Playing Pete Earley and a Supreme Court Justice

A funny thing happened recently  when a man approached me after I gave a speech and said: “Hi, I’m Pete Earley.”  
 I wasn’t sure what he was talking about until he explained that a mental health organization that he participated in had taken the Minds on the Edge program shown on PBS and modified it. After showing a short clip from the Fred Friendly Seminars’ production, the group paused the film and continued the discussion with local individuals playing the roles of the persons shown on the broadcast.
He had played me — an angry and frustrated parent who couldn’t get help after his son became psychotic.
Because my “double” was familiar with conditions in his local community, he was able to tailor his comments to what happens in his own neighborhood.
 I thought the role playing that he described was a great idea because it made the discussion more germane to his community.
 If you are not familiar with the Minds on the Edge broadcast, then you should watch it. The program has had a national impact.  You can see a Nobel Prize winner, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and other well-known mental health advocates grapple with a fictional scenario that sounds all too familiar for many of us.
I have been involved in several events with other Minds on the Edge panelists and they have always been thought provoking. But I’d never thought about using the film in the way that my buddy had mentioned. 
The folks at Fred Friendly Seminars were given media awards by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America for the show. While Fred Freiendly Seminars has moved on to new topics, they are continuing to operate a popular Minds on the Edge facebook page that has more than 3,000 readers each day. It offers news, opinions, and features lively discussions. 
Recently, Dr. Tracey Skale, who is a Minds on the Edge panelist, a good friend of mine, and a skilled and compassionate psychiatrist in Cincinnati, has taken charge of the website. She is doing a fantastic job. Congratulations to Minds on the Edge and thanks Dr. Skale for the contributions that you continue to make to improve our loved ones’ lives!
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. Thank you for your kind comments, my dear friend Pete. The Minds on the Edge site has generated some fascinating and informative conversation. I am learning everyday from the comments and suggestions.
    (Your name and your amazing book are mentioned frequently by fans, by the way.)

  2. Ruth Friendly says

    Thanks Pete for publicizing that man's idea — getting knowledgeable community players to role play the panelists. Fred Friendly used to do something like that with some of the early programs as we traveled around the country. I remember particularly those from “The Constitution: That Delicate Balance” series like “The Sovereign Self: The Right to Live; The Right to Die”. The panelists really get involved in the issues that way — and their friends and members of their community I'm sure find themselves listening to every word.

    I love your columns — keep 'em coming.
    Ruth Friendly

  3. Great column, Pete. And an excellent way to use the “Minds on the Edge” in local communities. This is a battle that will have to be fought by people where they live – and this is an great way to get into the fray.
    Keep up the good work.