Nikki is currently a Ph.D. student UH Graduate College of Social Work. She received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from the University of Houston – Downtown in 2013 and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. She is a licensed master social worker in the state of Texas who has worked as a children’s counselor, mental health recovery advocate, public speaker, and facilitator of creative arts groups. She has experience in HIV/AIDS case management and testing, Hepatitis C outreach, and harm-reduction substance abuse group facilitation. Musically, Nikki released an EP entitled Altitude Confusion in 2015 and continues to write, perform and record music. She is also a visual artist whose work is exhibited locally. In Philadelphia, Nikki further created three mini-documentaries on racism, criminal justice, and LGBTQ discrimination. Personally, Nikki is a survivor of suicide who is in mental health. She has shared her story for the Hogg Foundation at the Youth Panel Transitioned-Age Youth Conference, receiving the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Honorary.
Jeff studied psychology at Tulsa Community College briefly before venturing out into the private sector. He has worked with at-risk youth and homeless adults developing and delivering curriculum for life and job skills. Most of his career path has centered around training and project management. As an artist, Jeff’s work is largely centered on spoken and written word. He has self-published three volumes of poetry and is working on #4 currently. He was the second runner up in the Lollapalooza Poetry Slam in Dallas, TX, and competed at the state level as a slam poet. He is a DJ with a deep love of all music, and has a passion for visual arts as well, contributing to What It’s Like Project as a graphic designer and art co-director. He is an addict in recovery from drug, food and sex addiction and lives with ADHD, depression, and anxiety. He is all about rising above and staying punk rock.
Cailey graduated from a recovery high school, Archway Academy, in 2014. Cailey engaged in self-harm from the ages 12 to 16. She lives with depression and anxiety, and in 2010 had a near fatal suicide attempt. In January 2015, she lost her brother, Chris, to suicide and shortly after lost her brother, Dylan, to a drug overdose. She participated in the development of Generation Found, a documentary about adolescents recovering from substance abuse disorders in the Houston area. For the last two years she has been helping adolescents with mental illness and substance use disorders. In Washington DC, June 2016, Cailey talked to representatives from Texas about mental health and advocated for more funding and accessibility to those who struggle with mental illness. She hopes to educate others on mental illness and use her story to advocate for changes in the healthcare system.
Misty is a certified bookkeeper, and also currently working as a Service Agent for a major airline. For many years, she worked in hospital settings for both mental health and substance abuse. Misty has volunteered for Archway Academy, a recovery high school in Houston, she has also participated in recovery films for fundraising on behalf of Archway. She has been a public speaker for school outreach programs through the Houston Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. She has also been in long-term recovery from substance abuse since 1989. Misty lives with depression, anxiety and PTSD. In January 2015, Misty lost her oldest son as a result of Bipolar Disorder and months after lost her step-son to a drug overdose. Many of her family members live with mental health disorders and/or dependency disorders. Misty is an advocate for removing stigma and creating change in both mental health and substance abuse fields by advocating and participating in events such as Facing Addiction.
Edward received his Bachelor’s in Criminology from the University of Houston – Clear Lake, and his Master’s in Psychology concentrated in Behavorial Neuroscience also from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. He has been in recovery from substance abuse since 2009, and lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In 2014, he lost his sister to a prescription drug overdose. In the realm of mental health and substance abuse, he has told his story to adolescents in efforts to dissuade them from continuing to abuse drugs. Part of his graduate curriculum included research studying the effects of an experimental compound on morphine and nicotine withdrawal syndrome. He currently works on a research team devoted to helping veterans take control of their diabetes. Edward has also been playing guitar since age 11 as his own form of artistic expression, and he hopes his playing will encourage others who struggle to express themselves musically.
Jackie has worked for a nonprofit organization in Houston, Texas for over 19 years, and has managed the exhibits department for the past six years. She is responsible for developing and managing new and existing exhibits and sponsorships that meet annual fiscal revenue goals and customer needs. Jackie is working towards her Certification in Exhibition Management (CEM). She has experience with painting and animation. Her passion involves home decor, gardening and pottery. In April 2008, she lost a brother to alcoholism. Jackie also has a daughter who is in substance abuse and mental health recovery. Jackie hopes to bring awareness and change to the Houston mental health community through the arts.
Andrew graduated from University of Houston – Clear Lake with a Bachelor’s in Behavioral Sciences. A survivor of a suicide attempt, Andrew lives with depression and has also lost friends and loved ones to suicide. Andrew is an addict in recovery who has been abstinent from drug use since 2010. Andrew is also a gifted photographer and musician who plays a variety of unconventional instruments for enjoyment.
Katy Manning is the Director of Communications at a local nonprofit school for kids with learning differences and has nine years of experience working in the communications field. Katy believes a major step toward eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness is the sharing of stories – whether those stories are told through a painting, an anecdote, a song or any other media. Her goal is to help others give voice to their stories. Katy’s passions are singing and songwriting, as both allow her to express the playful and painful sides of her existence. She is also a comedian and host. Katy lives with depression and anxiety and has been affected by addiction in close relationships.
Justin is currently a graduate student working on his MSW at UH’s Graduate College of Work. He has a Bachelors in Psychology from Texas A&M University and a MA in Counseling/Student Affairs from Texas State University. He has worked in the past in HIV case management, adolescent counseling, and dual diagnosis inpatient. Justin currently is a Trainer and a Community Outreach liaison for the Lazarus House, a fitness and wellness nonprofit for people with chronic illness and injury. Justin has lived with ADHD since he was a small child and has battled anxiety for most of his life. He has been in Recovery since 2010.
Mike is a computer science student at the University of Houston-Downtown. He is involved with various groups supporting individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Mike is a certified yoga teacher and has taught yoga in studio settings as well as an outpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Mike is on the board of directors of Peach Outreach, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for uterine cancer research. Mike is very tech savvy and is proud to share this gift with the What it’s Like Project.
Jose received his Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He comes from a musically inclined family and has witnessed the positive impact that the arts can have on a person’s life. In the past, he has worked in mental health and substance abuse treatment hospitals. He has also worked with various local, national, and international non-profit organizations directing fundraising and coordinating events. His most recent non-profit work has included translating medical terminology, diagnoses, and treatments for Spanish-speaking only patients at a local clinic that offers services to low-income, migrant, and refugee populations. Professionally, his work regarding cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety has been published in a high-impact peer-reviewed journal. Currently, he works on a research team that teaches techniques and skills to help older adults reduce worry and stress in their daily lives. Having had experience with anxiety-related disorders, he hopes his career and nonprofit work will help increase access to mental and physical health services available to underserved minority populations.