Adversity to Advocacy
Suicide is the leading cause of death—globally— with 800,000 lives lost each year.
I had a mental health breakdown during my freshman year of college and went through an experience that I now consider to be the internship of my life: going through the psychiatric hospital system for three months.
The stress of transitioning into college, coming out as gay, and repressed childhood trauma had culminated into the perfect storm that led to psychosis, attempting suicide, giving away all my savings, and dropping out of college at 18.
Three months of cycling between inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services gave me an invaluable insight into the mental health care system and kickstarted my journey to becoming a filmmaker, social entrepreneur, and speaker.
Recovery Started With a Box of Crayons
During hospitalization, a thoughtful psychiatric nurse handed me a box of crayons. This became my pathway to recovery. I could now access feelings of pain, hope, and empathy - and channel them into a visual language. I began storyboarding my fellow patients' stories realizing that there is power in vulnerability and expression. After I was discharged, I began sharing my story and auctioning my crayon drawings to raise money for local mental health programs.
This led to raising thousands of dollars and the idea for my startup, The Giving Gallery, which is now an online art platform where artists can sell their art in collaboration with partnered mental health nonprofits, including Mental Health America. Art sale proceeds are split between the artist and mental health nonprofits. We are a startup and on a mission to connect creativity and mental health care.
Speaking Out and Leading
Building a career and sense of self centered advocacy and innovation for mental health became my #1 goal.
I went back to college at the University of California, Davis, to earn my B.S. in Human Development. I started speaking out and gave over 150 talks across the nation to students, faculty, and school administrators sharing my story and mental health resources.
Then at 20, I was appointed to the board of directors of the largest mental health nonprofit in the United States, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). After serving on the NAMI California board for six years, I was elected in 2017 to serve on the NAMI National board. Then in 2019, I joined as a board advisor to the Technology & Adolescent Mental (TAM) Wellness research initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Pediatrics.
Filmmaking for Global Mental Health
During college, I taught myself filmmaking and got accepted into a documentary film program at Trinity University, Dublin Ireland. I researched the cultural influences on psychiatric care, and this culminated in the production of my first short documentary entitled, "A Global Mental Health Perspective". My research included interviewing historians of the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world in England, Bedlam, and attending an international mental health conference in Wales. I began to cultivate partnerships, and a deep passion at the intersection of mental health, culture, and innovation.
When I returned to CA, I co-designed the first U.S.-hosted 2015 International Together Against Stigma Conference in San Francisco, sponsored by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), and the California Mental Health Services Authority. This conference brought together over 700 researchers and advocates from over 17 countries, and I debuted the film I made in Europe.
I then launched my filmmaking company, Lipp Studios, and began working with clients around the globe producing short documentary films. Clients have included Columbia University's OnTrackNY program, University of Wisconsin, and Sutter Health.
Intersectionality: LGBTQ & Mental Health
I now realize that my mental health struggles growing up directly correlated with my journey coming out as gay. This is why I believe mental health and LGBTQ are two sides of the same coin, and collaboration between systems and nonprofits.
Growing up I was coined the Tomboy for looking-like and doing all the “boy things”. Really I was just doing what I loved and dressing however I pleased. Over hundreds of years, gender binaries/norms/roles etc have been entrenched into our systems and schools of thought. As a kid, I told people I wanted to be a boy because in my young head that felt logical: to align and assign myself with the activities and displays I expressed and pursued (and maybe as a defense/acceptance mechanism, socially - to “fit in”).
Research shows that the likelihood of sexual minority death by suicide is estimated to be 2-7x times greater than heterosexual youth. As such, it’s critically important that we educate ourselves and others about the diversity of gender expression, orientations, identity, and overall mindset of it being OK if you don’t fit in, and it being OK if you are different.
Wellness Through Sports
I manage my own mental health through a combination of therapy, nature adventures, and extreme sports.
I grew up playing competitive soccer, softball, and basketball - but had to give it up after blowing out my ACL's and breaking over 20 facial bones in a soccer accident.
So my passion turned to more individualized sports: rock climbing, mountain biking, SCUBA diving, and kickboxing. For me, physical exercise and a healthy diet are critical.
Clients have included
Amanda captures individuals stories from adversity to opportunity to promote mental health awareness and systems change. Amanda’s creative approach is grounded in social psychology, behavioral change, and systems change theories.Learn More
The Giving Gallery
Amanda first had the idea for The Giving Gallery startup while she was a patient at a psychiatric hospital during college. She raised thousands of dollars for mental health nonprofits from auctioning the crayon drawings she made during her recovery. This evolved into a global online art gallery where artists can sell their art and share their story to fundraise for mental health nonprofits.Learn More