shared with me that her daughter told her about the BTS lesson. Her daughter spoke about my son Matt who suffers with mental illness, all she learned about the different illnesses and the stigma that goes with it. Imagine that, only 9 years old and she was excited about sharing all she had learned! Envision the world if we could educate everyone about our loved ones. Even if I only made an impression on this one child, it's changing the world.”
Sue Marasciulo, Shoreham-Wading River SD

NAMI Porter County, Indiana

“NAMI Porter County, in collaboration with our local Mental Health Association and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), will present “Breaking the Silence” to the 5th grade classes at Portage Township Schools in Indiana. We will be training volunteers to enter the classrooms and implement the lessons. Eight schools with three classes each have agreed to participate and we expect to start teaching the classes in January of 2007. Once we get Portage schools off the ground we will approach the remainder of the school systems in Porter County.” Create partnerships, there is strength in numbers!
Barbara Collins-Layton, Executive Director, NAMI - Porter County


“Twenty-seven members of the new Mental Health Alliance attended the "Breaking the Silence" luncheon at the Safe Schools Institute. The event served as a springboard to engage the new Alliance, introduce the new coordinators, and learn about a new program to teach about mental illness.

Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Co-Author & Director of Educational Outreach told of her family's adjustment to living with her son's mental illness. She presented BTS, demonstrated portions of the program and distributed free learning packets provided by Boca Raton's Promise.

Dr. Merrilee Middleton, President of Boca Raton's Promise, closed the program with a promise to Alliance members: ‘Our organization promises to keep the momentum going for this important work’.” Cultivate relationships. Lorraine met with Promise last year and continued to network.
Rita Thrasher, Executive Director, Boca Raton’s Promise


“I am certain that you get notes from folks who have experienced BTS but I must also share a positive and open response I received from two eighth grade classes yesterday. It was our first “session” and I was overwhelmed with the eagerness of the kids wanting to know more about mental illness, stigma busting, signs and symptoms of mental disorders. Although this is part of what the school experience should be, a practical life learning opportunity, I was amazed at their desire to learn. I was asked to return and respond to more questions that they would like answered. It is interesting to note, the kids asked about OCD, Bi-Polar disorder, who to call if a friend shows signs and symptoms, and if they could seek help anonymously for a friend or parent. Thanks for letting me share!” Ask to teach BTS in a classroom in your district.
Debi Lynes, Hilton Head Island, SC

Business Plan and Grant Writing for BTS in Texas

“The Texas MH Educators is a nonprofit association wishing to include the facts of mental illness into the health education curriculum of every Independent School District (ISD), assuring every Texas child knows the causes, symptoms, treatments and positive outcomes of mental illness. Starting in the upper elementary grades health education curriculum, we aim to partner with ISDs in the inclusion of existing, approved mental health educational material (Breaking the Silence).”

“There now are some 23 to 25 Texans working with the BTS materials asking educators to insert 3 to 4 hours of BTS into the normal physical health curriculum. A grant proposal is pending that includes a trip to Texas for Janet and Lorraine (BTS co-authors) to train health teachers to teach BTS.”

“The proposal encompasses implementing BTS in 12 classrooms, 3 grade levels in 4 settings each; about 260 students from one or more ISD. The strategy is to get BTS approval through meetings with contacts like School Health Advisory Councils and then select current health teachers to teach BTS. Special education teachers will also receive BTS training and they will be part of this self-sustaining plan. The award notice is expected in July.” This group has a vision and never gives up!
Alfred Forsten and John Hoezel

Don’t give up; be seen and heard in your community. Use your resources, libraries, rotary associations, local media, PTA’s... Seek funding from local businesses; make them an offer they can’t refuse! There are contacts everywhere so be visible, network and inform everyone about the need for mental illness education.

As expressed by Helen Keller,
"We can do anything we want if we stick to it long enough."

Our advocacy continues to grow. We are entering classrooms and students are receiving lessons on mental illness. We are making a difference. Thank you everyone.

Amy Lax, BTS Director of Public Relations & Development,