The Minutes Stolen By Violence


Minute: a unit of time equal to 60 seconds or a sixtieth of an hour 

“In a minute!”  How often do you use that phrase?  “I’ll be there in a minute!”  “I’ll do it in a minute.”  “It will only take a minute!” 

In a minute you can microwave chicken nuggets from frozen to piping hot.  It takes one minute for the heat light to dry my nail polish at my favorite salon.  In one minute a blood cell can make a round trip of the human body.

Do you know what else happens in one minute?  Twenty people in America are abused by an intimate partner. When you multiply all those minutes into days, months, and then years that totals more than 10 million people annually.  One in four of all women and one in seven of all men are severely battered during their lifetime by someone who they believed loved them.

The other night, I checked my Facebook page before bed (I know, it’s a bad habit).  On my feed, I found these words,

        “So October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Every time I see that it takes me back to words you said to me one time. When I was going through hell and fighting for my life yet not really understanding what I was fighting for or even why.  When I was stuck in an abusive relationship and wanted so badly to get out and stop hurting, you said to me that every October you got up and read the names of women that died at the hands of a man that took it too far. And then you said, “please don’t make me read your name.” In that moment, those words struck my soul. They came from a voice that was fighting back tears.  They came from a place of love and genuine concern… Those words that you said to me, that knowledge that you gave me, saved my life. You told me I was gonna grieve much like there was a death. You told me about PTSD and the struggle I would face trying to leave an abusive relationship and when I needed it you gave me information for others that would help me… You saw me through the hardest weeks of my life and gently encouraged me and kept telling me truths and things I needed to hear. Though I did endure physical abuse at times, the scars from the verbal, mental, emotional and psychological abuse hurt the worst. Those scars are usually the deepest and the hardest to heal. Sometimes they don’t heal. You gave me the strength and knowledge to fight back. To fight for myself. That is still an obstacle I face every day but I keep fighting and I’m still going. So in this month of awareness, I wanted to take a minute to tell you that though to the world you may be but one person….to one person you may be the world. Thank you for being the world to me and for saving my life and giving me my life back…“

Wow! What validating words for a social worker, right?  That is career reinforcement, for sure! But guess what? Those words weren’t written by someone I’d worked with professionally. They were written by a close friend. They were written by someone that my children call “Auntie”. 

You see, “one in four” doesn’t have the boundaries you hope it has. 

That one in every four or one in every seven can include your friend, your sister, your uncle, your mother, your boss… I’ll stop for the sake of character counts, but you get the picture.


While I’m happy that we have Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I sort of wonder if it’s necessary. I am fairly certain that with those numbers, pretty much everybody is aware of domestic violence. The question is this. What do we do about it? My advice? Use your voice! 

Voice your intolerance of violence. Voice your support of victims. Voice your condemnation of abuse in personal relationships. Voice your willingness to volunteer, to raise money for trauma-informed care, and to be the person who knows what to say when your best friend needs to hear a life-saving message of support like mine did. 

If you don’t know those words, ask someone who does. Family Service of Roanoke Valley is proud to collaborate with TAP Domestic Violence Services, The Salvation Army, and other community partners in an effort to confront the issue of domestic violence in our community. Please, reach out to one of these organizations and find out how you can join the fight. 

Add your voice to the chorus. 

Yours might make the biggest difference of all.

Yours could save a life.

It only takes a minute.

Be the One to…

Throughout September, Family Service and our fellow mental health organizations across the Roanoke Valley focus on Suicide Prevention and Awareness.

Part of the reason Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is in September is because incidents ofsuicide actually increase in the fall and also in the spring–as seasons change and life changes pace from the leisure of summer or the dormancy of winter.

"Suicide rates spike in the spring and to a lesser extent in the fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not around the holidays as everyone suspects. And in fact, suicides in general have increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, according to a CDC report," according to the CNN article. 

