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Breaking the Silence New Mexico (BTS/NM) is a core project of the Compassionate Touch Network. It is a stigma-busting curriculum that focuses on mental illness and shares stories, interactive activities and information with middle and high school students. Breaking the Silence New Mexico complements bullying, and drug and alcohol instruction.

Education about mental illness is as important as academic achievement or any topic that impacts success in life. By putting a face to mental illness, BTS/NM gives students another way to look at this illness other than through the lens of stigma and stereotypes.

In schools students learn about drug abuse, diabetes and heart disease, but may never hear a lesson on depression or other mental illnesses even though mental illness affects one in five adults and one in ten adolescents. Perhaps out of denial, fear of judgment and shame, or not recognizing warning signs, our youth are not getting the help they need.

Statistics reflect the strong need for the BTS/NM educational model. One in ten adolescents begins to show symptoms of mental illness around age fourteen, but many do not seek or receive treatment for up to ten years after the first symptoms appear. New Mexico has the second highest suicide rate among teens in the country and many of those who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental illness.

It is imperative that we address the issue of stigma surrounding mental illness to encourage more youth and parents to seek treatment for these brain disorders that are biochemical in nature and affect individuals from all backgrounds.


1. To raise awareness of mental illness and impact attitudes and understanding, thereby reducing the stigma and negative stereotypes of people with mental illnesses.
2. To support those with mental illness and those who may develop mental illness, by ‘breaking the silence’ with open discussion and dialogue.
3. To offer resources so students know how and where to get help.
4. To train facilitators to go into the classroom to present BTS/NM lessons.

Principal Organizer

Desiree Woodland is the Principal Organizer for Breaking the Silence New Mexico. She has been a longtime teacher in Albuquerque and recognized the need for education about mental illness in middle and high school classrooms after the suicide of her son Ryan who had a diagnosed mental illness. Since 2008, she has presented many lessons on mental illness in classrooms around Albuquerque.

Desiree developed a lesson plan for middle and high school students that could be taught by non-teachers. Desiree and Michele Herling, Executive Director of Compassionate Touch Network, co-developed a BTS/NM training manual and in 2013 began formally training others to facilitate in the classroom setting.

Facilitator Trainings and Outreach

On December 13, 2014, BTS/NM will offer its fourth facilitator training. Please contact us if you are interested.

Because the number of facilitators has increased, we have been able to respond to more schools in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe. We are currently speaking with administrators in Los Alamos, Pecos and Espanola, who are interested in bringing BTS/NM to their schools.

During the 2013 to 2014 school year, 13 faciliators reached over 2,500 students in 87 classrooms in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo and Santa Fe.

Support Network

Breaking the Silence New Mexico acknowledges and thanks NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Nassau County, NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), SAMHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), Association of Suicidology, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for materials utilized in our lessons and training manuals.

Compassionate Touch Network acknowledges and is deeply grateful for the financial support the following have offered to Breaking the Silence New Mexico— Donna Brown through her family’s foundation, the Alvin I. and Peggy S. Brown Family Charitable Foundation; New Mexico Department of Health; Isora Foundation; and New Mexico Children’s Foundation.

For further information, please contact:

Desiree Woodland
or email:

"I now think mental illness is not something to be overcome with just sheer willpower."

"I learned that I am depressed and should look for help starting with my mom who I never believed when she said this."

"I didn't know mental illness was a sickness like cancer or diabetes."
—Santa Fe High School Students, 2013

© 2013 - 2019 Compassionate Touch Network - Santa Fe, New Mexico

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