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NAMI Bucks ETS Presents at New Hope Academy (Parent Presentation)

Original post: February 17, 2018 (See original post)

Presentation from February 15, 2018

Arguably one of our most rewarding Ending the Silence presentations was given to parents at New Hope Academy on Thursday evening. Our ETS team was floored at the level of interaction, and genuinely touched by the response received. They gave their typical student presentations, but added a few important pieces specific to parents. There was applause from the audience, many questions, and a few tears. Here are a few notable comments from parents who attended the event:

“They say about 80% of school funding from tax payers goes to security, guards, and police presence in schools. If I could dictate where my educational tax dollars were spent, I would ensure that Ending the Silence presentations were given in every school across America to remedy the problems with school security, bullying, and mental health at the root.”

“High level intelligence or education do not predict mental health.”

“Mental Illness does not predict violence.”

“Take this on the road! All schools, businesses, etc. need to hear about mental illness because of its prevalence in our society, country, and world at large.”

“This should be mandatory for all students, teachers, and parents everywhere.”

“I am floored, everyone should hear this. I will be following and spreading the word.”

“Hopefully all schools will have NAMI presentations.”

“I liked how the presenters used music and art to help cope with their illness.”

“Brave. So impressive. Eloquent. Inspiring. Keep doing what you’re doing!”

“The raw honesty was refreshing. Each presenter found ways to make their story universal. Make it longer – for real!”

“‘The very things that we are bullied for end up becoming our greatest superpowers.’ Truth.”

“‘It’s okay if you don’t like me… Not everyone has good taste.’ Love this! :)”

The NAMI Bucks ETS team can’t thank the parents and staff of New Hope Academy enough. They are eagerly anticipating scheduled presentations for students at both the Yardley and Doylestown locations.

Event Photos

Rohan, Nick, and Laurie at New Hope Academy

Rohan, Nick, Laurie

Feedback from New Hope Academy Presentation


Tell Your Bully

Tell Your Bully



Ending the Silence Instagram

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Bucks ETS Presents at Unami Middle School

Posted: February 14, 2018 (See original post)

Presentations from February 12-13, 2018

Four very interactive, attentive, intelligent, and well-behaved audiences of students listened to our Bucks County Ending the Silence team present ideas for ending the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness at Unami Middle School in Chalfont, PA. All eyes were on Laurie Pepe as she delivered evidence-based facts about how mental illness actually affects school-aged youth, and on Nicholas Emeigh and Rohan Sharma as they told real life stories of what could happen if someone is too afraid to ask for help. Nicholas (Nick) reads poetry and shows examples of cakes he has decorated to prove that life is still worth living – and can still be lived to the fullest – whilst treating a mental illness. Rohan delivers an epic rap, and sometimes two if audience participation is satisfactory, to an auditorium full of applause and cheers after a very engaging presentation. The most rewarding part, perhaps, was when the students themselves approached the team to not only thank them, but to relate to their stories by sharing some of their own struggles with bullying, anxiety, and depression.

The entire NAMI Bucks team would like to extend a warm “thank you” to the students and faculty at Unami Middle School.

  • More information on Ending the Silence in Bucks County schools here
  • Meet our team here
  • More Bucks ETS News and Events here

Event Photos

Rohan and Laurie at Unami Middle School

Rohan and Laurie

Rohan at Unami Middle School

Rohan Presenting

Laurie at Unami Middle School

Laurie Presenting

Laurie at Unami Middle School

Laurie Presenting

Unami Middle School

Unami Lobby

Nick at Unami Middle School

Nick at Unami











Bucks ETS Presents at Richboro Middle School

Posted: February 12, 2018 (See original post)

Presentations from February 8-9, 2018

When asked if they felt scared about the topic of mental illness, the majority of students at Richboro Middle School raised their hands in affirmation to say that “yes, it’s a scary topic.” These intelligent young people were able to embrace the idea that fear is eliminated by knowledge and understanding, that mental illness is just as treatable as any other medical illness, that it’s #ok2notBok, and to ask for help from a trusted adult when needed. Credit is due to the faculty for acknowledging that mental health is a priority, and to the students for their undivided attention to a presentation on such an important, misunderstood subject.

