I’m the Evidence/Mental Health Campaign (ITE/MH) http://www.itecampaign.org Celebrating Hope, Encouragement, Recovery Wed, 20 Jul 2016 20:54:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.4 Representative Donna Bullock Joins Campaign As Honorary Ambassador http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/representative-donna-bullock-joins-campaign-as-honorary-ambassador/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/representative-donna-bullock-joins-campaign-as-honorary-ambassador/#respond Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:27:10 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2150 ITE/MH first met Representative Donna Bullock (D-Phila.) at a June Rally for Human Services in Harrisburg. During the event, she spoke about living with mental illness in her family and how connection, example, possibility, and hope—the values reflected in the ITE/MH Campaign—have guided her personally and professionally.

ITE/MH was so taken with Representative Bullock’s words and actions that we invited her to join the Campaign as an Honorary Ambassador to help raise awareness of recovery and engage her constituents in its support. We are grateful that she accepted our invitation and celebrate her willingness to stand as the Evidence.

To spotlight Bullock’s story and public service interest in recovery-based mental health policies, we asked her a few questions. Enjoy her answers below!

You spoke very eloquently and personally about your family’s experience with mental illness. Can you share your story very briefly with us?

My mother was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety during my childhood, but as a child I was somewhat oblivious to my mother’s illness. Surrounded by the love and care of my grandmother, and social-service workers in all aspects of our life, I never attributed my mother’s inability to keep working, or keep an apartment for more than a year, to her mental instability. I just accepted it.

Her team worked with her, gave her the support she needed and the treatment she needed so that she could face her mental health challenges head on in a way that she could find purpose in life and be the best mother she could be. That allowed me to have the best childhood possible without the stigma or fear that her condition could have had on me.

I am the Evidence that with the right support system and behavioral health services in place, services work. I have a supportive—and not a co-dependent—relationship with my mother.

Today, she is doing well and she is not only a great mom, but she has great supportive friendships in the community and her church, and she is an amazing grandmother to my two boys—and together we are the Evidence!

How did you learn about the Campaign and why does it resonate for you?

When I was researching mental health advocates in Pennsylvania, I found the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania’s website and have used it as a resource as a new legislator.

The ITE/MH Campaign highlighted the lives of real people, diverse in many ways, and from all over the commonwealth. As I read the stories of these individuals, I realized that as a family member of someone living with mental illness, I, too, have been served with excellent supports. With the support systems in place, my mother was able to be the best mother she could be; we were able to remain a family; and I was able to have a happy childhood, all things considered.

How has your personal experience made you more supportive of public policies, programs, and services that support mental health recovery?

Simply put, my experience has shown me that properly funded and well-managed mental health services work. It is evidence that therapy and peer-support groups work. It is evidence that parental supports, including child care and in-home visits, work.

What are your key mental health-related policy priorities?

I’m primarily focused on:

  • Increasing funding for proven, community-based and other outpatient services that keep individuals healthy and safe, while minimizing reliance on institutionalization;
  • Passing a mental health insurance parity bill;
  • Promoting diversity in the mental health profession so that patients can have access to professionals who they can relate to culturally and linguistically;
  • Raising awareness and breaking down barriers to treatment in minority communities, as it relates to insurance access and the fear and embarrassment that comes with being treated for mental health.

As an Honorary ITE/MH Ambassador, how will you help promote the values of ITE/MH—hope, connection, example, and possibility?

I am committed to illuminating how these values form the bedrock of modern mental health services through steadfast public support and strong advocacy. If we all work together, there is no limit to what the Commonwealth can accomplish for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

I want to thank MHAPA and ITE/MH for allowing me to share my story. We need as many people as possible to share their stories so that we can erase the stigma, fear and ignorance clouding mental illness. It’s a pleasure to help in that mission.

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And the Winners Are… http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/and-the-winners-are/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/and-the-winners-are/#respond Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:35:55 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2143 We are excited to announce twelve winners of ITE/MH’s Mental Health Month Camera Contest. Meet the winners and see how they plan to use their cameras.

Natasha Bagwe: I have been struggling with my mental health for a long time, and the only thing that has empowered me is music, arts, and my love for animals… I will use the camera to capture moments of my life. The sad, the happy, and the moments when everything seems ok! Personally, I feel art is one of the best outlets for your emotions and helps you to reinvent yourself for the better.”

