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Dealing with Holiday Stress

Dealing with Holiday Stress

Submitted by: Danielle Smart

For many people, the most wonderful time of the year is also the most stressful time of year, and in 2020, with COVID-19 restrictions still impacting all of us in so many ways, the holidays are going to be more stressful than ever. In the United States, the holiday season typically begins before Thanksgiving and lasts until the first weeks of January, leaving many us feeling as if we are running a figurative marathon with the finish line barely appearing on the finish line. So, why are we all stressed? U.S. News and World Report found the top holiday stressors include lack of time, money worries, overcommercialization, gift-giving pressure, family get-togethers, the hassles of travel, and worries about taking time off from work1. This year, with nearly all of us, impacted in one way or another due to the pandemic, additional stressors may include loneliness from not being able to see family, ongoing financial hardships from long-term unemployment/underemployment, lack of access to shopping (for food and/or gifts) opportunities due to store closures, and concerns about being exposed to COVID-19. Another source of holiday stress for many of us stems from the pressure to be happy; specifically, expectations run high for joy, for bringing the family together, for giving gifts that show how much you love those around you, and for a beautiful meal1. Any time we set ourselves up with high expectations, it’s not going to work out that way, and we find ourselves in the “happiness trap” (the more we try too hard to be happy, the more we make ourselves miserable)1.

Is there a way to make the holidays stress-free? The short answer is no, the holidays will never be without stress, but there are some things that you can do to help lessen your stress and, hopefully, increase your holiday happiness. Firstly, acknowledge your feelings, especially if you are experiencing feelings of sadness or grief, as you can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season2. The holidays can increase the feelings of loneliness and isolation, so make sure you reach out to others and seek out community, including religious or other social events or communities; now more than ever, this can be done virtually, through online meeting platforms (like Zoom) or the streaming of virtual events2. Additionally, make sure to reach out to friends and family, through a text, a call, or a video chat, especially if you are not able to visit with them during the holiday season2. Make sure you create a budget before you do your gift and food shopping: decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget2. Plan ahead as many things as you can, such as setting aside specific days for shopping or baking, to help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten items or add an extra dish to your menu2. Also, remember that it is okay to say no to events, activities, or projects that you do not want to or do not have the time to participate in; saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed2. Don’t abandon healthy habits just because it is the holidays; remember to eat healthy meals, get plenty of sleep, include regular physical activity in your daily routine, make time for self-care, and avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol, and drug use2. Finally, be realistic! The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year; even though your holiday plans may look different than what you originally expected, you can find ways to meaningful ways to celebrate2. No matter how you celebrate, hopefully, you have a happy and less-stressed holiday season.


*Photo by Atul Choudhary from Pexels




Columbiana County a Leader in Providing Housing for Those with Mental Illness

Columbiana County a Leader in Providing Housing for Those with Mental Illness

Written by: Alan Johnson

Housing is a key component to treating mental illness, along with counseling and medication, but it is often overlooked, resulting in the failure of the goal of treatment.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio has long been a leading advocate for housing as a critical element of treatment.

Housing is a priority in Columbiana County, 27th largest among Ohio’s 88 counties with a population of about 102,000, but a longtime leader in the state in providing housing for the mentally ill.

Sally Luken, a housing specialist who works with NAMI Ohio, says safe, affordable housing is a critical factor in successful treatment. “The number of rental units they have in a voucher system in Columbiana County is remarkable. Lots of rural counties didn’t aggressively go after the federal money. But they did.”

The latest addition to the program is Hornsby House, which opened in 2016, with eight units serving people with a history of chronic, persistent mental illness who might otherwise be homeless.

“Hornsby House is a testament to their teamwork,” Luken said. “It’s not just one agency that gets things done…They have compassion for people with a mental health disorder. For a small population county, they got it done.”

Luken said you need one other thing: a champion. The late Don Roberts was the champion in Columbiana County.

Roberts, a social worker but not mental health professional, founded the Columbiana County Mental Health Clinic in 1965, and greatly expanded the system to one of the best in the state by the time in retired in 2005. Michael Hogan, former director of what was then the Ohio Department of Mental Health, described Roberts at his retirement as “part of the greatest generation in mental health across the country.”

Roberts’ dedication was legendary. He often slept at the center instead of going home and was thrown out of a city council meeting for vocally advocating for the mentally ill.

