Keep Oregon Well is a public advocacy campaign designed to reduce stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health, build a trauma-informed community, and give people the opportunity to learn more about mental health and stand with those struggling with theirs.

This ongoing volunteer spotlight blog series features some of the many caring, talented, passionate people it takes to spread the word about Keep Oregon Well throughout Oregon!

Keep Oregon Well Volunteer Spotlight: Cynthia Stadel

Why does mental health matter to you?

My dad was a physician in a small, rural community, so I grew up in a family attentive to physical health care. That same care, however, was not extended to emotional needs. Like many, our family held toxic secrets around abuse, addiction, and suicide. I struggled with depression as a teenager and young adult, but seeking help for emotional pain was ridiculed.

In college Light began to seep in through spiritual awakenings, and I became aware of a greater Caring Presence and Love. When I cracked a foot bone in a horse-riding accident, I isolated: The thoughts I entertained during that time scared me, finally, into seeking help from a therapist.

Awakening and healing have been a slow, life-long process for me. In the past ten years I’ve become a student of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB), which uses emerging research in the neurosciences to better understand interconnections between brain, mind, and our interpersonal relationships.

Books have always been a refuge, safely connecting me with voices, ideas, and people across time, geography, culture. I love working one-on-one with kids to improve their reading skills because it combines my love of reading with what I’ve learned about accompaniment from IPNB. I want books to be a safe, enjoyable, enriching place for kids.

What initially made you want to volunteer with Trillium?

I’m involved in a youth program at a local church, and one young boy had significant behavior issues.  His mother took him out of the program, and when he returned a year or so later, his social skills had noticeably improved. He was calm and helpful and interacted much better with the other kids.  His mom attributed this to work he’d done with staff at Edwards School.  For 25 years I’ve been professionally involved with the criminal justice system, assisting adults returning to the community following incarceration. I wanted to be part of an effective intervention program—one that might interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline—so I started looking for ways to volunteer with Trillium.

Tell me about your favorite volunteer experience? 

My favorite volunteer experiences involve those relatively small happenings that signify change is underway: Watching a child stay focused and engaged for 20 minutes instead of only five. Listening to a youth read aloud a passage he thought he couldn’t—and seeing his delight in that accomplishment. Hearing a reflection that shows insight into a passage and, even better, human nature.

Tell us about some of the ways you take care of yourself.

I’m well into my sixth decade of life, so I now have several practices that sustain me– and more time to devote to them!  In no meaningful order, these include: unhurried conversation with friends and family; meditation and journaling; exercise (including swimming and strength classes); gardening; ballroom dancing; and IPNB. I check in periodically with my therapist, engaging in sand tray work, reading books, and participating in seminars to help me integrate and apply IPNB in my own life and in my interactions with others.

Do you have a favorite quote you would be willing to share?

I find such hope and encouragement in the words of Rumi, the Sufi mystic, who wrote,

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

Leonard Cohen echoed this in his song, “Anthem:”

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Anything you would add? 

Thank you for including me in the program at Edwards!  The work that students and staff are doing is difficult, but so important and powerful– it is a privilege to be a part of it!

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