Community Member Art: Marlena N. Guzman

As part of our Represent Recovery campaign, we are featuring creative endeavors from community members who use art to tell their mental health story. Below is Marlena's personal story in her own words, and some of the art she has created to demonstrate her mental health journey.

marlena photo.jpg

     At a young age growing up in San Diego, CA to mixed parents was actually a delight. With a Mother and family (maternal) that sheltered me from any adverse events early on left a childhood with great memories. Shortly after we moved to Los Angeles and my parent’s divorce that environment changed. I learned that my Mother’s personality often depended on the partners she shared time with.

            At age 11 (with a single younger sister 8 years my junior), she met my stepfather who moved in quickly after my Father’s departure. This was the start of many years of a childhood of both my Mother and He under the influence of drugs. Moving several times, being evicted from homes, going without and having to understand the unimaginable left me with the only option I could fathom in my anger and resentment for my lot, to have and be the opposition of everything my Mother was not. I had friends, I saw what was around me and there were no lack of people to tell me what they though of my life and the expectations of what that would produce. This only made me persistent. I didn’t know at the time what type of drugs my parent’s were dabbling just that it represented everything that was destroying my family.

           At 16 I convinced my parent’s to allow me to leave the home and attend Job Corps in the Downtown area to get out of the volatile house, where I received my GED and then moved back to San Diego and later attended college. I studied abroad in Russia (taking Russian history, art and poetry) and latter applied to the LA Police Academy. On November 19, 2001 I started my first day. We were the first academy class after the 9-11 attacks in New York and were kept on “Tact-Alert” the entire time as everyone anticipated a similar event in Los Angeles.

       Fast forward years later, I was sitting on duty one day (at age 32), when I was called be my daughter’s school to say that I had forgotten to set up a alternate pick up for them that day. By the time I received the message my sister had already retrieved the girls (Sydney age 14 now and Ryan, 12), but the though of every having NOT having my children taken care of, forgetting them, was too much for me to handle. Right there was my first break, a complete panic attack and the start into a journey that lead to a lifelong understanding of so much of my challenges. I was later Diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, Anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder. Years of struggle with the Department as well as a Diagnosis from their experts after a shooting on duty that led to an additional diagnosis of PTSD, I left the job. Happy and healthy I am working and living with my two daughters and still fighting with NAMI to make sure that everyone has access to education and resources to mental health facilities and medication so that the dark is a challenge of the journey and not one made from lack of reach.


Represent Recovery: Gigi R. Crowder

We conclude our National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month storytelling series with Gigi R. Crowder, who is the Executive Director and FaithNet Coordinator at NAMI Contra Costa County. Gigi is the family member of several loved ones with mental illness, including a foster son with bipolar disorder. She discusses the disparities facing communities of color, particularly for black men, and how the faith community has been a source of healing.

Mental Health 101


NAMI California is dedicated to reducing stigma among underserved communities. We believe engaging directly with the community will lead to a positive change in knowledge, attitude, and behavior toward individuals living with mental illness as well as insight into hope and recovery among the general population. 

Mental Health 101 is a program created by NAMI CA that is devoted to giving individuals an opportunity to learn about mental illness through an informative presentation, short video, and personal testimonies that represent a variety of cultures, beliefs, and values. The goal of this program is to create a multi-generation of culturally diverse individuals that can help address the stigma associated with mental illness through education, support and advocacy.

The Mental Health 101 program is unique because it…

mh 101.jpg
  • promotes an overarching attitude of acceptance and a recovery attitude where everyone can improve.
  • encourages participants to get help for themselves and provides knowledge to help friends or family members who may be struggling with symptoms of mental illness.
  • respects the response and value of diverse cultures.
  • shares and promotes stories of HOPE in a way that is free from damaging or derogatory language, feels authentic to their experience and where individuals feel represented and valued for the strengths they and their communities bring to the table.

To learn more, contact Thao Duong, Program Coordinator for Mental Health 101, at or call (916) 567-0163


Upcoming Mental Health 101 Presenter Training

Day 1: Saturday, August 4, 2018, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Day 2: Sunday, August 5, 2018, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

2226 Camino Ramon

San Ramon CA 94583


This training is FREE for all NAMI members and affiliates.

