Bert Nash Ambassador: Spreading the word about mental health

Emily Farley News & Notes

Anna Oliver’s introduction to the Bert Nash Center came at the right time.

That was three and a half years ago.

“There was a family member who was going through some issues, so that’s the reason I got involved with Bert Nash,” Oliver said.

That personal connection motivated Oliver to get involved with Bert Nash. She’s been a dedicated Bert Nash Ambassador volunteer ever since.

“It really opened my eyes that it was OK to talk about mental health,” Oliver said.

Her sister-in-law, Jane Fevurly, a member of the Bert Nash Governing Board, invited Oliver to a Discover Bert Nash event, a one-hour community outreach program that highlights stories about people whose lives have been changed through services they received at the mental health center.

“I was moved by the stories that were shared by people who have received help from Bert Nash and how they were helped to move on to live healthier and happier lives,” she said.

Oliver also enrolled in a Mental Health First Aid class, which is offered through Bert Nash. Just like CPR training helps a layperson with no medical training learn life-saving skills, Mental Health First Aid helps a person with no clinical background know how to intervene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Oliver has used the skills she learned in Mental Health First Aid.

“I just immersed myself in wanting to learn about Bert Nash,” Oliver said. “The Mental Health First Aid training was really helpful. I gained a lot of knowledge about how to be helpful to this family member who was struggling. There are so many tools in that training that apply to so many situations.”

Oliver had her own experience with depression in college, though she didn’t know what it was at the time.

“I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was a student at KU, and had to take a medical withdraw from school. It was a difficult time. A few short years following that, my parents died within four months of each other,” Oliver said. “I struggled for a long time and became depressed. Looking back, I realize that I was going through a depression that was untreated. I just thought that I was supposed to power through it.”

Today, she would know what to do and where to go for help.

“There’s always somebody who needs to know about Bert Nash,” said Oliver, who enjoys telling people about the Center and letting them know help is available. “It’s exciting for me to share about Bert Nash. Whatever I can do to help.”

Bert Nash Development Manager Emily Farley, who works with the Ambassador volunteers like Oliver, said, “Anna’s energy and spirit are contagious. Her passion for mental health and advocating for our Discover Bert Nash tours has led to many community members learning about Bert Nash. She is breaking down the stigma that’s too often associated with mental health challenges and making it part of her daily conversation, whether she’s teaching Zumba, being a mother, sister, or friend. She is a true Ambassador for the Bert Nash Center.”

Oliver has been teaching Zumba, an exercise program that involves dance, for about seven years. She teaches classes at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

“Zumba reaps amazing benefits physically and mentally. It can be a source of therapy for many people, including myself,” Oliver said. “I struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and I have found that Zumba is a healthy focus for me. I love it so much. It’s really helped my personal development.”

Her enthusiasm for teaching Zumba is equaled by her passion for Bert Nash and letting people know that mental health is as important as physical health.

“I love being involved with Bert Nash,” she said. “Everybody needs to know about Bert Nash.”