What It Means to Talk to Kids About Mental Health  - National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City , Inc.

What It Means to Talk to Kids About Mental Health 

Chris is 25, lives in Long Island City, and is a NAMI-NYC Ending the Silence young adult presenter. Chris brings his perspective – and lived experience with mental health challenges — to middle and high school students, parents, and school staff. 

By day, Chris is a video producer at BuzzFeed. He’s also a clinical research coordinator studying psychosis risk. His background is a blend of computer science, software, media, and mental health—a unique combination where he can explore his passions and learn how to make a difference. 

Chris has a deeply personal connection to the mental health field. Originally from San Francisco, he attended Catholic schools in his early years. The path that led him to UC Berkeley was tumultuous, marked by a stressful upbringing and personal challenges. Initially drawn to computer science, he excelled academically, achieving top marks and securing internships with tech giants like Google and Bloomberg. He was also a talented cellist, among his many other extracurriculars and hobbies. 

However, when he started college, Chris found himself in a cycle of ups and downs. He would be at very top of his class and be unusually active in extracurriculars during some semesters. Then, Chris would skip classes, withdraw from social circles, and grapple with overwhelming feelings of irritability, depression, and anxiety. At this point, Chris realized he might be struggling with mental health issues. 

Chris would have periods of extreme productivity, sociability, confidence, and euphoria. Sometimes, he would stay up all night working on passion projects, like his YouTube channel. He would study obsessively to pass technical job interviews then receive job offers from dream companies. By the time Chris started his full-time job, he crashed and had to leave. 

Chris experienced a rollercoaster of extreme highs followed by crashes, and it gradually got more extreme over the years. When these episodes got dangerously severe in 2020, he was diagnosed with bipolar 1. He then began a process of treatment which included medication, therapy, and a lot of lifestyle adjustments and self-awareness. He learned how to manage symptoms and build stability in his life over time. As he felt more grounded, he pursued a new career in the media field as a video producer. 

Recently, Chris wanted to take this insight from his recovery and give back to the community. He began volunteering as a crisis counselor and engaged in psychoeducation through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Through his research and desire to get more involved, Chris found NAMI-NYC. When he learned about the Ending the Silence (ETS) program, it resonated with him. Chris’s background in video production made him an ideal candidate to present to students, and raise awareness.  

Chris’ presentations have brought him to schools all over the city, often in communities of color. He presents to middle and high school students, parents, and school staff. Parents have engaged in thoughtful discussions, seeking answers to technical questions about symptoms, treatment, and potential scenarios they may face. 

Chris really enjoys sharing his personal journey with students, emphasizing the importance of mental health education, awareness, and early intervention. Having experienced the challenges of late-onset bipolar disorder himself, he understands the critical role of timely treatment. Chris doesn’t want anyone else to suffer due to lack of awareness or understanding. 

Chris strongly recommends the ETS program to parents and school staff. “Mental illness touches the lives of nearly everyone, directly or indirectly, at some point,” Chris shares. This program equips students the language, empathy, and knowledge to discuss mental health. “With just a 40-minute presentation, the program has the potential to reach and positively impact the rest of a student’s life,” he said.  

“Mental health education is just like sex education—it might be uncomfortable at times, but it’s essential. By sharing this critical information with kids early on, we can avoid unnecessary suffering,” Chris observed. According to the NYC Department of Education, approximately one in five students who could benefit from additional mental health support does not get them. Half of all mental-health and substance use conditions start before age 14.   

Learn more or request an Ending the Silence presentation at your school.