Matt’s Birthday and Help for Serious Mental Illness

Matt Kurtz and family
Brian, Jackie, Matt, Ron

Matt would be 36 years old today.  Oh, how I miss him.  I wish I could go back to the before times, back in the day when I lived in ignorant bliss and knew nothing about mental illness and grief.  When Matt was healthy and happy and our family was complete.  When life was easy and full of joy.  

There’s an Egyptian proverb that says, “To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again.” 

Matt, I see you running in pure delight. I hear your laugh and see your smile.  I remember how much you loved being a big brother, how when you were younger you would wrap your arm around Brian’s neck with pure big brother love but then I’d look at Brian who was being strangled by your arm.  I see you reading to Brian.  I see you playing roller hockey, baseball, golf, and basketball.  I see you and Brian going for the football that Dad holds kicker style and you both ram heads and cry.  I see you jumping in the leaves in the fall and throwing them up in the air and giggling.  I see you envious of your cousins who were homeschooled because you always loved a challenge.  I see you playing with Shadow and snuggling up with him.  I see you dancing with complete abandon.  I see the dad in you giving unconditional love to mischievous Tyson.  I see you taking off your shoes and giving them to a homeless man.  I see you laughing with Brian about something I did.  Matt, I see you, in my heart, always.  So loved, So missed. 


Every year on Matt’s birthday, I’ll be re-posting the resource page, Help for Serious Mental Illness.  There’s a lot of information on research and ideas for how to help someone with serious mental health issues. 

If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please email me with the information so we can make this list the go-to resource guide built by people with lived experience.

If you or your family member is struggling with a serious mental health issue, I am so sorry.  I wish, with all my heart, that something in my research resonates and helps you find a way to recover or at least a way to live and thrive with this illness.

And yes, I used the word recover.  Despite what the mental health professionals told us, people can and do recover from serious mental health illnesses and others find ways to live with their illness while living fully productive lives.

If this is something of interest to you, I hope it’s helpful.  If this does not affect you, first, thank your lucky stars, then share it with others who may not be so fortunate.

I’ll start with the information that is new from last year, these are resources that were sent to me to add to this list.  Thank you to everyone who shared what has helped them or their loved ones.



(Email me if you have suggestions to add to this list. Thank you.)


Ron Unger – a clinical social worker in Eugene, OR who works with people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.  He doesn’t do skype sessions, only in person.

Paris Williams – a psychologist in New Zealand, who works with serious mental illness and wrote a book called Rethinking Madness

Michelle Glass – a spiritual emergence coach and Integrative Interfaith and Esoteric Minister, works with the IFS method (internal family systems) of therapy. “She is not a licensed professional, but probably has better training than many who are!”

Dominic Candido – a clinical psychologist who practices in Lebanon, NH

Nolan Robinson Foundation – they raise funds for mental health treatment for young people (under 21) who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder regardless of their ability to pay.

Now I See a Person Institute (NISAPI) is a non-profit teaching and clinical institute (California) devoted to helping people achieve complete and sustainable recovery by pairing the normalcy of a horse ranch and the nurturance of horses with a philosophy of postmodern collaborative practice.  Here, people are seen as who they are as persons rather than their diagnoses, and we identify and nurture the inherent positive strengths and self-agency of each client and family member to facilitate their journey of healing.  All of our clients are “high risk” individuals who have lost hope after previous therapy, medication, or hospitalization and/or who have been considered unchangeable by previous mental health providers.  There’s a wonderful article about them at Mad In America


Rethinking Madness book written by Paris Williams (psychologist listed above) 

The Soul In Depression – Christa Tippet, from On Being – she and her 3 guests all discuss their experience with severe depression.


To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.

Find Your Anchor – the goal of the Find Your Anchor movement is suicide prevention, awareness, and education. They will send a small blue box packed with various materials designed to inspire, soothe and offer support to those suffering and to people who want to help by placing the boxes in public places (the library, the Vegas strip, etc.) to be found by those in need; specifically those close to suicide in one way or another. The boxes are intended to be organic in the sense that each person can add to the box their own inspiration and anchors before passing it along.

Warfighters ADVANCE – changes the trajectory of the warfighter’s post-deployment life, so that rather than an existence characterized by an endless cycle of mental illness diagnoses, medications, medical appointments, and disappointments, the warfighter has a life characterized by pride, productivity, healthy relationships, continued service, and advocacy for the same outcomes for their fellow service members.

Recovery From Schizophrenia – Ron Ungers (therapist listed above) site has a lot of good information.


I think the most important thing you can do is to work with people who believe in recovery.  Hope is very important for everyone involved, while hopelessness will suck the life out of you.  There is a “recovery movement”, “peer mentors” and “peer respites” all run by people who have recovered from psychosis or other severe mental illnesses, many of whom went through years of struggle, in and out of hospitals and crisis.  These people, with lived experience, are reaching out and trying to help others to recover and offering hope and strategies that the medical community has not offered.

There is no one solution for any serious mental health illness.  Every person has different symptoms and reactions and each responds differently to the medications and treatment strategies.  For that reason, you will need to evaluate all of the information and decide what works best for you.  Note:  This is in no way a comprehensive list, just the start of information I’ve gathered.


Homes for Recovery: A directory of places for people in crisis to go to for 1-7 days.  It’s run completely by people with lived experience from psychosis and everyone affiliated (including board members) must be in recovery.

