An evening chat with Edie Myers-Power, NAMI Eastside program manager

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“Every time we bring up the topic of mental health in a normalized way, the stigma goes down more and more, and that normalization reaches more and more people.”

An evening chat with Edie Myers-Power, NAMI Eastside program manager

Edie Myers-Power profile photo from https://nami-eastside.org/team-2/

By Daniel McAleese, Heather Huynh, Paola Gonzalez, UW Bothell School of Business 

Similar to most meetings that have occurred in the last few years, everyone in attendance was in front of a computer. Some in dimly lit rooms, others at their brightly lit desks. The UW Bothell students that were interviewing Edie Myers-Power were eager to meet her as their research into NAMI and Edie has finally culminated in this interview. Edie joined us from her office at NAMI Eastside.  Even with it being past 6 pm, Edie was still enthusiastic to speak with the students in attendance. She appeared happy to answer our questions and gave us the impression that she was very dedicated and committed to her work, being in the office that late. In the background of her video, you can see her detailed calendar, which gives the impression that she is very organized as well. Later in the interview, she mentions that she has actually outgrown this calendar and needs to upgrade to a larger one.

 

While employed at a behavioral health treatment center post-graduation with a bachelor’s in psychology, Edie Myers-Powers conversed with a colleague about NAMI, a previously unfamiliar topic. This discussion appeared during her tenure at the treatment center, prompting her curiosity about NAMIWalks, an event organized by NAMI. Being intrigued by this organization’s mission, Myers-Powers landed herself two internships with NAMI: one with Seattle and the other with Washington. As she embarked on her journey to getting her master’s in social work, her enthusiasm for NAMI deepened, ultimately leading her to the role of program manager and being on the board of NAMI EastSide. 

We were wondering how your experience with mental health had made you want to advocate for more resources and learning specifically for the youth?

E M-P: My struggles with mental health started in college. I was already pursuing a psychology degree because I had friends who had mental health struggles. I have lived experience with PTSD…that experience of kind of going through that without really knowing what resources were available to me, without really knowing what I was supposed to do. I didn’t see a counselor until a year after the event that caused my PTSD […] I just kept living life. I just kept pushing through until it got bad enough that I [need to] find help for this. […] What makes me so passionate about youth mental health education is if I had had mental health as a consistent topic in my upbringing- in my education- I would have been much more prepared to go and seek out those resources and help when I got to the point when I needed it. And so I’m really passionate about giving that experience to students and kids growing up that mental health is a phrase that’s in their vocabulary, that they know they know who to talk to when they’re struggling, and just having people grow up being more well prepared to take care of their mental health.

Why do you think people in your communities don’t seek help for mental health issues? Or don’t ask for it?

E M-P: […] stigma is really, really surrounding the topic of mental health. There’s also the issue of access to resources in our community. Our healthcare system is not built for mental health care. We’re only just now kind of seeing people take mental health as [seriously] as physical health, and we also see a lot…of people resistant to this. 

But of course, this up-and-coming generation is taking it a lot more seriously. But, the systems have not caught up with that. There’s insurance and financial barriers to therapy and other mental health resources. There’s just a lack of resources to be enough for the demands, especially with the pandemic; a lot of people [are] struggling with their mental health, and there’s just not enough providers, not enough resources to keep up. So, there are several reasons why someone might not be able to seek things out or might not be able to access resources as well.

Reading through your bio, you talked about being a musician, and so we were wondering if that has helped improve your mental health in any way, and if so, how has it?

E M-P: Music is pretty core to my identity. Absolutely! I don’t specify what kind of musician I am on the website because it’s just too much to go into, I’d have to say singer, saxophonist, and bassoonist. But I would say the biggest way music contributes to my mental health is community. That’s one of the biggest reasons I did marching band and choir throughout high school and college. It is a huge community space [and] social space for me. Most of my friends that I made in [the] Husky Marching Band. My partner is someone I met in [the] Husky marching band. And then just the art of music itself. 

It’s something that just brings such a sense of joy and just such a sense of accomplishment that anyone that’s involved with music [and] has struggles with mental health, finds solace in their music and in their hobby of music because it’s just fun. And it’s a way to connect with other people. I am always doing music in a group rather than by myself, and that’s kind of the gist of how it affects my life. It’s one of the most important things to me for sure.

What do you hope would happen surrounding mental health issues?

E M-P: Yeah, I’m not sure if I can speak specifically to UW Bothell because I’m still learning what is available on campus and what’s not, resources-wise. Just having those community spaces where you can openly talk about mental health, even if it’s not like a therapy appointment, helps to not only give people those spaces to process and to find a community in that, but also it reduces the stigma every time we talk about it, right? Every time we bring up the topic of mental health in a normalized way, the stigma goes down more and more, and that normalization reaches more and more people. I’m so happy that we’ve got the NAMI on Campus at UW Bothell because I think just by existing, you’re creating conversations and reducing stigma. So I would hope that just continues to grow even more. 

How has working with NAMI improved/changed your life?

