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Victor Olivares, Board President: What Are You Doing To Bring Hope Back To NAMI Fresno?

Facebook Post | Thursday 12: 17 pm

Just some thoughts from last night’s NAMI Fresno membership meeting. … still processing it all and mulling over the ‘wow’ …

So last night I asked the board president a question … a real softball of a question too. One he could have used to his benefit even – but oh hell no, that’s not what happened. …

I asked the board president: What are you doing to bring hope back to NAMI Fresno?

He responded he wasn’t there to answer that question.

I said: Yes, you are. What are you doing to bring hope back to NAMI Fresno?

He refused to answer.

(This was a membership meeting called by members, specifically Jack and I. So yes, you are here to answer our questions, Victor. Even though every other meeting that it’s been known I was going to attend you’ve found other more pressing engagements to attend — just so you could avoid answering any and all questions. Pattern has been noted.)

After refusing to answer the question – the board president then proceeded to goal post shift on other people’s questions, speak in circles, push accountability for his mistakes and bad leadership off on others, outright threw someone who wasn’t in attendance under the bus (and hard), and used his ill loved ones as an excuse (and he made sure to list their entire list of diagnoses for the martyr/pity parade) to explain absences, delays and inconsistencies in his leadership.

He repeatedly expressed being ‘stretched too thin.’

The board president did this in a room full of parents, family and loved ones of ill people who have very similar lived experiences in caring for their ill person — thankfully, the martyring emotional manipulation push at the expense of his children wasn’t appreciated by those people either. “We’re all stretched thin,” I believe was one of the comments.

The board president spoke with contempt, smugness, stigma and ableism with no regard to the peers in the room … and outright contempt towards those of us who didn’t believe the gaslighting bs and wanted real communication to happen at this meeting.

The public trust in NAMI Fresno has been eroded due to his, and a few other board members, leadership, antics and unprofessional conduct. They’ve lost their way and have forgotten the mission of NAMI Fresno, and somehow gotten their own agendas entangled into this community business organizations actions.

Some of the behaviors are just outright astounding. (like only emailing the people you like, and then stating oh, didn’t have those email address of the people you don’t like … really? The high-school antics are transparent.)

The culture that’s been created by some members of the board is toxic and it’s harming all of us. It doesn’t fulfill the mission of NAMI Fresno — and certainly doesn’t fulfill the spirit and culture of acceptance needed at NAMI either.

Stigmatized language by board members was a subject broached by a peer at the meeting. That the words for mental illness used as slurs, and otherwise inappropriately, were riddled through board emails to one another.

One of the big goals for this organization locally, statewide and nationally is to BREAK THE STIGMA of living with a mental illness. Guess they forgot that part …

A new board member asked for an example, and one was given.

Then, almost as if it were performance art, another board member took the floor to speak and outright used the word ‘crazy’ as a slur in describing her experience participating on this board.

It’s one thing to not know better and use the word as a slur — it’s another when you know better and still use it as a slur — and as a board member of the National Alliance For Mental Illness Fresno chapter it’s inexcusable.

She explained she didn’t know the process and whatnots to record meeting notes and as secretary of the board, she was learning a lot from her mistakes. There was a lot of circular talk I couldn’t grasp the point of as well. What I understand is there are not audio recordings or accurate minutes of the board meetings for months now.

I also noted some of the excuses given earlier about emails not going out to certain people were because email addresses weren’t available … which, in my experience, would be retrieved from the secretary of the board, the person with all the records? I don’t know but the vast amount of bs and minutia in response to member’s questions is ridiculous and only erodes more public trust in this organization.

When living with a severe mental illness, as I do, trust is an incredible part of recovery. It’s a MUST. The one thing I’ve learned is recovery is not possible without hope.

You MUST HAVE HOPE before you can take those first steps to wellness.

The board president’s response to my question was a refusal to answer. He stated he wasn’t here to answer that question.

Well then, why are you on the board? Why are you the board president? It’s your job and duty to respond to members questions — especially at a meeting called by members to address the issues of the board.

And the sheer number of times ‘stretched thin’ was used to describe inability to perform the duties expected of a board president means, time to step down. You have other obligations and aren’t in a space to manage the responsibility of leadership right now. And the refusal to do so, has only harmed the organization and further eroded public trust.

And most of all, the lack of appropriate leadership harms us peers most of all. NAMI Fresno is not a safe space for us … anymore. It’s leadership has created a toxic environment for the staff.

Worse yet, the last membership vote for NAMI Fresno board elections was put up to vote to null and void the outcome. I asked why that was brought up to be voted on … was there an issue with the election process?

No, the election process went as supposed to. The members had voted and were counted appropriately. No errors. The reason the election results were being contested … was by board member who wasn’t voted back on the board.

So it was put up for a vote to null and void the last board elections results. Three voted aye, three no and one abstained.

To the three that voted aye – and I’ll find the names later — you’ve done a horrible disservice to the members of NAMI Fresno. We voted and it was a fair and good election.

Your egos have poisoned the good work others do … it poisons the good work you’ve done in the past. To reject the membership vote based on your whim and wants is unacceptable in any manner. You’ve lost your way and don’t belong in leadership in this organization and should do the honorable thing and step down.

I don’t see that happening …

So what the hell are you fighting for? Mission has been lost. You stole our hope.

Hope-less has seeped in … hope stolen and hopelessness are what’s been achieved.

And you can’t even be bothered to answer the question: How are you bringing HOPE back to NAMI Fresno.

We are worthy of better than this. #thereal5150

nami #namicalifornia #namifresno

By Eve Reiland

Contact | internationalbadassactivists@gmail.com