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Sheila  Hamilton

Sheila Hamilton

Five-Time Emmy Award-Winning Journalist

Biography

Sheila Hamilton is a five-time Emmy award winning journalist and the host of Portland, Oregon's #1 radio program, Kink.fm. Sheila's storytelling resume runs through film, television, radio and print. As a television anchor and reporter, Sheila covered some of the country's biggest stories, including the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the bombing of LDS Church officials by forger Mark Hofmann, the mass shooting at Thurston High in Springfield, Oregon and the national figure skating scandal inflicted by Olympic skater Tonya Harding. Sheila recently ventured into reality television programming as a judge on Wanted, Adventure Woman. In 2013, Sheila was voted Oregon's "Best Radio Personality."  Sheila serves on the boards of The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care and the Flawless Foundation. In 2015, she was voted one of “Oregon's Mental Health Heroes." Read More >

Even as a reporter, Sheila missed the signs as her husband David's mental illness unfolded before her. By the time Sheila 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.

Hamilton learned first-hand that economic security, a level of fame and health doesn't protect from the ravages of mental illness. She makes a passionate case for understanding the sometimes elusive signs and symptoms of mental illness, especially in high-functioning people, who tend to try to mask their illnesses. She speaks to the chaos and confusion of attempting to help someone who is in denial, and how families can best reach a person who insists they are "fine."

Sheila has researched best mental health practices in the United States, Great Britain and Canada and is a passionate advocate for expanded behavioral healthcare services. "For too long," Hamilton says, "We have relied on a pharmaceutical approach to mental illness that ignores the social, economic, and traumatic sources of brain illnesses. The question should not be, "What's wrong with you, but what happened to you?"

Hamilton's own healing began when she began to adopt mindfulness practices in order to heal from the trauma of her husband's suicide. She urges policy makers to begin early childhood education teaching primary-aged children how to self-soothe, how to work with their own thoughts and behaviors and how to develop more compassion for others. "Nobody is alone in this world. We have to coexist and take care of each other. "

Hamilton also urges survivors to end the cycle of suicide in families by fiercely advocating for the suffering. "We should demand an acknowledgement of brain illness as worthy of care, funding, and research as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. While every other measure of public health improves, this is the tenth year the suicide rate has increased." Hamilton speaks to the hero's journey, the person who journeys through horrendous conditions in order to expand his or her consciousness. She urges us to overcome the shame of suicide and talk openly and humanly about it. It affects us all. Her hope is that another life as exquisite as her husband's might be saved, and the sensitive ones will not only survive, but thrive.

Sheila's book, All the Things We Never Knew is currently #1 on Amazon's new releases in mental health/suicide. She has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist, who called ATTWNK a "must read" in the category of mental health. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

On the Board for Foundation for Excellence

Insights Into Mental Illness: A Partner's Experience

Speech Topics

Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate

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.”   

Why Trauma Informed Care Works

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.

Resilience: How Crisis Taught Us to Love, Laugh & Live Harder Than Before

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.