Open Dialog Therapy – a program in Finland that seems to have amazing results.  There are now places in the US that are trying the open dialogue program.

Therapist, Will Hall (lived experience) – one of the original members of the recovery movement, now does therapy, including via skype sessions.

Therapist, Dr. Jed Bopp, Boulder, CO, believes in recovery.  He is a psychologist who specializes in thought disorders and practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I’ve included him because he’s the first therapist who gave me hope.  He said, people can recover from severe mental illness – and after so many told me they won’t even bother with patients like this it was a rare moment of hope.  I don’t know if he does skype therapy but throwing it out there.

Therapist, Paul Levy, Portland, OR, believes in recovery.  Works with spiritual emergence.

Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance –  this is a site that offers support to the person suffering but also their family.  It has support groups both in-person and online and many (if not all) of the group leaders have lived experience.

Families Healing Together – an online course with other struggling families.

The Hearing Voices Network  – It’s believed that 5% of the population hears voices and continue to lead productive lives after they learn how to control and work with their voices.

MIA Online Parent Support Group – A space where parents can exchange information and share experiences to foster a dialogue that goes beyond the predominant mainstream medical treatment model.


Anatomy of an Epidemic – book by Robert Whitaker (see also Mad In America website below)

How to Change Your Mind – book by Michael Pollan. (note this is not for people who suffer from any psychosis but is for people suffering from severe depression and anxiety.  It’s thought-provoking about the use of hallucinogenic drugs and the government-supported clinical trials going on today at Johns Hopkins among other places.

Dr. Xavier Amador – I am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help, a two-part series.  I’m Not Sick, Part 1 and I’m Not Sick, Part 2, YouTube videos well worth watching.  Dr. Amador does a good job of helping us understand that people experiencing psychosis are not in denial, that part of their illness is “anosognosia” – which is the inability for rational thinking.  What they see/hear/believe is 100% real to them.  When Dr. Amador was in college, his older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Below are a couple of movies that really hit home for us.  Note that they scared the hell out of us and are heartbreaking but they also gave us hope.

  1.  Crazywise movie compares the way people are treated in third world countries vs developed countries.  A spokesperson for the UN said if you suffer psychosis you have a much greater chance of recovery if you live in a third world country.  This movie promotes the idea of “spiritual emergence”.
  2. Be Vocal movie, follows 3 survivors who are peer support mentors.
  3.  Dr. Rufus May – the doctor who hears voices documentary
  4. Take These Broken Wings interview with the man on the street and two women with severe SZ who have recovered and live productive lives
  5. Eleanor Langden ted talk where she talks about her experience of hearing voices.
  6. Beyond Possible: How the Hearing Voices Approach Transforms Lives – This short film offers a few first-hand accounts of the life-changing power of this profoundly human approach to the often frightening experience of hearing voices, seeing visions and other unusual experiences.

Many of these offer “alternative thinking”

Mad In America – founded by Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care  

Recovery International

Schizophrenics Anonymous

Spiritual Emergence Website  – gives referrals to therapists who work with spiritual emergence

Center For Spiritual Emergence

Chris Hancock, Therapist.  Support for Extraordinary Experiences –  I’ve got him down here because I really don’t have enough information about him but from what I’ve read so far, he looks promising.  I’d recommend doing more research, getting recommendations, etc.  

INTAR – the international network toward alternatives and recovery, director Dr. Peter Stastny.

The Icarus Project – support and education, by and for people who experience the world differently.

Mind Freedom International / Iaacm- International Association for the advancement of creative maladjustment – David Oaks (survivor) Oregon, fight for human rights for people labeled mentally ill, challenge psychiatric drug industry, promote effective options in mental health.

Freedom Center – Massachusetts, a peer-run organization run totally by volunteers, was the first in MA and many holistic options, against psychiatric abuse and med abuse, etc.  because of them, MA now offers a peer-run organization, The Western Mass Recovery Learning Center.

Western Mass Recovery Learning Center – supports healing and growth for individuals and the community as a whole through learning opportunities, advocacy, peer-to-peer support and the development of regional and national networks.

I Got Better – aims to challenge the dominant narrative of hopelessness in mental health care by making stories of hope and mental wellness widely available through a variety of media.

NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness

I hope with all my heart that something here gives you hope and can truly help you.  Good luck.  Kindness always,  Jackie 

Please, please, if you have anything to add to this list, put it in the comments below or email me.  I want to hear from people who can share from their own experiences what has helped them or their loved ones.  This list will continue to grow as suggestions come in.


Is there someone who inspires you with their kindness?  Nominate them for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250.

Do you have an act-of-kindness project you want to do but need help funding it?  Submit your idea for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $250 and let us help you spread kindness.

9 thoughts on “Matt’s Birthday and Help for Serious Mental Illness”

  1. My heart goes out to you – please know that I’m sending so much love, peace and big, warm and tight hugs to you. 🙏😘

  2. We have been thinking about you guys all day. We know Matt is smiling down at you with PRIDE and LOVE.. We send you Peace, Love and Hugs.

  3. My thoughts are with you guys today and always. What a great and extensive list of helpful resources. There is still so much to be learned about this sad illness. Matt would be proud of the way you are keeping his memory alive and acknowledging others who are showing kindness. Love you

    1. thanks Bev, you’re right, there is so much more we need to learn about mental illness, shocking how little the medical community actually knows.

  4. Jackie thanks very much for sharing. Your kindness knows no boundaries. I wish you and Ron the best on this Valentine’s Day.

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