This past May was Mental Health Month and I interviewed William & Mary alumni who also work at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is the country’s largest grassroots non-profit, with hundreds of affiliates around the US, advocating for the millions of Americans affected by mental health conditions.
We hope our stories will inspire you to seek help if needed and help break the stigma against mental illness. As the manager of social media and digital assets for @NAMICommunicate, I’ve found that social media can be an incredible tool for connecting with others who share your experience. The work we do is incredibly important to me, as I lost my friend and mentor, Steven Enriquez ’09, to suicide during my senior year. I’ve also recently gone back to therapy and learned that I show signs of anxiety and depression.
Something that I loved about my time at W&M was being surrounded by individuals who were passionate about service and giving back to the community. I especially loved being a part of alternative break trips and getting involved with various service opportunities in Williamsburg, like Campus Kitchens. I learned a lot while at William & Mary, both in and outside of the classroom. I am beyond grateful that supportive professors and friends encouraged me to seek out services at the Counseling Center, where I went to group therapy. While helping others is very important, we must keep in mind that we all experience ups and downs in life. We should not feel ashamed to ask for help.
Dania Douglas ’99
Dania Douglas is an attorney and works on @NAMICommunicate’s Advocacy and Public Policy team. Her primary focuses include disability rights and health policy. I asked Dania, as well as my other colleagues, about what brought her to NAMI and how her time at W&M has influenced her journey.
I have depression and an anxiety disorder myself. While I have worked on various disability issues, this personal connection gives me an even greater passion for the work we do at NAMI.
Looking back at my time at W&M, I loved being on the track and field team, as I threw shot put and discus. I admired my coaches, who wanted the team to succeed not only as athletes, but also as students and as individuals. I loved my small classes with professors who clearly had a passion for teaching. Most of all, I love the lifelong friendships I made while at W&M. My classes — including religion, government and history — taught me to think critically, investigate and ask questions, research thoroughly and write well. I also learned that while working hard and striving for perfection are essential, being kind and compassionate, pursuing justice and helping others are even more important.
Gustavo Guerrero ’15
Gustavo Guerrero ’15 is a coordinator for our Strategic Alliances and Development team. He works with our corporate and foundation sponsors to fund NAMI programs, which are free to the community.
I deeply care about helping people struggling with mental illness, but because I’m not a trained counselor or anything like that, I wanted to help in the best way I could, professionally. My personal connection to mental illness mainly revolves around helping others through their own problems — being there for people and going through their struggles with them.
The most important thing I loved about my time at W&M? The people. Classes come and go, and are forgotten, but the friends I made at W&M will last a lifetime. Even though I ended up in a completely different field than I was expecting (I majored in international relations), my experiences at W&M helped me adapt to new situations. I’ve used these skills every day at my job, where my work changes daily and often moves in new and exciting directions!
Heidi Guglielmino ’82
Heidi Guglielmino ’82 is our director of data integration. Her role weaves together work she has been involved in for most of her career: expanding access to formerly siloed information provided by ongoing advances in technology and the ability to serve others.
My personal story with mental illness is that I have struggled with an anxiety disorder for my entire life, and several members of my family are dealing with major depression and its impact.
W&M is one of my favorite places in the world – the beautiful campus, the connection to history, and the community of people who think as I do are all very special to me. While at W&M, I majored in Colonial American Culture. I know it is a cliché, but the liberal arts education I received at W&M – especially the training in critical thinking and in synthesizing information and identifying the key narrative – have proved to be invaluable during my career.
Liz Norton ’04
Liz Norton ’04 is our senior systems manager. She works with all levels of the organization to manage and disseminate data.
“I came to NAMI because NAMI’s Family-to-Family program was a turning point in my life, so it’s great to be able to marry my computer skills with an organization that makes an impact. I live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and have many friends and family members that deal with mental health issues in their lives. I also volunteer and lead several NAMI programs to educate other individuals, friends, family members, and students about mental health conditions.
Some things that I loved during my time at W&M include the friends and community — I still talk to my Russian Studies classmates and professors daily. And bread ends and house dressing. Who doesn’t love bread ends and house dressing? W&M helped me get to where I am now by teaching me how to research and think critically, thus allowing me to be successful at many things in life. Also, the Counseling Center was a great resource for me while learning to cope with my OCD, as I was diagnosed during my junior year.”