Karen 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 region, while raising two daughters.
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 novels on mental illness (Goodman Beck Publishing) include Where Are the Cocoa Puffs?: A Family’s Journey Through Bipolar Disorder, 2010; Reis’s Pieces: Love, Loss, and Schizophrenia, 2012; and The Chocolate Debacle, 2014.
Through her books, Karen opens up discussions about the impact of the negative stigma associated with these neurobiological brain disorders. Her books are not only honest and engaging stories, but are advocacy tools, educational tools, and a comfort to those dealing directly and indirectly with mental illness. Through literature, she educates while entertaining, elicits empathy while telling a great story, and advocates by reaching those who just don’t “get it.”