Back in 2018, Zionsville nurse practitioners, neighbors and friends Amber Nunez and Carrie-Anne Jordan started a conversation that led to a community initiative to provide mental health resources and education.
“We heard about the deaths of young people due to suicide and decided to get trained,” Nunes said. “We know how to spot a stroke or do CPR and were frustrated that we didn’t know how to prevent it.”
The two took the initial course and then went on to attend courses, becoming certified trainers and teaching in the community through the Eagle Recreation and Enrichment Foundation, Inc.
“We had a large turnout and held about five classes in 2018 and 2019. Others started asking for classes, like Boys and Girls Club staff, Future Farmers of America consultants, and even concerned parents,” Nunes said. “In 2020, we weren’t able to teach in person, but we also saw that we needed to do more than just teach. It’s more than suicide, it’s depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.”
Part of the problem when it comes to mental health, she says, is silence.
“We are missing some obvious things,” Nunes said. “We are so afraid that we will say something different that we don’t say anything at all. If your child had cancer, you would tell everyone about it and the community would rally around you. You would have all kinds of food trains, prayers and support. But mental health is hard to talk about, and we often create this “circle of shame.”
As mothers and active members of the community, Nunes and Jordan soon turned to the girls when neighbors and friends had questions.
“I think once people knew we were talking about our training, we were able to serve with a sense of trust and confidence. Other moms knew we were working on it and are open to these difficult conversations,” Jordan said. “At the same time, we realized that we have a lot of resources to share and I think nurses in general are trusted people. The combination of all this gave people the feeling that they were not being judged. It takes a certain vulnerability to say, “I don’t know what to do.”
In 2021, as things began to pick up after the pandemic, the women met with Zionsville City Councilman Dr. Alex Choi, an anesthesiologist and mental health advocate. Together they created an official non-profit organization.
Zamwell’s mission is to share resources, educate others about mental health, and develop empathy and understanding in the community.
They began scheduling public talks on topics ranging from trauma and addiction to comforting young people as they cope with stressful situations.
“We started working on resources. Many are just trying to find information. It’s hard for nurses to figure out what questions to ask or find a therapist, social worker, doctor, etc., then imagine how difficult it must be if you don’t have those connections,” Jordan said. “Also, we realized what was unavailable.”
The three founders of the non-profit organization have big plans for the future, including changes in legislation.
“We need a change in policy,” Nunes said. “This is an important issue, and it is more important than politics. In the past, psychology has not been held in such high esteem in medicine, and I think it’s because of the stigmatization. We need to pay more psychologists because we devalue the importance of mental health. They are not enough to help the people who need them. We say, “see a therapist,” and you have a five-week waiting period for an appointment.
The topic of mental health is complex and there are a number of issues, but Zamwell’s founders are determined to keep the conversation going.
“There has never been an organization like this before,” Jordan said. “The right people had to come together, and together we can combine resources and strengths. It’s really great to be able to speak openly about the gaps in the system, and the data and facts that our community needs for its own assessment.”
Early warning signs to be concerned about include:
- Rejection of friends and family;
- changes in sleep and appetite;
- Constant sadness or anxiety;
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness;
- Decreased energy; as well as
- Sudden mood swings.
“If you have a family history of mental health, you really need to pay attention and get help as early as possible,” Nunes said. “We don’t wait until stage four to find an oncologist, and it’s no different than any other health maintenance.”
Visit the website at https://www.zamwell.org for a list of resources and upcoming events. In July, the organization plans to turn its attention to college students and mental health issues as life changes dramatically.