Heather is driven to advocate for those who are overlooked, dismissed, and misunderstood. She is a single mother of four kids and her oldest son has both Autism and Bipolar 1. Their journey navigating the mental health and educational systems has spanned more than 14 years and has revealed many deficits and lack of proper care leaving families in crisis and causing long-term harm to our children. She is passionate about educating families, clinicians, patients, teachers, and communities about the daily struggles of those with mental illness and in doing so, bring awareness, change, compassion, and hope to the broken system.
By two years of age, my oldest child, Samuel, was showing disturbing signs that something was very wrong. He barely slept, was becoming violent, had meltdowns that lasted for hours, and his activity level was incredibly high. I took him to the doctor multiple times between the ages of 2 and 4, but was dismissed, patronized, and not heard.
He finally landed in a psychiatric hospital just weeks before his 4th birthday, and that painful experience launched us into the cogs of the mental health system. He will be 17 this year and is doing well. He has a sobering diagnosis of Bipolar 1 coupled with high functioning autism. The two together can exacerbate symptoms, and we have worked heroically to get him to this current sweet spot of stability.
We have had horrific experiences together- both from his illness and from the lack of support from the medical community. We have also had amazing experiences because of both. I have been given an incredibly powerful and costly education about mental illness, the mental health system, and the deficits in our education system. My hope and passion is to leverage the knowledge I have as a caretaker to bring change to the mental health system, the education system, individual families, and our communities at large. I'm not afraid to dream big, and believe that with support, proper treatment, intervention and compassion, those who have mental illness will have full lives realizing their potential. Some of the most brilliant minds, the most powerful world changers, the most creative artists, are those who also battle mental illness; we cannot afford to lose our geniuses and healers; we must find a way to treat them holistically in order to be honored with their talent.