I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 1990, and suffered from periodic acute bouts of medication-resistant depression, which in my case was only responsive to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). At the time of my first diagnosis, I was a 40 year old mother of three healthy children and working as a part-time college professor. Since 1990, I’ve had four acute episodes each time requiring hospitalization and additional ECT treatments. During my periods of recovery (presently 16 years), I earned a master’s degree in human resource education and started Kivler Communications, a company that provides customized corporate training and international executive coaching.
In 2001, a friend introduced me to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and I attended my first State Conference. NAMI Mercer NJ invited me to begin speaking locally about my mental illness and recovery. The next year, NAMI Mercer invited me to take the IOOV (In Our Own Voice) training and become certified to deliver the program. I began presenting dozens of programs throughout the state, which I still do.
My deep spirituality and strong beliefs led me to use my gifts of influence and persuasion to begin speaking about depression and anxiety to larger mental health organizations. Over the next few years I met various people who helped me envision a mental health division for Kivler Communications. In 2003, I was invited to become the first consumer to sit on the NAMI Mercer Board. I accepted the appointment and served on the Board for 10 years.
Fortunately, Kivler Communications was able to underwrite a majority of the funds needed for me to travel and share my journey of recovery. Since 2004, I have presented Grand Rounds for over 18 audiences; spoken at more than 20 nursing schools/nursing conferences and delivered 35 programs for consumer conferences and professional organizations. I have also written and self-published 4 books about mental health, recovery and mental wellness.
Each year it has become more apparent that many mental health organizations, doing wonderful work, did not have the resources to bring in professional speakers for their conferences and events. There are countless audiences who need to hear the message of hope and recovery. Yet the funding was not available. After speaking with several business experts, it became evident that in order for me to continue this God-planted mission, I would need to find another way. After reviewing the Courageous Recovery division’s long list of presentations and media interviews, the experts felt the best way to continue was to create a non-profit organization. Courageous Recovery, Inc.’s mission would be to promote a mental wellness movement by advancing education, advocating nationally, and eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness.
In July of 2014, I proudly announced that Courageous Recovery, Inc. (CRI) had been accredited with the non-profit designation 501 (c) 3. This would allow CRI to expand its core mission and reach out to the mental health sector across the country that do not have the budget to bring me in to share my story of hope and recovery. With the non-profit accreditation, CRI is now in a position to seek funding through sponsorships, grants and donations. Our goal for 2015-2016 is to fund a 12 City Tour where I will continue telling my very personal and harrowing journey to audiences across the country. I want everyone to know that “People with mental illness want to be viewed as courageous survivors- to be accepted, not rejected; respected, not pitied; and admired, not feared.”