Nicole Campbell: We hear so many statistics about mental illness, and I would love to use the camera to visually express what it’s like to live with mental illness, and that those of us living with mental illness are more than just numbers…This camera will help me fight for mental health for everyone.”

Erica Clark:  When I look back on the photographs I’ve taken, pinpricks of tears gather behind my eyes: some happy, some sad, all memories. I don’t see the tragedy in the albums, but without the soul-crushing devastation, I wouldn’t value the spirit-saving grace as greatly as I do. I would like to document my recovery in even greater depth.”

Kathyann E Corl, Community Relations, Keystone Human Services MH Leadership Council: “…This camera would be a blessing. It would allow us to demonstrate the message of Recovery, healing, and transforming. The camera will illustrate opportunities to make the journey of transformation a reality today and into the future.”

Louanne Ellingsworth: I love photography as one of my hobbies. I use my cellphone camera now to take pictures as part of my recovery process in my mental health. I love to take pictures of the sky, nature, and much more. I can look back on the beauty in those pictures that I take, so I can still see the beauty during those dark moments in my life.”

Leonard Ginnery, Volunteer, Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA: “…I meet all kinds of new people every day. I support mental recovery 24/7 because I live with mental illness… people know that they can come to me if they want to talk or are feeling down, and I will try to make their day better… I will use the camera for mental health events/ other events about mental health.”

Grantland Hogan: Sometimes it’s a struggle, but I deal with recovery by thinking positive and having goals to work towards…I was able to move from a personal care home to independent living by showing that I can take care of my responsibilities, like laundry, grocery shopping, and taking my medication as prescribed. I have been living independently for more than two years. I want to take pictures of how I’m doing with my goals. I might take pictures of walks to the park or my apartment since living independently has helped my recovery.”

John Meikle, Rehab Coach, Turtle Creek Valley Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program: In our community, we have a diverse group with a variety of creative skills that would only add to our recovery if recorded and shared regularly. These very skills can be applied to using the camera to showing a digital diary of our achievements, our learning, our friendship—at events in the community or at our psych-social rehab program. If willing, contributors could opt to present this record at local venues as a testament to the on-going positivity of mental health recovery and to balance the often negative view others may have of the mental health community.”

Carl Mosier, Certified Peer Specialist\Mental Health Advocate, The Advocacy Alliance: I will take pictures of the people who have been helped through the Recovery groups I ran. The ITE/MH and MHAPA Facebook pages will see these people living their lives successfully in the community, and I will catch pictures of them at home and work because that is where their Recovery journeys have taken them.”

Theresa Myers: I will use my camera to capture events in my life that I would like to share with others on social media. I have a beautiful eight month old toy poodle puppy that has aided in my recovery, capturing photos of his ongoing support will be fun.”

Samuel C. Skipper III, Treasurer, Huntingdon County Drop In Center, INC: I’ll use the camera to take pictures of our consumers having fun at our different activities we do with them.”

Loretta Sysak: As an individual in the care giving profession, I utilize photography to care for my own mental health. I love taking pictures of people and things I love. I find it relaxing and rewarding.”

During the next year, we look forward to seeing and sharing the winners’ pictures of recovery. Subscribe to our blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we’ll post all photos we receive.

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Mental Health Month Camera Contest http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/mental-health-month-camera-contest-2/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/mental-health-month-camera-contest-2/#respond Tue, 17 May 2016 20:05:08 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2134 May is Mental Health Month, and we’re celebrating with a camera contest.  Enter today to let us see the world through your eyes. Help us show the individual nature of recovery.

Tell us how you see mental health recovery for a chance to win one of 12 digital cameras. 

How it Works 

We invite individuals, organizations, and groups that live or operate in Pennsylvania to enter the contest. Throughout May, we will share your entries on the ITE/MH and MHAPA Facebook pages.

In early June, a group of ITE/MH Ambassadors and supporters will review the applications and choose the 12 most uplifting entries to recognize with a Sony Megapixel Digital camera and memory card. We will announce the winners in an email and on Social Media and send winners their cameras after June 20. We invite all camera recipients to then share pictures of recovery as they see it with ITE/MH throughout the next year.

