My Story:

As of March 2010, the Joao, Jose 'John' Santos Charitable Organization was incorporated in the state of NJ - A recognized NJ non- profit corporation 501 © (3). This organization was created in memory of a loving son, husband and father; a man with a heart of gold whose life was cut too short due to his debilitating mental illness. John was diagnosed with severe depression with pyschotic features; he became a victim of suicide in July 2004 -- shortly afer coming home from the hospital ER.

A couple of months after I lost John while reading the local newspaper, I read an article about NAMI in Hunterdon County. Wow I was at loss!! I had no idea what NAMI was regretted not knowing before. It definitely would have made a difference to me and especially to John if he knew there were support groups to help people with the same illness he had and that he was not alone in his suffering!!!

I became a NAMI member as I needed to learn more, to understand about the brain, the biological basis of mental illness, medications, treatment options, but most of all why his medications did not help him!

In collaboration with NAMI EnEspanhol I started monthly mental health support groups helping Portuguese & Spanish-speaking families and also held bilingual workshops in different Counties to raise awareness and educate families about mental health conditions. I invited NAMI ‘in our own voice’ members to present and share their inspirational stories of recovery. I was known as a Mini-MAMI.

Today, I am very happy that NAMI is more visible in every community and have many wonderful programs to help those living with mental health conditions. Unfortunately mental health crisis and suicides continue to be on the rise!!

I started to raise public awareness and funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in 2005. Participated on my first Out of the Darkness community walk in the Fall of 2005. Having never been involved in a fundraiser, besides helping my children's school on their holiday gift wrapping and help sell Girl Scout cookies. I had no idea and/or know how to start a fundraiser, but I needed to do it!! After spending many days brainstorming and writing many draft letters, I finally was able to create a letter and send it out. To my surprise, the following day I received my first donation!! Wow, and donations kept coming in after that. The kind words from friends/ strangers and their generous donations kept on empowering me.

I continue to be involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/NJ Chapter, raised funds and participated in their annual community walks the following two years. In 2007 was planning also to walk in the Overnight walk, in New York City... However, (God had his own plans for me...) Unfortunately, due to unexpected illness, I was unable to walk, but kept on being inspired by the amount of donations that I was receiving. And, in just two weeks I was able to organize the 1st community walk in John's memory at Duke Island Park, Bridgewater NJ.

In my journey to share resources and HOPE with others, I learned that in addition to a great therapist there are many steps that allow the brain to heal.

I have learned about the important gut-brain connection. How nutrients and supplements help to fill the gaps that exist when the body is not given the nutrients that fuels the brain, and medications also deplete important nutrients.

I have learned that health is a puzzle where our diet, lifestyle and behaviors come together to help us build health. Additionally, understanding our blood work is critical because this completes the picture toward self-care.

On a personal level, I have learned about SELF-CARE with Shaklee that helped me to managed my 'unexpected' life challenges.... learning about SELF-CARE by taking small steps, I found a way to transform my Pain into Purpose.... this is the reason why I am so passionate to share what has helped me with families, communities and so relevant to the families, communities that I am trying to reach....

Sharing Amanda's testimony:

“ When I was 47 a doctor diagnosed me with Acute Depression and suggested my solution was Wellbutrin for life. The backdrop of my life then included 26 years of 14 hour work days, a stressful stretch in my life, and poor eating habits. I was fortunate that a mom in my son’s school shared Shaklee with me and I learned that my body was lacking the nutrients (Macro and Micronutrients) that affected my mental health. I learned about the “gut-brain” connection and also understood how hormone imbalances impacted women’s health. The turnaround was so impressive that I decided to share my story with others and became a Wellness Mentor. Behind every obstacle we overcome, there is a story of opportunities to be explored by others. "

YES, Healing is INDEED POSSIBLE and it all starts with educating ourselves about SELF-CARE!

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