Find Help, Find Hope!



September 2019  NAMI Skagit at:  360-313-7080


September is Recovery Month

With Preventing Suicide as a Major Focus

Did you know Suicide disproportionately affects Native Americans and Alaska Natives?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 2018 CDC report found Native Americans and Alaska Natives suicide rates were 21.5 per 100,000, more than 3.5 times higher than those among racial and ethnic groups with the lowest rates. More than one-third of Native American suicide deaths were youth. 

Experts who study Native American suicide blame higher rates of poverty, substance abuse and unemployment as well as geographical isolation, which can make it difficult for people to access services and mental health care. Native Americans and Alaska Natives experience PTSD more than twice as often as the general population, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

But experts are also quick to note that suicide rates vary greatly among the nation’s federally recognized tribes.


NAMI’s Family to Family Course

Is starting in Mount Vernon 


Monday, September 30th  through Thursday, November 7th

Monday and Thursday Eves, 6:30 to 9pm

This course is for parents, spouses, siblings, partners, adult children, and other family members of those over the age of seventeen living with a mental health condition.  It is designed to provide the information necessary on the various mental health disorders to support a loved one in recovery. Identifying symptoms, the pros and cons of medications, alternative treatments, and empathy are covered.  Then the course moves into life skills pertinent to maintaining a less stressful environment in order to help the caregivers cope, as well as enhancing the relationships between family members. This course is led by two trained family members who also walk this walk.

Class size is small, so please call early to secure a spot.

Marti at 360.770.5666 or


NAMI National is finalizing a rewrite of the Peer to Peer course!!  As a result, NAMI Skagit’s teachers will shortly be updating their training.  So, the next Peer to Peer Course, for adults living with mental health challenges, will be offered in late winter/early spring of 2020. NAMI PeertoPeer provides a safe educational setting, focused on recovery that offers respect, understanding, encouragement and hope.   Learn the ways to stay in control of your recovery and make new friends in the process. Plus, the course is FREE. To get onto the wait list for the newly updated course, Contact 360-313-7080 or 360.559.1509 to save your spot for the next class.  Class size is limited.


Suicide prevention: Self-care tips, true stories on how survivors cope 

People struggling with thoughts of suicide can cope with the bad days, find joy and stay alive.                          (Alia E. Dastagir, and Teresa Lo, USA TODAY) 

A common misconception about suicide is that suicidal thoughts are uncommon and suicidal attempts signal that a person cannot be helped.  This simply is not true.

One in 33 Americans seriously thought about suicide in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That year, more than 1.25 million people survived a suicide attempt.  Many go on to live full, joyous and healthy lives; others continue to struggle with suicidal thoughts. But all are surviving. They have found ways to cope with the underlying pain, ways to get through the hard days we all have, ways to recognize when they need to ask for help. Here we share self-care suggestions from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), as well as survivors’ coping techniques in their own words.

Be kind to yourself, first and foremost

Jeremiah Hale considers his “fellow military and first responder brothers” an integral part of his support system.  While serving in the Army, Jeremiah Hale said he began to struggle with the will to live. He was addicted to prescription painkillers after an injury during a training mission. His marriage was falling apart. He felt as though he was failing as a husband, a father, a son and a brother. Hale made two suicide attempts, one while serving in the Army, and another once he’d left.

“I had to forgive myself, and I had to let go of a lot of those things that I was holding on to,” said Hale, 32.  He said he was able to heal once he shifted his mindset. He used to think asking for help signaled weakness, but he realized it takes a lot of courage to open up. He doesn’t have to endure his pain alone.

Hale now finds multiple ways of coping. He talks to his close friends when something is on his mind, and he lends an ear whenever one of his buddies needs help, which he said gives him “a sense of purpose.”  “I’ve learned how to be happy with who I am as a person and to know that I have self-worth,” he said. “I meditate, which is something that I never did – I thought that it was kind of taboo … it was so unorthodox from what I was taught.”

Embrace simple things as self care

–Take a 5-minute break in your day

–Write about something you are grateful for

–Create a happy playlist and a coping playlist

–Take your medication on time

Know that broken isn’t bad

PTSD and suicide survival: Stay connected, Native American woman says.  Shelby Rowe’s PTSD triggered a suicidal crisis nearly 10 years ago. This is how she’s learned to cope.