How to Enter

Click here to submit your answers. The deadline for applying is 11:59 PM on May 31, 2016. We will notify winners on June 20.

What We’re Looking For

We’re looking for responses that are uplifting and about the unique ways you experience or support recovery every day. Tell us about the people, pets, places, routines, or experiences that guide your recovery journey or the journeys of friends, family, coworkers, people you serve, or neighbors.

Look to the ITE/MH poem for inspiration as you write.

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Mental Health Awareness Fair—May 13, 2016 http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/mental-health-awareness-fair-may-13-2016/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/mental-health-awareness-fair-may-13-2016/#respond Thu, 12 May 2016 12:24:56 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2085 ITE/MH will be there. Stop by and see us!

Mental Health Awareness Fair 5-13-16

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Adventures in the Middle of Nowhere, by Nicole Steenstra Darr http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/adventures-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-by-nicole-steenstra-darr/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/adventures-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-by-nicole-steenstra-darr/#respond Thu, 14 Apr 2016 13:07:21 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2081 It’s been two years this April since I left my career. A few thoughts:

So much of my identity was wrapped up in my career. I still feel lost, like I’m wandering off-trail, without a map, without it.

In my case, there is an easy, fairly socially acceptable answer to the question “What do you do?” It’s “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” I often use this answer, but it feels like a deception. Because…

…I didn’t choose to be a SAHM because of my parenting philosophy or Elise’s needs. It was because working had become unmanageable. Working was making me sick. Becoming a SAHM was about nurturing myself, not my daughter.

But when I say, “I’m a SAHM” in response to the question “What do you do?”, I don’t say any of this. That would defeat the purpose of the response–providing my questioner with an easy answer, helping them feel comfortable. Because people are NOT comfortable when you say “I stay home. I don’t work because of depression.”

For the first year or so, it did, however, make ME uncomfortable to give this answer. My self-esteem would plummet every time someone asked “What do you do?” Because even if “SAHM” was met with approval, I knew the truth: I wasn’t working because I had failed at it. And I was spending my days mostly just trying to get better, not making organic packable lunches for my kid (she buys school lunch), not sewing her clothes myself (I don’t sew), not running her around to enrichment activities (she has one extracurricular activity right now, piano) and not even cleaning the house all that much (my reading to vacuuming ratio is way out of proportion). So anyway, it felt shameful, because I figured I was filling my days with books and alone time because I was defective–that it was horribly pathetic that this was all I could handle.


The longer I’m home and out of the workforce, the less shame. There’s still a sense of purposelessness, of wandering without direction: when people ask “What do you do?” there’s still no 100% true AND socially acceptable answer. But I’ve stopped thinking that having no great answer = I’m pathetic.

Maybe it’s ok to not have an identity all propped up by work. Maybe it’s ok to not have much of an identity at all. Maybe it’s ok to just be.

I quit for self-preservation. Having an identity didn’t save me from feeling worthless, and lacking an identity doesn’t keep me from enjoying and living life.

What do I do? Breathe. Play the piano. Read books. Sometimes run. Sometimes play with pictures. The stuff that gives me enough pleasure to keep me alive. Being alive means I then also have enough energy to help my kid with homework. Play board games with her. Comfort her when she’s upset. Cook a few healthy dinners. Have conversations with my husband.

Maybe I don’t measure up to society’s standards now. But I’m learning to stop using everyone else’s yard stick to measure myself.

And given that it’s been a year now without ANY suicidal thoughts, and my family gets more of me, and I sometimes have a sense of humor again and even enjoy life again… I’m thinking my life is on a good path for now. Even if it’s a path that meanders and winds and seems to lead nowhere.

Sometimes the best adventures are in the middle of nowhere.


Nicole Steenstra Darr lives in York County Pennsylvania. She was a member of the founding ITE/MH Advisory Committee and is the Evidence every day of the Campaign’s values and example. 

