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Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

As the conversation around mental health grows, AMAAD hopes to shine a light on some preventative measures that can support you in managing your mental health.

A Message From Our CEO:

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Greetings Family and Friends,

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and at AMAAD we are seeking to contribute to raising the awareness of trauma and the impact it can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of our community. This month, we are intentional in not only increasing awareness of the importance of mental health wellness, but also celebrating recovery from mental illness. We know that mental health is essential for a person’s overall health. Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can recover from mental disorders and live and live full and productive lives. 

In this month's issue, we're excited to announce new staff additions and promotions as well as personal stories from two of AMAAD's behavioral health therapists.

I encourage you to learn more about the various ways that the AMAAD Institute addresses mental health and I hope that you will help us raise awareness this month and throughout the year. 


Thank you,

Carl Highshaw, MSW, DSW

CEO and Founder

New Promotions, New Possibilities

Nina Barkers


Manager of Transgender Equity


In this key role, Nina will as serve as the agency expert and voice leading AMAADs programs and services centering issues impacting health and wellness for Black transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary individuals and communities. 

Formerly AMAAD's Evaluation Coordinator, Nina will continue to serve as a key member of the agencies growing evaluation team through AMAAD’s growing community-based participatory research efforts.

Congratulations, Nina!

Ryan Sample, ACSW


Behavioral Health Therapist Team Liaison

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In this new role, Ryan will continue to see clients, but will also work as a part of administration to grow and strengthen the clinical infrastructure of the organization as AMAAD further expands. 

Ryan will also serve as a critical link to bridge, standardize, and further solidify the agency’s behavioral health practices across programs and within its growing footprint.

Congratulations, Ryan!

May Program Calendar

Visit our LinkTree (Click Here)
What is your favorite way to manage your mental and emotional health?
Ask for help or talk to someone.
Take a break.
Get active.
Connect with good people.
Do something i enjoy.
Something else.
I need more tips on how to improve my mental health.

Welcome New Staff!

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Tyrone Thompson


Policy Coordinator

"I work for The AMAAD Institute because AMAAD is forefront empowering, encouraging, and support people like myself; African American/ Black and part of the LGBTQ+ community. As the Policy Coordinator, I plan to continue this legacy by pushing the AMAAD Institute’s vision as I educate the Black and Brown community of South Los Angeles on secondhand smoke and the effects it is having on us.

The highlight of working for AMAAD thus far is witnessing all the good this living organization is doing. The AMAAD Institute is literally housing individuals off the streets, putting clothes on people's backs, food on their table, and giving them the tools to thrive on their own."

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John Vernon


Recovery Specialist

"My name is John Vernon, the new Recovery Specialist for AMAAD Institute. I worked in Washington, DC with Whitman Walker Health, which serves LGBTQ+ men of color in Metro and Southeast side of DC. In my role, I conducted client intakes, outreach, HIV counseling, testing, and referral services.

I also received my certificate in Drug Counseling from Catholic Charities Institute. Upon leaving Washington, DC in 2011, I relocated to Atlanta and became involved with AID Atlanta as a volunteer, serving LBGTQ+ communities of color throughout the South.

I returned to Los Angeles in 2015 and got totally involved in the LGBTQ+ community through volunteer work, which led to paid positions. I'm excited to bring my expertise AMAAD-- an organization that's truly in South Los Angeles serving people of color and the LGBTQ+ community!"


Julia M. Lundeberg, LMFT


Clinical Supervisor

"The AMAAD Institute represents a progressive and focused program with a clear identity. They know who they are and to whom they believe services are lacking.  The Clinical Team comprises innovative and bright clinicians with a passion for bringing available, evidence-based practices and support to those who have not been aware or have not been able to receive the support they need to succeed.  

I see my role as supporting and empowering a creative and bright team of clinicians to innovate and increase awareness of the concern for mental health issues that, due to stigma and fear, are held closely to avoid shame and judgment. Witnessing the Clinical Team come together to ensure they are supporting each other and improving the clinical awareness and knowledge for both clients and staff, strengthening the kind of collaboration needed to ensure the individual’s needs are met in a comprehensive setting such as AMAAD in Los Angeles."  

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IamFaith (Faith Turner)


Housing Navigator

"I am IamFaith, a proud United States Navy Veteran, whose activism work is what lead me to the role of the Housing Navigator for Resilient Solutions at AMAAD. I bring lived experience with wisdom and the foundation of unshakeable belief that as a collective team, we can achieve all things.

I am determined to create opportunities for all, but I am excited that this role has a needed focus to support and help transgender, nonbinary, and intersex humans. I'm passionate about facilitating the access of resources to humans which will allow them to acquire stability of housing and employment while improving mental, physical, spiritual, and financial well-being.

I am in a state of gratitude for the opportunity to work with a team of humans with a common goal to help our community."

From AMAAD's Behavioral Health Team

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"CHAMPS stands for Community, Healing, Advocacy, Mentorship, and Peer Support. This group was started to help individuals currently enrolled in Project imPACT, one of AMAAD's reentry programs, as well as recognizing the need for aftercare for individuals who have successfully exited the program.

I wanted the Fellows (imPACT participants) to stay engaged and feel supported as well as the Fellows to have the most current information. By partnering with LAFLA (Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles), CHAMPS is also able to provide current information on legal changes within the community.


I have seen individuals come in absent and leave smiling. This is because CHAMPS builds skills each group I.e., CBT, Mindfulness, Life Skills

Behavioral health to me means being healthy, emotionally, mentally, and physically well! It means knowing how to navigate spaces, process and overcome barriers, and come out of those situations stronger. It’s about understanding your triggers and finding positive skills to replace them.

Mental wellness is the key to healthy living! For years, minority communities were resistant to therapy. Today we’re thriving, because of our willingness to change. My favorite saying is, “The more you know, the more you grow!"

Lanelle P. Laws, AMFT


Behavioral Health Therapist

"I often find humor, while reflecting on my 11-year journey working across different entities of the helping profession and how it guided me into becoming a behavioral health therapist. I embarked on my journey only to help myself with the ideology of by helping others I too could be healed. Unbeknownst to me, I was cultivating what would become the anchor to my life’s mission in helping individuals reclaim their innocence; whether through empowerment, values, or new persona, it could be achieved.   


My inspiration as a therapist is derived from my personal mission statement to 'advance societal transformation not only individually but culturally across the intersectionalities of systemic systems that permeate Black and Black LGBTQ+ communities.'   

Therapy is important because it offers a safe space for one to unpack emotions, such as anger, depression, or to even gain a neutral perspective on life and career development. Not only do stigma and generational trauma encircling mental health exist in all cultures and societies, but are particularly prevalent in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities, making the concept of therapy a distant thought at best. Therefore, there is a pivotal need for Black therapists and therapists who are culturally empathetic to help advance societal transformation."    


Ryan Sample, ACSW


Behavioral Health Therapist Team Liaison

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Christopher Webb- Communications Coordinator


Gerald Garth - Editor


Carl Highshaw - Publisher


AMAAD's Mental Health Music Mix

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