The Geometry of Mental Illness

By Kathleen Vogtle, NAMI Communications Coordinator

Resources for educating children about mental illness are often few and far-between. After all, it is a topic that even adults have difficulty comprehending. The greater tragedy, though, is that children often feel the effects of mental illness most keenly.

Dr. Geoffrey Phillips has helped fill this need through his Happy Circle trilogy. Each tackles a different emotion commonly associated with mental illness: anxiety, sadness and anger.

Happy Circle Meets Anxious Egg considers the nature of an anxious mind. Anxious Egg was once a happy circle before cares and worries weighed him down and shaped him into an egg. The book explores the old adage that ‘a burden shared is a burden halved.” Support can be provided by many people and in a variety of ways, such as sharing troubles with family and friends, participating in online discussion groups or finding peer support. Happy Circle provided this support to Anxious Egg, allowing him to become a happy circle once more.

Happy Circle Meets Sad Triangle will likely resonate keenly with those who have been affected by depression. Much like Anxious Egg, the sad triangle was once a happy circle. Her sad angles were created by self-deprecation, unease about how others people perceived her and the certainty that these feelings will never go away. Sad angles do not go away all at once and the ending of Sad Triangle reflects this. But as Happy Circle suggests, “…if you think of only NOW, only today… not tomorrow, not the future, only today… that stops one Sad Angle.” With one of the angles removed, Sad Triangle becomes what Happy Circle calls a ’Circangle,’ which looks “’OK’… and soon will be a Happy Circle again some day.”

Happy Circle Meets Angry Cloud reviews three aspects of life that are commonly met with anger: unfairness to self, injustice in general and emotional hurt. The threatening presence of the cloud, with its “…booming thunder and bolts of lightning” is an attempt to keep others away.  Research conducted by the University of Iowa and Boston Children’s Hospital, among others, has suggested that internalizing these emotions can lead to depression or anxiety. Angry Cloud reveals this internalization, but Happy Circle is quick to remind that talking about these emotions can make the clouds dissipate.

The Happy Circle trilogy is, as Phillips writes, “for all ages and all brains.” Adults will find the effects of mental illness explored in deceptively simple yet poignant terms. Children will reach a better understanding of what their family member or friend is experiencing and how to help them. But young or old, the trilogy is an excellent means to decrease the stigma of mental illness.

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Special Announcement: Mariel Hemingway to be Keynote Speaker for NAMI California 2014 Annual Conference

NAMI California announced today that Mariel Hemingway will serve as its Keynote Speaker for the NAMI California 2014 Annual Conference.

Ms. Hemingway is an iconic Academy Award nominated actor from a celebrated family. She is a prolific author, adventurist, ecological activist, healthy lifestyle and mental health advocate, yoga video star, a food brand entrepreneur, and a much sought after keynote speaker focused on mind-body-spirit optimization and purposeful living.

In 2003, Ms. Hemingway wrote the powerful best-selling memoir, Finding My Balance–an honest and inspiring story of her life’s journey through the lens of her personal yoga and meditation practices. Her second book, Mariel Hemingway’s Healthy Living from the Inside Out), is a how-to guide to finding a greater sense of balance, joy, and meaning through self-empowering techniques and strategies. Her 2009 healthy lifestyle cookbook entitled, Mariel’s Kitchen, focused on creative and delicious gluten and sugar free offerings.

In 2013, the rich and evocative documentary, Running From Crazy, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, the film is an examination of the Hemingway family’s history of mental illness and suicide, and focuses on Mariel Hemingway’s boundless advocacy for mental health awareness.

You can visit Mariel Hemingway’s blog here.

For more information on the conference, click here.
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NAMI NJ to receive American Psychiatric Foundation Award for Advancing Minority Mental Health

North Brunswick, NJ – March 26, 2014 – On May 3, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey (NAMI NJ) will receive the American Psychiatric Award (APF) for Advancing

Members of CAMHOP, NAMI NJ’s Chinese outreach program at annual NAMIWalks NJ.

Minority Mental Health Award at the Foundation’s benefit at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

The APF Awards for Advancing Minority Mental Health were established in 2003 by the foundation with the support of Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. (OAPI). The awards recognize psychiatrists, other health professionals, mental health programs and other organizations that have undertaken innovative and supportive efforts to:

  • Members of SAMHAJ, NAMI NJ’s South Asian program, host an annual picnic for families

    Raise awareness of mental illness in underserved minority communities, the need for early recognition, the availability of treatment and how to access it, and the cultural barriers to treatment.

  • Increase access to quality mental health services for underserved minorities.
  • Improve the quality of care for underserved minorities, particularly those in the public health system or with severe mental illness.

NAMI New Jersey was recognized for developing pioneering programs that reach multiple underserved communities, including ChineseSouth Asian and Latino immigrants and African Americancommunities. The programs, AACT Now, CAMHOPNAMI NJ en Espanol, and SAMHAJ offer support, education and advocacy for these diverse communities and help to fight the pervasive stigma that makes recovery from mental illness so hard for individuals and families. The program features include:

  • Soliciting input and active collaboration from community members and providers

    NAMI NJ en Espanol Family Education

    through advisory committees that actively incorporate people with mental illness and their families.

