Written By: Alan Johnson, NAMI Ohio Contract Writer 

Danei Edelen was a nervous wreck the day she was to return to work after having a mental health crisis that required hospitalization.

“I was so scared. I laid out all my clothes and took a shower the night before to be as ready as possible. I woke up extra early to have time to ‘just be ready,’ she wrote.

On the way to work, she thought, “What am I going to say to these people? ‘Hi! I just had a psychotic break, what’s going on in your life?’”

She worried what her new co-workers would say around the coffee pot, if they would think of her like a patient from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

But minute by minute, day by day, month by month, Edelen regained her confidence and footing on the job and in life in general.

Now she is executive director of the Brown County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio. She helped create the NAMI affiliate a year ago in the rural county with few mental health service providers, but people with needs like everywhere else in the state.

“I am a thoroughly middle class mother in the heartland of Ohio,” she said  “This is who I am. I was angry at the world for an extremely long time. I would verbally lash out.”

But with the help of medication, counseling, and the support of family and friends, Edelen is doing the work she wants to do – helping and inspiring others. Her seven-year journey from a breakdown to the present was bumpy, she said. She felt alone and isolated at first.

“When you walk off that psych ward, it’s like there is this red cloak with every word for crazy written on it.”

Edelen said it’s vital that people get connected to mental health providers and to NAMI. “You are not alone. That is the message,” she said

Deanna Vietze, executive director of the Brown County Board of Mental Health & Addiction Services, said Edelen came to her with the idea of forming a NAMI chapter.     “The way she found NAMI was very positive,” Vietze said. “She wanted to help others.”

“She’s able to share her story and give others the hope it’s not a death sentence, that you can overcome and be a functioning member of society. It gives them a voice. They know when they’re going through something she’s been there as well.”

Vietze said rural Ohio has the same mental health issues as urban areas, but fewer resources and a problem with transportation.

On top of those concerns, people in Appalachian Ohio “learn you pull yourself up by your bootstraps. You don’t go to others for help. That often means there are families with years of untreated mental illness,”

Edelen, who lives with her husband on 13.5 acres in Brown County, is devoted to helping end the stigma of mental illness by speaking out.

“Silence does not aid understanding,” she wrote. “That is why I have come ‘out of the closet’ about my mental illness. That is why I am a presenter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I am committed to ending the silence.”