Far be it from me –

It Wasn’t Me

For the first 37 years of my life I suffered in silence. Emerging from a dysfunctional childhood and adolescent depression I moved into adulthood only to be come ensnared in a violent marriage which brought me to the brink of insanity. Only by walking away did I postpone for 6 years what was to be a highly terrifying descent into psychosis, a six month stay in hospital, culminating in 6 horrendous treatments of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). During the next 6 years I stumbled in the darkness of my soul and insult was added to injury when 10 years after my psychotic breakdown, I was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, caused by the ingestion of enormous quantities of neuroleptic drugs. I faced surgery twice and recovery from the second operation was both slow and painful. Seven years after my breakdown I’d given up the cocktail of medication. Withdrawal was far from easy and since 1993 I’ve relapsed on six occasions. I call that recovery. Others do not. Through talking therapies and cathartic writing I have broken my silence and found my voice. No one could hear my headaches or see my optical migraines. Now I know it is my responsibility and mine alone, to ensure that my mental well being remains constant and continual. By nurturing my psyche with good music, good nutrition and company of positive people – and by avoiding negativity as far as I can -I can achieve good health. I understand that the vagus nerve responds well to this regime and blood pressure and heart rate are attuned accordingly. More and more of us are now acknowledging the link between early life trauma and adult psychosis and the move towards demedicalisation of mental illness is gathering pace. Talking about distress and verbalising my pain has helped me process and absorb traumatic events and see, that once delusions and hallucinations have dissipated, the pain is unprotected – and hurts intensely. Without the cloak of madness I am vulnerable and raw, exposed and stinging. Healing comes when crying and talking clear and clean my psyche and allow new and happier memories to replace the wounds with genuine emotional growth – and understanding that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, that I survived those traumatic times and can now move forward, without looking over my shoulder.

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Look Before You Leap

In my neck of the woods the NHS counselling services are as strapped for cash as services anywhere else in the UK.

I’ve been waiting for several weeks now, for a reply from the Head of Adult Mental Health Services, to my questions.  I shall be following up my initial enquiries with a few questions.  Why are free counselling sessions denied to you, unless, to quote one GP “you’re about to jump off a bridge”.  Why, when presenting with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are your quite normal within-the-healthy-range scores, rewarded with a complete rejection of your application for counselling and the provision, instead, of a couple of NHS leaflets on How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep, and How To Deal With Anxiety and Depression?  It is very well documented that many people who present with PTSD have suffered with the distressing symptoms for a very long time; endured, should I say and therefore the coping and adaptive mechanisms are very well practised and  perfected – making scores in the healthy range a likelihood!  All is not lost however.  There is the option of paid for counselling at a reduced, pay what you can afford, rate.  Or, to go privately and pay around £40 for a 50 minute session with a BACP registered counsellor/therapist.

If you can’t afford these prices but can afford £7.85 for an NHS prescription (price correct as far as I know) then there is the option of the chemical cosh.  Mood altering, mood and feelings-neutralising neuroleptics, with a range of distressing and health threatening “side effects”.

My current preference is for none of the above.  I prefer to let my tears flow and release the stress hormone cortisol, which if allowed to build up to high levels (of toxins)  can cause depression – and which can then take me back to the one in four of us who presents with a mental health problem.  But the tears are mine, not the NHS’s  and as I shed them I consider very carefully whether I shall ever go to a GP  again, complaining of unbearable stress.

To be continued.

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Making Sense Of Voices – Maastricht Interview Training

Making Sense of Voices- Maastricht Interview Training

A three day assessment skills workshop delivered jointly by Asylum Associates, Hearing Voices Network Sheffield, and the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham.