As I shared on this blog last week, my oldest brother died by suicide in the spring. I remember it feeling strange at the time for a number of reasons.

The actual day of his death was one of those beautiful spring days, the breezy, gentle type of day you long for all winter long. Similar to today, the sky was bright blue and the clouds made you want to jump into them like a Care Bear.

In spring, life reemerges. In fall, it reinvests.

As leaves fall to create the bed of nutrition needed to sustain life through the winter, and creatures prepare their cold weather stashes of food and manes of warmth–this reinvestment is obvious all around us. Life sustains itself by believing in its own self-importance and committing to self-sufficiency.

That may not be as true for someone affected by major depression, bipolar, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and other mental health concerns that deplete an individual’s ability to invest in their own self-preservation.

Many may think of wintertime as the time people struggle with depression and loneliness, and that is certainly true. As in the case ofSeasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), changes in light and season affect mood.

So do changes in the world around you, which inherently cause changes within you–emotionally and physically.

That is why we need you. To see these sometimes subtle changes in a friend or loved one and to act.

Now is the time to pay attention. Not only because it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Because it is the time, it is always the time.

It is time to be the one to reach out and ask a friend the tough question: "I’ve noticed you’ve been staying to yourself a lot. Are you thinking of hurting yourself?"

Now is the time to talk to a professional about how losing a friend to suicide continues to impact you.

It’s always the time to be grateful for each day and careful with each interaction with others.

Be the one to make this a season–not of loss and despair, but of belief in oneself and in what comes next.

Take part in the local ‘s plan to raise awareness, support and resources throughout this month. . Be on the lookout for our social media posts all month long to learn more of what you can do.

Table Discussions and Speaking of Suicide

Sitting at our family’s fourth generation dining room table, my brother and I talked.

More like I talked. I thought he listened.

My grandmother gave me the table for my first real house, the one I shared with my first husband. My marriage ended and I moved home to live in my parents’ basement. So when my brother and I moved in together, it was a step to independence for both of us and the table came along too. We shared dinners at that dining room table—at holidays as kids and 30 years later as roommates. We lived together for about six months.

In summer 2011, he started drinking again.

Months before this conversation at the table where we had with a giant bowl of popcorn between us, my family and I had asked him to move out of the house my son and I were sharing with him. I told him I couldn’t live with him while he was drinking. Honestly, even while sober, living with him sucked the air out of the house and drained me.

I recommended he get a hobby. Suggested he could keep an old motorcycle to tinker on in my backyard. He loved engines and figuring things out and getting greasy. More than anything he loved helping others. Suggestion after suggestion, I never stopped and opened space for him to tell me how he felt and why.

I fought my urge to send him job offerings, invite him to stay for a night, cook him a meal, tell him I could make it better. Not that I never did those things, but I started to realize it was hurting me and not helping him. I didn’t want to lose myself in him, in his problems.

And, I didn’t.

I lost him.

Another thing I didn’t do was look into the best way to talk to someone with depression and suicidal thoughts. Now, over five years after his death and having spent time in the field of mental health through my work at Family Service, I have a better understanding of his life-long depression. Of how differently the world looked to him than it does to me. Of how impossible it was for him to look at the bright side. And, of how what he needed more than anything was for someone to stop offering advice and just listen, just be with him.

At the time of our dining room conversation, he had attempted suicide once—when a friend found him and rushed him to the hospital where he lay in a serotonin induced coma for three days. He overdosed on his own prescription depression medication.

About six months after that, he checked himself into the hospital because he was thinking about suicide again. That was two months before he ultimately took his own life in March 2012.

I thought I could relate to my brother’s situation. Apart from picking up the pieces for him, I thought the least I could do was empathize and share what worked for me.

My failed marriage brought a lot of pain and loss, and landed me in bankruptcy with a foreclosed home. I remember the fear of the creditors’ calls. I remember hating the mailbox and avoiding the look in others’ eyes. I remember blaming myself. I thought by sharing these things, I could give him hope. I wanted to give him my hope. He never found it.

