Resilience Profiles: Interviews highlighting mental health journeys

A person's journey through mental health challenges is deeply personal, but universally connecting. It's through sharing our stories that we find strength, hope, and the realization that we are not alone in our struggles. A diagnosis doesn't stop you from achieving your dreams.

We're hoping to spread that message thanks to University of Washington - Bothell instructor Laura Umetsu. She is a former NAMI Seattle board member that includes a NAMI board member interview in her curriculum. Students write introductory features on board members (and volunteers) from NAMI Seattle and NAMI Eastside that we will regularly post on our blog.

Our first feature is a profile on NAMI Seattle board member Joey Wilson. A beacon of positivity, Joey shares his journey with schizophrenia, highlighting the critical role of support, treatment, and self-acceptance in managing his condition. He was the subject of a 2023 documentary, "The Voice Inside" that debuted at the Seattle Center last spring. and students attended a showing at the UW Bothell campus and wrote about the experience. Read the full story below.

“We all need second or even third chances in life” – a Conversation with Joey Wilson

By Guest Contributor | April 9, 2024 | Comments Off on “We all need second or even third chances in life” – a Conversation with Joey Wilson

An interview with Joey Wilson, graduate of Bellevue College’s OLS program and star of mental health biographical documentary “The Voice Inside”.

By Nathanial Stotler, Rupesh Bayalkoti, and Zhi Xuan Jiang University of Washington Bothell School of Business.

Featured image: Model: Joey Wilson | Photo Credit: Rupesh Bayalkoti | Photo location: Professor Umetsu’s classroom UWB

It was a cold, chilly dark winter evening. The sounds of students scurrying and rushing last minute to their classes were filling the halls. Our classroom on this night was a lucky one. The bright overhead fluorescent lights were keeping everyone reluctantly awake while the alluring scent of pizza that had engulfed the room was keeping everyone attentive. Joey sat himself at the head of a table surrounded by pizza boxes, reminiscent of a king ready for his royal dinner. Joey had donned a silky white crewneck, comfortable blue jeans, and unblemished white Nikes. Joey was freshly shaven with a buzzcut enjoying a slice of everyone’s favorite food, pizza. Joey has a gentle soft voice that is immensely welcoming as he encourages others to grab a slice. Once everyone was comfortable, the projector screen quickly flashes and the documentary about Joey’s journey finally begins to play. 

 

Through the documentary “The Voice Inside” produced by Bright Eyed Entertainment, it is easy to see the strain living with schizophrenia can cause in everyday life. Schizophrenia affects neurotransmitters in the brain, which can cause confusion, delusion, illusions, disordered thinking and behavior. For the majority of his life, Joey has lived with schizophrenia, but found ways to manage his symptoms, and went on to graduate from college, become a board member for multiple different nonprofits, and has been recognized by the Seattle Kraken and Seahawks as a community hero. After we watched the documentary, Joey was gracious enough to answer some questions we had for him about his life. 

 

So walk me through it, how did you first learn that you had schizophrenia and how old were you? How did that make you feel and how did that change the way you perceive yourself?

JW: I first learned I had schizophrenia when I was 12 years old. I felt very lost and alone at first. I felt mistreated, as if someone took everything from me and pushed a restart button on my life. Today, I am thankful to have schizophrenia, it has really shaped me as the adult and person I am now. 

 

Compared to the early stages of your schizophrenia to now, what are some skills you have developed or enhanced as a result of living with schizophrenia? 

JW: I was just a kid when diagnosed with schizophrenia. Now, in life I have to think one step ahead whether that’s taking my medication or taking my medication wherever I go. That could be going to work or just out with me in my daily life. I have matured and become responsible, a lot of pressure comes with living with a mental health condition. I am a very honest person and have incredible insight. That’s one of the reasons I made it to where I am today, always be honest with your doctor. Being honest with my support team, my doctor, family, and friends has helped me avoid certain triggers and events.

  

You found the right medication and treatment, can you tell me more about just how crucial that is on the road of recovery? How long did it take for you to find the right medication and treatment? 

JW: It took 3 years to find the right medication. Finding the right medication opened a whole new world of possibilities for me. The medication is life saving. I wouldn’t be able to survive without it. It is truly life saving finding the right medication.

 

What made you decide to seek help? What or who has been the most influential for you to keep going and to persevere?

JW: What made me seek help was my family, my mom, friends, mentors and community. My mom has been there every step of the way, she is the backbone to my success and is truly my life. I love my mom more than anything else in this world, she has sacrificed a lot for me growing up and I am very blessed to have her in my life.

 

When did things start to feel as if they were finally coming together for you? 

