Sharing The Big Silence at NAMI Con

Sharing The Big Silence at NAMI Con

Sharing The Big Silence at NAMI Con

I have been working with NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) for more than eight years now, but NAMI has been a part of my life for much longer than that. When I was only 17 my dad reached out to NAMI for help to find my mother. She was a missing person, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and we were desperate to learn what had become of her. In Illinois, the State Police found her ID and purse abandoned on a bench at a rest area. That was the last news we had of her for many months. NAMI networks shared the photo and information my dad gave them to people across the country. Thanks to a tip from someone in the network, we were able to learn that she was living in California. She was alive and that was worth so much to us. Eventually, I went to California to stay with my mom, and that trip changed the whole course of my life, as I share in my memoir

Becoming a NAMI Speaker and Advisor

In 2016 I felt the need to give back and start sharing my story to help other people know that they are not alone. As a teen I had tried to take my life, and as a young adult I overcame addiction and situational depression and found a huge light and hope for my life. It finally clicked that I was more than the pain I had lived through and I wanted to help young people who might be suffering and feeling alone, like I was. When I was young I didn't know where to go for help or resources. Through NAMI, I learned how I can help people by telling my story and helping to destigmatize the conversation around mental health. I started working with NAMI by speaking to teens in schools with the Ending the Silence program, and I even joined the Board of Directors (and still serve as an advisor) for NAMI West LA. I've made so many important relationships and learned so much about how to end the stigma by working with my friends at NAMI. In 2020 I was happy to share my story for the keynote at the NAMI Conference in Los Angeles. 

Help from NAMI through Family to Family

NAMI helped me again shortly after my husband, Bobby, and I were married. When my mom became too sick to care for herself, Bobby and I stepped in to help her and became her caretakers. But, Bobby had no experience dealing with my mother's mental health issues and it was very difficult for him to understand, and it was difficult for me, too. It was causing a strain on our relationship. Through the NAMI Family to Family program we were able to meet with other families going through the same types of confusing experiences and situations, and we learned how to better manage the relationship with my mom, and find the support that we needed. Bobby and I have a candid conversation about our experiences on episode 3 of The Big Silence podcast: Listen, Learn, and Love: Supporting Loved Ones on their Mental Health Journey.

Presenting at NAMICon 2024

I'm so grateful for the NAMI network, and this year I was thrilled to be reunited in Denver for the annual NAMICon - where hundreds of dynamic and important voices unite to improve mental health for all through mental health awareness, education and advocacy. 

On Tuesday, June 4, 2024, I shared my story and my talk "Finding Your Happiest Place Within" with the NAMI audience. It was standing room only! I was so inspired by the vulnerability, the openness and connections that the group made. We really came together to end the stigma and create a supportive environment. I'm so grateful for my time there, and for everyone who was in that room; we are making change together!



Biohacking Your Mental Health

NAMICon was just one stop for my summer conference tour. I'm always grateful for meeting people and helping to inspire change in the culture of mental health. If you want to hear all about my adventures I share more in last week's podcast episode: Catching Up with Karena! Not everything went as planned, but I found my peace and went with the flow. 


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The mental health foundation was founded in 2021 by Karena Dawn, a wellness entrepreneur and leading mental health advocate, based on her experiences growing up in a family impacted by mental illness (shared in her memoir, The Big Silence). It’s our goal to support people’s mental health journey from childhood to adult and to create a more joyful and loving place. 



This top mental health podcast features motivational real life conversations surrounding topics including addiction, trauma and PTSD, caring for loved ones with a mental health condition and more.


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Founder Karena Dawn shares her personal story in The Big Silence: A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness and Healing, shining a light on the eternal struggle we all share—how to move past the pain and suffering of our personal battles to experience life’s joys.