Email Thao Duong at for more info. 


Introducing: Represent Recovery Resource Pages

This Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, NAMI California continues to cultivate our Represent Recovery initiative. Even in this diverse state, cultural competence and representation in mental health fall short for people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community. Stigma is pervasive within many of our families and communities. Cultural groups are more prone to be misdiagnosed, likely due to differing cultural or religious beliefs or language barriers.

Represent Recovery is an initiative calling for a paradigm shift in the way we view mental health in diverse cultural communities. It aims to serve members of underrepresented communities while centering their voices in the overall mental health movement.

It takes courage, but we hope that peers and family members like you will step forward and show others they are not alone and that recovery is possible.

Check out and bookmark this page of general resources for #MinorityMentalHealth, and stay connected as we roll out more community-specific campaigns in the coming months. Below are links to our newly published Asian Pacific Islander and Latino/a/x resource pages.

Coming Soon: African American, Native American, & LGBTQ Resource Pages

Minority Mental Health Events

NAMI Urban Los Angeles

nami urban la minority mental health.png

Join NAMI Urban LA for an afternoon of light fare and music. Each year NAMI Urban Los Angeles celebrates their founder, Bebe Moore Campbell, by having event in her honor to recognize the contribution she made to mental health. This year's honorees are Paco Retana, LCSW, and Dr. Bryan Nichols, Clinical Psychologist.

Tickets are $75. Advance purchase only! 


Sunday, July 22, 2018

2:00pm - 5:00pm

The CenterPointe Club

6200 Playa Vista Dr

Playa Vista, CA 90094

NAMI Sacramento

NAMI sac minority mental health.jpg

NAMI Sacramento invites you to a Multicultural Townhall addressing how to tackle the challenges of mental health conditions, health care coverage and the stigma of mental illness especially when it comes to serving marginalized communities.

Program Features: Panel Discussion, Networking, Refreshments. Flyer.

Keynote speaker:

Elaine Whitefeather - Executive Director at Community For Peace


Thursday, July 19, 2018

5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Pannell Meadowview Community Center

2450 Meadowview Road

Sacramento, CA 95832

nami mt san jacinto event.png

NAMI Mt. San Jacinto

NAMI Mt San Jacinto invites you to attend an open house event in commemoration of National Bebe Moore Campbell Mental Health Awareness Month.

Help to end the stigma and discrimination in mental health. Find out more about programs and support available. Includes Presentations in English and Spanish.

Light refreshments will be served.


Friday July 20, 2018

10:00 am – 2:00 pm

650 N State St

Hemet, CA 92543

Represent Recovery: Roopa Grewal

Our Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month series continues with Roopa Grewal, who has been a NAMI peer leader for over ten years and received the NAMI California Peer Award in 2016. Roopa recounts the stages of her Borderline Personality Disorder, the stigma around mental health challenges within her family and the Indian community, and what it means to be part of a compassionate community of peers. Now a professional consultant offering peer support, career planning, public speaking and training/ facilitating, she demonstrates that recovery is possible.

NAMI Affiliates Hold LGBTQ+ Pride Events

#MinorityMentalHealth includes promoting mental health wellness and awareness in the LGBTQ+ community. Last month, several NAMI affiliates hosted local Pride events, in which they focused on the unique needs and challenges facing LGBTQ+ folks affected by mental illness.


NAMI Ventura County

In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, NAMI Ventura County, under the leadership of Executive Director David Deutsch, partnered with Diversity Collective Ventura County to host a Pride event titled “Prism of Thought.” The event included a DJ, an art show featuring two local LGBTQ+ artists, Glen Heppner and Aspen Leavitt, poetry readings by Kaiden Wilde and Alejandra Nicole, and several featured speakers. Organizations with representatives attending the event included: Rainbow Umbrella, The Ventura County Office of Education, and Kaiser Permanente. The event kicked off with a networking hour that allowed attendees time to get to know one another and view the beautiful art on display. The event then transitioned to several speakers who spoke on the intersection of mental health and LGBTQ+ issues. Though the speakers spoke in English, Ventura County Behavioral Health provided Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to ensure all attendees could receive each speaker’s message.

