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 3, Winter 2005


School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

Word is spreading and perseverance prevails as we are “Breaking the Silence” about mental illness in communities across the country. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." American anthropologist Margaret Mead speaks for us all, as we continue to crusade for mental illness education.

Home Base Happenings
Thanks to funding this past year from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation there are over 50 new BTS outreach projects occurring in urban, rural and suburban communities nationwide. Projects are large and small; some reaching many school districts, some reaching one. Each is significant and all are creating awareness of the need for educating students about mental illness.

Parents, teachers, hospitals, NAMI groups, mental heath organizations and school health education departments are among those spearheading BTS projects. There are presentations and conferences being made to school nurses, teachers, administrative staff, psychologists, community centers, after school programs, colleges and the media. Many of you are going into the classroom and also presenting BTS at school assemblies. Some are offering in-service and staff training; others are reaching out to faith based community groups. Approaches vary but the out come is the same.

Our corporate sponsor for the past three years, J&B Restaurant Partners, owners of Long Island Friendly’s Restaurants is funding BTS presentations at community libraries and school Parent Teacher Associations. In addition to a $5500.00 donation, they are offering all attendees coupons to a local Friendly’s. Try approaching a local business, offer them visibility and recognition in return for a donation that will contribute to your project. Press Release: MENTAL HEALTH IS EVERYONE'S BUSINESS.

BTS acknowledges Mary DuBose McAiley for her continued efforts and $100.00 contribution from Chatrocks! Don’t forget to get your bracelet at

Once again, Erin Callahan, our very special medical student volunteer who introduced BTS and the concept of mental illness education at the June student section of the American Medical Association continues to make a difference. We are told that the amended resolution reads,” Reducing Stigma and Increasing Detection of Mental Illness; An Initiative to Encourage Mental Health Education in Public Schools.” The resolution will be heard at the national AMA conference in Chicago in June. Erin has invited BTS co-authors Janet Susin and Lorraine Kaplan to present BTS to a medical student conference on mental illness at Albert Einstein Medical College. Erin was a spokesperson for a specific hormonal contraceptive and was paid $400.00 from Ogilvy for her interview. She donated it all to BTS. Thank you Erin!

Looking Ahead/Evaluating BTS
BTS at NAMI Q/N is looking for middle school health classes/health teachers who are willing to participate in a research study evaluating knowledge learned and attitudinal change as a result of implementing BTS lessons. We are working on this very significant project with Dr. Otto Wahl, University of Hartford. If you have a connection or relationship with your middle school and think they might agree to participate, please contact Amy at for more information regarding this project. There have been many requests and inquiries for research based data and we hope to provide it but WE NEED YOUR HELP.

BTS en Espanol
Thanks to Voz Pro Salud Mental, the Voice for Mental Health, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, BTS is now translated into Spanish. They are seeking funds to print and disseminate BTS in Mexico. This group moves fast, we are proud of their work and look forward to extending our reach south of the border!

Big Plans in Texas
The Texas Mental Health Educators is a newly formed nonprofit dedicated to mental illness education. It is their mission to insure that every Texas child knows (1) mental illness is an illness, (2) the symptoms (3) there are positive treatments , (4) excellent outcomes occur, and (5) the earlier the treatment the better the out come. They have prepared a business plan that targets piloting BTS in 15 to 20 school districts in its first year. ( Texas has 1000 school districts). Their goal is to partner with ISD's (Independent School Districts) and assist with the inclusion of BTS into the health education curriculum of each Texas child starting in the upper elementary grades.

According to Alfred Forsten and John Hoezel who co chair the group, their mantra will be "Children are 25% of our population, but 100% of our future". Their first meeting determined that the initial 25 volunteers would spearhead the outreach by creating grassroots regional organizations to target and partner with 15 to 20 ISD's as pilot sites for BTS implementation. The group will also be working with the Texas Education Agency on the importance of mental health for all students. Alfred's next presentation is to a group of mental health professionals at a mental health conference sponsored by the Houston MHMR Authority on their 40th Anniversary. No stone is left unturned; John Hoezel has prepared an article for the Texas Nami Newletter on the need to use BTS in the schools. This group plans on reaching out to 165 retired/active teachers from their church and to approach their Substance Abuse Provider Coalition which already has a presence in 19 local schools. Alfred,

Network, Network, Network!
Everywhere I go I look for opportunities to talk about my passion; spreading the word about BTS. It is amazing how many opportunities there are. For example, I belong to an organization called Brandeis Women University Committee which has its own fine agenda, to advocate for the medical library at Brandeis University. One of their "Study Groups" is called Community Service. I asked to speak at their meeting and tell them about mental illness and my project. These women embraced BTS. They have done mailings, attended to displays at conferences, registered walkers at our annual NAMI Walk and some have even been trained to speak in schools, libraries and at PTA meetings.

When I play bridge, attend luncheons, go to parties or when people ask what I do in my spare time I tell them about my involvement with BTS. Since mental illness strikes one in five, (and most people do not talk about it), it is amazing to see the interest. I have a wonderful group of volunteers that have come through these informal conversations who are vital to our BTS outreach. So keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to spread the word. You will be delighted with the wonderful results. Networking really works! Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Director of Educational Outreach,

MHA of San Mateo County
Arlene Aquino, Mental Health Association of San Mateo County, has a relationship with her local NAMI and wrote an article about BTS for the October 2005 issue of NAMI San Mateo News, “Breaking the Silence through Education.” She reports to us that so far she has heard from mental health staff, family members, and clients about how great it is to have materials to reach out to students. Teachers have not contacted her yet, but because of the article, she received names of school contacts. She now has more requests for presentations in organizations and churches. Arlene will be adding BTS to the MHA E-newsletter and website. Partnerships work!

