December’s Volunteer of the Month is Deb Felix. Deb volunteers at NAMI MC through the Ending the Silence program and advocacy opportunities. We are grateful for all Deb does to promote mental health awareness.
What motivated you to start volunteering at NAMI MC?
I was completely ignorant about mental illness when my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so you can imagine how grateful I was to participate in NAMI’s free “Basics” class. I learned so much, but I also came face to face with the misconceptions and stigma that exist around mental illness. I thought about how young people today do not stigmatize homosexuality as much as older generations did at their age, and I began to think that mental illness might be the next misunderstood human challenge to be normalized in our everyday conversations.
This is why I volunteer to teach the “Ending the Silence” program to middle and high school students. Our youngest, most open-minded generation needs to know the facts about mental illness so they can help themselves and their loved ones in the future. My hope and motivation is that with this education, they also will be the first generation to talk about mental illness in the same way they talk today about someone getting diabetes or a cold.
How long have you volunteered with NAMI MC?
I have been volunteering with NAMI since December 2014. In addition to doing “Ending the Silence” presentations, I have lobbied with NAMI in Annapolis and have steered others to join NAMI or contribute financially to NAMI.
What’s your favorite part about volunteering with NAMI MC?
I love knowing that kids walk out of my “Ending the Silence” presentations knowing more about mental health and mental illness than when they walked in, and that some of them will act on what they’ve learned in the future. I always tell the kids, “If three months or three years from now, you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone you care about, remember back to today and ask yourself, “Now, what did Deb say I should do?” I also love working with the NAMI staff because they are efficient and effective, they provide great training, and they appreciate every little thing I do.
How has volunteering at NAMI MC impacted your life?
Volunteering for NAMI has kept me up-to-date on mental health research and policy, and has given me access to resources I can use with my son. This makes me feel good about doing all I can to help him manage his illness and move forward in his life. Now that I have my own practice as a private college admissions consultant, I usually work with clients at night, so I have more free time during the day than I used to. I suppose I could watch TV all day, but it is so much more rewarding to be able to fill some of that time being productive as a volunteer for NAMI.
Do you have any advice or insight for those interested in volunteering with NAMI MC?
Just do it! Do not be afraid to volunteer for NAMI. There is something for everyone to do. The staff will help you find ways to use your skills and talents well, and will train you thoroughly so you have the biggest impact no matter what you do.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
The members of my family were named alphabetically: Anne and Bob (my parents), Curt, Debbie (me), Eve, Flip, Grace, Helen, Izzat, Janet and Karl (my kids), and Logan. There are some good letters coming up for the next generation to use!
When you’re not volunteering, what do you like to do for fun?
My work is fun. Really! I love it. Aside from that, my favorite pasttime in the world is bodysurfing. Because I have clients all over the world and I can work from anywhere, I bodysurf almost every day in the summer on Cape Cod (I grew up there), and try to find excuses to go south in the winter to bodysurf there. Finally, I surprised myself by falling in love with a yoga class two years ago, and now go to six yoga, spin, and overall fitness classes a week at Anytime Fitness.