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Remembering A Friend

On June 25, 2019 NAMI Sarasota County lost our Vice President, Doreen Sutherland.

Doreen had served as a Board member, active volunteer and staunch supporter since March 2017. Doreen jumped right in and at her first Board meeting volunteered to be Vice President. We knew her experience would be of tremendous help to NAMI, as she had extensive experience with non-profit leadership, having founded Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s with her husband, Dr. Dean Sutherland, and through her work with the Sarasota Medical Alliance Foundation.

Since joining NAMI Doreen has been focused on fundraising and growing our affiliate to not only be sustainable but to thrive. She was a driving force behind our affiliate appointing our first Executive Director in 2018. She was also instrumental in kick-starting NAMI Sarasota County’s fundraising events, drawing on her extensive network of contacts to volunteer, organize, support, donate, and sponsor. She chaired the inaugural fundraiser Out of the Blue in October 2017, only 8 months after joining the board. More than 400 people attended, making it the largest fundraiser for mental illness in Sarasota County. Many hours were spent at Doreen’s house over food and wine with her at the head of the table leading and directing volunteers.

All of this is important and memorable, but what set Doreen apart was her candidness and honesty with regards to mental illness and mental health advocacy in Sarasota.

In 2017 Doreen agreed to be profiled by Carrie Seidman as part of the FACEing Mental Illness project with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Doreen’s profile eloquently described her mental illness and diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and how it had impacted her life and her family. In 2016 after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis she told her friends and colleagues and was surrounded with the love and support from her wide network. She contrasted this with why she had not previously talked about her mental illness and her fear of what people may think. She challenged friends who had been touched by mental health conditions themselves or with their family to join NAMI and become part of its advocacy efforts and dedication to breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Many NAMI peers spoke candidly about how much they admired Doreen’s courage in speaking out, which in turn inspired them to also not be afraid to speak up.

Doreen contributed to a weekly podcast regarding mental wellness on WRSQ Radio with Heidi Godman, recording over 20 programs that can be found on our website She had countless creative ideas to increase the conversation about mental illness including radio podcasts, blogs, video clips, resource guides, fundraisers and even music therapy.

Much of the time it was hard to keep up with her! She wasn’t shy about telling us if she was disappointed in something we did or did not do to meet her expectations. While difficult to hear, we knew that Doreen was just challenging us to achieve more because she wanted better support and services for people living with mental illness, particularly young people in Sarasota.

Doreen gave so much of herself, her energy, her ideas, and her time for which the NAMI Board, staff, volunteers, and our members are truly grateful. Her spirit and dedication will be sorely missed, but her impact is lasting and will carry us forward.

Our love and thoughts are with Dean, her loving husband, and her children Joe, Devin, Michael, and Annie.


Pat Mahoney
Board Chair, NAMI Sarasota County

Remembering A Friend

Doreen Sutherland

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