(This training is targeted at all mental health workers, criminal justice personnel, and third sector agencies)

 

Facilitators: Pete Bullimore and Chris Tandy

Venues

The Crown Hotel, Crown Place  Harrogate, HG1 2RZ – 3rd, 4th and 5th July 2013

The Institute of Mental Health Building , Innovation Park, Triumph Road, Nottingham NG7 2TU- 17th, 18th and 19th September   2013

Wirral Mind, 90-92 Chester Street, Birkenhead CH 41 5DL- 15th, 16th and 17th October 2013

The Maastricht Interview is a semi-structured questionnaire that is used in therapy with voice hearers. It explores the experience at length and can assist voice hearers in a number of ways. It helps people overcome the shame of talking about the voices and encourages them to describe their experiences. The therapist will need to show the voice hearer that they recognise their experience by demonstrating a completely open-minded interest. By asking the right questions, in this way, the therapist can offer people the reassurance that hearing voices is in fact a well known phenomenon, enabling the voice hearer to feel properly acknowledged. The questionnaire should then facilitate discussion about the voices and confirm the reality of the experience. It is also a means of systematically mapping all aspects of the voices to gain more insight to the experience. This promotes acceptance and empowers people who hear voices.

Training Outcomes

  • Gain an understanding of the Maastricht interview for Voices.
  • Learn how to conduct the interview.
  • Undertake two interviews with voice hearers from the Hearing Voices Network
  • Write reports and develop constructs from Maastricht interviews
  • Develop a shared understanding of voices and ways to help voice hearers

 

Price £300

(Places are limited)

 

Apply now: please email Karen Sugars karen.sugars@nottshc.nhs.uk to book a place on this training

Some quotes from our previous attendees from our joint training initiatives:

‘A truly inspiring training experience. This gave me so many useful strategies ideas for working with voice hearers’

‘Logical and practical solutions for working with voices’

‘It focuses upon Romme and Escher’s ground breaking work with voices which is fantastic!’

‘Excellent trainers that consider the key implementation issues from a voice hearer and worker perspective’

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From The Independent Tuesday May 14 2013 – We need to change the way we talk about schizophrenia If we only ever talk about schizophrenia in the context of a violent murder, is it any surprise that the public think people with mental illness are dangerous?

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/we-need-to-change-the-way-we-talk-about-schizophrenia-8616022.html

 

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Normalising The Experiences of Voices, Visions & Paranoia – Two Day Skills Based Workshop

 

Normalising the Experiences of Voices, Visions & Paranoia
Two-day skills based workshop delivered jointly by Paranoia Network UK , Hearing Voices Network, Sheffield, and the Institute of Mental Health .
(This workshop is targeted at all mental health workers, criminal justice personnel, third sector agencies and people who experience voices, visions and paranoia)
 
Venue
The Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane , Liverpool L1 3BT – 5th and 6th  September 2013
                                        Facilitators: Pete Bullimore and Chris Tandy
Workshop Content
Day 1
·         The problem with diagnosis
  • Making sense of paranoia
  • The three stages of paranoia
  • Making sense of ‘delusion’
  • Trauma and paranoia
Day 2
  • History of understanding voices and visions using a psychiatric perspective
  • The difficulty with diagnosis
  • Limitations of traditional therapy
  • The three stages of voices
  • Trauma and unusual experiences
  • Understanding voices and visions
  • Helpful approaches
Workshop Outcomes
Day 1
  • Gain a contemporary understanding of paranoia and other alternative beliefs.
  • Gain a critical understanding of current bio-medical constructs of paranoia.
  • Construct a collaborative understanding of paranoia with service users in a respectful, ethical and therapeutic manner.
  • Understand the potential connection between trauma and paranoia.
Day 2
·         Take a critical and thoughtful     perspective on traditional ways of understanding voice hearing and visions.
·         Understand the potential pitfalls of the claims made from other therapies.
·         Take a respectful and ethical approach to the experience of voice hearing and visions.
·         Understand the potential connection between trauma and voice hearing and visions.
·         Develop new ways of talking to and working with people who experience voices and visions.
 