I felt things were coming together when I was 22. I was getting ready to move out of the group home, around the same time I found the right medication, and I reached out to my dad. I haven’t spoken to my dad in many years. I learned a lot by being at his side when he needed me the most. There’s so many different things in life my dad has taught me and so much I have learned from him that I will never forget and will always carry with me everyday […]no days go by where my dad does not cross my mind or I don’t think about him.

  

You have been recognized and honored by not just the Seahawks but also the Kraken as well. What does that mean to you? Are the Sounders and Mariners up next on the list?

JW: Being honored by the Kraken and Seahawks is something I’m very proud of. Since I was a little kid I have loved sports, and being honored by them was very special to me. I hope to be honored by the Seattle Sounders and Mariners. I hope one day to throw out the first pitch at a postseason game and be able to meet Ken Griffey Jr. That would be a dream come true when the mariners return to the playoffs, possibly next season. I’m a huge Mariners fan and Ken Griffey Jr is my favorite player that’s ever played baseball.  

 

If you could have your own billboard with a message to the world, what would it be?

JW: On a billboard, if there’s one message I could express to the world is that to the families and individuals who are having a hard time getting a loved one help who may be experiencing a mental health episode, crisis, or treatment, I would tell the families and friends of the loved one to never give up on them. We all need second and even third chances in life. Life is not easy for anyone, I would also tell those out there struggling from past situations, to make peace with your past. As humans we all have a past, no one is better than anyone else. Life can be extremely stressful, make peace with your past and always check in on people you care about to make sure they’re doing ok.

 

Joey Wilson is a remarkable individual whose journey through the complexities of schizophrenia has been both challenging and inspiring. From a tumultuous childhood marked by developmental struggles and the perplexing search for answers alongside his devoted mother, to the daunting onset of symptoms during early development, Joey’s story is a testament to resilience and the unwavering pursuit of personal growth. Schizophrenia, a chronic illness affecting approximately 0.32% of the global population, manifests in Joey through confused thinking, auditory hallucinations, and mood swings, presenting formidable obstacles to his daily life absent of continued treatment and medication. 

 

Despite the hurdles imposed by his condition, Joey’s resilience shines through in his determination to navigate the difficult path of schizophrenia with grace and perseverance. His journey is not one of despair but rather of unwavering tenacity and a profound commitment to self-improvement. Through the unwavering support of his family, including his father’s enduring presence before his passing, and the guidance of mentors from Bellevue College’s OLS program, Joey finds solace and strength to confront the adversities that accompany his diagnosis.

 

No fight is won alone, together we are always stronger. We encourage you to offer your support to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in any way you can. Through both NAMI Seattle and NAMI Eastside, you can find ways to donate, volunteer, attend support group meetings, and get involved in programs for family and friends. 

 

This article is a collaborative piece created by a group of University of Washington Bothell School of Business students from Professor Laura Umetsu’s Business Writing course. Our group would like to send a special thank you to Erika Cho from the University of Washington Bothell Writing Center for her peer review assistance.

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

By Guest Contributor | April 12, 2024 | Comments Off on An evening chat with Edie Myers-Power, NAMI Eastside program manager

View and download the pdf – view the text-only version at the bottom of this page.

 


“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 .

A Conversation with Raveena Sarai, Founder of NAMI on Campus Club at UW Bothell

By Guest Contributor | April 12, 2024 | Comments Off on A Conversation with Raveena Sarai, Founder of NAMI on Campus Club at UW Bothell
NAMI on campus at UW Bothell students during an activity

View and download PDF – Text only version below

 

Despite all the positive work of the club, funding remains limited, hindering longevity and further expansion. NAMI, a non-profit 501(c)(3), accepts donations to fund much of their work.

We leave our readers with one final comment from Raveena: 

“I hope the club still exists in 5 years; I wish people cared enough.”

 


 

A Conversation with Raveena Sarai, Founder of the NAMI on Campus Club at UW Bothell

 

Pictured Left: Raveena Sarai, Co-Founder of NAMI on campus. Photo provided by Raveena Sarai taken by Gurinder Athwal

 

Like many in the post-pandemic era, our class met remotely over Zoom, sat in front of our computers, in our homes and offices, and prepared to take notes on the interview. Our fellow UW Bothell student, Raveena Sarai, one of the few who have turned their webcam on, joins our class. In her webcam, we can see that she is seated at a desk. While she opts to blur her background, we can make out décor hung up on the far wall; it looks like some kind of vine or plant. Raveena has her hair down and wears minimal jewelry, with only a pair of earrings and a nose ring visible. 

 

Raveena comes across with a joyful personality, often smiling between her words. After exchanging brief pleasantries, our interview begins.

 

Could you tell us about yourself?

