Hi, I am Nate Crawford. I am the Founder and Executive Director of Here/Hear, an organization dedicated to helping the mentally ill through three avenues: (1) we are advocates for the mentally ill and work to counter the stigma associated with such illnesses; (2) we have developed adaptable curriculum for churches and community organizations to implement peer-to-peer support groups; (3) we believe creativity helps the mentally ill, whether that is done by one with an illness, a loved one, or by anyone else: the arts are a source of hope and connection for the mentally ill and we encourage and support such endeavors.
I founded Here/Hear because I struggle with mental illness and see this organization as a something that not only would have made my life better, but will save the lives of people struggling today. You see, I have bipolar 2 disorder with anxiety; and studies show that about 1 in 4 people will struggle with a mental illness this year. And I am somewhat unique in that I have had mental illness for as long as I can remember: my first anxiety attack was as a 1st grader at Jefferson Elementary School. I often speak to the issues that surround the experience of growing up with an undiagnosed mental illness, what it is like to be misdiagnosed, the need to overcome at times and accept at times, and the need to counter stigma. All of these work together to create a new world for the mentally ill to live and thrive in.
There are two avenues that I believe are truly in need of an overhaul in the way they approach mental illness: religious institutions and schools. Part of my experience in life is to have been on staff at numerous churches from the time that I was 16 years old. And I never felt comfortable in churches discussing my mental illness. There was also no form of help or support, other than a general consensus that if I felt the way I did, I was not a good believer. And this is not limited to Christians. So, I love to come into houses of worship and speak about how we can all work together to help save lives by offering help and support to the mentally ill. I do this in a few ways. First, I love to just give a message, talking in a service or workshop setting. These last roughly one-hour. Second, I really enjoy leading a four-hour workshop that is based around the idea of dialogue. I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t know what your group is looking for and is capable of, so I come in and lead a discussion the develops a strategy to helping the mentally ill in your context. Third, I can help set up Here/Hear groups, which are peer-to-peer support groups built upon meditation, sharing, and reflection.
The second place I believe we need help is in schools. I have been in school a lot. I have a PhD in Theology from Loyola University Chicago, but I really did an interdisciplinary program by crossing into avenues like philosophy, cultural studies, biology, psychology, musicology, and more. I know school and how schools work. And they want to help people but don’t know how sometimes. Again, I can help through the work of Here/Hear. Our offerings are about the same as religious institutions because our programs are based upon evidence and experience. However, we respect the different roles schools and religious institutions serve. So, when we come into schools, we really like to spend a day or two there and we develop all three avenues at once: a presentation by myself, a workshop to train leaders and answer questions, and then developing peer-to-peer support groups. The whole program works in concert in schools to give the best experience for helping the mentally ill and their friends. Roughly 20% of students ages 13 to 18 experience a mental illness in a given year, so we will tailor it to your situation so that your students get the best possible outcome.
We also do the work of Here/Hear in various community organizations. These range from community centers to shelters to youth centers to whatever you can imagine. We are passionate about helping people with mental illness and passionate and I can help you help others. So, if interested, contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.