Micah Pearson

Pearson PicUse these links to go to specific areas of the profile:
Candidate speech
Experience with mental illness
Skills, knowledge and experience relative to the NAMI Strategic Plan:
Driver 1: Build a Movement
Driver 2: Leverage Technology
Driver 3: Drive Advocacy
Driver 4: Focus on Youth
Driver 5: Strengthen the Organization
Employment and other affiliations
Candidate statement in the Advocate
Letter of Nomination

Nominated by NAMI Doña Ana County (New Mexico)

Member, NAMI Doña Ana County (NM)

Listen to Micah's speech here.

I have lived with Type I, Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder most of my life. In 2012, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after surviving years of domestic violence which resulted in multiple institutionalizations in 2011.

Please describe how your skills, knowledge and experience will contribute to the NAMI Board of Directors role in delivering on the strategic plan. Using no more than 300 words per driver, respond to each of the five drivers in the 2015-2019 NAMI Strategic Plan.

Driver 1: Build A Movement - NAMI will broaden public awareness and inclusion in every part of the alliance.

New Mexico, and Doña Ana County in particular, are large rural regions with limited resources. These two factors provided significant challenges in developing awareness of NAMI, its programs and services and are issues that our affiliates and state organizations face nationwide.

As a board member, I will combine the skills I've developed working in my community with my experience as a Project Manager. Recognizing that Mental Health intersects with a wide variety of other issues that affect our communities, I encouraged our local affiliates to forge relationships with other organizations to strengthen and develop our community ties. Public transportation, LGBTQ issues, housing, and income all impact a family's access to mental health services. By working with organizations focused on these causes, we have raised awareness of NAMI and increased participation in our own programs and events. As a member of the board, I will continue to forge partnerships with other organizations to further NAMI's success nationwide.

I believe that NAMI cannot be a grassroots leader without strong ties to communities. I focus on development of community leaders, while forming strong relationships other stakeholders, such as service providers, the District Attorney's office, Public Defender, Behavioral Health Collaboratives, Health and Human Services, and local governments. If elected, I will assist other affiliates to do likewise.

Being aware of the effects of race and culture on the availability of resources for persons with mental illness and their families and loved ones, I began a multicultural diversity initiative at our affiliate. Since then, we have increased diversity in our leadership and are offering Spanish-language programming for the first time. We are also developing a council to advise on ways to better make outreach to our underrepresented populations. I would work to take the lessons learned here to grow the existing national diversity initiatives.

Driver 2: Leverage Technology - NAMI will expand use of technology to build capacity and connection.

More than 20 years of experience in information technology convinces me that well-planned and integrated technology can address some of the capacity and connection issues faced by NAMI. For example, improving communication between the organization and affiliates, and providing programs to rural areas. Conceivably, a Family-to-Family instructor in Virginia would be able to train a group in Silver City, NM. In another example, the availability of cost-effective and accessible cloud-based team collaboration tools could reduce the need for negotiating time zones for conference calls. Effective application of these technologies and skills can improve the availability and attractiveness of NAMI’s education, advocacy, and support programs; particularly in remote, underserved areas.

I envision user-friendly, cultural specific online classes for peers, families, veterans, and advocates. In addition, collaborative technologies such as Slack, Trello, Taskworld, Google Drive, and others would facilitate real-time collaboration among NAMI personnel and members who are responsible for developing strategic and financial plans, new programs and classes, and advertising and public engagement projects. I am eager to use my experience in planning the implementation and deployment of these systems at the national board level.

As a member of the board, I will encourage technological solutions that are intuitive and have comprehensive tutorials and support. In the course of my career, I have implemented numerous similar solutions for my clients at the American Chemical Society, Washington Post, Library of Congress, and the National Institutes of Health.

Driver 3: Drive Advocacy - NAMI will lead advocacy efforts that drive increased access and quality.

LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. The fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities can lead to depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse. In New Mexico alone, 32% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have tried to take their own life – a higher rate than heterosexual youth at 8%. Additionally, between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation. Recent national studies also found that sexual minorities had between 1.6 and 3.9 times greater risk of probable PTSD than heterosexuals.

These data suggest that redoubled efforts to reach out to LGBTQ and other minority populations is critically important. More than that, NAMI could take lessons learned from the implementation of the Veteran's and Consumer Councils, and develop advisory groups focused specifically on the issues particular to these underrepresented populations. In Doña Ana County, we have implemented a group called "NAMI Rainbow." In its first year of operation it has provided valuable insight in best practices for outreach to our LGBTQ communities and taught us how to tailor our meetings and classes to be more welcoming and inclusive. The effectiveness of this group has led our affiliate to develop a similar group focused on Multicultural Diversity.

As a member of the national board, I will work to further develop these models for implementation throughout NAMI.

Driver 4: Focus on Youth - NAMI will develop and implement strategies that engage youth, young adults and their families, expanding our reach across the lifespan.

