Five-Time Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, Mental Health Advocate & CEO Beyond Well Solutions
As a veteran reporter and TV news anchor and radio personality, Sheila Hamilton didn’t miss much. Observing others is what she is trained to do. And yet when it came to her own life, Hamilton didn’t see the signs as her husband David's mental illness unfolded before her. By the time she pieced together the puzzle, it was too late. Her once brilliant and passionate partner was dead within six weeks of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder — leaving his nine-year-old daughter and wife without so much as a note to explain his action, a plan to help them recover from their profound grief or a solution for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that they would inherit from him. Read More >
Erasing the Stigma of Mental Illness
There is Always Someone Listening
Creating an Open Discussion about Mental Health
On the Board for Foundation for Excellence
Insights Into Mental Illness: A Partner's Experience
Since the pandemic began, workers and leaders have become more stressed out, anxious, burned out and totally disengaged at a higher rate than ever before. In fact, according to a survey by Harvard Business Review, 89% of respondents said they have experienced a decline in their workplace well-being. Add to that, employees are quitting their jobs at a record pace. In this new talk, Sheila Hamilton, award-winning journalist and CEO of Beyond Well Solutions, a business that helps companies create customized media programming to help individuals recognize the signs of depression, anxiety and other behavioral disorders, shares why the pandemic has forced mental health to become a workplace priority. “From the CEO to mid-level management to frontline employees — everyone is suffering,” Hamilton says. “As humans, we cannot continue to challenge our bodies and our minds this way. If you’re looking at this in terms of human capital, even the highest performers are reporting these stress levels, and it’s just not sustainable. So, supporting mental health as an employer is critical.” In addition to giving you the warning signs to look for when it comes to burnout, Hamilton shares individual tools and techniques for resilience and well-being, as well as micro-adjustments that organizations can make that lead to big changes.
Sheila’s story of her family’s mental health crisis illustrates that mental illness doesn’t care about your bank account, your social status or the number of followers you have on Facebook. Sheila was at the height of a highly awarded and visible journalism career when her husband had his first psychotic break. How Sheila handled this very public persona at the time dealing with a highly sensitive private crisis is key, “It’s not them, it’s us.” Hamilton says, “Every one of us is on a mental health continuum, and with enough trauma, lack of sleep, toxic stress and the genetic underpinnings of brain illness, we can all suffer mental illness. We can also recover. That’s what is missing in the conversation.”
System wide efforts to become trauma informed will improve health outcomes and reduce the long term costs of unaddressed traumatic experiences. The most common causes of trauma are parental abandonment, divorce, substance abuse, mental illness, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, a serious accident, natural disaster or acts of war. With multiple experiences, the risk increases for anxiety, depression, alcoholism, suicide attempt, major diseases and disassociation. Ten years after the Adverse Childhood Experiences study linked trauma to risk factors for leading causes of adult mortality, new research links childhood trauma to higher rates of mental health problems and obesity in children.
Problem: David’s care (and the care of most other patients in the last decade) has been lacking, impersonal and driven by a pharmaceutical approach to healing a crisis of mind, body and spirit.
Solution: Oregon’s Unity Project: a model for the nation, with four healthcare systems coming together to provide patient centered behavioral and psychiatric care. Medication is seen as a screwdriver, not a jackhammer, the patient is part of the recovery process, and therapists reach to find coping methods that might work for the participant’s individual history of trauma.
In every moment, we are choosing: lightness or dark, truth or lies, vulnerability or detachment. Our family’s mental health crisis forced me to ask if I’d been living with as much openness, and as much vulnerability as I should have. When David’s body was found, I realized I had one choice: recede into the shame and stigma he suffered from, or choose honesty, openness and truth. I chose the latter and it has reframed the entire way I view life. As humans, we are charged with helping one another through the worst periods of our lives. Asking for help offers the antitode to shame and stigma because it allows others to respond with empathy, with love and compassion. Let people show how good they can be. Ask for help.
Her presentation was heartfelt, informative, and powerful as she spoke about her husband’s battle with mental illness and eventual suicide. Her courage and determination flourished by her speaking out on the need for more mental health awareness and suicide prevention initiatives across the country. Sheila's presentation was amazing, but more importantly she made a difference in the world of mental health and suicide prevention!
"Sheila was absolutely wonderful! She was professional and her presentation and she was one of the best speakers we’ve had. The topic is so very needed. We are so very appreciative of having Sheila accept this opportunity!"
"Sheila’s keynote speech at our event was impactful and clearly heartfelt. Although she has lived through unspeakable tragedy, she has become a powerful advocate for access, parity and change within our mental health system. By sharing her story, she prompts a call to action that fits perfectly with the NAMI mission of improving – and saving – the lives of people living with mental illness, as well as bringing in family members and loved ones."
Powerful and riveting, hopeful and compelling, skillful and honest. When Sheila Hamilton speaks, people listen. 500 people fell silent as she stood on stage and started sharing her story. She brought lumps to our throats and tears to our eyes as she told, bravely and honestly, of her husband’s mental illness and, ultimately, his taking of his own life. She spoke also of the aftermath of heartbreak, and devastation, and second guessing…and she spoke of hope. This story is the subject of her life-changing book, All the Things We Never Knew, a book that is so eye-openingly hopeful because of Sheila’s diligent research and incredible insight, borne of a heartbreaking journey. Her call to action was clear: these issues touch us all and together we can make a difference.
"Rarely have I seen a crowd jump to its feet so simultaneously at the end of a keynote! Sheila's address at the America Association of Suicidology's Healing After Suicide Conference was both raw and eloquent.... Through an undeniable voice of lived experience combined with her journalistic curiosity, Sheila navigates content that remains deeply personal and emotional with immense courage and a deep compassion for all who have shared a similar loss."
"Sheila was a great keynote speaker at the 2018 WA Behavioral Healthcare Conference. Her story and skill in telling it were very timely for our group, and she really connected with the audience. They also appreciated that she was willing to stay after her presentation, sign books, and connect on a human level."
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