The event was covered by Tianna Grosch of Times Publishing. Stay tuned for articles and more photos.

  • More information on Ending the Silence in Bucks County schools here
  • Meet our team here

Event Photos

Nicole Salome, of Richboro Middle School, holding a Bucks ETS t-shirt signed by students

Nicole Salome

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

First Slide

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

First Slide

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Signed ETS Shirts

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Laurie Pepe

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Laurie Pepe

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Rohan Sharma

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Rohan Sharma

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Rohan Sharma

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Nick Emeigh

NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Nick Emeigh





NAMI Bucks ETS at Richboro Middle School

Nick Emeigh










Bucks ETS Presents at NHS Cares

Posted: February 8, 2018 (Originally posted to Facebook by NHSC on 12/13/2017)

“NAMI – ENDING THE SILENCE SURROUNDING MENTAL ILLNESS – – Excellent! Last evening I attended this NHSC event. The focus was very much on ending the stigma associated with mental health issues and it was excellent – – a discussion that is long overdue in our world. The event was opened by Andrea de la Flor of NHSC, then Laurie Pepe (from National Alliance on Mental Illness -NAMI) did a lead out speech, and was followed by the compelling personal testimonies of Vicki Hellerick and Rohan Sharma. Well done NHSC!”

Event Photos:

Laurie Pepe at NHSC Event

Laurie Pepe (right)

Vicki Hellerick at the NHSC Event

Vicki Hellerick

Rohan Sharma (right) at NHSC Event

Rohan Sharma (right)

NHSC Event Audience

NHSC Audience

Andrea de la Flor of NHS Cares

Andrea de la Flor






Partnership In Youth Service Grant Award

Posted: January 30, 2018  (See original post)

Foundations Community Partnership Awards Luncheon (Vicki, Rohan, Laurie, Nick)

Foundations Community Partnership Awards Luncheon (Vicki, Rohan, Laurie, Nick)

NAMI of PA, Bucks County Ending the Silence Program accepted a $3,000 Partnership in youth service grant award from Foundations Community Partnership on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at the Doylestown Country Club.  Sincere thanks to Ron Bernstein and the entire governing board who choose to recognize us this year with this honor.  Laurie Pepe, the Program Coordinator, accepted the award and acknowledged the team of young adult presenters Nick, Vicki and Rohan, who have inspired so many middle and high school students with their amazing life experiences.  They focus on where they have been and where they are now successfully living in recovery.  They are strong, unique, and share their gifts and talents such as rap music, poetry, fine art, photography, self-help books and actual coping strategies with interactive exercises.  This award will allow us to continue to provide the necessary key tag handouts that include the keynote speaker Nancy Lubin’s crisis text number for instant access for youth that are technology driven.  We are very appreciative and grateful to have been chosen for the important work we are doing with this mental health education and awareness program.  Ending the Silence is about to become an evidenced based program and continue to prove that young people are seeking help and supporting one another more after listening to the presentation.


NAMI OF PA, Bucks County Chapter was Chosen by Staples Associate, Tom Pagen to Receive a $500.00 Grant




NAMI of PA, Bucks County Chapter has been awarded $500 by Staples Foundation, the private charitable arm of Staples, Inc., through a program called 2 Million & Change that allows Staples associates around the globe to direct donations in the total amount of about $2 million each year.

This grant will help support our Ending the Silence program, a prevention and early intervention program that engages students in a discussion about mental health. This 50-minute in-school presentation is designed for middle and high school students.

Created in 2012, the 2 Million & Change program is a philanthropic initiative created by Staples Foundation which allows Staples associates around the world to direct funding to non-profit organizations of their choosing that are focused on education or job skills. The program encourages local community engagement by awarding larger grants to organizations where associates are highly engaged in volunteering or fundraising – up to $25,000 per organization.