He found more misery, more pain than I can imagine. He feared more than creditors and the impressions of others. He feared failure. He feared himself.

I used to say he had to find a way to be happy with himself and to find something to wake up for everyday. That must have scared him more than anything.

Being empathetic is on the best practices list of how to talk to someone who might consider suicide. So is saying something like “"When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage."

Offering advice is a surefire way to shut down communication and entangle your own sense of values and worth in another’s struggle.

In recognition of Suicide Awareness Month, I want to share my experience trying to communicate with my brother. I’m hoping someone can find direction for a conversation they need to have with a friend or loved one.

The bottom line for me, in retrospect, is first and foremost don’t stay silent. Start the conversation and make yourself available. Best case scenario, if the person starts talking, then that’s the time to go quiet and listen with no judgement.

According to, when talking to a suicidal person


Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.

Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.

Be empathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.

Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.

Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.

But don’t:

Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: "You have so much to live for," "Your suicide will hurt your family," or “Look on the bright side.”

Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.

Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.

Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.

Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

On the last day of my brother’s life, I didn’t see him or speak to him.

Perhaps he thought he knew what I would say—be positive, David, things will get better if you just believe in you.

Perhaps he had read my body language and unspoken inferences too many times—you’re not welcome here, David, you have too many problems and you’re bringing me down.

Perhaps he just couldn’t look me in the face because he knew how much I loved him.

He used the key I never asked him to return, and picked up the mail I never asked him to stop having delivered. He took his life that day, and though I know there is nothing I could do or say to change his actions, I am glad that there were boundaries I didn’t set, that there were places he could come into my life. I kept myself in, without completely shutting him out.

So, I will continue to remember him sitting at that table—the eccentric teenager in a chilly West Virginia dining room over butter rolls and honey ham, or the grave man years later sharing popcorn and misery.

A sober girl in a brewery town

When I moved back to Roanoke after 12 years, the Blue Ridge Mountains moved right back into my heart. It was like we’d never been apart.

There is little I love more than my town. Just like the other loves of my life—my three stinky boys (a husband and two sons), the four beating and two still hearts of my siblings, a strong cup of coffee, and a sweaty run—Roanoke isn’t perfect and proves its imperfections every day.

I love it still. My personal, professional, social and recreational life wraps around my interest in making this town as good as possible by giving it my best.

The years I spent away were also years spent away from my own best self. Coming back to Roanoke was the first step in a slow journey of getting back to me. To the me who runs the trails in this town. Who rubs elbows with people passionate and driven enough to make a difference in this world. Who believes in the shared heartbeat of humanity.

Part of that journey included giving up alcohol for good.

So, when the biggest news out of Roanoke in years was that a brewery from Oregon chose my love as its new home—I felt a little left out.

How could I celebrate the news with my friends and neighbors? It’s a place I will likely never visit. Gear I will never wear. Beer I will never taste.

And Deschutes isn’t the only brewery to come to Roanoke or beer-related news to ripple through our community. 2016 was pretty much the year of the beer.

If you don’t know how big of a deal this is in Roanoke, then I’ll give you an example.

Tomorrow, July 15, is the second annual Deschutes Street Pub in Roanoke.

Today, in my regular Friday yoga/Pilates class, the instructor started class by asking who was going to the Street Pub. Hmmmmm…

The furor of Deschutes choosing Roanoke for its East Coast home reached absolutely astonishing heights.

For the days following the announcement in March 2016, messages of Deschutes coming to Roanoke were literally everywhere.

Runners, bikers, non-profit friends, parents, grandparents—everyone it seemed—was over the moon psyched to celebrate alcohol and what it means for our economy, our community, our sense of self.

And I was over here, like, nope.

Being five years sober and realizing how much more real and awake life feels, I have a difficult time encouraging an entire town to get intoxicated on the idea that our future is better for adding more beer.

