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Navos board member finds healing through service

Posted on Nov. 22, 2019 ( comments)

Brian Abeel leads international accounting operations for the world's largest aerospace company as a director at Boeing. He’s also an active member of Navos’ board of directors and has served there for the past three years.

There was a powerful, personal reason behind Abeel’s decision to join the board in 2016. He knew it would give him an opportunity to lead others and make decisions in an entirely new way — a way that hits much closer to home for him and his family.

He also knew firsthand that the efforts of Navos board members made a difference for people in his community because his daughter, Meseret, received compassionate care through Navos for a severe mental illness.

Meseret was adopted by Abeel and his wife, Leticia Lopez, from an Ethiopian orphanage when she was 12 years old. The first time Abeel and Lopez realized that Meseret needed professional help was in 2013, when she was 15. After several months of increasingly challenging, defiant and angry behavior, Lopez brought Meseret to a Seattle hospital where she was given a diagnosis of depression and possible anxiety. What seemed like a phase of teenage rebellion at first resulted in several episodes when she became increasingly paranoid, then unresponsive.

In April 2014, Meseret was taken to a behavioral health hospital in Kirkland where she stayed for 10 weeks. She rarely spoke when her parents came to visit, and sometimes she was completely catatonic. Abeel and Lopez worried the daughter they once knew was gone.

That’s when Navos stepped in.

After leaving the hospital, Meseret was placed in a state-run program administered by Navos and Seattle Children’s Home called Children’s Long-term Inpatient Program. The very first thing the Navos team did when Meseret arrived was to gather everyone involved in her care to discuss planning for her future — that included Abeel, Lopez, Meseret’s doctors and psychologists, and Meseret herself.

That first day at Navos was different than other facilities they’d been to. It finally felt “like day one,” according to Abeel.

“At other hospitals, they weren’t about recovery or making families feel hopeful,” he says. “They just wanted to find the right medication combination to clear the patient. At Navos, for the very first time, we as parents became partners in the process of our daughter’s treatment. Our fears were replaced with feelings of hope. Meseret thrived there. She set goals, began to learn about emotional regulation and coping skills, and acknowledged for the first time that she had a mental illness.”

Brian Abeel and Leticia Lopez

Abeel and Lopez were so grateful for the level of care their daughter was shown at Navos that they decided to become donors to the organization. Many Navos programs, including some that Meseret benefited from, rely on donor support. It wasn’t long after that when Abeel was approached about the idea of becoming a board member and readily applied.

Today, Abeel calls it a privilege to serve on the board in two different capacities, through the finance and operations committee and the executive committee. He says this service has provided a new space for his own personal form of healing, as many of the other board members have gone through similar experiences with loved ones trying to overcome mental illness.

He recalls one recent interaction with an emeritus board member that especially stuck with him.

“This other member and I have a lot in common in that we both have children who struggle with different types of severe mental illnesses,” Abeel explains. “She came up to me after a meeting one Monday evening and said, ‘I hope everything’s going well with your family, and I just want you to know that I know what you’re going through.’ That meant a lot.”

Meseret continues to live with behavioral health issues today and has received care at other Navos facilities. The reality of her diagnosis (schizo-affective disorder) is that her treatment isn’t a short-term chapter in her life that can be quickly treated and resolved.

“This type of diagnosis is a long game; it’s not a one-time episode in our lives,” Lopez says. “By sharing this, we hope that other people can become more educated about the realities that we, and so many other families like ours, face when it comes to behavioral health. Through it all, Navos has been a beacon for us. From the beginning, they’ve held the vision of Meseret as a well person with a bright future ahead of her.”

Brian Abeel

As a dad, there are two big things Abeel hopes for Meseret’s future. He knows they’re both possible, with the help of Navos and their newly formed partnership with the MultiCare Behavioral Health Network.

“My number-one hope for her is that she winds up with some really good friends who will love her no matter what,” Abeel says. “And number two, I hope that one day, she’s able to live a normal life where she has a job she loves, working with people she enjoys, who accept her for who she is. And I think that can happen, I really do. That’s the beauty of what Navos and MultiCare Behavioral Health can do together.”

Introducing: MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation

The MultiCare Foundations are proud to announce the launch of the MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation. This new foundation will build philanthropic partnerships to support programs and services offered by the MultiCare Behavioral Health Network. The MultiCare Behavioral Health Network, comprised of MultiCare Behavioral Health, Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare and Navos, is the largest nonprofit behavioral health provider in Washington. With your support, recovery happens. Learn more

About The Author

McKenna Ownby

McKenna Ownby writes stories that connect readers to the impact of philanthropy.

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