                Joseph Summers, Director of the Diversity Collective Ventura County, welcomed everyone to the event and to the Diversity Collective Ventura County. David Deutsch then talked about the work NAMI Ventura County does and how they seek to improve the mental health of LGBTQ+ folks. Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin then talked about legislation she is working on in partnership with Assemblymember Evan Low to fight to ban conversion therapy. Catherine Chivers, Community Engagement Coordinator for NAMI California, discussed NAMI CA’s advocacy efforts to improve care and access to care for LGBTQ+ people at the state level. Maria Hernandez, Ethnic Services Manager for Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH), discussed efforts to improve the mental health for LGBTQ+ folks at the county level.  Laura Lawson Pascua, Founder and Director of Holding Our Pride and Equality (HOPE), discussed the queer-affirming therapy and support HOPE provides to LGBTQ+ folks. In the wake of two celebrity suicides, Jennifer Bailey-Guerra, a Mental Health Clinician at HOPE, discussed several ways in which we can support those who are struggling in our communities to help prevent suicide. Joseph Summers then thanked everyone for attending the event and for committing to improving the mental health of all people, especially marginalized communities such as LGBTQ+ folks.

NAMI Mt. San Jacinto

san jacinto collage.jpg

On June 8, 2018, NAMI Mt. San Jacinto, under the leadership of Executive Director Brenda Scott, hosted the City of Hemet’s first ever Pride celebration. The event was held at the Historic Hemet Theatre and kicked off with meet and greet, which included resource tables showcasing local LGBTQ-affirming organizations. Brian Tisdale, Legislative Assistant, presented a Proclamation on behalf of Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office that announced that June is Pride month. The event continued with several video clips followed by youth performances. There were several spoken word performances by youth telling their journey as LGBTQ+. Several youths then performed song and dance acts.  The performances were followed by a panel of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies. The panelists discussed their personal experiences including coming out, fighting discrimination, finding support systems, and their visions for a more inclusive future. Overall, the event was a huge success and will hopefully be followed by Hemet’s second Pride celebration in June of 2019.

Kern collage.jpg

NAMI Kern County

In Celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, NAMI Kern County, under the leadership of Executive Director Sharon Woolfolk, held two events: Pride Month Kickoff and Pride Week Meet & Greet. NAMI Kern County partnered with The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity and Kern Behavioral & Health Recovery Services, Consumer Family Learning Center, to put on these events. The events included team building activities, music, and an educational component discussing the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. As well, NAMI Kern County facilitated a Mental Health 101 Presentation tailored to the LGBTQ+ community. The events were a huge success and there was an even larger turnout than NAMI Kern County’s Pride event last year!

Represent Recovery: Elaine Peng

Our Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month series continues with Elaine Peng, who leads NAMI Chinese programs and is the president of Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities, sharing her personal story about her daughter's bipolar disorder and the effect it had on her own mental health. Elaine also discusses mental health stigma within the Chinese community.


Our Represent Recovery Initiative calls for a shift in the way we view mental health in diverse cultural communities. It aims to serve members of underrepresented communities while centering their voices in the overall mental health movement. Visibility and representation matter both in mental health treatment and mental health awareness activism.

Today we unveil our Asian Pacific Islander resource page.

Stay connected as we roll out resource pages for various underrepresented communities.


Sisters in the Struggle: The origins of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Nancy Carter tells us about her work alongside Bebe Moore Campbell spearheading NAMI Urban Los Angeles to reach communities of color, the origins of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and her personal mental health journey going from family member to accomplished advocate to the sudden but enlightening perspective of newly diagnosed peer.


NAMI California is committed to addressing barriers to accessing mental health care in underserved communities. We work in partnership with diverse communities to provide mental health education and peer support that is culturally relevant and appropriate. We advocate for policy change to increase access to mental health care and end the stigma surrounding mental illness

In honor of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we will be featuring filmed personal stories of recovery and hope by fellow community members across the state for our Bebe Moore Campbell video series. We will also feature events being put together by our affiliates in honor of this month. Join us by following and sharing our blog to bring awareness to the mental health needs and stories of underrepresented communities.