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Jenn’s Recovery Story: A Journey Not A Quick-Fix http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/jenns-recovery-story-a-journey-not-a-quick-fix/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/jenns-recovery-story-a-journey-not-a-quick-fix/#respond Tue, 29 Sep 2015 13:10:19 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2068 By Jenn, Blogger and Freelance Writer

I was diagnosed with depression at around age 12, and I felt like the world had come to an end for me. I have since had many struggles and what often feels like a war raging within me. I have learned a lot through these struggles, and I think that even though I don’t feel that I’ve fully recovered from my battles with mental illness, I can say that things are improving, and the lessons have been lasting.

I learned that just because you are in a state hospital doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish anything.  I was about 19 or 20 and in a state hospital for the third time.  I had dropped out of high school because I didn’t have the credits to graduate despite age wise being old enough to be a senior.  My class would graduate that year, but I wouldn’t.  As I said, I was in a state hospital for my third time, not long after I dropped out of school.  I was asked if I would be interested in getting my GED.  I not only had my doubts that I would be able to qualify to take the test, but I doubted even more that I would pass.  I was provided with a tutor and between working with her and studying every moment I could on my own, I somehow managed to not only qualify to take the test, but to pass on my first try.  This was a huge milestone in my life.  I learned that it didn’t matter where I was, and that if I was willing to put in the effort, there was at least a chance I could overcome my obstacles and come out on the other side with some kind of success.

Another lesson I have learned is that despite the efficiency of microwaves and modern technology, the pace I can expect to have a change come about in my life depends on how much effort I put into it.  If I don’t work at something, then there will be little or no change, but if I put some effort into facing my struggles and figuring out what I can do to maybe change the way things are in my corner of the world, then yeah change really is possible.  It may take a few days, or in other cases it can take years for change to come about, but, for me, I find that I am always morphing and striving to reach beyond where I am.  I feel I’m further in my recovery then I was when I took my GED, but yet at the same time, I still have what feels like a long ways to go before I will be where I hope to be.  In the meantime, I will keep pressing on and evolving into someone better then I am today. Recovery is a journey not a quick-fix. Be patient with yourself. Learn to pick yourself up one more time when you get knocked down and you will succeed over time.

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New Horizons Drop-In Center is the Evidence http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/new-horizons-drop-in-center-is-the-evidence/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/new-horizons-drop-in-center-is-the-evidence/#respond Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:17:31 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2057 We’re the Evidence of  how feeling supported and connected gives us the courage and enjoyment to work together and share what Recovery looks like in the community!
—Karen, Manny, Dustin, Sue, Michell, Jamie, Alex, and Lucas, New Horizons Drop-In Center, Honesdale, PA

Dauphin County

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MHA of Lancaster County is the Evidence http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/sara-joe-marty-gretchen-mary-peggy-barbara-janet-mha-of-lancaster-county/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/sara-joe-marty-gretchen-mary-peggy-barbara-janet-mha-of-lancaster-county/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:08:53 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2047 “We’re the evidence that while mental illness is not a choice, recovery is.”
—Sara, Joe, Marty, Gretchen, Mary, Peggy, Barbara, Janet, MHA of Lancaster County

ITEMH Photo Project 15

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Joe, Bart, and Brendan of The Lodge at Newport are the Evidence http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/joe-bart-and-brendan-the-lodge-at-newport-newport-pa/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/joe-bart-and-brendan-the-lodge-at-newport-newport-pa/#respond Fri, 05 Jun 2015 17:09:00 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2025 We’re the Evidence—We of the Fairweather Lodge (The Lodge at Newport) are the evidence that as we work, that as we help others around our community, and support each other with shared meal and social times that we reduce and free ourselves of inpatient services.” —Joe, Bart, and Brendan, The Lodge at Newport, Newport, PA

Joe Bart and Brendan, The Lodge at Newpor PA

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Leonard and Mike are the Evidence http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/leonard-and-mike-are-the-evidence/ http://www.itecampaign.org/blog/leonard-and-mike-are-the-evidence/#respond Fri, 05 Jun 2015 14:03:27 +0000 http://www.itecampaign.org/?p=2020 We’re the Evidence of how support leads to stability. Our Fairweather Lodge, The Lodge at Newport, gives us the responsibility for our lives, our home, and our peers every day.” —Leonard, Mike, The Lodge at Newport, Newport, PA

ITEMH Photo Project 14

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