But, I’m not a total downer.

I’ll be there at the Street Pub representing Family Service with our partner organization United Way of Roanoke Valley. Last year, I shared booth space with SARA (Sexual Assault Response Awareness).

The saving grace of being a sober girl in a brewery town is that at least the most popular brewery to move to Roanoke believes in giving back to its community.

Family Service doesn’t receive funds from the Street Pub, but Deschutes gave $81,000 back to Roanoke after the 2016 Street Pub.

This year our partner organization Bradley Free Clinic, which operates The Hope Initiative to intervene on behalf of addicts to help them turn over their drugs and get into treatment, is one of the organizations to benefit from the event.

I continue to be excited about Deschutes in Roanoke because I hope it encourages other companies to realize the importance of giving back to our community. I hope it attracts more companies that prioritize people and their lives and needs.

Creating jobs and bringing tourists and creating a fun community will never relieve the need for helpers. By investing in our home, by giving to those who struggle, by believing everyone deserves a chance to heal—we make hope a basic human right.  

Hope, not hops.

Or, at least Hops and Hope.

The Truth about PTSD


Lady Gaga is an American singer-songwriter who has received numerous awards and nominations for her contributions to the music industry.

Darrell Hammond is recognized for his impersonations of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Sean Connery, John Travolta, and many more on Saturday Night Live.

Audie L. Murphy is known as America’s most decorated combat soldier of World War II and a famous movie star.

So, what do they all have in common? They all were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In 2016, Lady Gaga spoke publicly about her battle with PTSD—a result of being raped at 19 years old. For 7 years, Lady Gaga never spoke about her rape, not willing to admit that anything had even happened. However, in December 2016, she wrote and posted an open letter on the Born This Way Foundation website about her battle with mental illness and PTSD stating, “…I am finally well enough to tell you. There is a lot of shame attached to mental illness, but it’s important that you know that there is hope and a chance for recovery.”


According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a “…mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event [or trauma]”. The term PTSD is normally associated with military veterans that have returned form war; however, this is not always the case.

Traumatic events can include combat, witnessing death or injury, physical assault, sexual assault, an accident, a natural disaster, car accident, acts of terrorism, sudden loss of a loved one, domestic violence, or child sexual abuse.

Meaning, PTSD can happen to anyone.

Here are some quick facts about PTSD in the United States:

7% to 8% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their livesAbout 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year.About 10 of every 100 women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men.


Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. There are many factors that can increase the chance that a person will have PTSD, and those factors are normally not under that person’s control.

PTSD symptoms may start within one month of the traumatic event, but sometimes the symptoms might not appear until years later. They are generally grouped into four types (with some examples):

Reliving the Event:

Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. A person may feel the same fear or horror when the event took place, feel they are going through it again, or are triggered by something (sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts) that reminds them of the event.

Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood:

A person may have a hard time expressing their feelings or have swift changes in mood. Examples include, thinking the world is dangerous and no one can be trusted, feeling detached from family and friends, or blaming themselves for what happened.

Feeling on Edge:

A person may always be alert and looking for danger. This can result in a hard time sleeping, being easily scared, trouble concentrating, or self-destructive behavior.

Avoiding Situations That Remind a Person of the Event:

A person may try to avoid situations or places that remind them of the event and/or avoid seeking help because they would have to talk or think about it.

Not all people who suffer from PTSD have the same symptoms. For example, Lady Gaga’s symptoms also include somatization—meaning her psychological symptoms are so overwhelming, to the point that she is unable to express her feelings and they become physical symptoms. An example would include, throwing up when feeling anxious or having a headache due to stress.


One of the main treatments for PTSD is psychotherapy or talk-therapy. There are two main talk-therapy methods used for people diagnosed with PTSD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be the most effective treatment of PTSD, in both the short term and long term. It focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing thinking behavior patterns. There are two main components of CBT that have been found to reduce PTSD symptoms.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) helps a person learn skills to understand and change the way they think about the trauma (such as coping with feelings of anger, guilt, and fear).

Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy helps people face and control their fears by exposing them to the trauma in a safe environment. Exposure can include mental imagery, talking, writing, or going to the places or visiting the people that remind them of the trauma. This way, the person will be less sensitive over time.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was originally designed to treat PTSD. In EMDR, people will focus on sounds or hand movements while talking about the trauma. Like with CBT, EMDR helps people process trauma, allowing them to heal. If the healing process is blocked or imbalanced by the traumatic event, the emotional wound will be unable to heal and cause suffering. However by removing the block (distracting the person through hand movements and/or sounds), healing can resume.

Another type of therapy is Group Therapy. It provides a safe environment for a person to discuss their experience with others. By realizing that there are people out there that have dealt with a similar experience, that person will hopefully feel less isolated and withdrawn.

Psychotherapy, or talk-therapy, has been shown to be effective in the treatment of PTSD. However, everyone is different. Just because one type of treatment works for one person does not mean it will work for another. As such, a person needs to find a therapist that they feel comfortable with, meets their needs, and has experience with helping patients battling PTSD.

Congress named June 27 PTSD Awareness Day. The purpose of it is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and effective treatments. By reading this article you have already made a difference! By having a greater understanding and knowledge of PTSD, you can help others recognize symptoms and, hopefully, support them in seeking help.

If you are in crisis now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8225).

Tough Talks: Parents, Children, and “13 Reasons Why”

Thirteen Reasons Why was written in 2007 by Jay Asher. By 2011, it was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list and, unbeknownst to most parents, it is currently on many high school reading lists. For those who haven’t heard, Thirteen Reasons Why, and its Netflix adaption “13 Reasons Why”, follows the story of Hannah Baker who committed suicide at the age of 17. She leaves behind a series of cassette tapes explaining the 13 reasons why she made that final decision.

Like it or not, many teens and pre-teens have already watched or are currently watching the series.

Who could blame them?

With such an unfiltered, unapologetic take on topics such as violence and bullying, substance abuse, sexual assault, and self-harm, it is easy to become invested in the story—especially if you relate to the lives and struggles of the characters. According toVariety, it is the most tweeted about series of 2017.

Due to its popularity among middle and high school students, many mental health organizations believe that it is important to have discussions about the series’ effect on children and how parents can talk to their children about it.

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, SARA (Sexual Assault Response and Awareness), Prevention and Wellness Services at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, and Family Service of the Roanoke Valley facilitated a discussion for parents, community members, and  middle and high school aged-students regarding how to have open conversations about the Netflix series. The purpose of the panel was not to break down specific scenes of the show, but rather to use it as a jumping off point for conversations about the serious issues depicted in the show.

Before opening the floor for discussion, the panelists shared data about suicide rates in the United States, Virginia, the Roanoke Valley, and surrounding areas, shared suicide warning signs, and discussed resources available to our community.

The audience in the parent’s panel varied—ranging from clinical psychologists, teachers, school counselors, young professionals, to parents with their teens. The largest portion of the event was dedicated to listening to thoughts about the show and how parents can facilitate conversations about “13 Reasons Why”.

 Here are some tips and ideas for parents that I found extremely useful.

Not Everyone Needs to Watch It.Especially those with a predisposition to depression and/or anxiety, currently struggling or who have struggled in the past with suicidal thoughts, and those who have experienced sexual assault.

Watch the Show Together. By now, many middle and high school students have already watched the series and are anxiously waiting for the second season. However, parents should ask their children if they have ever heard of or seen the series. If they have not, parents should offer to watch the show together (if the child is interested and if the parents feel it is acceptable) and share their thoughts on the show; especially in regards to suicide and bullying.

