Breaking The Silence
Lesson Plans, games and posters created to break the silence about mental illness in our schools


People keep quiet about mental illness. They don't talk about their brother who hears voices, their mother who stays in bed with depression, or the counting rituals they themselves do before they can leave their house. So our children become hidden victims. Afraid to speak about their illness, or unable to recognize the symptoms, they may deteriorate for years before getting treatment.

Mental illness is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disease in this country and worldwide.* One in five people will be struck by mental illness at some point in their lives. Yet there is a deafening silence about it in our schools. Students in health classes learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, cancer prevention, and how a healthy lifestyle can prevent cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and other illnesses, but many graduate from high school without ever having had one lesson on mental illness.

Programs like this designed to destigmatize mental illness will help millions get the help they need.
--Harold Koplewicz, MD
Author, IT'S NOBODY'S FAULT, Random House

With proper treatment, the majority of people with mental illness can return to productive and engaging lives.
--Surgeon General's Report on Mental Illness

BREAKING THE SILENCE was developed for NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) as part of their "Campaign to End Discrimination" to end this cycle of ignorance and shame. NAMI is a non-profit, grass-roots organization of families and friends, with more than 1,000 chapters nationwide, dedicated to eradicating mental illnesses and improving the quality of life of all those affected by these diseases.

With knowledge comes compassion for people they might have ridiculed.
--Anna Eng, Health Teacher, Manhasset, NY

Three teachers, who as parents experienced first hand the pain of seeing their own children taunted and isolated by classmates, created these materials. They hoped through education to create greater tolerance for children like theirs. It was also their dream to create a new openness about mental illness, which would encourage students to seek treatment for themselves or a friend who might be experiencing the onset of a major mental illness.

* "Global Burden of Disease Study" conducted by the World Health Organization, World Bank, and Harvard, 1990.