Medea (pronouns: it, its) is a dedicated volunteer and facilitator of NAMI-NYC’s “Living with Thoughts of Suicide” support group, where Medea holds space for honesty, compassion, and support. Medea, alongside long-time volunteer Miguel, spearheaded the creation of this innovative group.
Medea’s journey to this point has been one marked by resilience, change, and a powerful desire to help others. Medea doesn’t shy away from sharing its own lived experience. A few years ago, Medea was a regular attendee of NAMI-NYC’s “Living with Bipolar” group. Medea experienced a rollercoaster of emotions, including unpredictable highs and lows. But life threw Medea a curveball, leading to a new chapter in its mental health journey.
“I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar 2, but then it changed to major depression, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD,” Medea explains. It’s a testament to the complexity of mental health–how symptoms can manifest differently and how diagnoses may change over time. NAMI-NYC became a lifeline for Medea during this challenging transition.
“NAMI-NYC gave me that power back,” Medea says. For the first time, Medea felt a sense of solidarity, of being understood. NAMI-NYC is a place where Medea could take a deep breath and say, “I’ve been there too.” Medea’s dedication to facilitating our group and supporting others who grapple with thoughts of suicide is deeply personal. Thoughts of suicide are alarmingly common, and by addressing them openly, NAMI-NYC aims to make these thoughts a little less daunting. Medea understands the power these thoughts can hold. “They feel powerful; they can overtake your mind,” Medea acknowledges.
But leading the “Living with Thoughts of Suicide” group from its inception has been rewarding. Medea lets participants know they can talk about these thoughts without judgment. In this group, there’s a crucial understanding that it’s not about calling crisis response or emergency services. It’s about creating a space to share, to listen, and to understand. Medea and other facilitators offer support and empathy, ensuring that no one feels alone in their struggle. Medea navigates sensitive topics with care, always prioritizing the safety and well-being of the group members, sometimes checking up on participants in a breakout room.
Medea rehearsing as a circus artists and performer at left, Medea with their spouse Maia Ramnath-Christiansen (photo by pcfwrk) at center, and Medea with their beloved furry friend, Sisu, at right
Medea is also grateful for NAMI-NYC’s new “Suicide Loss Survivor” group, as Medea has lost several people to suicide from a young age. Medea’s loved ones also took NAMI-NYC’s Family-to-Family class, which helped them better understand Medea’s mental health struggles and offer meaningful support. After the class, Medea’s illness was less abstract and more tangible to them.
Beyond its role at NAMI-NYC, Medea is a circus artist and performer who weaves mental health experiences into art. Medea’s performances not only reflect their personal journey but also inspire others to engage with their own mental health stories. One of Medea’s most significant coping mechanisms is swimming, a physical and spiritual experience.
Medea’s toolkit for managing mental health challenges includes open water swimming in Brighton Beach, a practice Medea plans to continue through the winter. Today, Medea is better equipped to understand themselves. Medea has learned to embrace change and to offer itself the same compassion it extends to others. Medea knows that a mental health journey is not static; it’s a journey of constant change and growth.
So, why does Medea come to NAMI-NYC? The answer is clear: the community. “Of any organization I’ve worked with on mental health, NAMI-NYC is the only place where I consistently have a positive experience. I feel truly involved as a volunteer, can express my creativity, and feel understood,” Medea said.
Remember, you are never alone. We offer our Living with Thoughts of Suicide support group for peers, and Living with Thoughts of Suicide Family & Friends. We recently launched a Suicide Loss Survivors support group. Learn more: www.naminyc.org/find-support