Perspectives on the Lived Experience of Mental Health
Managing mental illness over the course of a lifetime looks different for everyone. Hear the lived experiences of two older adults managing mental health and substance use disorders, as well as challenges of providing unpaid care to family members, friends, and others.
The views and opinions expressed in this session are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the hosts.
Older Adult Representative, Director of Recovery And Family Affairs
Dr. Karen Kangas began her career in education as a teacher, principal, and professor at Central Connecticut State University. During this time she earned her Doctorate in Administration. Valuing education and knowledge, Dr. Kangas has always pushed herself and others to further their pursuits in life. Lived experience with mental health challenges and addiction led Dr. Kangas to change her career to one in behavioral health; one that closely aligns with her dedication to education and advocacy.
Dr. Kangas worked for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services as the Director of Recovery and Community Education. After a very successful tenure, she became the Executive Director of Advocacy Unlimited, a peer-run agency in Connecticut that trains peer supports and promotes advocacy within the State's behavioral health system.
Dr. Kangas left Advocacy Unlimited to continue building peer support services in Connecticut with Hartford HealthCare at the esteemed Institute of Living. Here she resides as the Director of Recovery And Family Affairs where she promotes behavioral health and addiction education and advocacy as well as oversees the Recovery Leadership Academy. The Academy, a testament to Dr. Kangas' legacy, trains persons in recovery to offer peer services to others in recovery.
Dr. Kangas is the recipient of many awards for her service including the "Clifford Beers Award," the "Dare to be Different Award," and the "Karen Kangas Excellence in Advocacy Award," an award created in honor of her legacy. She is a strong advocate and educator with no plan of retiring.
Nina Tumosa, PhD
Health Resources and Services Administration
Nina Tumosa, PhD has been at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the past 8 years. She serves as Lead Public Health Analyst for the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and is responsible for the development and maintenance of HRSA’s 16-module Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia curriculum and 11-module Caregiving curriculum.
She received her BS/MS degrees in biology/molecular biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her PhD in Neuroscience from the State University of New York. She completed two research postdoctoral fellowships, one at the University of Calgary and the other at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She completed two health policy fellowships, one with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the other with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
US Air Force
David Hanson is an Air Force Veteran who served in Viet Nam working with Night Ambush Teams out of a base in the Central Highlands. I came home in 1970 to no fanfare and a political nightmare. At that time, many didn’t separate the warrior from an unpopular, political war. I went on with my life and didn’t admit to anyone I was there. As I grew older, my ability to deal with issues worsened over 50 years going from nightmares, to PTSD, Flashbacks, and 3 attempts of suicide before I got the help I needed from the VA in 2015. I’ve done videos for the VA website called About Face, The Pioneer PBS TV Station on Postcards about “Coming Home", and my own YouTube video on my successful VA treatment, plus several talks to Veteran groups. I’m hoping all helps older and younger Vets understand their issues better and seek the help they need before it’s too late.
Lauren Pongan (Moderator)
Diverse Elders Coalition
Lauren Pongan (she/her) is the National Director of the Diverse Elders Coalition, which advocates for policies and programs that improve aging in our communities as racially and ethnically diverse people; American Indians and Alaska Natives; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) people. She is a strategic thinker, creative problem solver, and connector who loves building community. Lauren supports community leaders' mastery of policy, advocacy, and communication for social impact. She believes in centering diverse communities’ experiences and expertise in building their own solutions.