Adversity to Advocacy

Suicide is the leading cause of death—globally— with 800,000 lives lost each year, and the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 in the United States. It's critical that we invest in innovation and policy related to prevention, early intervention, and access to quality mental health services for youth and young adults.

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: becoming a patient at a psychiatric hospital.

The stress of transitioning into college, coming out as gay, and repressed childhood trauma had culminated into the perfect storm of risk factors that led to psychosis, attempting suicide, giving away all my savings, and dropping out of college.

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 a language and pathway to begin recovery. After I was discharged, I began speaking 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 a global online art platform where artists can sell their art and share their story to support partnered mental health nonprofits, two of which are the largest in the U.S. (Mental Health America & Active Minds).

While I was in the hospital, a thoughtful nurse took awareness of my need for an artistic outlet and handed me a box of crayons. I began drawing my way through recovery and storyboarding my fellow patients' stories. Crayons gave me access to myself and others - channeling pain, hope, and empathy into a visual language that could be shared.

After I was discharged, I began auctioning my crayon drawings at mental health nonprofits to raise funds for local programs. This led to raising thousands of dollars and the vision for my startup, The Giving Gallery, which is now the first global online art gallery selling art to support partnered mental health nonprofits.

Speaking Out and Leading

After hospitalization, raising awareness and volunteering for mental health became my #1 goal.

I re-enrolled in 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). I served two consecutive three-year terms for NAMI California and, in 2017, was elected to serve on the NAMI National board.

In 2019 I was appointed 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, where I produced my first film on global mental health.

I began to cultivate global partnerships and co-designed the first U.S.-hosted 2015 International Together Against Stigma Conference, sponsored by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA).

I then launched my filmmaking and consulting firm, Lipp Studios, and began working with clients around the globe on mental health films and social impact campaigns, from Columbia University's OnTrackNY program specializing in youth psychosis, to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Intersectionality: LGBTQ & Mental Health

I now realize that my mental health issues growing up directly correlated with my journey coming out as gay.

Coping with bullying, new schools, or just feeling alone and isolated, had a direct impact on my emotions and behaviors. This is why I believe mental health and sexual identity/expression are two sides of the same coin, and collaboration between mental health and LGBTQ partners is critical.

This is especially important because research shows that victimization and suicide are especially high in youth with cross-gender appearance, traits or behaviors, or who express minority sexual orientation at an early age.

Now, thankfully, many states mandate the inclusion of LGBTQ in school curricula and training/diversifying school personnel is the new "norm", but there is still a high demand for advocacy and inclusive resources.

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

Featured In

Speaking

Amanda shares her story from psychiatric hospitilization during college to becoming a global speaker, entrepreneur, and documentary filmmaker.

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Filmmaking

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.

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Comic Books

Translating complex topics like mental health into engaging resources is challenging. Graphic storytelling is a powerful method that uses empathy to educate and inspire.

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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.

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Mental Health Innovation

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