Some quotes of previous attendees from these workshops:
 ‘A truly inspiring training experience. This gave me so many useful strategies ideas for working with voice hearers’
‘Gained a really good understanding of ways to work with someone with Paranoia’
‘The concepts of frozen terror and the trapped trauma model have made me revaluate how I work with people in practice’.
 ‘Excellent trainers who have the expertise of lived experience and working across a broad range of mental health practice settings’’
 
Costs (for both days): Full time employed £150, Part-time £60, Unwaged £30
 
Apply now: please email Karen Sugars karen.sugars@nottshc.nhs.uk 
 
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Your Voice in Sheffield Mental Health Magazine – Article on EMDR Therapy

Check out the Spring edition of Your Voice in Sheffield Mental Health magazine http://www.yourvoicesheffield.org/

My article on EMDR therapy is on page 11

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What Is Mental Illness Today?



Five hard questions.
4.30pm, Wednesday 15 May 2013
B63, Law & Social Sciences Building
University Park, University of Nottingham

Professor Nikolas Rose
King’s College London
Mental illnesses are one of the largest burdens upon the economy
and upon the NHS, but we still have very little agreement upon
what they represent or how best to provide for them. This seminar
will consider that knotty problem through questions which consider
some of the empirical, conceptual and ethical dilemmas they raise.
Admission free, all welcome.
Email michelle.fusco@nottingham.ac.uk
to confirm attendance.

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Personality Disorder Workshop – Suffolk

Suffolk personality disorder workshop

On Thursday, 21st March 2013, from 10.30 am -1.00 pm at the Friends Meeting House, St John’s Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1SJ this workshop aims to explore the experience of this diagnosis, the things people would like help with, looking at what that help might be.

Please contact Suffolk User Forum for any further information
The Hollies, St Clements Hospital. Foxhall Road, Ipswich. IP3 8LS

Telephone 01473 329316

 

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My Secret Past – TV Documentary on Channel 5

My Secret Past

Dragonfly TV are making a television documentary about mental illness for their Channel 5 My Secret Past strand. (A few previous episodes are available to watch on 5 on Demand).

The aim of the documentary is to bring personal issues with mental health out into the open to help people realise that it is something which people do have difficulty with, and that it doesn’t have to be something we can’t talk about openly. This is to be a sensitive documentary aiming to capture the realities faced by mental health service users, in order to help raise awareness of these important issues. Jon and Nicolette who are working on the programme are really keen to speak to anyone who may be interested in taking part in the programme by sharing their experiences with mental health.

Whatever your background and history of mental illness, if you feel able to take part Jon and Nicolette would really like to hear from you.
call 07802 604756.

 

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The Surviving Spirit Newsletter – February 2013

 Healing the Heart Through the Creative Arts, Education & Advocacy 

 Hope, Healing & Help for Trauma, Abuse & Mental Health

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Kahlil Gibran

Hi Folks,

Before we dive into all of the wonderful resources to share from some truly amazing people, I thought I would take this time to ‘gently’ let you know of the Surviving Spirit’s presence on Facebook. We have two sections, first is our Surviving Spirit Facebook Page – where we hope you “Like Us”, but more importantly, a place to visit and learn from some of the great postings shared there – recent examples include:

Jeanne McElvaney – Recognizing the difference between ordinary memories, trauma memories, and dissociated memories can empower us ~

Rachel Grant – Today’s Blog: Embracing Yourself in Love

Misa Leonessa Garavaglia – Spiritual abuse is the misuse of a position of power and the misrepresentation of information.

And then there is our Surviving Spirit Facebook Group which is a place to visit and share what’s going on in your life, find peer support and share your creative expressions. It is a closed group, so log in and ask to join. Thanks!

Once again we are honored to share with you some helpful insight and information…and as the saying goes, “take what you like and leave the rest.”

1] Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thrive Dr. Howard Fradkin Foreword by Tyler Perry

Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thrive is an inspirational new book written to empower male survivors of sexual abuse and assault at any age to develop skills they can use to overcome the effects of their trauma and learn to thrive in their lives.  Visit the pages on this website to learn more about my book.

