Volume 5, Spring 2008

BTS E-Newsletter


School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

Greetings from BTS! We have recently added new materials to the elementary and high school BTS packets. Be sure you have the newest versions! Our collective energies are bringing mental illness education into community schools nationwide. We are making a difference!

BTS hit the big time! Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Co-Author and Director of Educational Outreach and her husband Eli were interviewed on the Today Show. Click here to view: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/23049065#23049065
We received lots of emails and hundreds of “hits” on our website.
The power of the media prevails!

We are off and running. Once again, Janet Susin, BTS Co-Author and Project Director, presented BTS materials to approximately 100 guidance counselors and health educators in the district of Queens, NYC public schools. The response was overwhelmingly positive and thanks to the Mental Insight Foundation, we were able to give every participant a copy of BTS. This is our second year in the NYC schools and they invited us back next year to participate in an on line web cast for about 300 NYC DOE health educators.

BTS at NAMI Queens/Nassau has been awarded a $150,000.00 grant from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) to assess the effectiveness of BTS middle school materials in educating young people about mental illness and overcoming the stigma associated with it. This project is the first anti-stigma grant funded in response to the NIMH program announcement, “Reducing Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination”. This significant two year funding has been awarded in partnership with Otto Wahl, Ph.D., Director of the Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology at the University of Hartford, a leading expert on stigma and mental illness who will also receive $150,000.

Thanks to funding from the Verizon Foundation, our NAMI affiliate has a new website, www.namiqn.org, and the BTS site has added  New Teacher’s Section/BTS Overview." Log in and check it out! http://www.btslessonplans.org/teachers/index.php

Contact your local schools, submit a press release or story about your BTS project to your local media, search for funds, and network, network, network…

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
-- Benjamin Franklin

Texas Collaboration

I came across BTS in 2004 and started reading the Tool Kit. With the assistance of the BTS power point used in NYC schools, the NAMI Austin Education Chair, Norma Bangs, and I presented BTS to secondary counselors in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) in Austin, Texas, at two half-day trainings in the fall of 2006.

Last Spring, Dianna Groves, the AISD Intervention Specialist with Student Support Services helped us get a foot in the door. We presented BTS to all of our School to Community Liaisons who work with all grade levels throughout the district. Then in March, 2007, Dianna arranged for BTS presentations to the Secondary Health Advisory Council.
Recently, in March, 2008, Margaret Hester, Elementary Counselor Program Specialist for AISD, was instrumental in scheduling Norma and me to present to all elementary counselors in the district. We have been getting some great exposure for BTS. NAMI Austin has been incredibly supportive and has supplied BTS to all workshop participants. Now, all we need are for counselors to start using it in the schools!

Sondra Halweg, James Bowie Counseling, 9th - 12th Grades, P-Sl

Breaking the Silence in Boca Raton - How We Are Doing It!

Our organization is having success! Based on a study of the needs of our youth, Boca Raton's Promise - The Alliance for Youth, developed a plan for understanding mental health in our community. We decided that BTS was the tool to use for our mental health initiative.

A mental health task force was established. Lorraine Kaplan, BTS co-author, introduced BTS at the Safe Schools Institute to 30 persons representing agencies, schools, law enforcement and media. Six months later the District Schools Prevention Center approved BTS for implementation. Our organization secured funds from a local hospital to purchase lesson plans and provide training. We hired a guidance counselor and arranged to train 40 educators in two-hour sessions during the 2007-08 school year.

We created a South County Mental Health Coalition with 3 cities in Palm Beach County. We meet monthly and partner with NAMI Palm Beach. We now include representation from law enforcement, universities, nursing administrators, mental health professionals, survivors, teachers, and consumers. All have participated in the May 31st event, Breaking the Silence in Boca Raton, the first in a series of community education forums. We are looking forward to more successes. Our perseverance prevailed! Thank you NAMI Queens/Nassau!

Rita Thrasher, Retired Teacher & Executive Director, Boca Raton's Promise

Mrs. South Carolina

Recently crowned Mrs. South Carolina and competing for the title of Mrs. United States in July, Dr. Gariane Gunter has adopted fighting to eliminate the negative stigma of mental illness as her platform. She believes that education is the key to winning this fight and feels that the BTS program will be instrumental in her success. Dr. Gunter plans on introducing BTS in South Carolina schools and is excited to see what a difference educating our children will make in the future of mental illness. She is entering her third year of general psychiatry residency at Palmetto Health Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, and then plans to enter a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry next year. Dr. Gunter considers it a great honor to be a voice for patients affected by mental illness across the state and an advocate for deserving people who often times cannot fight for themselves. She is helping to bring mental illness into the light and peoples' lives are changing. She invites you to join her in this incredible journey. If you are interested in working with Dr. Gunter on her BTS project in South Carolina email her at Gariane.Gunter@PalmettoHealth.org

BTS in the Classroom

As the Peer Counseling Coordinator of a middle school, I used BTS with my students to help fight against the stigma of mental illness. Students found the program to be extremely motivating and revealing. The outcome was twofold; an awareness of the trials those suffering with mental disorders must endure and students gained compassion as well. In addition, it educated them about the warning signs and treatment for the various disorders. Upon conclusion of the program, each student researched a particular disorder and then shared what they learned with their class mates. As a result they became much more informed about mental illness and available treatments. Many were inspired to further pursue their interest and learn more about mental illness.

