It took Bobbie Erskine years of searching to find the resources to help her family. Now Erskine is a staunch family advocate who speaks out and garners the attention of policymakers, through her work with the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative.

“It’s really tough for parents who have children with special needs or who are struggling themselves with mental health issues.  Families like mine don’t very often step forward and ask for help. We don’t usually speak up because we feel like we don’t have a voice!  But I’m using mine to make things better for my own family and for all families in New Hampshire.

When I spoke to NH legislators, it was a packed room.  I had an allotted time of two minutes to speak to policymakers.  When my time was up, I was prepared to stop, but they wanted me to finish. They wanted to hear what I had say.  And the room was silent! Normally people are on their phones or they’re sitting talking quietly, but when you have a parent coming forward and speaking out because there really needs to be a change, then you’re catching people’s attention.  That’s gotta mean something, right?

That’s where it started for me and now I do this voluntarily because I believe in it so passionately.  Something more needs to happen.  There needs to be a better system.  When I meet other families and friends who need help, I refer them to the Fast Forward Program or to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI NH).  I didn’t know three years ago that those resources existed when I was being bounced around the system. I did all the research on my own. I’ve been referring people ever since.  

When you’re reaching out for that helping hand and you don’t get it—I understand why people shut down. I may not have initials behind my name, a master’s degree or a B.A., but I assure you I am just as smart as they are.  After what my daughter and I have been through, would I do this again?  Absolutely!  In a heartbeat!  We are helping other kids and families.  Knowledge is power. That is something that everyone should be able to have.”