In 2015, associates globally directed more than $2.5 million of Staples Foundation grants to 875 non-profit organizations.

“For 30 years, Staples associates have been making a difference in their communities around the world,” said Regis Mulot, executive vice president, human resources, Staples, Inc., “We’re thrilled that the 2 Million & Change program lets our associates make an even greater impact on the organizations they are passionate about.”



Young Minds Forge New Attitudes About Old Mental Illness Stigmas

Posted: May 25, 2016


May 24, 2016
Bucks County Intelligencer
Jo Ciavaglia

When he was 14, Christopher Sandy felt no need to hide his diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder.

Now 30, the Hatboro man encourages Bucks County teens to talk about their struggles as part of a school-based program called Ending the Silence, which is designed to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by putting a face on it.

“I want the kids to realize they are not alone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a disorder of the brain,” Sandy said. “People have asthma; you take an inhaler and you’re good. For me, it was no different than having a cold.”

Sandy’s attitude is a dramatic departure from previous generations when psychiatric and behavioral disorders were seen as something to be kept secret, mental health experts say. But this new acceptance and greater willingness among young Americans to share personal information publicly has raised concerns among some mental health advocates and parents about possible future implications on job and social prospects in a society where the stigma about mental illness persists.

Approximately 21 percent of children — slightly more than one in five — between 13 and 18 years old will experience a seriously debilitating mental disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

And slightly more than 10 percent of American children — just over one in every 10 kids ages 8 to 15 — were diagnosed with a mental disorder within the past year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder topped the list, followed by mood disorders, the CDC found.

Two decades ago, only about 10 percent of children under 18 who exhibited behaviors consistent with serious behavioral, emotional or mental disorders were diagnosed and treated, compared with roughly 50 percent today, the National Institutes of Mental Health has determined.

Recent studies suggest a greater understanding and acceptance of psychiatric and behavioral disorders as treatable, chronic medical conditions are the reasons behind the dramatic increase in diagnosis and treatment. That’s particularly true among children, for whom early intervention shows the best long-term results.

Warminster resident Emily Plewes, 25, was diagnosed with childhood onset schizophrenia when she was a third-grader. Today, she’s a college student studying psychology, holds four part-time jobs, and maintains an active social life.

Like Sandy, she also speaks to school kids about living with a mental illness.


As a child, Plewes says that she was bullied more because of her weight and appearance than her schizophrenia, which she didn’t hide then either. The negative reactions she experienced came most frequently from adults, she said, but even those were infrequent.

“I feel like I was blessed in that area. I feel like because I’m open, people are more understanding and,when I do kind of bizarre things sometimes, they don’t hold it against me,” she added.

Emily’s childhood experience was unusual, researchers say. A 2010 Case Western Reserve University study — one of the first looking at youths with psychiatric disorders — found at least 90 percent of participants were stigmatized by their illness, which led to feelings of shame and secrecy that limited social interactions. Many study participants reported the attitudes of parents and school officials made them feel better — or worse — depending on those attitudes.

That is changing, according to recent studies in which college students who have been diagnosed with a mental illness reporting they experience less stigma on campus than the stigma the general population experiences.

Colleges also say they’re seeing an increase in students reporting to counseling centers with anxiety disorders and clinical depression and more serious incidents that require immediate intervention, according to a series last year in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University found that more than 100,000 college students at 140 U.S. colleges and universities — about half of those surveyed last year — had sought mental health treatment. The center’s 2015 report noted, on average, a roughly 30 percent increase in college students seeking counseling services and a 38 percent increase in students keeping counseling center appointments over the previous five years.

That’s a trend Bernice Pescosolido, director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, has noticed evolving over the last three decades. She said she also has seen a greater willingness among her students at Indiana University to openly discuss their mental illness diagnosis in class, where years ago they waited until afterward to talk with her privately.

