Mental Health: Hope and Recovery

Valerie Milburn and Helen Sneed came to NAMI for the same reason—a way to voice their difficult stories.

Both Valerie and Helen live with — and nearly lost everything to — serious mental health challenges. By the time each found NAMI, they were well along their recovery journey and were ready to help other people do the same. They met seven years ago in a teacher training for the NAMI Peer-to-Peer program and have remained fast friends since. Together, they have shared their stories in countless classes and In Our Own Voice presentations across Central Texas. During the early months of the pandemic shutdown, they developed a new program for peers called Stories and Strategies.

Their latest project combines their skill for storytelling and passion for helping people with their mental health recovery.

“Volunteering with NAMI Central Texas, teaching and speaking, has given a voice to my desire to share my mental health journey and break down the stigma that surrounds mental illness," says Valerie. "And now I'm a Podcaster. I’m silent no more."

The podcast, Mental Health: Hope and Recovery‬, examines depression, anxiety, substance use and eating disorders, self-harm, suicide, other major illnesses, and the pandemic’s impact. Listeners will learn about treatment options, coping skills, goal setting, relationships, and mindfulness.

“I had never thought about being a podcaster! Helen came to me with the idea, and I jumped on board wholeheartedly,” says Valerie.

The podcast's name represents the need for hope in every person’s journey to recovery.

“During many dark times, I lost all hope. What helped me keep fighting was the hope that others held out for me when I couldn’t find it in myself.” shares Helen.

Valerie and Helen believe that their shared years of struggle and recovery, their combined experience, and a host of skills can help others in their own struggles.

“Telling my own story had a profound impact in the course of my recovery. For the first time in my life, I could find value in my long, ugly story at last. After one of my first IOOV presentations, a woman came up to me. Crying, she told me I had given her more hope than she’d felt in years," says Helen.

Mackenzie Ulam, volunteer and president of NAMI On Campus

You can find the podcast on Spotify and iTunes.