Almost invariably, those who are the most devoted to the cause of improved mental health care eagerly share personal stories on the subject.
“Somebody I knew in college had a nervous breakdown,” says Mary Ellen Nudd, 68, who has performed a number of roles for Mental Health America of Texas, a statewide advocacy group, since 1973. “What the heck was that? That led to wanting to know more about mental health and mental illnesses.”+
For her part, Lynn Lasky Clark, 48, now president and CEO of the group, discovered the lack of resources when her brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his early 20s.
“I’ve grown up with it,” Clark says. “Mental Illness and substance abuse on both sides of the family. Suicides in the family.”
Clifford Beers, the man who, in 1909, founded the national group that evolved into Mental Health America, had been confined to a Connecticut state asylum.
“When he was released, Beers went on to become a successful businessman,” Clark says. “But he wanted to do something about it. That’s why our highest national award, named for Beers, goes to somebody with mental illness. That’s always our focus — the people who are actually affected.”