Terrie Kyser, Housing Director for the non-profit Columbiana County Mental Health Clinic, said Hornsby House is the result of years of dealing with mental health clients who went through the revolving door, often ending up evicted from their housing, hospitalized, in jail, or on the street. Working with federal and state agencies, the organization was able to begin renting subsidized units in Hornsby House in 2016. Tenants pay 30 percent of the rent.

Hornsby House received capital money from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati. Operating costs are partially paid by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

Through a combination of programs, the agency overall is serving more than 80 people with subsidized housing, including units in Salem and Lisbon and other areas of the county. There is also a youth mentor program with 16 units.

“There’s a huge need for more housing directed toward the youth population,” Terrie said. “I’m very proud of what our agency does for the folks who have severe and persistent mental illness.”

Maureen Waybright, co-chair of NAMI Columbiana County and recovery coordinator for Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services, said the area has “done a good job in making housing available for the mentally ill. We have several mental health apartments available.”

Waybright said there is an urgent need for group homes for the severely mentally ill, primarily because several group homes closed their doors within the last year, forcing many residents to move out of the area.

Tamisha’s Story: When Loving Your Child Means Giving Up Custody

Tamisha’s Story: When Loving Your Child Means Giving Up Custody

Pictured: Tamisha McKenzie with her children.


Article written by: Alan Johnson, NAMI Ohio Contract Writer 

Tamisha McKenzie faced one of the toughest choices a parent may ever have to make – giving up custody of her child so she should get the mental health help she needed.

McKenzie has no regrets about doing the right thing – then or now.

“I needed her to be well. There was nothing I could do to help her. I was so hopeless,” Tamisha said. “Anything anybody could offer I was willing to take. I wanted my daughter back, but I was willing to do whatever I had to do to make sure she was safe, and we were safe.”

Tamisha eventually regained custody of her daughter, who is now a freshman in college. Tamisha is using her experience and expertise as a parent peer support trainer and coordinator for NAMI Ohio.

NAMI Ohio supports the OhioRISE program (  unveiled recently by Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration. Part of the specialized managed care program for children and youth with behavioral health issues would “utilize a new waiver to target the most in need and vulnerable families and children to prevent custody relinquishment.”

Unfortunately, Tamisha didn’t have OhioRISE when severe behavioral problems began developing with Raven, the youngest of her three children, after Teyah and Brendan.

A native of Steubenville, Tamisha moved to Columbus as a child. She spent 20 years as a licensed hairstylist before becoming involved with NAMI, first as the parent of a troubled teen involved in a family training class, and then as a staff member.

When Raven began lashing out, sometimes violently, Tamisha said she didn’t know how to help her daughter. She tried to work with school officials, police, and other agencies, but things just got worse with Raven showing explosive behavior, anxiety, and manic episodes. She hid in a crawl space under the house and wouldn’t come out, ran away from home, pounded holes in the walls with a hammer, and destroyed things in her brother’s room.

Things came to a head when Raven attacked Tamisha, and the police had to be summoned, not for the first time.

Something had to be done.

“I was afraid somebody was going to die,” Tamisha said.

With nowhere to turn and fearing for the lives of her children and her own life, Tamisha made the heart-wrenching decision to give up custody of Raven so she could be sent to treatment facilities and receive the care she so badly needed.

“When I think about it now, I felt relieved. That was my first reaction. I felt relieved because I couldn’t parent my child anymore. It was a hurtful situation.”

Raven received residential treatment at several facilities inside and outside Ohio. With help, she learned to recognize signs of her rising anxiety and anger and developed tools to deal with them without explosive behavior.

Raven graduated from Columbus South High School earlier this year and is now studying at Akron University.

“We’ve had some hiccups, but it was never like it was before,” Tamisha said.

“What drove me was the love I had I had for my daughter. I loved her, but I couldn’t stand what she’s doing. At the end of the day, I love her.”

“I would encourage parents to operate from a feeling of love,” Tamisha continued. “Do what your heart is telling you. Push down worrying about who might be judging you.”

Laurita Barber, a friend of Tamisha’s who is the office manager and accountant for NAMI Franklin County, called her a “very caring person. Because of her own struggles, her heart is definitely with parents who have children with mental health conditions.”