Shelby Rowe was executive director of the Arkansas Crisis Center, which runs the state’s suicide lifeline, when she experienced her own suicidal crisis in 2010. She survived her attempt and serves as the suicide prevention program manager at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In 2016, she was honored by the Chickasaw Nation as their Dynamic Woman of the Year.

Rowe does beadwork as a way to connect with her Native heritage and as a “mindfulness exercise,” but she sees even deeper meaning in it.  “Beads are nothing but broken glass, little pieces of broken glass. And so I spend hours of my time mending broken things, making something beautiful out of something broken,” she said. 

She believes there is power and possibility in remaking yourself again.  “In our lives, when you feel that everything is shattered, there’s infinite power in that moment you get to put all the pieces back together however you want. … Seeing my past traumas more as strengths helped me to see that it wasn’t that I was strong in spite of the brokenness, but I was stronger because of that brokenness,” she said.

Cherish yourself

–Write a love letter to yourself

–Sit with your emotions, and allow yourself to feel and accept them

–Pamper yourself

–Treat yourself to a favorite snack

–Take yourself out to dinner

Find your people

Misha Kessler is a suicide attempt survivor who has since founded Remedient, a marketing and design company for mental health professionals and causes. Misha Kessler spent the better part of his youth trying to convince himself he was straight. He was always hiding, which he said left him feeling isolated. 

He struggled with anxiety and depression. “It’s very hard to truly convey just how strong of a conviction you will have in that [suicidal] mindset,” he said. “You are truly convinced that your family doesn’t love you, that you have no friends because you have to constantly lie to someone or because you have to constantly hide who you are. … It was this ultimate conviction … that I would be doing them a favor if I removed myself from the equation.”

During his sophomore year in college, Kessler attempted suicide. Since then, he has learned coping techniques and founded Remedient, a digital marketing and design company for mental health care professionals and causes. Support networks, he said, are key to getting through the rough days:

“My family is some of my best support, my close friends that I have met through the field of suicide prevention … I think one of the biggest fears is always going to be, if I tell someone about this, are they going to treat me differently, or see me as less than or think they can’t rely on me?” he said. “And these are the kind of people I can go to and tell them every detail of what is going on and just how bad things are getting, if they’re getting bad, and they don’t do any of that. They just know I am me. A well-educated support network is unbelievably helpful.” 

Get outside yourself 

–Take a walk outside


–Donate 3 pieces of clothing that you no longer wear

–Say thank you to someone who has helped you

–Compliment someone (and yourself, too!)

Talk to yourself like your best friend would  

Jennifer Sullivan says her hometown friends are some of her biggest supporters.  Jennifer Sullivan, 21, a student at Worcester State University in Massachusetts, has struggled with suicidal thoughts since middle school, where she experienced intense bullying.  “I remember being in English class and my classmates just telling myself I should kill myself every day,” she said. “I began self-harming. I cut everywhere I could find a clean patch of my skin.”

The suicidal thoughts grew worse after she was raped twice, she said, once before her freshman year of college and again during her sophomore year. To cope, she learned to share her struggles with friends she knows will drop everything to help her when she needs it.

“When I’m going through a rough patch, [my friends] will keep their [phone] volume turned on and up at night in case I need to talk,” she said. “They have mentioned many times that I’d just need to say the word and they would call out from work or miss class … to come visit. … It’s an extra reminder that I have support and am not alone in my journey.”

Sullivan also drew strength from a support group she attended after her second rape. It was a place she could talk openly about her trauma with other survivors in different stages of healing.

“I met this fantastic group of young ladies. One of them became one of my best friends,” she said. “And whenever I have these negative feelings of wanting to die or even to cut because of my rape, I text her, and I’m just like, ‘Hey, I’m having a bad day. And how do you cope with a flashback? How do you talk yourself down from that very high state?’ or ‘I need some positive pictures or quotes,’ and she’ll send me a few, and it’ll help. … I get a lot of support from people who’ve been through it themselves.” 

When Sullivan has an immediate urge to harm herself, one of the tools she uses is distraction. She often turns to an app called Virtual Hope Box, which describes itself as an “accessory” to mental health treatment and uses “simple tools to help patients with coping, relaxation, distraction, and positive thinking.”

