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Locally, Speaking

by Jo Valenti, BSN, RN, Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board
In this column we have explored the lives of several well-known individuals who live successfully with mental illness. This month, we have the opportunity to learn about a local success story:
From the age of 13, Miguel Torres began using street drugs. His father was an alcoholic and abused his mother. The family dysfunction was deep and wide. To get away, Miguel went to live with other relatives and in that home was sexually abused. Bad behavior led to juvenile detention and eventually jail. For years Miguel was in denial of his addiction. Feeling his life lacked meaning, he attempted suicide. The death of his mother, with whom he felt very close, was a low point. Miguel realized that only he could take responsibility and turn his life around.
With the help of therapy at the Cumberland County Guidance Center, a nurse practitioner and medicine, Miguel eventually found purpose in life. He became involved in several support groups doing peer counseling. Through this very personal and troubled journey Miguel not only survived but is now thriving. Gaining the respect of others could only come when he finally was in a position to respect himself. His continued self-care involved therapy, medicine, eating healthy and turning his pain into a wonderful commitment to help others.
Miguel has been in recovery for 22 years. He says: “I am in charge of my life. My purpose in helping others gives me meaning. But you must do the work yourself. Be kind to yourself. And by all means don’t give up”!
Miguel is currently serving a three-year appointment to the Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board. As a Board member, he has the privilege to contribute his own personal experience in Board activities. Of course, his is a unique and very valuable perspective that helps the Board as a whole accomplish its purpose.
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The Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board actively promotes awareness of stigma and the need for public education regarding mental health and addiction. The board meets monthly, and the public is invited to attend.  Please refer to the meeting schedule on the Cumberland County website for meeting dates.
The Coumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board is looking for dedicated members. If you or someone you know is interested, send a letter of interest and resume by e-mail to or by mail, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad St., Bridgeton, NJ 08302.

Minding Your Mind