  • Providing innovative peer support programs where those affected by mental illness take the lead in support groups provided in different languages. This allows for empowerment of peer educators, which due to the high stigma in many of these communities, is an extremely rare leadership opportunity which may then serve to reach and inspire others
  • Utilizing the expertise of culturally competent providers to co-deliver education
  • Advocating for improved access to treatments and services at the state-wide, and national, levels.

“I am very proud of being recognized by the APF for our programs” said Aruna Rao, NAMI NJ Associate Director, “but we are also very mindful that profound stigma and lack of awareness

AACT Now leaders at African American Mental Health Conference

about mental illness continues to cause great suffering in the communities we work with. I hope that this recognition allows us to tap into more resources to help more people.”

NAMI New Jersey, the leading mental health advocacy organization in the state, has been providing support, education and advocacy in order to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness and their families for  the past 28 years. More information about NAMI NJ can be found 

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NAMI NJ, founded in 1985, is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families who are affected by mental illness through programs of support, education and advocacy.

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Quitting Smoking Helps Mental Health According to Study

From Psychiatric News Alert, March 24, 2014: Stopping smoking is associated with significant improvements in anxiety, depression, stress, positive affect, and psychological quality of life. And the strength of the association appears to be similar for both the general population and clinical populations, including those with psychiatric disorders, according to findings from a meta-analysis reported in the British Medical Journal by Paul Aveyard, a professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Oxford in England, and colleagues.

The meta-analysis included 26 studies that measured subjects’ mental health before and after they quit smoking. The studies examined six measures of mental health: anxiety, depression, mixed anxiety and depression, positive affect, psychological quality of life, and stress. Eleven of the studies were cohort studies, 14 were secondary analyses of cessation interventions, and one was a randomized trial.

“This study illustrates the importance of providing tobacco-cessation treatment to individuals with behavioral health conditions, to help with both improvement in symptoms of mental illness and overall physical health,” Lori Raney, M.D., told Psychiatric News. “Psychiatrists have an important role to play in assisting in this treatment and can provide guidance and support to patients and in helping our colleagues in other medical settings.” In addition to being medical director of Axis Health System in Durango, Colo., Raney has a special interest in the relationship between smoking cessation and mental health.

More information about the importance of smoking cessation for patients with mental illness can be found in the Psychiatric News articles “Decline in Smoking Lags Among Patients With Mental Illness” and “Smoking Cessation for Patients Called an Urgent Priority.”

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Directing Change Award Ceremony–May 13, 2014

Please save the date for the Directing Change Award Ceremony at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento as part of Mental Health Matters Day. Come support this year’s winners by attending the event on May 13th, 2014. We would love to see you there!

When: Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Cost: Free
Time: 3pm to 5:30pm
Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street, Sacramento, CA 35814
Space is limited, RSVP required.

Want to help promote the event? Download the flier.

Institute of Mental Health 7, Nov 06

Institute of Mental Health 7, Nov 06 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental Health Matters Day

The award ceremony is part of the “Mental Health Matters Day” in Sacramento, May 13th 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Thousands of caring Californians will gather at the state capitol in Sacramento to proclaim that each mind matters. The event will include a powerful speaking program, videos, pledges against stigma, interactive exhibits and mental health resources, food trucks, live entertainment and more. The keynote address will come from Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, author of the Mental Health Services Act. Please RSVP to

Please contact Lauren Hee for more information at

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Bill Spotlight: SB 1054–Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) Grants

This week NAMI California spotlights SB 1054, a bill authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

This bill would appropriate $50,000,000 from the General Fund in the 2014-15 fiscal year for the mentally ill offender crime reduction (MIOCR) grant program, and require that half of that amount be used for adult offenders and half for juvenile offenders. These funds are used to create diversion, re-entry, and training programs for persons living with mental illness who are justice involved. Potential uses of the grants include establishing mental health courts, creating pre-booking diversion programs, or creating collaborative reentry programs that provide treatment and training for persons living with mental illness who previously incarcerated.

Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to counties that expand or establish a continuum of swift, certain, and graduated responses to reduce crime and criminal justice costs related to mentally ill offenders.

NAMI California commends the author for leadership in seeking to revive funding for the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant (MIOCRG) program. This program is invaluable in ensuring that persons living with mental illness who offend as a result of behavior deriving from that illness are provided with needed treatment in the least restrictive setting and are provided with the tools and support to reintegrate into society.

Read the full bill HERE.

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Successful Meeting about Hearing Voices

NAMI South Bay thanks its guests and members for a productive discussion at last night’s meeting. The group discussed the Hearing Voices support group at Harbor UCLA, led by Brad Stevens, LCSW, Psychiatric Social Worker. Several publications were mentioned and two are shown here with links for those members that were interested in following up:

Living with Voices–50 Stories of Recovery


Hearing Voices a Common Human Experience


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