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Teens Lend their Support to NAMI’s Efforts
Friday, June 3, 2022


The teenage girl leaned on a friend for support as she tried to tell her story.

She had tried to end her life by suicide 13 times. Now she was trying to find a new path forward with the support of NAMI’s Bluebirds program for 6th through 12th graders.

“Knowing there are people out there who actually care—that really helps,” she said as a group of teenagers closed in around her enveloping her in a group hug.

The young girl’s story was one of several tales of former desperation that have evolved into stories of hope, thanks to various programs offered by NAMI-Wood River Valley.

Walt McKew was among those who listened to the tales as they were told during NAMI’s Spring Fundraiser held at Friesen+Lantz gallery in Ketchum.

“I look at these young ladies and they look so much like my daughters,” said Walt McKew. This is something no one should have to suffer through.”

Those in attendance drank signature cocktails and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres as they perused a long list of silent auction items that included a fly-fishing adventure with Silver Creek Outfitters, a workout at The Mill and an item from Overland Sheepskin Company

Art therapist Jordan Dooley took advantage of the setting to describe how art can be used in trauma therapy.

“Art is for anybody,” she said. “Anyone can benefit from art therapy.”

Hailey artist Melissa Graves Brown, meanwhile, gave attendees like Donna Pritchard and Elle Burley an opportunity to add their brushstrokes to a painting she’d started.

“It’s watercolor for a reason,” noted Pritchard. “With watercolor you have to let go of perfection.”

“You can’t do art wrong, contrary to some opinions,” added Brown. “The fact that it’s a collective piece of art means we’re all in this together. And it’s designed to bring more color to our world.”

A Silver Creek High School student read some of her poetry, including a poem she wrote after her stepmother’s death by suicide.

“Her face is still burnt in my mind….” she started. “I understand people have to die, but why do they have to go so soon?” she concluded.

And board member Jason Barbee told how he wants to coordinate outdoor adventures ranging from hiking to mountain biking.

“I’ve found that getting back in to the rhythm of nature can help us grow,” he said.

NAMI’s Board President Page Klune said she has seen the local Wood River Valley chapter make enormous strides in the past five years, even with the COVID pandemic bringing so much in the valley to a standstill.

It has, for instance, expanded its Bluebirds afterschool program to five schools. The peer-to-peer program--the first of its kind in the nation—offers teenagers a safe place to come together to create art, take part in outdoor activities and share concerns while learning coping skills for dealing with life’s stresses. In the process, the kids learn goal setting, self-advocacy, problem solving and teamwork, as well as how to overcome anxiety and replace negative self-talk or self-harm with positive behaviors.

“We’ve rebranded ourselves and we’ve provided training programs for businesses so they can help any of their employees who are dealing with a situation, small or large,” said Klune. “We’re hiring youth interns. And we’re in the process of updating our website. We just need to keep dollars coming to support our work.”

This summer NAMI-WRV is offering a Bluebirds Summer Program, a free eight-week program for sixth- through 12th graders interested in cultivating emotional well-being.

It also offers Family Support Groups in English and Spanish, Peer Mental Health Support Groups and a Suicide Loss Support Group.

To learn more, visit or call 208-578-5466. You can also email Brittany Shipley, NAMI-WRV’s executive director, at  Or, contact Abby Conover, NAMI’s programs coordinator at

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