Find comfort

–Watch your favorite movie

–Forgive someone

–Forgive yourself

–Take the time to find five beautiful things during your daily routine

–De-clutter your mind: Write down what’s bothering you, then literally throw it away

Hunt the good stuff

Active-duty military suicide attempt survivor shares coping skills.  Cliff Bauman says he still has tough days, but he’s learned how to deal with his PTSD.  National Guardsman Cliff Bauman survived a suicide attempt after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

One of the ways he turned a corner was to commit to therapy. “For those of us who’ve had a traumatic event, that moment comes back – so vivid – it’s just like you’re watching an HD movie and you’re in it,” he said. “So you have to learn how to positively deal with those triggers.”

Bauman counts his wife among his most important supporters. “She has gone to counseling herself to learn how to better deal with me when I’m having triggers,” he said. “Because sometimes family members can put more stress on a person.”

Knowing your limit is important. Bauman spends a lot of time talking about his suicide attempt publicly, and there are times when he has to pause and take a time out.   “To constantly talk about this and bring these things up, it wears on you. … If I feel like it’s getting to be too much, I just stop,” he said. “Because I have to keep myself healthy.”

Bauman also maintains his mental health by keeping active.  “For me, I like to run,” Bauman said. “My older son, we enjoy working out, so we work out together, but also I do my long runs by myself because that’s my decompression time.”

Tips for dealing with triggering moments can include:

–Reminding yourself that you’re safe and not actively in danger 

–Breathing exercises

–Physically distracting yourself, such as snapping a rubber band or focusing on the warmth of a hot cup of tea,

    coffee or cocoa

–Mentally distracting yourself, such as counting, playing the alphabet game or watching a lighthearted video

–Calling a friend or therapist

Find a safe space 

Adam Swanson, a senior prevention specialist at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, attempted to take his own life when he was 9. He was not out in elementary school, but he said people knew he was different and targeted him mercilessly. He survived, he said, by finding community:

“I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that gay kids need theater and choir, but gay kids need theater and choir! Let’s be real,” he said. “I found a group of kids who were oddballs. I found opportunity in speech and debate and the arts and spaces where there were other kids being made fun of for whatever reason, who also had a desire to just be children. And having those safe spaces where I could be myself … that was my saving grace. … I just got to a point where I decided that I can’t let these other kids determine my life path. I have to find a way to shape my own experience, and that’s what I did.”

Take action

–Start that one project you’ve been contemplating for a while

–Plan a lunch date with someone

–Create a DIY self-care kit of things that make you feel better

–Reach out to a therapist, particularly one who specializes in evidence-based suicide prevention techniques such as

   Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Suicide Prevention or CAMS (Collaborative Assessment and

   Management of Suicidality) 

Say yes to therapy

Shear Avory, 20, wants “other young, trans, nonbinary people of color to know that you’re OK, you’re perfect just the way you are.”  Shear Avory, 20, is transgender and has struggled with suicidal thoughts since childhood. Avory was sent to conversion therapy, the controversial practice of trying to change someone’s sexual identity. At age 10, Avory entered the foster system.  Avory’s experience reflects that of many people struggling with trauma: Finding the right therapist is crucial. 

“My therapist is a queer black woman of color, and so I’m able to feel immediately comfortable and vulnerable in being able to share my experiences with her,” Avory said. “Knowing that once a week, I’ll have the opportunity to grieve, to vent, to express myself, to be mad, to be angry, and for that to be validated … even if it’s just for an hour a week, really, really picks me up time and time again.”

The search for acceptance is ongoing.  “Healing is not a linear experience,” Avory said. “It is difficult, it is hard and I honestly don’t know, I don’t know what I’m doing. And that’s OK. … I’m in a place where I’m needing to accept myself where I’m at and meet myself where I’m at and go from there.”

Avory still feels fragile at times but holds on to the promise of a healthy future. “There’s so much of me that wants to be happy,” Avory said. “I want to experience happiness, I want to feel the joy, I want to be able to just live in the moment and to feel as if I’m thriving and not just surviving. And that’s a struggle that I’ve been experiencing my entire life. But the baby steps, the baby steps give me so much hope.”


