Ron Manderscheid Says It Best . . .

From an article written last August titled, “THE ISSUE IS GUN CONTROL”

“Last Thursday, Representative Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) asserted that we have a “failed mental health system.” He should have said we have a “failed Congress for not addressing gun control.” He was using last Wednesday’s Virginia shootings to promote passage of his own mental health bill, which has serious, if not fatal, deficiencies.

“We need to question Murphy’s logic and motivation very closely. Persons with mental health conditions, just like all individuals, deserve dignity and respect; they should not become the whipping boys for the unwillingness or inability of the Congress to pass national gun control legislation. Neither should the mental health system.

“As many of us have stated repeatedly in broadly diverse venues, the vast, vast majority of people who shoot others are not mentally ill. They may have malicious agendas, and they may be violent and angry, but they are not mentally ill. To assert otherwise simply is incorrect: Violence must not be confused with mental illness. This mislabeling inappropriately assaults the dignity and promotes the stigmatization of those who actually do have mental illness.”


Dr. Ron Manderscheid is one of the most brilliant thinkers on mental health systems I have met.  I have read his work for years, learning about his when he was working with SAMHSA.  He writes about the need to develop recovery-focused services and systems, about the role peers can plan in mental health and in integrated health care systems, about how we should be thinking about all the changes coming so fast to our system, about the civil rights of citizens who deserve better treatment access and approaches instead of forced outpatient care . . . I could go on.

He is brainy.  He is the Director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Directors.  He is a leader of the College of Behavioral Health Leadership whose annual summit is a think tank where people from across the country who work in many capacities as well as people who have recovered from severe mental health challenges work hard to collaborate for solutions.  This group recently fostered research on peer support compensation but publishes other very timely reports in our field.  He loves research and quotes it easily when making his points in presentation.   Besides all this, he teaches at Johns Hopkins University!

Dr. Manderscheid is a scholar of the things that matter so much to us who wish to see our fellow citizens offered services that help them heal from their mental health challenges.  Yet he is not all brains.  He uses his knowledge with heart.  He seems to lay out paths with his knowledge to consumer leaders across states, to hospital administrators, to policy makers, to so many in this extremely diverse network of advocate-workers.  He is trusted and respected as a comrade whose values are what weave us all together.

To read the rest of this well-reasoned article on the issue of gun violence and mental health politics, check THIS out.

I Guess We Can Stand The Heat, or We Wouldn’t Stay in the Kitchen!

I Guess We Can Stand The Heat, or We Wouldn’t Stay in the Kitchen!

A message for would-be and up-and-coming advocates.

The hot summer weather tests us all, but other things serve to test us!  For instance, advocacy is not easy, especially if you already feel un-empowered in society.  Yet the numbers of us gathering to advocate for good and respectful systems change and the numbers gathering to promote a new culture of thinking is growing, even if slowly!   But the kitchen is actually large enough for many more advocates, and our state needs the fresh energy and enthusiasm of the younger generation to get involved!

If you would like to get involved in advocacy at the system level–whether it is in your community or at the level of state government, there are people who would love to mentor you!   We may not have many resources, but we do have passion and enthusiasm.  But what you must bring with you is a willingness to work and to grow.  You must also bring a discomfort with the way things are and a desire to make a difference because it is right for all of us to help in society–no matter what label we wear.

Sometimes we can get comfortable with not having anything expected of us.   Sometimes we’d rather sit things out because we assume this is what is expected of us.  And sometimes, we may even be comfortable with the role as a victim of a system!  This way, we can sit and blame but we don’t have to lift a finger!

Please, please, please.  Our world needs us to help make the difference!  And so much health can come when we determine not to stagnate, but to live actively!  We need your voices, so think about this and let one of us know you want to help!

You can begin by looking at the web sites of advocacy organizations:  NC CANSO (, NC MHCO (, Recovery NC (substance use recovery– and the Association of Self-Advocates of North Carolina (  If you find some of their work interesting, then contact one of them by email or telephone and let them know you would like to learn how to advocate with them.  Any of these organizations would surely welcome your help AND the opportunity to mentor you!

The kitchen is hot!  Sometimes there is tension!  But the reward of influencing change, impacting the future can hardly be measured.  And you may find that you could stand more heat than you thought, that you are more resilient than you had known!  Come join other wonderful, resilient people from across the state!  You are necessary!

Advocacy is Not Dead . . . but we may be killing it!

In an email discussion through one of our North Carolina advocacy web sites, it was stated that “real advocacy is dead in North Carolina.” The writer also expressed a concern that  advocacy in North Carolina has been compromised because of political or financial motivations.  For many years, this has been a frustration shared in many discussions across North Carolina.

Trust, an attribute of transparent relationships where all voices are equally respected, for too long has not been a characteristic of our politics, our practices, or our communications in this state.  And once trust is lost, much is required of all parties involved to truly regain it.  

For trust to be restored, people have to be willing to take risks.  Someone must risk taking a first step toward a plan, a path, a simple discussion, a potential solution–even though there is the chance that his or her efforts may be rejected or misinterpreted.  And sometimes, a person may even need to publicly and frankly admit they may have made a mistake, or that they have been wrong.

Distrust is like a cancer.  It spreads its worst effects so easily in conversations, accusations, and destructive tactics.  And worse, it spreads beyond one social group to another–as long as we are connected, then we are at risk of this cancer.  So there is distrust within groups and there is distrust across groups.  Even advocacy organizations have difficulty working together because of this lack of trust and suspiciousness. 

Now we face 2011.  A terrible budget shortfall now  threatens the services we do have.  With finite financial resources, North Carolina must offer better quality services that are more readily accessible, better connected, and values-based.  Further, our state will have to respond to the investigation of its failure to serve citizens, harboring them instead in large institutional settings.  Hopefully, thoughtful system changes will decrease crises and will promote well-being, honoring the strengths and individual will of consumers to improve the way they live–no matter what the disability. 

But how will our state make gains in any of these areas during this upcoming year without our first taking the necessary risks to restore trust and hope among ourselves as advocates?  Because now, more than ever, our involvement as consumers and otherwise rights-oriented advocates is necessary.  

And if we are to succeed, we need to be able to approach law-makers and administrative decision makers with a unified voice, real facts, more true stories shared by system users, and well-studied solutions.  Because legislators and DHHS will have to think like they have never thought before.  And they will need the help of the grass roots to develop real answers.

The rubber is about to hit the road.  Will we all be there?  Will we empower change to become progress?  Are we willing to put aside assumptions and work together?  Because there is too much at stake if we don’t.  So it is time to reach beyond our distrust and work together.

Please keep watching this site if you are interested in collaborating to gain real ground in 2011.  There will probably be a coordinating effort in early February.  As NC CANSO hears details, we’ll be sure to let you know! 

 or in any other capacity involved in our public mental health services.



The tension in Raleigh will grow in the next weeks and months as there will be new lawmakers filling chairs who are of a new party majority for the first time in 100 years!  Then the two opposing forces–poor economic times and federal demands for more services to ensure that citizens’ rights are respected (options to adult care home living) will create a stage where consumer activists must play a role!  This tension can be dynamic, producing positive change with your well-considered input.  Or the tension can just be a deterrant to any cooperation among lawmakers if they stall over opposing views.  Our voices can help make the difference! Be sure to stay tuned to this site and to the NC Mental Hope advocacy web site ( to keep up with news articles and impressions on the isssues. We may all need to go to Raleigh together this spring!