At 40, I am no longer a youth. Nevertheless, I remember that even as a troubled and isolated teen, I was drawn to computers and various forms of gaming. I think technology has tremendous power to advance NAMI’s work among youth and their families as well as strengthening the organization as a whole. Technology has an increasing presence in schools and it is critical for NAMI to expand in this direction. Working closely with educators and students will be key to providing youth with mental health information at all ages. I hope NAMI will consider using technology to present mental health information and learning opportunities in a variety of ways that are attractive youth; such as: websites, mobile applications, animations, videos, and even games.

It is also important to work with companies that already have a strong foothold in youth culture. For example, brands like Marvel and DC Comics attract all ages and have a history of working with organizations with positive and educational messaging for youth.

With the rise of independent game development, more games are being developed with socially conscious messages, including mental health. At the time of this writing, there are more than 30 video games currently on the market that directly tackling the topic of mental illness, usually from the perspective of the creator's own experiences. The journalistic media surrounding this industry has become more open to discuss mental health as a whole and can be a valuable asset for outreach, yet they often don't mention NAMI when they suggest options for education and support.

Driver 5: Strengthen the Organization - NAMI will grow and develop financing, infrastructure and capacity that support a vibrant and bold organization.

Community organizations are frequently understaffed and underfunded, especially in rural areas. In Doña Ana County we found we are stronger working together with other community leaders rather than operating as disconnected programs. We turn out for them, they turn out for us. We make suggestions about their programs and they make suggestions about ours. We also engage in mutually beneficial fundraisers and awareness campaigns. Overall, we have developed symbiotic and productive relationships that create a stronger network of advocacy, education, and support.

As a board member, I will develop strategies that would help state organizations and affiliates to engage with other community organizations involved with improving access to housing, medical care, and drug and alcohol programs. Affiliates also can develop cooperative relationships with organizations that work with near-poor, poor, and indigent populations, such as: faith communities, certified community behavioral health centers, city and county governments, and public and private homeless shelters. All of these should be made aware of our programs so that they can offer suggestions about ways to connect with the groups they serve.

The actions above will awareness in the state organizations and affiliates, and membership will grow, expanding capacity and capability to offer a greater suite of NAMI's programs and services. This has been a crucial ending the decline in membership in Dona Ana County, and increasing our ability to do the work of NAMI.

Successful fundraising demands a focus on solid financial stewardship, including robust policies and procedures for operating year-round fundraising activities, It is a complex but necessary step in improving NAMI’s financial resources. I will encourage NAMI to promote planned giving, bequests, and a variety of celebratory and memorial contribution opportunities, tied into specific individuals whenever possible. For example, Clay Hunt’s story has had a profound effect in promoting services to returning vets.

Job Title or Position: Peer Support Program Consultant

Employer: Doña Ana County Health and Human Services

NAMI Affiliations: Vice President, NAMI Doña Ana County Board of Directors; Peer Program Coordinator/NAMI Connection Facilitator/NAMI Peer-to-Peer Mentor/Legislative Team Lead, NAMI Doña Ana County; Consumer Council Representative/Legislative Team Member, NAMI New Mexico; Secretary/Advocacy Committee Chair, NAMI Consumer Council

Other Board Service: Chair, Local Behavioral Health Collaborative, 2016-2018

Candidate Statement as Published in the NAMI Advocate

I have lived with Type I, Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder most of my life. In 2012, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after surviving years of domestic violence which resulted in multiple institutionalizations in 2011.

I first attended a NAMI Peer-to-Peer class in 2004 and was so impressed with the materials that I convinced my parents to attend NAMI Family-to-Family. I’m happy to say that they are now certified Family-to-Family instructors. Since 2012 to the present, I have served my local affiliate in the following roles: NAMI In Our Own Voice Speaker, NAMI Connection Support Group Facilitator, board Secretary, board Vice President, Community Relations Lead, Peer-to-Peer Mentor, Peer Program Coordinator, and Legislative Team Lead.

At the state and national levels I serve in these roles: Consumer Council Representative (NM), National Consumer Council Secretary and Council Advocacy Committee Chair, State Board Liaison for Consumer Council, and Legislative Team Member.

Finally, I represent NAMI in these community roles: local Behavioral Health Collaborative chair, Detention Center Advisory Committee, member of the 2015 Senate Joint Memorial 4 Task Force that created recommendations for providing better services and housing options for persons with mental health conditions in county detention facilities. This is tied to the National Association of Counties' Stepping Up Initiative, a national effort to divert persons with mental illness from jails and into treatment. Finally, I currently work on the Doña Ana County Stepping Up Initiative and Assisted Outpatient Treatment program.

My priorities as a board member will be to address the lack of programming and support available to generally underserved groups, particularly low income, rural areas, and minority communities. As a member of the board I will use my experiences as a multi-ethnic person of color and my 20 years of experience in Information and Communications Technology to expand NAMI’s information and learning outreach by advocating for the use of modern technologies in novel ways. I will also work to increase NAMI awareness, programming and community leadership among LGBTQ and minority populations.

Read Micah Pearson's nomination letter [pdf]