“I know her road was a very hard road. It’s not an easy walk at all. As the parent, you’re often misunderstood,” said Laurita, who faced a similar situation with her own child.

“Education is the most important thing you can do for yourself. I wasn’t educated at all. I was totally unprepared.”

Laurita echoed Tamisha’s advice not to worry about stigma and what other people think and say.

“The big thing is to realize when you come to the end of what you can do; sometimes, we have hard decisions to make.”

Get to Know Jody

Get to Know Jody

Mr. Rogers would have liked Jody Demo-Hodgins because she’s a helper.

Rogers, the long-time television host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, frequently told kids, “Look for the helpers. You can always find people who are helping.”

That description perfectly fits Jody, Director of the Children’s Division for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio. A social worker by profession, she previously was with the Crawford-Marion Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services, including 19 years as executive director.

“I believe empathy is one of the most important things that we need to have,” Jody said. “We still have so much stigma about mental illness. There is so much hurt in the world that we can do something about.”

“We need to better educate people and have discussions so we can make mental health care part of overall health care,” Jody said. “Our brain is part of our body.”

Bev Young, the now-retired former director of the Marion Area Counseling Center, worked with Jody for many years as a non-profit community mental health services agency. “What I admire the most about Jody is she is genuinely so compassionate about providing services and meeting the needs of people with severe and persistent mental illness,” Bev said. “She was so honest and helpful in brainstorming new approaches, and being creative and innovative in trying to provide services in our area.”

Jody was born in Malone in upstate New York just about 10 miles from Canada. Her mother, Hilda, was a nurse, and her father, Ed, was a trainer and driver of harness-race horses. Her father’s occupation resulted in many moves as he followed the racetrack circuit. As a result, Jody didn’t finish the year in the same school where she started until she was a freshman at Trinity College in Burlington, VT.

She met her future husband, Jim, when both were working at a horse track. They married moved to Marion, Ohio, in 1979, and have lived there ever since. They have two children, both of whom are in the mental health field.

Jody said she once aspired to be a special education teacher, but eventually decided that working with people who had mental health and substance abuse issues was her calling. Those touched her personal life since her mother struggled with alcoholism and her sister had mental health problems and took her own life.

After starting her career with what is now Job and Family Services, Jody worked in a program counseling young mothers before taking a job in 1989 as associate director of the Crawford-Marion Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services. She became executive director in 1997, a position she held until her retirement in 2016.

Since joining NAMI Ohio, Jody has directed a wide variety of programs focusing on providing mental health services for children and support for their parents.

She said mental health services in Ohio have improved but the state “never fulfilled its promise” about what it intended to do once state psychiatric hospital closed. The waves of substance abuse problems, including overdose deaths, required agencies to focus time and scarce resources there. “It took our eyes off mental health needs, Jody said, ‘but the good thing is we’ve had a lot more discussion about addiction and underlying mental health issues.”

Information about NAMI Ohio and programs for children are available online at

Mental Health Warriors – Danei Edelen

Mental Health Warriors – Danei Edelen

A mental health epidemic is the crisis underlying the COVID-19 epidemic. About one-third of Americans are experiencing depression and anxiety and deaths by suicide are rising.

The bad news is the dual epidemics are not expected to go away in the near future. We are all wrestling with depression or mental illness in some form or fashion. If not ourselves, we are seeing it in the lives of our children.

But we can change the narrative. People who wrestle with their mental health need to be destigmatized. They are not weak. They are mental health warriors.

Through the NAMI Peer-to-Peer class, I learned that living through my psychotic break, I had lived through a traumatic event. Immediately after my psychotic break, I did not want to believe that I had a mental illness. I kept asking my psychiatrist to reduce my dosage, but then I couldn’t sleep. Getting a mental illness diagnosis feels like a death sentence. In a way it is. Your old self has died. My psychologist explained to me that having a psychotic break is like having a psychological house with a cracked foundation. Not only that, there’s a pit underneath your house. So, when the foundation breaks, your entire psychological house falls down into the pit and breaks into a thousand pieces.

I threw out everything I believed and started over from scratch. I had to walk through each of the stages of the grief process — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — until I accepted the new me with a mental health diagnosis.

The reality with COVID is that we all are living through a traumatic event. The first step in the process is to walk through the grief process. COVID has changed our lives forever. From this day forward we all need to be conscious of our mental health.