Getting Mental Illness Education in Through the Back Door
A requirement to include mental illness in the health education curriculum has always been at the very top of our wish list, but pressing for a legislative mandate has seemed unrealistic in the light of our already full New York State legislative agenda. Recently, however, an opportunity arose to make some headway in this area. A curriculum titled “A Guidance Document for Achieving the NYS Standards in Health Education” was posted on the State Ed website in November, and although the words “mental health” appear in the document in the context of such things as relationships, bullying, and stress management, the words mental illness are nowhere to be found. Moreover, mental illness as the possible underlying cause for substance abuse and suicide is ignored.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the document is described as a work in progress. NAMI-NYS’s Education Committee will ask for revisions and additions and, if necessary, form a coalition to press for change. We also expect to enlist the help of NYS Commissioner of Mental Health, Sharon Carpinello, who has put suicide prevention at the top of her advocacy agenda.

Have any of you had experience trying to enact a requirement to include mental illness education in the health curriculum? Please tell us about it!! This is an area where we all have a lot to learn from one another. Janet Susin, BTS Project Director

In the Classroom
This fall my outreach work has involved sending out advertising flyers through BOCES/SETRC to key people at all elementary, middle, and high schools in our TST BOCES District. I continue to “network” and plan to try to set up meetings in January with staff at the schools that are not as engaged. I am taking more opportunities to allow present participants to tell others about BTS.

I have been making headway implementing BTS in both middle and high school classes. I’m finding that these older kids are great listeners and have thoughtful, serious questions. It helps a lot to have health teachers who really feel this topic is important and lacking in their curriculum. One 5 th grade teacher coordinator told me recently that “my reputation has preceded me!” I have been presenting to all 5 th grade student classes in that school for 3 years and, apparently, both teachers and students look forward to my presentations – she said they seemed to be “glued” to their seats!! Of course, 4 th and 5 th graders ask the most questions and make the most comments!

Every presentation offers a wonderful opportunity to reach at least one child or one adult who may be suffering the pain of mental illness. Carol Booth,

Girl Scouts of Delaware-Raritan, Inc.
We have been doing great with our Mental Well-Being patch program for Brownies and Juniors, serving over 300 Girl Scouts for the 2004-2005 Girl Scout year. We have BTS available as a resource for those interested. I’m looking forward to another successful year. Lisa Cheng , Program Specialist,

NAMI Tennessee orders and disseminates 200 BTS lesson plans and 200 posters!
Brenda is a graduate school intern with NAMI Tennessee. Her goal is to have a database completed before she leaves in April so that her successor can continue the statewide efforts already in progress. As a mental health professional she will continue to strive to reduce stigma in Maury County. BTS will be one of the tools used in this effort.

Brenda tells us that NAMI-TN is promoting BTS on a statewide level and is very hopeful that BTS will be implemented in Maury County. “I am very encouraged by the reports that I am receiving from other areas of the state. NAMI affiliates throughout Tennessee are working on obtaining permission to implement BTS in schools and other settings. Some affiliates and educators are currently educating children and youth in the classrooms. The need for mental illness education is strong and evident. I gave a PowerPoint presentation to a group of professionals on stigma and BTS. I was disappointed at the degree of laughter that occurred throughout my presentation. Prior to taking my seat, I did address the issue of their behavior and asked that they would work to reduce the stigma that they were perpetuating.” Tennessee doesn’t miss a beat, using every opportunity that arises. Brenda Dawson,

NAMI Beaufort County is working hard to get their BTS program up and running. “We have a committee of seven volunteers who have reviewed the BTS material and are ready to present the information to local schools. We have modified the BTS PowerPoint presentation to include local mental health statistics. This presentation will be presented by our committee to school principals and other interested groups. We have already met informally with principals and counselors at 5 schools, but we are looking to formalize the process. Our goal for the upcoming year is to have BTS in an elementary, middle and high school. Once we’ve established ourselves in these schools and the word gets out about this great program, we plan to expand accordingly.” Visual aids help. If anyone needs a PowerPoint presentation, let BTS know. Susan Reid, Executive Director, NAMI Beaufort County

Rural Illinois NAMI-Vermilion County
We are lacking in our country. Our government does not recognize the difference between bad behaviors and childhood mania. Sadly, we promote jails and the construction of bigger/better ones while closing inpatient units in local hospitals. BTS enlightens and educates about the biochemical imbalances that folks with mental illness suffer. Having presented BTS in the classroom, I know that BTS encourages conversation among the students and staff and promotes an increased awareness of the need to understand that mental illnesses are not behavioral problems. Currently a school board member, I was given the opportunity to present BTS to administrators and the two social workers for our district. They were very open to the program and I believe the social worker for the middle school is using BTS.

I often get frustrated and feel as though no one listens. Until a person is faced with mental illness (themselves or a loved one) there is little or no understanding about these disorders. I was recently asked to serve on a school improvement committee. I hope to promote awareness of this misunderstood disease. I will be taking BTS with me! Congratulations on your committee position, they are listening!
Janet Martin,

Year’s End
As our funding cycle is coming to an end, we remain grateful to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for their commitment to BTS. We hope to be able to continue the newsletter. We all remain connected in our effort to mainstream mental illness; educate all parents, students and teachers about this no fault disease. Please continue to send your comments, questions, success stories and frustrations to It is through your continued work that we will “Break the Silence.”

Thomas Huxley, Physiologist, said it best, "Action is the catalyst that creates accomplishments. It is the path that takes us from uncrafted hopes to realized dreams." Congratulate yourself and keep moving ahead!

Amy Lax, BTS Director of Public Relations & Development,