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Sister’s suicide prompts Hemet man to advocate for mental health

By in Press Enterprise on February 13, 2018

By Diane A. Rhodes

Rob Lefferts started attending NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Family-to-Family classes in 2015 to help him cope with the loss of his sister, Michelle Gelsimino. He first learned of the organization about 10 years ago after his cousin and close friend were both diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Rob Lefferts, of Hemet, will be one of the honorees at the inaugural Recognition Fiesta hosted by NAMI Mt. San Jacinto. The organization provides education and advocacy of mental health issues to the community. (Courtesy of Rob Lefferts)

“My parents also attended NAMI’s Family-to-Family class in order to learn how to deal with my sister’s depression during the last few years of her life,” said Lefferts, of Hemet.

In 2014, Gelsimino took her life at the age of 44 in New York.

“My sister and one of my best friends: Michelle was a strong, intelligent and loving person. People instantly fell in love with her infectious, positive personality,” said Lefferts, 37. “Unbeknownst to most of our family, she spent the majority of her adult life battling with depression. Despite her struggles, she always made people feel loved and good about themselves. We first became aware of her depression around 2006 when she was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. The next eight years were a struggle as the depression took more of a hold on her and she spent some time in hospitals and trying to find the right medications.”

Lefferts, who grew up and lived in western New York state until he was 25 years old, has lived in Hemet since 2007.

“(NAMI) helped me to understand more about the diseases and helped alleviate some of the guilt that I think everyone who loses a loved one to suicide feels,” he said. “It helped me better understand mental illness in general, and what the challenges are in today’s medical […]    

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