Managing my mental illness means managing all the areas of my life: my sleep, medication, diet, exercise, actions, thoughts, etc. When thinking about managing all these areas, a Rubik’s cube comes to mind. Like matching up the reds, yellows, blues, etc., I must make sure my diet, exercise, medications, sleep cycle are all lined up. Managing a mental illness takes a lot of trial and error in every aspect of my life. How do I manage it? Through my daily regimen.

If you are wrestling with loneliness, depression, or suicidal thoughts due to your life circumstances or COVID, please know that you are not alone. Reach out for help. Together we can do this. I am living proof that there is life after a mental illness diagnosis.

Everyone feels like they are fighting for their lives. We have all become mental health warriors!

Danei Edelen is president for the NAMI Brown County Ohio affiliate. For information on NAMI Brown County Ohio, call 937-378-3504 ext. 102, or email

Angela’s Story

Angela’s Story

The first time she left home, Angela Patterson Lariviere had nothing but a small suitcase, a baby doll, and 25 cents for the bus. She was 12.

A quarter wasn’t enough to get her to her destination, Westland Mall in Columbus, so Angela sat quietly on the bus until the driver, feeling sorry for his lonely little rider, gave her a bus pass to finish the trip.

Fleeing from problems at home, Angela ended up with relatives that night, one of dozens of times she bounced around from place to place on a life’s journey that led to her role today as a wife, mother to four, and over the years caregiver to another 23 children, and now YouthMOVE director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio. YouthMove is a statewide youth-led organization devoted to improving services and systems to support youth inclusion, mental wellness, positive supports and healthy transition and support out of foster care.

Angela, at 48, has lived more places, experienced more trauma, and learned more lessons than most people do in a lifetime. Through it all, she remains remarkably resilient with boundless energy to keep fighting for children, her own and hundreds of others. Angela credits her mother with giving her a strong foundation in faith to her through the hard times.

“I am passionate about the work I do because I’ve been there but I don’t pretend to know someone else’s journey,” Angela said.” I support youth because I know they are all strong and resilient even if they don’t believe it.  I teach them to advocate for themselves, become leaders, and work together to improve and strengthen communities.”

Erin Cordle, associate director of the Office for Social Concerns for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, calls Angela “One of the most amazing young women I’ve ever known…Angela thinks outside the box. I’m not sure she even sees the box.”

Cordle added, “The genius of her life is that she’s taken her life experiences, which have been vast and at times horrific, and used them to understand kids today to help turn their circumstances into a brighter future.”

In 2002, Angela became the first Ohioan to receive the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, named after the former Chicago archbishop, which recognizes someone who has shown leadership in dealing with poverty, in her case homeless youth.

Many of the lessons Angela shares with youth come from her own troubled upbringing which including periods of homelessness, dozens of moves, and dealing with a step-father who at times forced his children to help package drugs he subsequently sold. Her mother had a life-strong struggle with mental health issues.

“We were super-poor but we were stable for the first few years,” she said. “We had a good education, and went to school every day and to church on Sunday. She was a great, great mom and took great care of us until she became too ill.”

Angela was frequently called upon to take care of her younger sister and brother. She took them to the doctor, did the grocery shopping, stood in line for food stamps, and lied about her age so she could work at Wendy’s when she was 13.

She met her future husband, Charlies Lariviere, when she was 16 and it was “100 percent love at first sight.” They married four years later.

Angela managed to graduate from Columbus East High School and studied two years at Otterbein College after winning scholarships.

She first worked for AmeriCorps and later worked for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio where she created the Youth Empowerment Program, a statewide council of homeless young people. She also worked with then-Senator Mike DeWine on programs for homeless youth, and with Bill Faith, head of the Coalition for Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.

“She was always very committed to that cause,” Faith said. “She was very hands-on and did a lot of good work.” He said homeless youth are “a kind of forgotten population” who receive little attention and help because they are often on their own and no longer part of a family.

Angela joined NAMI Ohio in 2017 where she continues to use her experience and energy to help young people achieve their goals. “I feel like everybody should get a shot at having opportunities to be successful and be happy. I’ve been an advocate for people my entire life.”


For information on YouthMOVE, call NAMI Ohio at 614 224-2700 or go online to