Mary Jo Hernandez, Peer Counseling Coordinator, Pioneer Middle School

“Healthy Minds”

Janet and I were invited to tape a fall 2008 segment of “Healthy Minds”, an award winning public television series that addresses the latest information about the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. The series is hosted by Jeffrey Borenstien M.D., CEO, and Medical Director of Holliswood Hospital, New York, as well as New York Academy of Medicine Chair for the section on psychiatry. We discussed the need to teach about mental illness so that both students and teachers begin to recognize the warning signs and understand that mental illnesses are treatable, “no fault” diseases. We explained how BTS addresses these goals through age appropriate activities, stories, games, poems and posters. Look for our segment on WLIW Channel 21 in the fall!

Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Director of Educational Outreach

BTS in the UK

Jeffrey and Sheila Breslaw formed “Mencare” http://www.mencare.info/ (soon to be called “Caring4Carers”) in response to the need to assist families who are confronted with severe mental illness. After learning about BTS at NAMI national last October, Jeffrey decided to bring BTS to the United Kingdom. He plans on training trainers and approaching schools. He and his wife offer courses for families caring for a person with mental health problems. They have taught junior doctors and psychiatrists as well as provided local London police with a mental illness workshop. We look forward to following Jeffrey’s BTS project in the UK.

Jeffrey Breslaw

NIMH Test School

In February, our 7th grade students at Hilton Head Preparatory School participated in completing a survey about their feelings and thoughts on mental illness. To many of them, this was their first exposure in identifying what mental illness was. The students were very interested in the topic of mental illness and the surveys gave them the opportunity to start asking questions. Some of the students had some knowledge about mental illness but the majority felt the words “mental illness” meant crazy or retarded.

Unfortunately, mental illness is a topic rarely shared with young people. But for the past two years, I have used parts of the BTS curriculum with my eighth grade guidance class. The students are always surprised to find that with treatment, many diagnosed with mental illness lead successful, productive lives. They also discovered they were not alone and that it is okay to ask for help.

As a thank you gift for participating in the survey process, we received a series of books from NAMI Queens/Nassau about mental illness that are geared toward adolescents. I am hoping that next year some of these books will be listed on the summer reading list.

Marilyn Calore, Counselor, Hilton Head Preparatory School

“Mothers of Children with Depression Push for Curriculum in Schools”

My interest in bringing BTS to Boyton Beach, Florida led me to a Palm Beach Post interview for an article, “Mothers of Children with Depression Push for Curriculum in Schools.” I was immediately bombarded with phone calls from many eager to help. Each call was important, but Fartun Mohamud’s call made the difference.

Fartun is a Licensed Family Counselor, one of ten in Palm Beach County, Florida. She was very excited about the article and said, "Finally someone is doing something in the area."  We met and set April 29th at Indian Ridge School to have Rita Thrasher, President, Boca Raton's Promise, present the BTS curriculum to all of her counselors. A few of us shared our stories of why we wanted to get involved and make a difference. Gerta has lost her son from suicide. Bonnie's daughter has bipolar and she was unaware of her daughter's suffering at a young age. And I lost my son to a heart attack; the stress of the disease and medication was too much for him. Rita’s presentation was a huge success. The counselors will present the curriculum to the Principals of their schools. We have another meeting with a Professor of Mental Health at Palm Beach College and our committee will continue to brainstorm and promote mental illness education.

Lorraine Michaelis

My Winter Vacation!

You never know where networking will lead. Three years ago while vacationing in Florida, I came across an article in the Sun Sentinel paper about a forum on teenage depression to be held in the Boca Raton library. That article led me to Rita Thrasher and an organization known as “Boca Raton's Promise”, started by Colin Powell. I called Rita and was invited to her office where I introduced her to BTS. That Sunday, I was a panelist at the library forum. Rita has become a good friend and BTS advocate. She has been instrumental in getting Palm Beach County to approve BTS for use in the schools. Over the past few years, Rita has arranged for me to talk to many groups; spreading the word about BTS.

This year I visited a middle school in Broward County, hoping to secure a test site for the BTS/NIMH evaluation. As I was about to discuss the importance of teaching about mental illness and BTS with the Principal and Peer Counselor, Mary Jo Hernandez, I was interrupted and Mary Jo said, "We use BTS and the students love it! They especially like the story            'Mother's Day Boy' about the boy who had a wrestling match at summer camp". I looked at her and said, "That is the story of my son!”  It was a very moving moment for me. My son's story was helping young people become aware that mental illness is no one's fault.

I was the keynote speaker at "The Association for Community Counseling" annual meeting. There were about 75 people in attendance and volunteers signed up to advocate for mental illness education in Florida schools. We also had full page coverage in the Palm Beach Post, “Group strives to end stigma of mental illness.” I keep in contact with my Florida connections; am always available to consult and advise. It is imperative to reach out, network, and leave no stone unturned.

Lorraine Kaplan, BTS Director of Educational Outreach

Never, never, never, never give up.
-- Winston Churchill

Our persistence is paying off. BTS is entering classrooms every day. Please continue to share your outreach projects and know that you are making a difference. Thank you.

Amy Lax, Director of PR & Development, amylax@optonline.net

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