Volume 7, Summer 2010
BTS E-Newsletter
School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

Greetings from BTS! 2010 is a very exciting and busy year.

NIMH Study Completed

When approaching your school or discussing the need for mental illness education in your community you can now say that BTS has been empirically tested and results definitively conclude that BTS IS EFFECIVE in increasing knowledge and changing attitudes and behavior relating to mental illness. The three year study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to assess change in knowledge, attitudes, and behavior relating to mental illness in middle school students through instruction with “Breaking the Silence” (BTS) lessons has concluded that the BTS program is effective in promoting growth in these areas. The Executive Summary can be found at www.btslessonplans.org. Final Report to be uploaded soon.

Mental Illness Education Does Make a Difference!

Otto Wahl, Principal Investigator
NIMH Program Announcement, "Reducing Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination"

It is extremely important that we provide education about mental illnesses to children before negative stereotypes are acquired and solidified. It is equally important that we establish that the educational programs we provide are effective in meeting our goals of improving knowledge and attitudes related to psychiatric disorder. I am pleased to have been a partner with NAMI Queens/Nassau in establishing such effectiveness for the Breaking the Silence (BTS) curriculum. Our study and its results provide both a basis for confidence that an easily administered program can produce meaningful gains and information that may be helpful for strengthening that approach further.

One of the things that is not apparent in the quantitative data we collected is the welcoming response of students and teachers. As someone who went to each of our study schools and met with the teachers and students, I can attest to the high level of interest and excitement that was expressed by both groups. Teachers were eager to begin the BTS instruction and, after instruction, noted how valuable the BTS information had been for both their students and themselves. Students who completed our study questionnaires asked many questions and often came up to me afterward to share information about people they know who may have experienced mental illness. The overall excitement and interest in mental health matters may be an additional positive effect of introducing the BTS curriculum to schools.

Otto Wahl, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology, University of Hartford

BTS on Campus

Many years ago Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Co-Author, spoke about BTS at a health conference at Gail Weintraub’s Long Island school. After the conference, Ms. Weintraub began using BTS in her health classes annually; finding that her students responded to the games, stories and activities. Now retired from public school teaching, Ms. Weintraub is Coordinator of Teacher Preparation Program in Health Education at Long Island University, C.W. Post. Remembering Lorraine’s powerful presentation she invited Lorraine to speak to her classes of college students who are about to enter their teaching careers in health education. The students were so moved by the presentation and eager to use the BTS materials that they decided to form a NAMIWalks team in support of NAMI Queens/Nassau and BTS. Taking it yet another step, they are planning their own NAMIWalk to raise funds for and awareness of mental illness. The walk is being held on the C.W. Post Campus on October 3, 2010.

BTS raises awareness about mental illness in the classroom and beyond!

Mental Illness Awareness Platform

Ashley McDuffee competed in the Miss New York Outstanding Teen Pageant and was the third runner up at the Miss New York State Scholarship Program. Bringing awareness and understanding for those suffering with mental illness was her platform. Ashley is a BTS advocate and will be bringing BTS to her school this Fall. Check out her blog and video at:


“Together we will make a difference that will change the way America thinks about mental illness in the future.” Ashley McDuffee

The Barriers of Stigma Begin to Crumble

This past spring, Gloria Cohen, a BTS advocate and volunteer, and Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Co-Author, participated in the Mamaroneck High School Health Fair. They gave two workshops on mental illness. With so many health topics to choose from, they asked the students why they chose a workshop on mental illness. Several said that they want to become therapists or psychologists. Others spoke of family members with bi-polar illness. One student said," I have schizophrenia." Gloria and Lorraine were very impressed with her honest disclosure and thought it was wonderful that a student would talk of her illness without shame or embarrassment.

When speaking with the Natural Helpers group at the East Manorville High School in Suffolk County Janet Susin, BTS Project Director & Co-Author, had the same experience. A student comfortably self-identified as having OCD and spoke openly about her symptoms.

Visit your local schools and offer to present workshops and BTS in classrooms. Be sure to encourage the dialog!

NYC Schools & Mental Insight Foundation Grant

Thanks to another year of generous support from the Mental Insight Foundation, Janet and Lorraine, BTS Co-Authors, are working closely with the NYC Department of Education and Sonia Nieves, MS 226 Principal. The initial meeting has taken place and a schedule is in the making for the following activities to occur this Fall/Winter.

  • Offer mental illness education workshop to school staff.
    • Signs and symptoms of mental illness
    • Available resources
    • Impact on families, individuals, classrooms
  • Model BTS lesson in classrooms.
  • Observe teachers implementing BTS.
  • Provide 30 middle school packets to participating teachers/administrators.
  • Provide 75 Parents & Teachers as Allies and 75 BTS posters. (MS 226 staff)
  • Offer resource list of programs & services.
  • Collate teacher evaluations.
  • Make a video of BTS in MS 226.
  • Make BTS video available on BTS website.

Create partnerships, write grants, and bring BTS into community schools.

A Thank You

February 13, 2010

Dear NAMI Queens/Nassau,

Enclosed is my order for some additional Breaking the Silence materials. I want you to know that I successfully used elements from all three of your curriculum booklets (upper elementary, middle school and high school) last year during our St. Petronille Mental Health Awareness Month. The materials were excellent and very well received by students and teachers alike. So thank you very much!

Last year was our first time putting together a Mental Health Month, and I am passionate about continuing this at our K-8 school. We worked with 6th, 7th and 8th graders last year, and this year will likely extend our outreach to 5th graders as well. We also did educational programming for parents and teachers. I worked with our local NAMI group to incorporate speakers in the classrooms, which was very impactful, too.

Thank you very much for helping get this important information out to students in a way that is easy for them to understand and process. If you add to your program, I would welcome hearing about it.


Kathy Gudoriis, LCSW
Alexian Brothers Interfaith Parish Support Services
Social Worker at St. Petronille School, Glen Ellyn, Il.

Work with your local schools and NAMI to bring mental illness education into all classrooms.

Many thanks to the BTS advocates and supporters of mental illness education.
Your efforts make all the difference. And remember,

"Never, never, never give up!"
- Winston Churchill

Amy Lax, Directory of PR & Development, amylax@optonline.net
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2005 NAMI Queens/Nassau-BTS