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by Jo Valenti, BSN, RN, Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board

This month we have another local life story. Jovany Rodriguez, now 24, had always been a little “nervous” or high-strung. But shortly after he graduated from high school, he experienced a sudden onset of such high anxiety that he had a psychotic break. Recognizing that Jovany needed professional help, his family took him to the hospital. He spent three months as an in-patient during which time he experienced three more episodes. He describes feeling like he was living a dream, as if nothing was real. He says of that time: “That was pretty scary.”

Eventually, Jovany was discharged from the hospital to home. His mother showed extraordinary love and generosity by taking a month off from work to be with him. His priest came to visit. His friends came and encouraged him to just go for a walk. His mother made sure he got to his therapy appointments and took his medicine as prescribed. Although there were periods when he felt discouraged, he made a strong connection with his therapist and has been able to recover. And, to continue on his recovery journey, Jovany has regular therapy and takes his medicine. Other healthy habits include going to the gym and perfecting his new hobby—embroidery. This continued attention to his health has enabled Jovany to become a productive member of our Cumberland County community, working a full-time job and enjoying his family and friends.

What gives Jovany meaning in life now is to value time. He knows he lost time when he was sickest. So now, he tries to make every minute count because he realizes how precious life is. He wants to be a productive member of the community. Jovany says to anyone facing mental health challenges: “Get help! If you must search for it, do what you need to do to find it!”

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 Board is also seeking new members. Interested persons should send a letter of interest and a resume to Melissa Niles, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ 08302 or e-mail

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Cumberland County: During the pandemic, NAMI Cumberland County ceased activity. Efforts are now being made to re-activate this affiliate of NAMI. Please join us as we collaborate to bring back this important resource for support of those affected by mental illness and their friends and families. In order to re-activate NAMI Cumberland County, we need two people to be trained in group leadership and at least five persons to regularly attend NAMI monthly meetings. Those interested in assisting these efforts please e-mail NAMI at this address: