Debbie Calhoun Moritz, Class of 1979

Debbie Calhoun Moritz

William Tennent High School Class Of 1979

Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Bucks County, PA

What organization do you work for and what is it about?

  • NAMI is made up almost entirely by volunteers.  We could not run our programs without them.  Our volunteers are primarily people with either personal lived experience with a mental illness or as a family member of someone with a mental illness.  Although I started out as a volunteer and still volunteer my time running a young family support group for the past 19 years, Our organization has many volunteers that run our support groups.
  • We offer support, education and advocacy on mental illness.
    • Support groups for families and families of children or adolescents with a mental illness, support groups for people with a mental illness as well as soon to be launched support groups for people with mental illness in the Bucks County Jail.
    • Twice a year education programs for families and families of children or adolescents with a mental illness, support groups for people with a mental illness.
    • Ending the Silence program for Middle School Student in Bucks County schools where we teach kids about mental health and how to recognize, help themselves or a friend that may be struggling with a mental health issue and we also offer a person with lived experience that talks to the kids about what it was like for them to struggle with a mental health issue at their age and what helped, didn’t help
    • County wide system advocacy on making the mental health system more usable for people.

What inspired you to pursue a career in this line of work?

  • I was kind of thrown into the field due to mental illness in my ex-husband, and two sons.  I was volunteering for many years doing outreach to other families for years and when in 2004, a donation came into NAMI that allowed them e to hire a part time Executive Director, I took the job immediately and it quickly became a full time job.  In those years we grew and grew.  We rented a small office (not much larger than a closet).  We now have a full time Ending the Silence Coordinator, and a full time Outreach and Development Coordinator and have moved to a larger office suite in Warrington in December.  (we are already outgrowing that).  We offer Four support groups for people with mental illness and one beginning in the jail in the near future.  Three Family support groups and another beginning in August.  Four family 12 week education programs a year, four 8 week peer programs yearly and five forums a year in addition to many other activities.  I answer a mental health helpline 7 days a week, 12 hours per day.  Although now that I have an additional staff member, we do share that role.  
  • I wanted to help other families that were struggling trying to find help and hope for their family members/kids struggling with a mental illness.  I didn’t want anyone to have to walk the path that I did alone. 

What do you enjoy most about working in this field?

  • I enjoy being able to help people to find hope and to help them to navigate through the maze of a mental health system.  Just watching one person or one family have hope makes every single day worth it. 

What educational program or classes would you recommend for someone who would be interested in this profession?

  • Social work for sure as well as business administration.  There is a lot of administration work to do but you also have to have a heart, patience and compassion. 

Share a positive experience you have had with this volunteer job.

  • We had a young man that was a speaker for Ending the Silence.  He was a great speaker and had a compelling story but was unsure of himself and was in the early days of his recovery.  I just adored him and knew he was just barely scratching the surface of what he was capable of and that he had sooooooo much to offer to not only kids but the entire world.  He blossomed and is now our full time Outreach and Development Coordinator and also a Mental Health Super hero called NAMI Man who is sought out by many people all over the country.  This young man has so inspired me and so many people around him. 

What do you enjoy most about this position?

  • Giving people HOPE that mental illness does not define them and is treatable.