–Make time to stop, stand and stretch for two minutes

–Take a mental health day from school, work or obligations

–Give yourself permission to say no

–Take a new fitness class

Fight the thoughts

Deena Nyer Mendlowitz hosts “Mental Illness & Friends,” a live comedy talk show. 

Deena, 40, has struggled with suicidal thoughts since pre-adolescence. She made her first suicide attempt when she was a senior in college. 

Nearly 20 years later, Mendlowitz said, every day she has to say no to dying. “All day long, it’s this idea, not just ‘I should die, I should die, I should die’ … [but] how will I go on? … I do things in life that are opposite to what these feelings are,” she said. 

Mendlowitz hasn’t been able to quiet her suicidal thoughts, but she has learned to cope with them. She’s gained enough perspective to challenge them.

“I would love if I could just lose weight by thinking about exercise, but we can’t lose weight that way, and for me that comes as a comfort with suicidal thoughts,” she said. “I can’t just kill myself just by having these constant thoughts. … In the beginning, you think, ‘I have to listen to these. If my brain is telling me this, it must be right.’ [But] more and more, it’s me telling my brain, ‘You are wrong.’ “

A central outlet for Mendlowitz, a teacher, is improv, which she performs through her live comedy talk show, “Mental Illness & Friends!”  “Because it’s so fast, for me, it’s one of the few places that my brain feels relief,” she said. “You have to, when you’re doing improv, you have to only focus on what you’re doing right in that moment. For me, even if it’s just those 20 minutes, it’s almost always, unless I’m really not doing well, it’s a complete break from these constant thoughts.”

When in doubt, reach out

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for you any time you need it: 1-800-273-8255

     The Next Education Evening will be in November.

NAMI Washington State Conference

Moving Mental Health Forward for 40 Years:  What will the Next 40 years bring?

October 4th, 1pm thru Oct 5th, 4pm

at the Yakima Convention Center in Yakima.

Check out the website under “programs” to register

Keynotes and Plenaries Screening of CRAZYWISE and a keynote address by the director, Phil Borges About the Film: Crazy…or wise? The traditional wisdom of indigenous cultures often contradicts modern views about a mental health crisis. Is it a ‘calling’ to grow or just a ‘broken brain’? The documentary CRAZYWISE explores what can be learned from people around the world who have turned their psychological crisis into a positive transformative experience. Learn more at the CRAZYWISE webpage.
About Phil Borges: Phil Borges has been documenting indigenous cultures and striving to create an understanding of the challenges they face for over 25 years. For his program, Stirring the Fire, Phil produced and filmed several short films, capturing the stories of women heroes and the issues they face all over the world, both as solo projects and in collaboration with organizations such as UN Women and CARE. Phil has spoken at multiple TED talks; including TED in 2007, TEDxRainier in 2012 and TEDxUMKC in 2013 and hosted television documentaries for Discovery and National Geographic.


Conference Workshops 

  • Experiential Group Therapy: Approaches for Mental Health Professionals Working with People in Crisis
  • 2020 Legislative Priorities
  • Creating the Future for POC Mental Health in Washington
  • Shaping the Future for Wounded Warriors – A Review of Current Government Initiatives Relating to Medical Care of Veterans and Support for their Families
  • Training Family and Caregivers in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis-Informed Skills Within the Context of a CBTp State Provider Network (Pre-Registration Required)
  • Law Enforcement 101: Critical Information for Non-Law Enforcement in Crisis Situations
  • Infusion of Inclusion
  • Strengthening Families Protective Framework
  • How Increased Understanding and Openness are Helping People Tackle Tarditive Dyskansia
  • Mental Health Workforce for the Future: Building Education and Career Pathways for a Recovery Oriented Society
  • Bringing Specialty Care to Individuals Experiencing their First Episode Psychosis: Washington State’s New Journeys Network
  • 1-940 Police De-Escalation and Crisis Intervention Teams
  • R.E.A.D.Y – Real Emergency Aid Depends on You – “The CPR for Mental Health Crises”
  • Trueblood: Diversion, Re-Entry, and Recovery
  • Thriving with Bipolar Disorder: A Panel of Asian American Perspectives
  • Foundational Community Supports – Housing & Employment
  • Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s (OIC) Access to Behavioral Health Services Grant Project – Are Consumers Receiving Needed Services in the Private Health Insurance Market?
  • “I Got This!”: Using Technology to Take Control of Your Symptoms

Registration at: 

Scholarships are available through the website from NAMI WA or,

Two peer scholarships remaining through NAMI Skagit by calling Marti at 360.770.5666

Wanted:  Office space for NAMI Skagit!!

