Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow: My Son Shares His Recovery Story While I Listen To Others’ Tragic Outcomes

(10-1-19) As soon as I entered the psych ward, the memories came. Painful memories of my adult son, Kevin, hospitalized five times because of his unchecked bipolar disorder.

Only this time, the dread of him being inside a hospital quickly dissipated. Replaced by pride and admiration.

Kevin had been invited onto this closed ward last week by the University of Alabama Center for Psychiatric Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama, to share his recovery story with fifty patients receiving treatment there.

Standing before them, he spoke unscripted from his heart, recalling how he had been arrested and shot twice by the police with a taser. How for five years, he’d been caught in a self-destructive psychotic revolving door. How he’d eventually accepted that he had a serious mental illness and with the help of a compassionate case manager named Cyndi Anderson, how he’d started on his journey to recovery.  Today, he works full-time as a peer specialist, lives independently, and is earning a Master’s Degree in social work.

He finished his speech by singing a rap song called In My Feelings that he’d composed and will be released Friday. A part of its second verse:

Remember when nobody cared
now its like an answered prayer
used to push the shopping cart in the parking lot that was my job
I came up from the group home
remember when I was all alone
banks didn’t want to give me a loan
no girlfriend to call my phone
where were you when I needed help?


Patients reacted by rising spontaneously from their chairs to sing along and dance to the beat as he performed. It was electrifying. A tear formed in my eyes.

Less than 24 hours later, more tears – but for an opposite reason.

Click to continue…

“The More Sensitive A Person, The More Susceptible They Are To Mental Illness”

(9-27-19) From my files Friday. I am speaking in Nashville this morning at the Tennessee National Alliance on Mental Illness state convention and as I was getting ready, I thought about what Sander Pick said in 2012 when he appeared with his mother, Jessie Close, at a similar conference. You might recall that I helped Jessie write her memoir, RESILIENCE. 

“I’ve always thought that the more sensitive a person is, the more susceptible they are to mental illnesses. A sick joke in our universe is that the more it allows a person to see its beauty and deep connectivity, the more difficult it becomes for that person to maintain good mental health.

     “In our culture, we tend to treat this tradeoff with a fierce double standard. As long as they are sharing with us beautiful insights into humanity, we will love and cherish them as heroes, but if they fall into substance abuse, depression or any other form of mental illness, we tend to say, ‘It’s not our problem.’

Click to continue…

Homeless Solutions: Hospitals Paying For Housing, Jail Cells Converted To Rooms

(9-23-19) We’ve all heard the cliche, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Yet that often seems what we continue to do when dealing with the chronically homeless and mentally ill.

Which is why I’m always on the lookout for out-of-box ideas. I’d like to cite two examples of such thinking in helping individuals step away from the streets-jail-emergency room treadmill.

Click to continue…

Death Of Advocate Raises Questions About How We Respond To Relapses

Glenn Koons and Marlee Matlin

 (9-20-19) FROM MY FILES FRIDAY. Eight years ago, I posted this blog about the death of well-known advocate Glenn Koons. I am reprinting it to honor his memory and also remind all of us that serious mental illnesses do not simply disappear after an individual “recovers.” Although controlled, they remain. I also believe we unknowingly put pressure on those who we elevate and cheer as peers making it difficult for them to seek help if they need it. Lessons we can learn from Glenn’s legacy.

Glenn Koons Passes: Inspiring Spokesman For Those With Serious Mental Illnesses

First posted Sept. 9, 2011

I first met Glenn Koons when I was invited to speak at a luncheon in Montgomery County, Pa., being hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It was one of the first speeches that I delivered after publication of my book and before my talk, NAMI Board Member Carol Caruso introduced me to Glenn. I was immediately struck by his easy-going manner. Carol bragged that Glenn was one of the first NAMI trained  Peer-to-Peer mentors in the entire nation. Glenn and I spoke for several minutes and I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and enthusiasm.

Our paths continued to cross during the coming years at various NAMI meetings and conventions. I was always happy to see Glenn and was thrilled when I learned that he had been one of only four NAMI peers who had been invited to the White House by President Obama to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.   A few weeks ago, I was asked by NAMI’s Darcy Taylor to write an article for NAMI’s VOICES publication. In my article, I mentioned three “consumers” who have inspired me. They are  Dr. Fred Frese, Diana Kern, and Glenn Koons.

The day after I submitted my article, an email arrived telling me that Glenn was dead.

Click to continue…

News Roundup: Chief Combats Police Suicides; Death of Singer; Mary Giliberti Joins MHA; Clubhouse For D.C.

(9-16-19) Lots happening in mental health.


Fairfax County (Virginia) Police Chief Ed Roessler has become a national spokesman in speaking out about troubling suicide rates in law enforcement. For the past three years, more officers have taken their own lives than have died in the line of duty. The much respected chief has spoken publicly about his own struggles with mental health issues caused by decades of policing. Thank you Chief Roessler for your continued courage and advocacy! Please read the full story at the end of my blog today.


My son, Kevin, introduced me to Johnson years ago, prompting me to write about his poignant songs. He has died at age 58 reportedly from a heart attack. His jarring voice might take you a while to get used to, but it’s his haunting words and personal story that will linger.


Mary Giliberti, who resigned in April as CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has joined Mental Health America as its executive vice president for policy.  MHA is the second largest grass roots mental health organization after NAMI. While NAMI was founded by parents, MHA’s traces its roots further back (1909) to Clifford Beers, who called for reforms after spending three years in a mental hospital. Although both organizations have expanded their missions recently, traditionally MHA presented a consumer or persons with lived experience’ perspective while NAMI offered a more parental view.


I’m so excited that the nation’s capital is opening a clubhouse patterned after the gold standard Fountain House model in New York. Maria Nunez and her team at Capital Clubhouse have worked tirelessly to raise funds and will be hosting a benefit Oct. 23rd with Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III  (D. Mass.) speaking. Clubhouses are the absolutely best way for individuals with mental illnesses to participate in their own recoveries. Most importantly, they provide social connectivity. The District has badly needed this important resource!

Click to continue…

“You, me, and my son with schizophrenia.” A Guest Blogger Questions What Happens After Stability


“If taking a sick person and just medicating them to the point where they are not a problem to society is the marker for success, then we should all be ashamed of ourselves.”

By Miriam Feldman, a fellow parent, advocate and blogger.

I am the mother of an adult son with schizophrenia.

The dozen years since his diagnosis have been filled with more pain, and also beauty, then I once thought could coexist in a single life. I am his primary caregiver, I am his advocate, and I am the self-appointed conservator of his legacy.

My son Nick was once a prodigious artist with a bright and certain future. These days he sits alone in his apartment most of the time. He watches television; sometimes he colors in coloring books. I have a website where I display his old artwork. I write about our lives. I keep a record of his progress. I refuse to let the truth of who he is disappear without a trace. This disease may have him in its grip, but I will not let it eclipse him altogether.

Click to continue…