Sunday, January 27, 2013

To Train or Not to Train

By Julie Erickson, NAMI Education Programs Coordinator,
with contributions by Martha Silva, NAMI New Jersey

Martha Silva and Norma Bangs

NAMI’s annual Training of Trainers trains over 100 NAMI teachers and facilitators from NAMI signature programs across the country to become state trainers. These new state trainers are then qualified to return to train new teachers and facilitators in their state, thus growing NAMI signature programs tremendously. A select few are trained to become national trainers for this annual event.

Martha Silva is the Director of the NAMI New Jersey en Español Program and continues to act as a teacher for De Familia a Familia de NAMI (NAMI Family-to-Family in Spanish) and Bases y Fundamentos de NAMI (NAMI Basics in Spanish). Martha has been a national trainer for De Familia a Familia since 2005 and will be training again in the NAMI education department National Training of Trainers this March.

Martha first got her start with NAMI in 1998 as a volunteer teaching NAMI Family-to-Family at the NAMI Hudson Affiliate in New Jersey. Martha and her colleagues at NAMI Hudson saw the need for Spanish-language programs and began a Latino outreach program in 2000. This program became NAMI New Jersey en Español, which expanded their outreach efforts statewide. Shortly thereafter, Martha participated in TT and became a state, and later, national trainer for De Familia a Familia de NAMI. Here she describes her experience as a trainer:

“To train or not to train, that’s the question that, I’m sure, goes through the mind of many family members who would like to teach, or many teachers who would like to become state trainers.  Most of them understand the immediate need for trained leaders, but are concerned with the elemental question, ‘Can I do it?’

I feel that if anybody can talk about being worried and afraid, I certainly can. Many years ago, Norma Bangs, a De Familia a Familia teacher from NAMI Texas, and I were trained to become national trainers by Dr. Joyce Burland, at the NAMI office in Arlington, Va. As a matter of fact, only the two of us were trained that year to become national trainers for De Familia a Familia, so you can imagine how intimidated I felt.  Despite my hesitation, understanding how much I could help so many families that I knew were in need of information, just like I was, gave me the courage to participate in the training. To this day, I continue to train new leaders and I still feel the same need to prepare, just as much as I did for my first training.

It is true that the De Familia a Familia manual can be frightening due to the scope of the material and this can raise many doubts. However, under more careful observation, those doubts turn out to be unjustified reflections of fear and dissipate quickly. The material that may not make sense during the training comes together when you get home and take the time to read the instructions and prepare for your first training. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Gosh, what am I going to do when I need to present difficult material to the class during training?’ The truth is no one is expected to be perfect or give an impeccable presentation. Training worries everyone, it’s not just you, and recognizing this will give you confidence.

In my many years of training, I’ve had several unexpected experiences. Some participants have had a hard time maintaining eye contact and others were not able to read in Spanish very well, but by the time they finished the training, their improvement was obvious, and their confidence grew. One training memory that I’ll never forget is of a group that wrote their own NAMI Family-to-Family hymn and sang it at graduation.

Training is a lot of work, but it is also fun and, more than anything, very rewarding.”

More detailed information about participating in this year’s Training of Trainers can be found at The deadline for registering is Feb. 1, 2013.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I’m Just a Dad with a Bicycle

By Eric Ward

Put simply, I am a single father, who is obsessed with cycling. I travel all over California and Arizona just to ride and race my bike. To get a little more complicated, I am considered a high functioning person with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia. I was not functioning at all years ago, but somehow I managed to pick myself up and become the person I am today. It was a giant struggle and like most people that have a mental illness, I am not much different nor is my story or what I have gone through different. Still, every day it is a struggle. As a friend once said to me, “It seems as if you are always standing on the pedals, climbing that big hill.”

During these past holidays, I was invited to a family function for the first time in years. I was there. It was not an hallucination. I know I was at the family function because I ate and watched people open their presents. Somehow, everybody ignored me like I was not there. Everybody in the house was my family. I took care of some of the younger family members years ago. I even brought one of them home with their mom from the hospital.

I am not grossly disfigured. I don’t stink. I am not loud or rude. I just have a mental illness. Everyone in the room was in their own groups talking. I tried to get into the conversation but it was like I was invisible. It was a huge waste of time. I had so much to talk about. I wanted so badly to say how my bicycle has taken me from just ridding around looking for cans for food money, to racing. And not just racing, but placing in the top three or four, sometimes even winning! I wanted to tell about how it gives me an outlet, how it lets me focus, how it lets me see exactly what this 220 pound body can really do!

Someone from my family was kind enough to ask me what I did for a living. No one believed me when I said I started my own official USA Cycling team. I felt like a fool. It was very strange to me and almost felt like a dream. I was at the family party, yet I was not. I was just a piece of furniture. 

I don’t understand. What I have is not contagious. Maybe it is good that I am clueless as to why people view my illness different then if I had diabetes or cancer. I am not a monster. I am not like what people hear on the news or see in the movies. I am just a plain person; a dorky dad who loves to race his bicycle and take care of his kids. If my family took the time to know me they would realize the truth. I have funny stories to tell. My kids and I have been on great adventures, traveling to different cycling events, meeting great people and contributing to something so positive.

To sum it up, I am at a party but I am trapped alone inside my head; trying to get out; trying to be “normal.” Longing to be accepted, yet rejected. I am not sure as to why this is so. I have done nothing wrong. If I were to describe what struggling with mental illness is like for me every day, it would be two simple words, “it hurts.” Like climbing a mountain switchback on a bike, it burns in places you can’t imagine. Yet, deep down inside me I do not want to give up. I will not give up. I will make it to the top and it will hurt like hell! But that ride down the backside will be worth it, and I’ll get to do it all over again soon enough!

Eric participated in the NAMIBikes ride in Sacramento, Calif. on Nov. 10, 2012.