19 Jan Member Spotlight – Kathy Lavallée
For Kathy Lavallée, Vail Place is a “family affair” in more ways than one!
Before becoming a member, Kathy Lavallée attended weekly meetings sponsored by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) at Vail Place. At each meeting, the co-facilitator Greg would describe Vail Place, the services they provided and the benefits of being part of a community among others also diagnosed with a mental illness. In turn, Kathy shared her concerns about finding a job, and whether she was ready for that responsibility. After more than a year Kathy finally realized, thanks to the help of Greg and others, that becoming a member at Vail Place would provide her with exactly the kind of assistance she needed. She still laughs about how long it took to figure that out…especially since Greg is also her brother! Kathy has now been a Vail Place member since February of 2015.
“I feel like I’m part of a big family,” she says. “I can talk about my mental health issues and no one is judging me. You don’t get that in the ‘real’ world. It’s a place where I feel comfortable with myself.” Although she has hosted wellness classes and participated in other events including the Dr. Vail Hour, Kathy’s favorite activity is the History Theatre Class. Kathy finds she is able to work through many of her issues through writing, telling her stories and acting on stage.
Kathy explains that by talking to the general public about the stigma and false information that often surrounds mental illness, “I’ve gained self esteem by just being myself, a person with mental health issues. I am the face of mental illness in recovery.” Kathy is thrilled to have found her “inner ham” through her involvement with the History Theatre. In fact, her work in the class and performances also help Kathy accomplish her lifelong dream of being a clown!
Close family members have also seen a change in Kathy, and dad Jim LaValle agrees that Vail Place has made a big impact on Kathy’s life. “Since becoming involved with Vail Place, Kathy’s confidence in herself has greatly improved, as well as her self esteem and self worth,” Jim says.
For both Kathy and Jim, education, awareness and involvement are the keys to living successfully with a mental illness. Jim recommends that parents find a NAMI-sponsored Family-to-Family class, and also find clubhouse organizations like Vail Place where members can be encouraged to become involved in social activities and find help to manage work, finances, and other areas that may be challenging.
Kathy is using her newfound platform to raise awareness about mental illness, something 1 in 4 people in this country face every day. Kathy has a message for all of us when she says “…you probably know at least one person with a mental illness and the vast majority of us are not violent or dangerous. We just want to live our lives and be treated like normal people.”