Talking To Those Outside Mental Health & Participating In NAMI WALKS: Ways To Tell Our Stories

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Trudeau, me, Dr. Andrew Nierenberg, Muffy Walker

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Trudeau, me, Dr. Andrew Nierenberg, Muffy Walker

(2-20-17) I often feel as if I am preaching to the converted because many of the speeches that I give are to mental health or law enforcement groups. So I was especially thrilled last week to speak at an event that focused on more than mental health – the Lake Nona Impact Forum outside of Orlando, Florida. Many of the 250 “thought leaders” who attended were not familiar with the mess that our nation’s mental health system is in.

Sanjay Gupta, MD, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, moderated the panel that I was on with fellow mental health advocate Margaret Trudeau, the former wife of Pierre Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada and the mother of Justin Trudeau, 23rd Prime Minister of Canada; and with Dr. Andrew Nierenberg, Director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

Ms. Trudeau’s description of her personal struggles with bipolar disorder was self-effacing, poignant and often funny. Best of all, her recollections came from her heart and deeply touched those fortunate enough to hear her. Of course, Dr. Nierenberg is one of the nation’s leading experts on treatment-resistant bipolar depression and the longitudinal course of mood disorders and he offered easy to understand explanations to difficult medical problems.

All three of us were invited to the event because of Muffy Walker, one of the founders of the International Bipolar Foundation and one of my favorite examples of an individual who decided to put her creative talents to use by helping found and finance a non-profit organization that calls attention to bipolar disorder and funds research.  (Read her inspirational story here.)

While I believe it is important for us to tell our stories and to demand reforms, it is especially gratifying when we can reach members of the public who are unfamiliar with our struggles.

This coming weekend, I will have another chance to do exactly that.

I will be participating in a NAMI Collier County NAMI WALK in Naples Florida, as the walk’s Grand Marshal.

Participating in NAMI Walks is a great way to raise money for NAMI but, more importantly, to show our support for families and individuals with mental disorders and to take mental illness out of the closet. I will be speaking about the need for reform, as evidenced by the preventable death of Jamycheal Mitchell, the 24 year-old African American who died from a heart attack caused by starvation while languishing for 101 days in a jail waiting for a hospital bed after he allegedly stole $5.05 of snack food, as well as describing my son’s recovery and sharing the good news about how many people with serious mental illnesses recover.

If you live in Collier County please come by and say hello. Join us between 8:30-11 a.m., Saturday, February 25, 2017 for the 2.5 Mile Walk, at Cambier Park in Naples and let your voice be heard!

If you don’t live near Naples, check with your local NAMI to learn about walks in your area.




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.