Watch “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons”. “Beyond the Reasons” is the companion piece to”13 Reasons Why”. It is a 30-minute conversation where the cast, producers, and mental health professionals discuss scenes dealing with difficult issues. It can be watched either before or after each episode of the series.  

Be Open.Children should feel like they are able to speak to their parents about difficult topics without judgment, whenever and wherever. Having a safe, judgment-free space will allow children to express themselves honestly without fear. Additionally, parents should validate their child’s feelings. By accepting and trying to understand their feelings, parents will create the groundwork for the ability to have powerful and deeper conversations with their children in the future.

Be Present.It is important for parents to be both physically and emotionally present. It is true that parents have the toughest job in the world and there is a lot stress that comes with day-to-day life. However, if a parent isn’t in their child’s life, physically or emotionally, they are not in touch with what is truly happening. If a parent is not there, they are no longer someone that their child can come to, they are a stranger to the child as much as the child is a stranger to them.

Opinion from Peers Are Important. The opinions of peers matter as much to children, if not more, than the opinion of their parents. At this age, children yearn for the acceptance of their peers. So, while a parent might be telling their child that they are beautiful and smart, on social media the child might be seeing the opposite—and that is what the child internalizes and believes. So, it is important that parents teach their children how to be kind and supportive to others so they are a model for their social group and bullying becomes a thing of the past.

Be Aware That Social Media Plays a Bigger Part Today Than When the Book Was Written.

And, in turn, it’s harder for children today as they feel more victimized by attacks from their peers. Parents need to be aware of the applications downloaded on their children’s cell phone and/or tablets as well as their children’s social media passwords. Knowing what they are using and knowing what they have access to is huge as parents will not only learn what their children are saying, but also what people are saying about them.

It Takes a Village. The panel continuously reiterated the idea that it takes a community to raise a child. While one child might have a wonderful support system at home, for another that might not be a realistic expectation. But, while that child might not have a parent to talk to, there is probably another adult in their life that they confide in—whether it be another family member, teacher, guidance counselor, coach, church member, etc. If there isn’t one, it is important for the community band together and do what is best for the child.

Practice Self-Care.It is difficult to care for others when you are not taking care of yourself.

No Fear. All of the panelists encouraged parents to have difficult conversations with their children, and be open to their response. These are the realities of life and they need to be addressed. It is important to note that asking a child if they have thoughts of suicide does not increase the risk nor does it plant the idea. If parents are apprehensive due to a lack of knowledge, there is a plethora of resources, either online or within the community, that they can use and study.

While some may feel “13 Reasons Why” is not 100% accurate, it is opening the doors of meaningful conversation regarding important issues that teens and pre-teens face on a daily basis.


If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Local Celebs Stand Up for Mental Health

Last night was an amazing night for mental health in the Roanoke Valley!

At Celebrity Tip Off, the community raised $56,000, which goes directly to helping our neighbors heal invisible wounds.

Thanks to you, people in our community can get the help they need when and where they need it.

Speaking of invisible wounds, #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth is around the corner and everyone is talking about it.

Prince Henry shared his story with the world and ever since more and more celebrities have been speaking out for the first time. Some celebs, like Demi Lovato, Jared Padalecki, and Lady Gaga re-voiced their stances to end stigmas and further grow mental health awareness.

At the 2017 Celebrity Tip Off, with an abundance of local celebrities in my arsenal, I turned the question to a few of our famous waiters to discuss how mental health has impacted them and why they speak up.


Sheriff Tim Allen knows his jail is the largest mental health facility in the area. That’s because it offers intense “in-patient” services. He also knows that it may not be the best place for such services, stating it’s not as clinical as he would like.

But let’s get real, it’s better than not addressing the issue at all, which is how many people with severe mental illness end up in a continuous cycle of incarceration. Sheriff Allen hopes to prevent that from happening.

A local program through the Sheriff’s Office acts as a discharge planner. Those leaving incarceration with mental health issues have services to make appointments, get prescriptions filled, and find housing. The purpose is to get them back into society won’t be so difficult.