The book is organized to reflect the critical steps I believe are necessary to heal and fully recover from sexual victimization of any form.  The first part focuses on essential skills needed to begin the healing process; while the second part focuses on additional skills needed to move toward thriving. Throughout the book, I have incorporated the stories and the wisdom of a group of alumni of our weekends program, who I call the “Silence Breakers”.

Dr. Howard Fradkin – Words and Wisdom – Welcome to my website! I hope you will find inspiration, hope and healing here! I have devoted my career and my life to helping others, and I hope in the words, articles, interviews and links provided here, you will find help for yourself too. What I know to be true is that healing from sexual victimization, no matter what age it started or ended, is absolutely possible and achievable!

I have the pleasure and honor of knowing Howard for many years, dating back to when Male Survivor was first formed, back then they had a really long name, not so now, Male Survivor says it all!

Howard is the real deal….he gets it and his caring and love of helping others shines throughout this powerful book that is a testimony to hope, healing and help. His insight, knowledge and compassion speaks right to you – and that is what I felt while reading this book. I truly felt as if he was in the room talking to me directly, in a gentle and thoughtful manner – that is a wonderful gift of love that he shares, and that is not a word I throw out frivolously. His allies and friends in healing, the “Silence Breakers” also give wonderful insight and testimony on healing throughout the book.

My only ‘disagreement’ with the book pertains to the chapter on Forgiveness. I share his belief that we must learn to forgive ourselves for what was done to us…but I take exception to forgiving those who hurt us – some of us have been able to heal and thrive without having to forgive…and that is okay. That should be a personal choice and belief…

What is Male Survivor? We are committed to preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through support, treatment, research, education, advocacy, and activism.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love & belonging & joy— the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brené Brown

2] Thursdays @ 10am pst Svava Books answers questions in the OneHealth chat room about childhood sexual abuse.

Register free – http://sexualabusesupport.onehealth.com/   & 2:12 minute audio clip

A safe place to heal – OneHealth is a private and confidential community where you can feel safe and secure when sharing with others and managing your health goals. 

A 24/7 source of community and support – Feel instant fellowship with our online community of people who share your health goals. 

A set of clinical tools that work – Set and keep track of your goals, and share your experience and progress. Find online community meetings when and where you need them. Share your story and life journey with others.

“If I am overwhelmed, I may be trying to do too much. Today I will try to “Keep it simple.” Courage To Change

3] Kids At Risk Action (KARA) – Advocating for the Rights of Invisible Children

KARA is a non-profit advocacy network focusing on issues related to neglected and abused children. Founded by Mike Tikkanen, a businessman turned socially-concerned citizen, KARA works to educate individuals and communities about the need to protect the rights of children.

OUR MISSION is to advocate for the welfare of at-risk children and youth through the identification and promotion of people, programs, and policies that work.

OUR INITIATIVES include raising awareness of at-risk children by:

  • sponsoring KARA Community Forums
  • organizing children’s rights Community Action Networks
  • offering free audiobook downloads of  Invisible Children
  • Contact KARA for information about public speaking engagements & workshops

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann 

4] In mental illness, is ‘stigma’ the wrong word? How about ‘discrimination?’  Arielle Levin Becker  The Connecticut Mirror

“When I had cancer, I got cards and flowers,” Karen Kangas’ sign reads. “When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I got no cards and a pink slip.”

A picture of Kangas holding the sign hangs in the state Capitol complex, part of an exhibit called “Discrimination: A Roadblock to Recovery.”

The title is no accident.

People often talk about the stigma of mental illness. But some, including Patricia Rehmer, prefer the term “discrimination.” It’s stronger. It makes people uncomfortable.

And it more accurately describes what people with mental illness face when looking for jobs and housing, in social situations, and even in some legislation that’s been proposed in recent years, said Rehmer, the state’s commissioner of mental health and addiction services.

“I always say it’s the last bastion of discrimination,” she said. “I can’t really think of another group that’s still so discriminated against.”

