Our Board

Please share!Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Marilyn Roberts, President

I became involved with NAMI Thurston/Mason in 2004 via a personal crisis with my adult son.  I didn’t realize then, how much it would change my life.  The mental health education I’ve received and the loving support from its membership has re-framed my view of humanity and how we go about our daily lives.   After attending NAMI’s signature family education program “Family-to-Family”  in 2005, I felt prepared for what was next in my life and the life of my family members with mental illness.   Shortly after attending Family-to-Family I joined the NAMI Thurston/Mason Board and held several positions before becoming President in 2009.

My commitment and dedication to NAMI Thurston/Mason has grown year to year.  Primarily because I believe so “whole-heartedly” that it has the power to produce change.   Educating peers, family members and the public at large, helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness.   I became a Family-to-Family teacher in 2006 and have been teaching ever since.  On any given day I will say that it is my greatest achievement and I take great pride in saying I am a Family-to-Family teacher.  It is my way to continually “give back” to the community that supports me.

I am extremely proud to say I belong to NAMI Thurston/Mason, I hope my involvement inspires others to get involved, get support and get the necessary education to improve the lives of their loved ones with mental illness.  Along those lines, I challenge you with this quote in hopes that it will inspire you as it has me for many years:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist


Jami Lifka, Vice President

I have had many different journeys in my life. My journey to the NAMI Thurston/Mason affiliate came as a result of overwhelming struggles and changed my life in many ways. The wonderful people in NAMI opened their collective arms and welcomed me to their supportive community. I can now say that I know what it feels like for me to be in recovery. I don’t know that that would be possible today without the support groups and education classes that NAMI provides – FOR FREE!

In addition to being a board member, I provide NAMI’s In Our Own Voice presentations to any group willing to listen. This is an important part of me giving back to the community – leaving people with a new face of mental illness, a strong anti-stigma message and always ending with a message of hope.

I do hope that my work with NAMI reduces the stigma for other people seeking treatment, looking for support and asking for help at home or at work, when necessary.

I am proud to be part of an organization that stands by the following message: “We are the families, friends and individuals that serve to strengthen our communities.”

Steve Burditt, Treasurer

Steve Burditt is a retired mechanical engineer.  He became interested in learning more about the effects of mental illness when his daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late teens.

Steve and his wife, Gayle, attended Family to Family and, subsequently, Steve became a member of the Thurston/Mason NAMI board.


Cathy Johnston, Secretary

Catherine Johnston attended Gonzaga University where she earned a BA in religious studies. She  attended St. John’s University in her native  Minnesota and earned a master of arts in theology. Catherine worked in various Catholic churches in western Washington as an education director;  she served as manager for spiritual care and director of mission integration with Providence Health & Services in southwest Washington. She’s a professional writer and syndicated columnist.

Elena Safariants

My son became ill with schizophrenia in 1996 when he was 18 years old and a student on prestigious scholarship at Polytechnic University aspiring to make a career in aerospace engineering. We were a new immigrant family (me, my son and my daughter) who came to the US in 1994.

This tragedy hit us hard, but we managed to make it through. My son is on his recovery journey with its ups and downs, I have a satisfying state career and private life, and my daughter earned PhD from Yale and teaches at Vassar. Overall, we are holding strong.

I learned a lot about difficulties sufferers of brain disorders and their families go through and became determined to make a difference, no matter how small. That’s why I joined local NAMI and from time to time serve on its board.

In almost 20 years I’ve seen progress in treatments of brain disorders and some steps taken in implementation of health care reform and parity. I want to see decriminalization of brain disorders, disappearance of stigma, provision of services and treatment for most ill and most at risk – homeless people.

Collene Hawes

I have been a member of the NAMI Thurston/Mason board for the last 5 years. I became aware of NAMI after taking the Family to Family class in 2008. The class was one of the ‘life lines’ I appreciated, providing essential education to support challenges faced during times of crisis with a family member. I have worked in health care for over 40 years and continue to learn more practical and helpful information from my ongoing connection with NAMI, that help support my family life as well as my professional life.

Phyllis Neff

I became ill with what was later diagnosed as Schizoaffective bipolar disorder in July 1970. Neither bipolar or schizoaffective was in the language at the time. I went from being voted most studious at graduation to high security at Hawthorne Community Hospital six weeks later. It’s been rough but NAMI gave me the opportunity to help folk like myself. I completed college at PSU and got a vocational diploma for integrated computer science, with lots of counseling and help. Thank you all!

Leah Cochran

I have been a NAMI Thurston/Mason member for over 20 years and have served as Treasurer for many of them. I also had the opportunity to meet and work with the founders of our NAMI affiliate. Through the years I have seen the courage, compassion and hard work that NAMI members have given to the challenges facing the mentally ill. NAMI/TM has accomplished much, yet there is much left to be accomplished. It will take continued effort on everyone’s part and I hope to be a part of that.