By Jadan Shorts
Recently I was able to speak with NAMI Washtenaw’s community programs coordinator, Lisa deRamos, about some recent educational presentations she facilitated for NAMI’s Ending the Silence (ETS) program.
ETS offers in person and virtual presentations that typically last 50-90 minutes, and aim to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health. ETS was originally geared toward high school students, but in recent years it has been modified, and the target audience now includes adults, too; for example, parents, teachers, college students, faith organizations, and other community organizations.
During these presentations, NAMI volunteers appear as guest speakers to share testimonials about their mental health journeys, help individuals understand that they are not alone, and reassure them that there is support for them. One of the recent ETS presentations, “Mental Health 101: Shattering Stigma and Building Resilience,” was hosted in partnership with SRSLY Chelsea, Washtenaw Area Council for Children (WACC), and First United Methodist Church of Chelsea.
When asked what the main take-away from these presentations was, Lisa responded, “The necessity for young people to know that mental health conditions are more common than people think, and for them to know they are not alone. Especially since the pandemic, young people have experienced greater amounts of isolation, stress from the back-and-forth from remote to in-person learning, and increasingly unhealthy levels of social media consumption. Educating youth about mental health and healthy coping strategies is now more important than ever.”
Asked about the main goals of these presentations, she shared, “Our aim is to raise awareness about mental health conditions and reduce the stigma surrounding them, because stigma is a barrier to seeking treatment. The sooner that people decide to seek treatment and support, the better, because finding the right combination of treatment and individualized care takes time.”
I wanted to know what one word encapsulates her experiences with ETS, and Lisa responded “‘Powerful’ for everyone involved. Speakers get to share their stories and feel empowered, and the listeners receive a message of hope.” This sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Lisa hopes that she can continue to watch volunteers grow and thrive. She said, “I first got involved with ETS as a young adult volunteer speaker and used to share my story alongside some of the volunteer speakers who are still active now. In my new role as ETS program coordinator, it’s been so cool to hear their stories grow and evolve, and to witness these volunteers blossom as individuals. Their stories are truly inspiring because there’s something so powerful about turning your darkest moments into messages of hope for others.”
We are so thankful for all the work Lisa does and all of our volunteers who speak up.