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Carl Bard

5] Ark of Hope for Children brings awareness of and provides emotional care for victims of child abuse, child sex trafficking and bullying (peer abuse). Ark of Hope focuses on care, habilitation and life transformation to help victims become empowered survivors.

When loving people stand in the gap with sacrificial and unconditional love, the trajectory of shattered lives can change forever. Through Ark of Hope programs we encourage local, church, state and international mobilization on behalf of abused, trafficked and bullied children.

 Ark of Hope programs:

“Love is a great beautifier.” Louisa May Alcott

Ruth Jacobs is another great example of a Surviving Spirit who has taken her own pain and suffering and turned that into a force of greater good for helping others – please do visit her website. And her Facebook pages [ https://www.facebook.com/rujacobs & https://www.facebook.com/SoulDestructionSeries ] where there are all kinds of great sharing, resources, hope and healing.

6] Ruth Jacobs – author   http://ruthjacobs.co.uk/

I write a series of novels entitled Soul Destruction, which dispel the ‘happy hooker’ myth and expose the dark world and the harsh reality of life as a call girl. My debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, will be published in 2013 by Caffeine Nights. I studied prostitution in the late 1990s, which sparked my interest in the subject. I draw on my research and the women I interviewed for inspiration. I also have firsthand experience of many of the topics I write about such as posttraumatic stress disorder, and drug and alcohol addiction. My short charity publication, In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl, is available on Amazon.

To view the series of interviews for Human Trafficking Awareness Month, January 2013, click here.

In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl is available to download from Amazon. All royalties will be donated to Beyond the Streets, a charity helping women exit prostitution. The publication is 77p from Amazon UK here & 99c from Amazon US here. It is also available worldwide.

“Today I will make use of the precious gift of imagination. Thus I will turn away from negativity, self-doubt, and fear, and celebrate life instead.” Courage To Change

Some great news to share from my friend and fellow advocate and member of Males 4 Trauma Recovery, William Kellibrew of the William Kellibrew Foundation [WKF] 

7] WKF Stories of Surviving and Thriving

As the national conversation about violence prevention continues it is important that the voices of those who have been affected are heard.  

Each month we will share at least one story in order to build awareness, educate policy makers and help shape the public policy conversation. 

1. Send an email to – info@TheWKFoundation.org  

Include: Name, Age, Location, Your Story 

2. Be prepared to record a 3-minute video sharing your story.  

– What happened? 

– How did you feel then and now?

– How are you coping?

– What do you hope will be done to prevent this type of violence in the future?

– What do you think is an important message for others to take away from your story?

We start with a courageous woman from Kansas, Linda Oktach, whose husband was murdered in 1968 on Thanksgiving Day. In response to Newtown, Linda tells her story of survival; raising her 22 month old son who survived the day she lost her husband.  It is stories like Linda’s that give us hope. Thank you for your courage Linda. Linda now lives in Kenya. 

WKF Stories Restoring Lives: Linda Oktach – YouTube   4:54 minutes

“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.” Hubert Humphrey

8] The Road To Resilience  

How do people deal with difficult events that change their lives? The death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness, terrorist attacks and other traumatic events: these are all examples of very challenging life experiences. Many people react to such circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty.

Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves resilience, an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps.

This article is intended to help readers with taking their own road to resilience. The information within describes resilience and some factors that affect how people deal with hardship. Much of the article focuses on developing and using a personal strategy for enhancing resilience.

“The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be.” Shakti Gawain

9] 10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow and Thrive – Loran Hills @ Tiny Buddha

Keeping a journal has many positive benefits. Journaling can help with personal growth and development. By regularly recording your thoughts you will gain insight into your behaviors and moods.

Journaling can be used for problem-solving and stress reduction. It’s been proven to improve mental and physical health. It can lead to increased self-esteem.

10] You Can Be Your Own Hero – You Tube

Here’s a forum where you can share your own video of speaking out regarding sexual abuse as these courageous folks have done.