While Pescosolido agrees Americans are more knowledgeable about mental illness today, she said there’s still a strong reluctance to fully embrace individuals who are mentally ill. Many Americans still consider people who are treated for psychiatric disorders as unpredictable, unstable and dangerous, which can make public disclosure risky, she added.

“Mental illness has become a uniquely American metaphor for evil,” Pescosolido said. “That whole line, if someone has diabetes, you wouldn’t tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, that seems to have taken us as far as we go. That hasn’t translated into “Yes, it’s OK if they marry into my family or work closely with me in a job.’ ”

Such lingering negative attitudes are why some parents worry about their children going public with a mental illness diagnosis.

“Sometimes you worry if someone, say from a college she is trying to get into, may see (her talking about her diagnosis) and where, I take it as a strength, they may not,” said Lynn Plewes, Emily’s mom. “There are some things that you don’t know, like how a future employer might not take it as ‘acceptingly.’ My thing is, then they must not want a good person.”

When her oldest son landed his first job collecting shopping carts at age 16, Warminster resident Debbie Moritz says she struggled over whether to tell his employer about his childhood-onset schizophrenia.

“What I ultimately did was let him decide and he decided not to tell anybody,” said Moritz, executive director of the Bucks County NAMI chapter. “But I worried, what if he had some problems at work and he didn’t have the support there.”

In the end, her concerns were unfounded, she added. Today her son, who has a different last name, is 34, married, and has a job. Still, she added, he typically doesn’t disclose his illness to employers or coworkers, Moritz said.

A growing body of research suggests a greater exposure to people with a mental or behavioral disorder creates greater tolerance and understanding and allows others to see the illness as only one piece of a person’s identity.

“You have to think of it as a part of the fabric of their lives,” said Pescosolido, who sits on the National Research Council’s Committee on the Science of Changing Behavioral Health Social Norms. “The only way to fight stigma is to fight it on all levels all the time…. It’s a little like ‘Whack-a-Mole’ — if you push it down in one place, it pops up somewhere else.”

Ending the Silence

What people believe about behavioral health and substance abuse is created and reinforced at multiple levels, including the media, community norms and government law and policies, according to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report released in April. It found a major factor in predicting attitudes toward behavioral or psychiatric disorders is whether an individual has had prior contact with someone with such a disorder.

The human element of mental illness is the strategy behind Ending the Silence, a 50-minute school-based program offered in 26 states — including Pennsylvania — through the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The program targets ninth- and 10th-graders, focusing on early warning signs and steering students toward resources for more information and help.

“Schools are recognizing they must address mental health better in the school setting,” said Darcy Gruttadaro, NAMI’s national advocacy director. “This is not a taboo subject. This is part of the human condition.”


NAMI is conducting long-term research into the effectiveness of Ending the Silence, Gruttadaro said. A 2011 study on the effectiveness of a similar mental health curriculum for middle school students found those who took the six-week course showed less apprehension about interacting with people with mental illness than students who didn’t take the course.

Bucks County schools were among the first in the USA to use Ending the Silence. The Bucks NAMI chapter purchased it from the DuPage, Illinois, NAMI chapter that created it in 2012, Moritz said. The Illinois chapter donated the program to the national chapter in 2014.

The program has been used primarily in the Central Bucks School District, but plans are to expand it tothe Centennial and New Hope-Solebury districts next year, Moritz said.

Laurie Pepe, who coordinates the Bucks County Ending the Silence program, said schools are receptive to its message. “It’s growing rapidly, to the point they’re reaching out to us to come in,” she said.

Earlier this year, at the request of a Centennial School District the program was presented to eighth-graders at one of its middle schools after administrators there reported more students exhibiting signs of social anxiety, Pepe said.

 ‘Accepting what I am’

During another presentation, in April at Unami Middle School in the Central Bucks School District, about half the 100 ninth-graders in the audience raised their hands when asked if they, or someone they knew, had a mental illness.