 

RS: For sure, Professor [Laura Umetsu] did a little bit. But I am a health studies major. I’m graduating this quarter, actually!  And I do want to be a PA. I’m currently working as a medical assistant at a derm(atology) clinic. I think that’s kinda the gist about me.

 She seems comfortable during the interview, smiling often,and looking into the camera, taking only brief pauses to quickly collect her thoughts. 

 

You’ve indicated that you’re working towards a degree in health studies to become a physician’s assistant. Did aspects of mental health play a role in making this decision? Additionally, did this influence your choice to move to the University of Washington?

 

RS: I moved to UW [The University of Washington] from Gonzaga for personal reasons and to be closer to family. But the reason why I was so interested in starting on, having a significant role in mental health, and becoming a PA is because PAs are considered secondary providers to doctors, similar to nurse practitioners. So, usually, you’re able to see [PAs] a lot easier as opposed to seeing a doctor. From word of mouth and much research, many people trust their nurse practitioners or PAs much more. And so, as that kind of provider that already has a more trusting personality per se or role. I wanted to learn more about how to be a better mental health advocate. So, when I am a provider, I can help people accordingly.

 

Share your experience with your previous professor, Sunita Iyer. How did your paths cross, and what were her words that particularly struck a chord with you?

 

RS: Dr. Sunita Iyer was among the first professors I encountered at UW Bothell. And if you’ve ever met her, you’ll see what I mean. She is very open and genuine, so I was instantly intrigued when she spoke to her class about how she wanted to bring NAMI to UWB. I didn’t know much about NAMI, so she was like, “Just come to this general meeting. I’ll explain more if you don’t like it—no big deal.”

 

And then I ended up liking it, and that’s why I’m here. But she is just a perfect advisor and a great person. I think if she’d never brought it up to me, or if another professor did, I wonder if I would have gone through with it. But who knows?

 

Pictured right: Professor Sunita Iyer stands in the middle of the club officer photo. She acts as the club advisor on behalf of the UW Bothell Campus. Photo provided by Raveena Sarai, photographer unknown.

 

Since NAMI is about mental health advocacy, What experiences led you to speak with us today?

 

RS: Well, I was interested in speaking with you all because I wanted to share what NAMI is like from my perspective. As well as how NAMI on campus is. Hopefully, I could encourage more people to join the club, become a NAMI volunteer, or just simply know more about what NAMI is. Previously, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about what NAMI is but this experience has been an eye-opener. So, I hope to persuade at least one person in either section to feel the same way.

 

After joining NAMI and being a co-founder of the club at UWB, have you seen a difference in your lifestyle?

 

RS: Raveena thinks about how to answer this question briefly. “I guess NAMI on campus has forced me to be more social? And so at my other university [Gonzaga], I wasn’t very social, to be honest, and that led to me not being very happy there, so I wanted to definitely wanted to change my habits. When I came to UWB, just starting the club, I was able to speak to so many more people, meet many people, and learn a lot more, which made me learn way way way more about mental health and how that affects me.”

 

 How can one join NAMI Eastside or the NAMI Club on campus?

 

RS: Joining NAMI on campus [is] super easy. You can just attend our meetings, register on a presence page, and then boom! You’re a member, and you could also become an officer. I know in the spring we will be posting more about that. There’ll be some positions that are opening so becoming an officer member is the best way ‘cause you get super super involved, especially because our meetings, as of now, are pretty sporadic. And then join on Eastside; you can easily become a volunteer there. I’m also a volunteer outside of NAMI on Campus, and it was quite easy to do so, so I can put the volunteer form in the chat. If you’re interested in that.

 

To close out our interview, What are your goals for the NAMI club in the next year? How about the next five years?

 

RS: Really, our mission is to provide resources and advocacy around mental health issues that students face at UWB, you know, battle. And so I hope that continues to happen. And really as, like, from like a club President/founder perspective.

 

Pictured above: The NAMI club hosts their bracelet-making booth; Raveena mentioned briefly that the act of bracelet-making provided an alternative way to meditate, temporarily eliminating all of life’s headaches by keeping just enough of a distraction. Photo provided by Raveena taken by Malaika Ashraf, former NOC event coordinator.

 

The NAMI on Campus Club has provided a safe space for students to address their mental health needs, offering programs that connect individuals facing mental health challenges with peer-to-peer support and hosting events focused on mental health. Raveena Sarai’s background as a first-generation American helps address the stigma surrounding mental health within more culturally diverse communities; the club does its best to embody the cultural diversity of the campus to assist further. 

 

Despite all the positive work of the club, funding remains limited, hindering longevity and further expansion. NAMI, a non-profit 501(c)(3), accepts donations to fund much of their work.

 

We leave our readers with one final comment from Raveena: 

“I hope the club still exists in 5 years; I wish people cared enough.”