karen-homeKaren Winters Schwartz was born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio. She wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Schneider, publicly and falsely accused her of plagiarism. She did not write again for forty years.

Educated at The Ohio State University, both Karen and her husband have shared a career in optometry in Central New York’s Finger Lakes while raising two daughters together.

Karen is the president of NAMI Syracuse (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a strong advocate for mental illness awareness, and a sought-after speaker at health association events and conferences across the country. Karen knows firsthand the devastation that mental illness can wreak on a family. She has talked to hundreds of families who have dealt with the frustration of a broken mental health care system. She has experienced the price of stigma and has felt the isolation that ignorance, misunderstanding, and judgment can inflict on everyone involved. She knows how these misconceptions delay and thwart necessary treatment—at its best leading to loss of jobs, productivity, and relationships, at its worst leading to tragedies such as suicide, violence, and mass murder. She has also experienced the joy of the recovery of a loved one, stressing early detection and treatment as the key to this success.

Her widely praised novel on mental illness, Reis’s Pieces: Love, Loss, and Schizophrenia was released by Goodman Beck Publishing in the spring of 2012. The follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut, Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?: A Family’s Journey Through Bipolar Disorder, Reis’s Pieces is not only an honest and engaging story but an advocacy tool, an educational tool, and a comfort to those dealing directly and indirectly with mental illness.

Through her books Karen opens up discussions about the need for empathy and the impact of the negative stigma associated with these neurobiological brain disorders. Through literature, she educates while entertaining, elicits empathy while telling a great story, and advocates by reaching those who just don’t “get it.”