Community - May 1, 2013

Raising mental health awareness

by Renee Batti

Lisa Pamphilon of Menlo Park is a mental health advocate, human rights activist, and mother. The empathy she brings to all those roles has been deepened, in part, by having also suffered from mental health conditions that made her feel as if she had "shattered into a million pieces."

It is her goal today, she says, to help create a better understanding of conditions that affect the mental health of our families, friends, and community at large so that those in need of support and services can get the help they need.

To that end, in 2012 she founded Turning Point, a mental health advocacy group, and the Mental Health Awareness Project. And on Saturday, May 11, that project's inaugural event will take place in Menlo Park, with Chip Huggins, CEO of Caminar for Mental Health, delivering the keynote speech and participating in a panel discussion.

Sponsored by Turning Point, with co-sponsorship by the Menlo Park Library, the event is set from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Civic Center. The theme is "Being an Advocate and an Ally," and the discussion and information on offer "will provide people with tools and information they need to assist and advocate for friends and family members suffering with mental health conditions," Ms. Pamphilon said in a press release.

The event is free. There will be more than 20 resource tables staffed by representatives from area mental health and mental health-related organizations, said Ms. Pamphilon, who is chairing the event. Co-chair is Roberta Roth, outreach librarian of the Menlo Park Library.

Mr. Huggins is well-known on the Peninsula for his work in leadership roles with organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, the Peninsula Community Foundation, and the Easter Seals Society. The head of Caminar for Mental Health, a nonprofit that provides support services for people with mental health and other disabilities, Mr. Huggins will address the stigmatization and societal shift in perspective of mental health conditions.

Others scheduled to participate in a panel discussion after the keynote speech are: Dr. Gary Tsai, resident psychiatrist for the San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services; and Mary Cortani, an Army veteran who founded the nonprofit Operation Freedom Paws to match dogs with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders and other disabilities.

There will be a question-and-answer session after the panel discussion.

Live music and a poetry reading are part of the agenda, and there will be a display of 1,000 origami paper cranes. The display, called "Origami Skye," is a project launched by Turning Point and the Mental Health Awareness Project with Lisa Otsuka and her psychology students at Menlo-Atherton High School, Ms. Pamphilon said.

"Origami Skye symbolizes a long and healthy life," Ms. Pamphilon said in the press release. "Rather than stigmatize those with mental health conditions we can prolong their life and well-being in a positive way. The cranes are a symbol of hope."

Go to for more information about the event, Turning Point, and the Mental Health Awareness Project.


Posted by K Breisch, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on May 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Roberta Roth and Menlo Park - Thank you for organizing an event on mental health. Congratulations to Turning Point on their inaugural event. My father committed suicide in 1978, just before my senior year in high school. People didn't talk about it back then. The only marketing piece, during that time that I recall about mental health, suicide was the movie A Reason to Live with Ricky Schroder in 1985. I hope the people that need to become more aware of this disease, show up tomorrow!