2020 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner: Distinguished Service
Dr. Melanie Bliss (96C)
As an advocate for those who experience mental illness, violence and homelessness, Melanie Bliss has dedicated her life to promoting awareness of violence against women and children and serving the underserved.
While at Berry, she volunteered, interned and had practicum placements at Heroes Great and Small, the Open Door Home, the Juvenile Court System, Harbor House Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center, and numerous other places in the local community. After working with children who had been sexually abused and at-risk youth during her undergraduate years, Bliss knew she wanted to dedicate herself to prevention and service toward those who had experienced trauma. Through this work she developed a strong interest in preventing and treating violence against women and children, working with disenfranchised populations and creating systemic change.
"It is an honor to sit with those who are hurting and quietly listen to their stories. To offer hope to the hopeless, validation to the invalidated, and to witness healing and acceptance is a great joy and a great responsibility," she said.
She specializes in working with people who have severe trauma, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and borderline personality disorder. She works to create systemic societal change through training police officers, educating juries, writing, testifying in a deposition or courtroom cases, and public speaking.
An avid community volunteer, her passions are advocating for and supporting those who experience mental illness, preventing violence against women and children, preventing homelessness and supporting disenfranchised populations, and supporting children, youth and educators.
In 1996-1997 she worked as a behavioral scientist in the Center for HIV/STD Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In graduate school at Georgia State University for clinical psychology, she worked with areas including school violence, public health departments, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. She served at Grady Memorial Hospital's Adolescent Depression Empowerment Project, the Rainbow Connection Child Advocacy and Assessment Center, and the Metro State Women's Prison.
During an internship at the Medical College of Georgia and Veterans Affairs Hospital in Augusta, she found her work with veterans particularly impactful.
She has mentored dozens of students and young adults and regularly serves as a community mental health advocate and educator. She has advised state legislators, district attorneys and lawyers in private firms, school administrators and teachers, and has served as an expert witness in court and depositions, educating attorneys, judges, and juries on dynamics of abuse and assault that are often misunderstood.
She is now in private practice at THRIVE Center for Psychological Health in Decatur, Ga.
Since 2007 she has been a member of the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, developing a workshop with officers from local law enforcement jurisdictions and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In her work with the group she has conducted nearly 50 trainings for law enforcement officers all over Georgia on responding to sexual assault crimes.