Michele Herling, Founding Executive Director, maintained a private practice as a licensed body therapist for 40 years and used her skills as a volunteer in Santa Fe and outside of the country working with women and children in Bosnia to help reduce Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Michele founded Compassionate Touch Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which is now known as Breaking the Silence New Mexico. She has been engaged with the development of BTSNM’s three anti-stigma programs — Talking Mental Health, Inside Out Arts, and Minds Interrupted. Michele grew up from an early age with a brother who had mental illness and is a fierce advocate for breaking the silence around mental health disorders.
Gabriela Pineda Dominguez (Gaby), Communications Coordinator, is studying economics, political science, and business management at the University of New Mexico. She is a member of the ASUNM Joint Council, the economics club, and published an article that won first place in the Student Best Essay contest. She is also a licensed EMT, volunteers as a youth basketball coach, loves to play sports, and is fluent in Spanish. Gaby began working with Breaking the Silence NM when she was 16 years old as part of her training for the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC). She continued to work with BTSNM after finishing her term with MYAC because she finds joy in contributing to BTSNM’s goal of pursuing a meaningful education for New Mexico’s youth surrounding mental illness. Gaby also serves as lead facilitator for BTSNM’s Talking Mental Health curriculum for middle and high school students.
Talking Mental Health Program
Sandra Staplehurst (Sandy), Lead Facilitator for “Talking Mental Health” curriculum, has spent a majority of her adult life helping youth. She has spent many years coaching youth soccer and was responsible for putting together a soccer pilot program for physical and mentally impaired youth in the Albuquerque area. In 2015 she trained as a facilitator with the stigma-busting program “Talking Mental Health” after the death of her son by suicide in 2014. She is passionate about engaging youth and educating them to help improve their lives. Her strong commitment to BTSNM continues with her role as a Lead Facilitator for middle and high school classroom presentations and adult community forums as well as coaching adults to facilitate BTSNM.
Gaile Herling, Lead Facilitator for “Talking Mental Health” curriculum, is the co-founder and former coordinator of Santa Fe Public Schools Adelante Program, which continues to serve families and youth experiencing homelessness. Before her fourteen years as Adelante coordinator, she was a public school teacher. She currently works with Breaking the Silence New Mexico in middle and high schools as a lead facilitator, and grew passionate about this subject due to growing up with a brother who had serious mental illness and brain injury. Gaile is a social justice activist focusing on immigrants’ rights; divestment from private, for-profit prisons; and eradicating racism, anti-semitism and white nationalism from within a feminist perspective.
Debbi James, Facilitator for “Talking Mental Health” curriculum, is a native New Mexican who grew with a strong work ethic in the ranching, farming community. In 2014 her brother died by suicide after many years of addiction. Debbi started attending Survivors of Suicide in 2015 and in 2016 became a facilitator. During this time, she worked with many people with similar losses and educated herself about mental illness. Still serving on the board for SOS, she wants to help end the stigma of mental illness and make sure everyone knows it’s ok to ask for help.
Kelly Geib-Eckenroth, Facilitator for “Talking Mental Health” curriculum, directed programs at Children’s Grief Center of NM for 10 years, prior to coming onboard this year. She was also Children Grief Center’s Camp Director for their 3 day/2 night bereavement camp, Camp Corazon. She has over 19 years experience as an early childhood educator and administrator. In 2019, she shared her story of living with OCD, as part of Minds Interrupted. Kelly believes her life might have had a more positive trajectory had a program like this existed when she was an adolescent, and is honored to help young people know “they are not alone.”
Inside Out Arts Program
Michele Relkin, Artist and Primary Art Teacher for Inside Out Arts, was an art major at Santa Monica College and UCLA in the 1970s. Her vividly expressionistic painting comes from the many journeys and research of her dreams and visions. Her work is exhibited internationally and is in private collections of the White House and Presidential Libraries. Her son Greg had schizophrenia and substance use challenges and lived at a residential community in Santa Fe until his death in 2017. She was inspired to teach art classes at her son’s community and what she started in 2013 later grew into Inside Out Arts. Michele brings empathy and knowledge to her students and trains them to compassionately critique one another’s work with those same qualities.
Minds Interrupted Program
Rosemary Zibart, co-creator of “Minds Interrupted,” is a playwright and author. Her award-winning books include three novels for young people about child refugees during WWII: True Brit, Beatrice on Her Own, Forced Journey: The Saga of Werner Berlinger and two picture books: Kit Coyote: A Brave Pup (for children in foster care) and I Have a Grandma Who….