E M-P: I would say I’m the most fulfilled in employment that I’ve ever been. I feel very passionately about my work, and I feel that we’re making an impact, whereas, you know, sometimes in the past, a job is a job. You don’t always feel that way, right? But I think just having the position that I’m in, in the organization that I’m in, I feel very blessed to have [and] be able to make the impact on the community that I can and have the ability to connect with people and get creative with solutions. By making a difference in mental health in general and in youth mental health…I see myself here for quite a while, let’s just say. I definitely see myself staying and seeing this work through, and I think that really says something about a job, that you’re not looking for the next thing.

What story have you heard from NAMI that has impacted your life the most/has stuck with you?

E M-P: One of the biggest ways we can serve the community is through our support groups. We often have many people running our support groups as facilitators who were previously attendees. So you just see their stories of how they got so much out of being in the support group that it inspired them to take on a support group themselves to impact other people. We have people who have been running these support groups for 7-8 years, just doing so much work, and having people even tell them sometimes, “you save my life…it gave me that safe space, it gave me that community that I needed to really accept my mental health struggles and find resources to help myself from”. I think that’s one of the biggest successes I’ve seen from here, and the people have stuck with us for a long time. I had volunteers that have just been volunteering for us for so long, and they’ve gotten so much out of it, so it really shows the impact we’re making.

With social media being so prevalent in our lives, how do you see social media affecting the lives of the younger generation? Furthermore, what are some of the upsides and downsides you’ve seen?

E M-P: I think the reality of social media has a lot of pros and cons to it, and there are negative ways that it’s affecting mental health. Comparing yourself to others can be [a] huge issue. I think social media can be a positive thing when we use it in the right way, but right now, we’re kind of in this space where we’re learning. Maybe this is the amount that we’ve just saturated society with [and] it’s really affecting young people not just in mental health, but just in general. And like the way that we focus on tasks and the way that we are engaged with school and work. Just having access to all of the information and all of the news going on in the world at all times. It’s important to be in the know, and it’s important to be passionate about what’s going on and to speak up about things. But, it can also be really draining to constantly see bad news all [at] the same time. 

Now, knowing your story, what actions do you want/think others could take?

E M-P: If you’re someone who knows someone else who is struggling, just offering to listen. Offering to listen to whatever’s going on with them, without interrupting, without offering solutions. Just sitting there listening, affirming, and validating their experience. Oftentimes, we find ourselves jumping to, “well, what if you did this to solve that? I’ll solve that problem, or what if you…” Or just kind of not letting someone fully process their thoughts without responding right away. That’s something that I really learned in my master’s of social work. I did have to take some classes that were similar to what a therapist does. If you’re gonna ask a question, you ask them open-ended questions. Just being there to listen if you can and if you can tell something’s off, even if they say, “I’m okay,” asking one more time, “are you sure you’re okay? Is there anything you need? Do you need to talk?” Just don’t let it go. If you think something’s off, don’t let it go. 

How has being an intern at NAMI Washington helped you prepare to co-found the club here at UW Bothell?

During her internships at both NAMI Seattle and Washington, Myer-Powers has thoroughly understood the ins and outs of what NAMI has to offer. She particularly emphasizes the freedom of members in the on-campus NAMI club, allowing them to pursue topics and organize events according to their preferences. When members feel like they lack additional information regarding resources to address certain mental health topics, Myer-Powers offers that guidance and acts as a valuable resource.  

Where do you see NAMI Eastside in 5 years? What are your long-term goals?

E M-P: NAMI Eastside is on this upward trajectory of expansion [on one] of our programs. We had kind of a rough last year with some turnover before I came around, and so we’re just on the up and up trying to bring back that consistency and growth of programs. We just hired a bilingual programs coordinator who mainly works with East King County’s Spanish-speaking populations. They just started support groups specifically for Spanish-speaking folks this month. 

I see those programs growing a lot, not just for Spanish-speaking but also expanding out to other languages and cultural communities. Creating spaces where mental health can be talked about in a way that is culturally appropriate and accessible to each cultural community because not every community is going to talk about mental health in the same way. It’s not a cookie-cutter model. We need to tailor things because everybody’s different. I [also] see our youth programs and NAMI on campuses growing a lot. UW Bothell was our first NAMI on-campus club, but we have just established our second club at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland. They’re just getting started [with] NAMI on campus. The program nationally has just expanded to high schools and colleges [and] I think we should expand the programs we offer for [the] youth. I have big dreams for those because right now, we offer a lot of things that are for 18 and older, and we need to be talking about mental health too, as young [of an] age as we possibly can. Just getting more and more of those programs so more youth in our area can access these resources is also a big goal of mine. 

Edie Myers-Power has made great strides in the effort to improve not only her mental health but that of her community. Through her ongoing work with the UW Bothell NAMI Club and at NAMI Eastside, Edie has shown herself to be an excellent asset to students and community members alike. 

NAMI Eastside, an impactful non-profit, dedicates itself to mental health advocacy by providing resources, educational courses, and support groups throughout Eastern King County. Working side by side with NAMI Seattle and Washington, they establish nurturing within communities to enhance the well-being of individuals affected by mental health challenges. 

If you’re interested in learning more about advocating for youth mental health or if you’re interested in advocating for youth mental health education and resources. Please visit NAMI Support GroupsNAMI Volunteers to join one of the support groups offered or how to get more involved with NAMI.  If you’re unable to volunteer, there are still meaningful ways you can contribute. Consider making a donation instead Donate to NAMI .