Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Asking for Help Shouldn’t Be Seen as a Sign of Weakness’
Abby Conover holds up a painting donated by Hailey artist Chris Brown during NAMI’s The Masks We Wear fundraiser this week at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021


Those trying to address mental health and suicide in the Wood River Valley are always talking about “having the conversation.”

The conversation came easy Saturday night at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, what with eight people wearing big green name tags inviting attendees to “Ask me about…”

“We’ve had this pandemic going on over a year now and the pandemic means more people are dealing with mental health issues than ever before,” NAMI-WRV Board President Page Klune told those attending “The Masks We Wear” fundraiser. “We encourage you to have the conversation because it’s everywhere and it’s not going away. We need to let people know it’s okay to not be okay.”

Kevin Baker, with Meredith Richardson, is a special needs teacher who has a special place in his heart for NAMI because he’s seen how it helps so many students.

Bill Leyrer and Maureen Zaccardi were quick to ask school counselor Julie Carney what the five signs of mental distress were as they filled out the mental health Bingo card they’d been given. And she was quick to respond.

Perhaps it’s a personality change—someone not acting like their normal selves. Perhaps the person’s agitated—you show up five minutes late and they bite your head off, she told them.

Perhaps, they’re not taking care of themselves—they’re not washing their hair or dressing as if they care anymore. Perhaps they’ve started driving too fast. And, above all they seem to be hopeless.

We all go through a week or two where we might be somewhat depressed but this goes beyond that, Carney said.

Maureen Zaccardi helps herself to a salmon roll served up by Gavin Shipley.

If you notice someone who appears distressed, reach out and say, “Hey, I notice such-and-such has changed,” counselor Laurie Strand added. “Encourage them. Give them hope. You can say, ‘I don’t know what to do, but I’m going to stay with you until we get through this.’ ”

The fundraiser boasted a variety of auction items, including Travis Amick’s photograph of the Milky Way above the Prayer Wheel at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, earrings donated by Christopher and Company, a flyfishing lesson from Silver Creek Outfitters and a Staycation Package in Bellevue.

Brittany Shipley gestured towards a colorful speckled art work of aspen trees that Hailey artist Melissa Graves Brown had donated.

“This is a perfect example of the resourcing techniques we use in mental health,” she said. “Think of joy when you’re having a rough day. That brings you joy. When you’re having a bad day, think about what it would smell like, what the leaves would feel like.”

Melissa Graves Brown, who donated a painting to the fundraiser, shares a moment in the garden with Sun Valley Music Festival cellist Ellen Sanders.

Student Priscilla Meza is familiar with resourcing, having been part of the Bluebird Support Group for  high school and middle school students. She described how the Bluebirds helped her move from feeling isolated to a safe place where she could express her struggles.

“I was born into an old-fashioned home where we didn’t talk about our problems,” she said. “My parents thought if we didn’t think about it, it would go away. I was doing harm to myself and I had thoughts about suicide.  I went to a mental health workshop that they had and I felt inspired. I joined the Bluebirds and now Bluebird is my safe place. I have new friends. I’ve never been happier. And I’m planning on majoring in psychology so I can help others.”

Brittany Shipley, NAMI’s executive director, noted that Bluebirds has helped a myriad of students.

“But they don’t just grow out of it when they’re 17. So, we provide support for adults,” she added. “Ninety percent of those who die of suicide have at least one symptom of mental illness. And suicide is preventable.”

Priscilla Meza and Allie Esquivel attended on behalf of the Bluebirds, a support group for high school and middle school students.

Toni Himmelman said she was only to happy to support NAMI-WRV because of the free educational programs and support groups it offers for families, co-workers and those struggling with mental health.

“Mental health right now is the biggest crisis, especially since COVID. I consider myself a mentally healthy person but it’s been tough even for me during the pandemic,” she said.

Melissa Graves Brown concurred: “Asking for help shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.”


Visit https://namiwrv.org Or, call 208-578-5446 or 208-788-3596. Call 208-578-4114 for Espanol.

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