A Recovering Angry Mom Encourages Building Bridges, Not Walls in 2018. A Reader Responds

(1-1-18) My blog yesterday prompted a flurry of comments and private emails sent to me. Among the most thoughtful was this letter from Teresa Pasquini, which I am sharing with her permission.)

Dear Pete,

Happy New Year!

I read your blog yesterday and feel compelled to outreach and clarify a few things.  First, I assume good intentions of you and believe that you were trying to communicate your feelings fairly. I don’t dispute your selections of who you believe to have had the most impact in 2017.  I was an early supporter of Dr. McCance-Katz and recently outreached to Mary Giliberti on her powerful comments at the recent ISMICC press conference. I found great hope in the leadership she displayed and thanked her publicly on Twitter. I hope to have additional conversations with all local, state and national leaders about how we can build bridges, not walls.

However, in spite of your good intentions and my respect for you and your position, there was a judgmental tone used in your blog that truly mischaracterized the intentions of the petition and the many good people who supported it.  Although the petition was signed and co-signed by a number of advocates, I respectfully ask that you consider a follow up to clarify your intent which I saw posted to the comments of this blog on your Facebook page.

Additionally, please correct the correlation that you drew between the Focus on SMI Ticket with the Shattering Silence about Serious Mental Illness petition. They were not created together. The petition began last January before there was ever any discussion about forming a Focus on SMI Ticket.

The SMI ticket was formed in March and coordinated separately and privately among the four who ran with the full support of many who signed the petition.  As the controversy over the ticket began brewing, I used the petition to communicate on behalf of those who supported the petition and the ticket. I provided petition updates from a variety of perspectives, including current and former NAMI officers, leaders and members.  We were all trying to start a difficult conversation and I believe we were successful.

The SMI advocates are not at war with Mary Giliberti or NAMI National.

We are at war with the system that has been designed to pit us against each other. We have been fighting the deep system neglect for so long which does lead to anger at times. However, it felt like some of the language you used and the tone of your blog focused on our anger rather than the bold courage it took for people to sign their names and speak truth to power. We know that we are the minority in this conversation and that it is not easy moving mountains but we tried because people are dying. So unapologetically, we are only seeking recognition of our pain and the system’s pain and believe we have valid solutions to contribute to the discussion. But, we need a seat at all tables where our families and community health and safety are being debated.

I am proud of the petition and believe that it helped promote conversation. I consistently urged that there not be personal attacks or blame and shame. But that is a delicate maneuver when you have moms and dads whose children are either incarcerated, missing, dead or dying slowly with their rights on.

Many believe that they, their children and communities have been abandoned by the organization that all politicians and policymakers consider “the family voice.” We wanted recognition of our collective voices for SMI in 2017.

I knew that we had to find a way to speak truth to power that was honest, respectful and thought-provoking. We had to find the right tone that would authentically express our pain and additionally invite a civil dialogue. We were not perfect in our efforts but I am comfortable with the balance that we struck, even though there was discomfort. I strongly believe we all need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable because we are not even close to getting the system of care we need for anybody. So, we must all continue having crucial conversations,  put down the weapons and work together.

I hope you will take another look at the petition and read all of its updates especially the last one where I announce the new National Coalition, NSSC: Join the NEW National Shattering Silence Coalition- Join Families & Advocates of the 4% in Shattering Silence … http://chn.ge/2lAYIwd via @Change which states,

“We started this petition in January of 2017 with the hope of building bridges, not walls. As the year progressed it became clear that there was a wall of silence, discrimination, and anger that the families and advocates for serious mental illnesses kept hitting. It also became clear that the pull of the status quo was mighty and we needed to find a way over and around those walls.” I went on to say that I would leave the petition open and reassess its need in 2018.

That reassessment begins now and I welcome ideas for building an escape fire for all who suffer from any brain illness.  As the New Year begins, I commit to outreaching civilly to those who may not understand my “lived experience.” I am a recovering angry mom and I will partner with anyone who will get real about serious mental illnesses. And, I will hold onto my vision of hope that there is a way to bridge the divide, together and build a system of one care, everywhere. I have seen it happen. It is possible.

My best to you and your family in the new year!


Teresa Pasquini, mom, advocate, SMI activist, NAMI member

(Thanks Teresa for correcting my error in linking your petition and the serious mental illness NAMI board campaign. Thanks too for telling me that my comments came across as judgmental, which was certainly not my intent. Most importantly, thank you for sharing your vision of hope that there is a way to bridge differences that too often divide us. That is a wonderful New Years resolution as we all work to create a better mental health care system, especially for the sickest among us.) 

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.