Location requirements:  Mount Vernon or Burlington;  preferably near a bus stop; easy access to I-5 or Hwy 20.  Would like good visibility from the street.

Size:  Need one office/reception area; would like a separate space for storage and small meeting area.  

Price range:  $500 to $1200 per month depending on space and terms.   Would landlord consider tax deduction for renting to a non-profit and waiving all or part of the rent?

Please call Marti if you have a lead for us to pursue.  360.770.5666 We would like to have a space soon.

Did you know?  Other states have a searchable database of psychiatric hospitals so families can do their own due diligence, but not WA state.  Four private WA state psychiatric hospital’s adverse events data discovered by Seattle Times investigative reporters can be found at this address:

The graph for 4 of the hospitals shows the safety incidents at private psychiatric hospitals in Washington state, 2016-2018.  It was referenced in the Seattle Times article at:

This searchable database gives families autonomy to do their own due diligence in finding the best facility for loved ones.   One is with the least adverse events uncovered by investigative reporters and included on this database.  

NAMI Skagit Support Groups

Mount Vernon’s OPEN SUPPORT GROUP meets at the Skagit Valley Hospital in the Sauk Conference room (just south of the cafeteria on the same hallway), each 4th Tues of every month (next is Spt 23rd), 7 – 8:30pm.  We welcome family members, partners, and supportive friends as well as those living with mental illness.  Just come. Questions? Call Marti Wall at 360.770.5666

Anacortes “NAMI Connections”  group is only for those who live with a mental illness and who want to start or strengthen their recovery.  It meets twice a month, on the 1st and 3rd Mondays (Oct 7 & 21) from 7 – 8:30pm, in the Library of the Anacortes United Methodist Church, next door to the Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center.  Enter the church at the lower level.

Anacortes NAMI SUPPORT GROUP meets on the 4th Thurs of each month, 7 – 8:30pm (Spt 26th) in the Library of the Anacortes United Methodist Church, 2201 H Ave.  (Park in back, enter through the downstairs doors). Primarily for those who have a mental illness, but family members and supportive friends are welcome.  No need to sign up; just come. Questions? Call Diana Dodds at 360.424.8224

Camano Island NAMI FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP of Stanwood/Camano  meets the 1st Monday each month (Oct 7th) from 7 – 8:30pm at the Camano Island Library, 848 N. Sunrise Blvd, Camano Island.  This group is only for the family members/partners of those who live with a mental illness.  No registration required. Julie Melville at 360.941.0996 or Julie Bell at 360.420.7422.

Neighboring Area Support Groups

Arlington – NAMI Snohomish Connections Support Group meets on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month from 6:30 – 8pm at the Smokey Point Community Church 17721 Smokey Point Blvd.  This group is only for those living with mental health challenges.  No registration necessary. More info? Call Polly at 360.559.1509

Bellingham – NAMI Whatcom Connections Support Group meets every 1st, 3rd, and 4th Tuesday of the month (excluding major holidays)  6:30 PM – 8:00 PM in the Chestnut Professional Building, Suite 1C, 800 E Chestnut St, Bellingham.  This is for those individuals over age 18 with a mental health diagnosis.

Bellingham – NAMI Whatcom Family Support Group meets on the 1st, 2nd, & 4th Wednesdays of each month (excluding major holidays) 6:30 – 8pm in the Chestnut Professional Building, Suite 1C, 800 E Chestnut St, Bellingham.  This group is only for family members, partners, supportive friends.

*NEW Addition* for Bellingham 3rd Monday of month  6:30 PM – 8:00 pm is a Partner Focused NAMI Whatcom Family Support Group.  All are welcome but it is Partner Focused.                                    


December 2018 – Click HereClick on one of the following links and you will be taken to the corresponding newsletter for that month.

January 2019 – Click Here

February 2019 – Click Here

March 2019 – Click Here

April 2019 – Click Here

May 2019 – Click Here

June/July 2019 – Click Here

August 2019 – Click Here

September 2019 – Click Here

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