Everyday Heroes Make A Difference

 My wife, Patti, knows how to focus on the good things in life, even during the worst of times.
Perhaps she is resilient because life has been so tough on her. (And I am not talking about the fact that she is married to me.)
Her first husband died of cancer, leaving her a widow in her thirties with four young children. Both of her younger sisters have died recently of lung cancer, creating, as she puts it, ‘a hole in my heart.’
Yet, she has refused to let these tragedies consume her or make her bitter.
When Mike was psychotic and at his worst mentally, Patti taught me how to ‘breath-in and breath-out” and helped me do what I needed to do in order to help our son.
We don’t know why life is so difficult.  Our search for answers is the story of Job.
But one of the good things that have come about because of Mike’s struggles with mental illness is that it opened my eyes to the “Patties” of our world. 
Look around and you will see these everyday heroes — the son caring for his elderly mother with Alzheimer’s, the parents of an autistic child, the husband whose wife is bedridden with MS.
These are the folks who inspire me.
Those of us who are artists, I believe, are called on to use our skills to do more than line our pockets.
While it might sound a bit sappy — like a bad Hallmark card inscription — I believe that all of us should try to make our lives matter by doing something that leaves our world a bit better because we were here. 

Joyce Cooling

One of the artists  making a difference in the mental health world is Joyce Cooling, along with her husband, Jay Wagner, a musician and composer.
Joyce is one of our nation’s premier jazz guitarists. You can learn more about her at her website.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never been a big fan of jazz. Until now.
Joyce is the reason.
I first met her and listened to her music two years ago when I was the master of ceremonies at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington Gala. I had the honor of introducing Joyce and it really was an honor.
Why was Joyce performing for NAMI?
Because her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19 and, like many of us, she found herself suddenly thrust into a terrifying, confusing and frustrating world.  
Joyce could have run away. She could have kept her brother’s illness a secret.
Instead, she decided to use her considerable talent to speak out against stigma and call for better mental health care. She became a vocal advocate for NAMI and has donated  a significant percentage of the proceeds of her album “Revolving Door” to it.
In my mind, Joyce is a lot like my wife, Patti.
She’s a fighter. She makes a difference by helping others. She’s one of those everyday heroes who quietly leave their mark on our world.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Marianne Stana says

    Your Patti is a real blessing in all of our lives! She is a true inspiration and a gal with a bit of “sass”-and I man that as a compliment! Thanks for sharing her with us!

  2. Marianne Stana says

    Your Patti is a real blessing in all of our lives! She is a true inspiration and a gal with a bit of “sass”-and I man that as a compliment! Thanks for sharing her with us!

  3. I plan to purchase a copy of Joyce’s Music. My nephew, who had a mental illness that was not diagnosed, was shot by police 4 years ago on May 8th. I miss him so very much. people say time heals but the pain of his loss hasn’t left. I believe the pain is so great because he was not given the help he was seaking by medical professionals.

    I get so angy at the Fairfax police for not providing the media will all that had occurred. Michael was mentallly tortured and physically abused by the two police officers at the Sully Station two weeks before the shooting. The two officers that tortured him were reprimanded for their behavior. They also did not realease all the 911 calls that the Sully Station received before the shooting. One of the callers was my nephew Bobby who called 911 five times and was told to — — — stop calling. He also called and spoke to two detectives as well. Then he pulled in behind a parked police car begging for their help to find Michael. He then was treated horifically for hours. He came to my home afterwards and fell in my husband’s arms.

    God Bless all of you who are making a difference.