Afterward, the handful of teens who talked to a reporter said students are reluctant to talk about mental struggles with adults but not so much with their peers. They expressed concern that teens in mental distress may hesitate to seek help because they fear people will label them as attention-seekers.

One 14-year-old girl who was interviewed admitted she sometimes feels anxious and awkward at parties. “It’s gotten, like, bad,” she said.

But she, like the others interviewed, said she has friends she can text message or call whenever she feels emotionally overwhelmed.

A key component of the Ending the Silence program is its use of young adults with mental illness — like Christopher Sandy and Emily Plewes — as presenters. They show students that a mental health diagnosis doesn’t prevent you from leading successful lives.

Former presenter Marissa Gates, who left the program after getting a full-time job, said she found many students weren’t used to having someone talk openly about mental health.

After her presentations, the 23-year-old Warminster resident said she frequently had students ask questions and share personal experiences — telling her it was the first time they felt comfortable talking to someone about mental health issues.

After a presentation at her former middle school, Gates said a student told her she knew nothing about mental illness before listening to Gates. “That was something that was pretty big,” Gates said.

Growing up, Gates said she wished she had someone to talk to about the way her parents behaved. At age 9, she and her twin sister were removed from their parents’ custody and placed with relatives.

It wasn’t until after Gates was diagnosed with depression at age 17 that she learned her parents had severe mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia.

“It was very scary, at first, when I was first diagnosed because I think, for myself, I put a lot of stigma around it,” she said. “Mental health was very much swept under the rug in my family. There wasn’t room to really talk about it. There was a lot of shame built around mental health in general.”

When she found the right support after she was diagnosed, Gates said her perception about mental illness changed. In therapy, she felt free to express herself for her first time, and her friends encouraged her not to let depression define her as a person.

After she started openly speaking about her depression, Gates said the only negative response came from family members who worried it would reflect badly on her and them. They’ve since changed that view, Gates said.

“They’ve seen how much I’ve grown, both in the person that I am and professionally, just based off me sharing my story. I think that has helped them realize it’s OK to share,” she said. “Even if I am stigmatized, all that matters is I am accepting what I am.”

Watch the video here


Ending the Silence



NAMI PA of Bucks County is proud to introduce “Ending The Silence”; a program especially designed for high school audiences and typically presented in the freshman/sophomore health classes during the mental health portion of the curriculum. This program was developed by Dupage County Illinois, NAMI.

This interactive program which provides key resource materials for students, seeks to inform them about the basic signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and reduce the stigma through personal stories.

The informational and interactive power point is the first part of the presentation and the personal story is the second. The last few minutes of the class are for evaluation and Q & A. “Mood Pencils” are used as incentive for students to ask questions. These change color with the heat from your hand and have the NAMI PA, Bucks County contact information on them. The students also get a brochure from SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “What a Difference a Friend Makes”.

There have been students who have seen the presentation and directed theirparents to our Parent Support Group and Parent Education Class.

With Ending the Silence, we have a great educational tool for students. Evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive with student comments like the following, after one high school presentation.

“Thank you so much for coming and talking with us about mental health and disorders. I have suffered from depression, I’m still recovering but I’m a lot better now and your stories really connected to my life. A lot of my friends and people I am close to suffer from depression or have suffered from depression and/or suicidal thoughts; this topic hits really really close to home for me. Talking about ways you can support friends and others with this issue could be really beneficial because this issue is so prominent and so common today. Thank you again, sharing your stories with people, especially teenagers, can be hard but I am really glad you did. Thank you thank you thank you.” 

This program has been presented to the Central Bucks School District for the past two years and we are expanding rapidly.  We hope to visit the health classes in all districts in Bucks County.  Please encourage your district to participate.

The “Ending the Silence Program” presented by NAMI has opened our students eyes to the real life experiences of living with a mental illness and reinforces healthy alternatives to cope with this illness.  I highly recommend this presentation as part of any mental health unit your district provides.

Jason Athletic Director/HPE
Central Bucks Middle School

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