“To improve the golden moment of opportunity, and catch the good that is within our reach, is the great art of life.” Samuel Johnson 

11] Rethinking mental health: Local practitioners, groups reject mainstream treatment – Tracy Rose, Mountain Xpress Asheville, NC

Asheville psychiatrist Daniel Johnson didn’t set out to transform his profession. But he’s now part of a growing movement, both locally and nationally, that’s challenging the most fundamental assumptions about mental illness.

Dr. Johnson launched a private practice here in 2010 and, like most psychiatrists, he prescribed medications for his patients. But a controversial article he read nearly a year and a half ago got him thinking and eventually led to a profound shift in the nature of his work (see sidebar, “By the Book(s)”).

“Unfortunately, and sadly, more often than not, medications do more harm than good,” Johnson now maintains. “And of course I had contributed to all that in my own practice. I had a lot of soul searching and reckoning to do on a personal level.”

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Oscar Wilde

12] The Voice from the Spectrum: My First News Appearance on Autism Awareness

Ryan Comins is a graduate of Oakland University. In December 2012 Ryan received his Bachelor of Science and Business Administration with a major in marketing and a minor in English. While attending school, he was a member of the marketing honor society Alpha Mu Alpha. Ryan was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (otherwise not specified autism) at age 12. Through use social media and internet radio, Ryan uses his eloquent way with words to help raise autism awareness.

“If I can see pain in your eyes then share with me your tears. If I can see joy in your eyes then share with me your smile.” Santosh Kalwar

13] How Child Abuse Primes the Brain for Future Mental Illness – By Maia Szalavitz TIME Magazine – Health & Family

Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.

Now, in the largest study yet to use brain scans to show the effects of child abuse, researchers have found specific changes in key regions in and around the hippocampus in the brains of young adults who were maltreated or neglected in childhood. These changes may leave victims more vulnerable to depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the study suggests.

& Study: How Chronic Stress Can Lead to Depression Maia Szalavitz

“They do not want to hear what their children suffer. They’ve made the telling of the suffering itself taboo.” From Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker

14] America Has an Incest Problem – Mia Fontaine The Atlantic

Mia Fontaine is the author of Come Back and Have Mother, Will Travel, and a speaker on the subject of incest and child sexual abuse. She has written for the New York Times and Ms. magazine.

People are rightly horrified by abuse scandals at Penn State and in the Catholic church. But what about children who are molested by their own family members?

Last year offered plenty of moments to have a sustained national conversation about child sexual abuse: the Jerry Sandusky verdict, the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, Horace Mann’s faculty members, and a slew of slightly less publicized incidents. President Obama missed the opportunity to put this issue on his second-term agenda in his inaugural speech.

Child sexual abuse impacts more Americans annually than cancer, AIDS, gun violence, LGBT inequality, and the mortgage crisis combined—subjects that Obama did cover.

Had he mentioned this issue, he would have been the first president to acknowledge the abuse that occurs in the institution that predates all others: the family. Incest was the first form of institutional abuse, and it remains by far the most widespread.

“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.” Herbert Ward

Kudos to Mia Fontaine for writing this…I would take this a step further and add in child abuse in all of its forms – the silent epidemic that is causing so much suffering throughout our world…someday this silence will end, till then, we all continue to do what we do in our respective advocacy endeavors…and thank you for that.

Take care, Mike, Mary, Zsuzsi, Rachel, Cynthia & Mary Ann

ps. Please share this with your friends & if you have received this in error, please let me know. 

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 
                                               A diagnosis is not a destiny  

The Surviving Spirit – Healing the Heart Through the Creative Arts, Education & Advocacy – Hope, Healing & Help for Trauma, Abuse & Mental Health 

The Surviving Spirit Speakers’ Bureau

The Surviving Spirit Facebook Page

mike.skinner@survivingspirit.com   603-625-2136  38 River Ledge Drive, Goffstown, NH 03045 

@SurvivinSpirit Twitter

“BE the change you want to see in the world.” Mohandas Gandhi

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