Fun fact: Sheriff Allen’s mom used to work for Family Service as an in-home health aide. Seeing her do the job every day helped inspired Sheriff Allen to keep working for mental health.


Lynda Foster’s grandfather has bipolar disorder and the stigma of speaking out has always hit home for her. She says when we break our foot we let everyone know we need time to heal. When someone we know has cancer we rally around them.

For someone who suffers from a mental illness, there is such a stigma that it prevents many people from asking for help. Lynda believes that everyone should have the ability to share their whole journey. That’s why she advocates for mental health. Lynda said It’s important to make people more aware and de-stigmatize the issue because so many people need help.


Grayson Goldsmith believes that things like depression and anxiety really does touch all of us.

“Literally, I don’t know a single person who either:  A. doesn’t know a person suffering from one/both or B. isn’t going through it.”

Humbled by the fact that she is considered a local celeb, Grayson wants to do all she can on any platform she has to bring awareness to this issue because it’s a real problem. Asking for help is incredibly hard and brave. People should be able to get the help they deserve.


If I had to pick a favorite (sorry guys) Chef T’s story would be it. I was honored that she first

told me, then the audience at Celebrity Tip Off that mental illness doesn’t just knock at her front door, it shares a home with her.

Chef T’s daughter is currently in a mental facility after struggling with a string of misdiagnoses spanning over several years. She knows firsthand that mental illness can tear a family apart. She believes, as a society we need to stop tip toeing around the real issue of mental illness and address it head on.

Chef T said no matter the situation, treating mental health can make people more ready for the world or any situation.

It was truly my honor to speak with as many of the celebrity waiters

as I could about what mental health means to them.

The more advocates mental health has anywhere,

from the glitz and glam of Hollywood to right here in Roanoke,

we can eliminate the stigma of mental illness

and begin the process to heal those invisible wounds.

A Tribute to Social Workers: Grateful to Work with You!

If there is one thing I count myself lucky for it is that I am surrounded by plenty of social workers.

Left to right: Tyler Hower, Jennifer Nolley, LCSW, and Jamie Starkey, MSW

Social workers are the backbone of advocacy. They stare injustice in the face so others can grow. They help people know that they are important. In short, they are awesome humans.

Beyond the job description I just gave you, it’s really how social workers think about everything that makes them special. Allow me to explain.

Social workers always remember that people are people first and whatever they are going through doesn’t change that. They accept and meet people where they are in life right now and help those people work through choices in their own life, instead of deciding what is best for them. Social workers believe people and their decisions matter.

“Social work means recognizing the inherent value of every individual and provides supportive services to help them be their best self.”

– Jamie Starkey, MSW, project director at Family Service of Roanoke Valley

Optimism isn’t the only thing that makes social workers’ thinking process special. They are grounded in reality too. Since they work to combat stigmas and stereotypes, accepting others’ differences is first nature to social workers. They believe it is those differences that make people special. If everyone did that, imagine the world we would live in. For starters, there would be no such thing as an internet troll. Instead, people would protect each other like family.

Social workers teach us that it is so okay to fail. They know pain and suffering are real. They understand struggles and mistakes. We are human and we mess up sometimes. They show us how empathy is supposed to work and remind us to not beat ourselves up about a setback.

“I think social work is unique in that it focuses on a systems perspective. There are all kinds of things that make up a person. So instead of ‘fixing’ a person or one particular thing, we look at all of the experiences as a whole. From large-scale community efforts to advocacy on an individual level, social work looks at it all.”

– Jennifer Nolley, LCSW, Counselor at Family Service of Roanoke Valley

They are strong. They are warriors. They are brave.

I say again, social workers are awesome humans. As Social Workers Awareness Month comes to a close, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that you should praise any social worker you know every day. They climb a mountain everyday so more people can enjoy the view.