Monday, December 28, 2009
My choices here are confined to the public realm, and are restricted by my limited awareness - a fact which may have excluded worthy candidates but hardly diminishes the accomplishments of those cited here. Further, they all got started toiling in obscurity. Thus, even though I am singing praises to a select few, I urge you to think of this piece as a tribute to all our mental health heroes.
Without further ado ...
Postpartum Progress is a must-read on a normal day. In May, she outdid herself with a Mother’s Day Rally for Moms' Mental Health, featuring an all-star line-up of “warrior mother” guest bloggers whose contributions cast a bright light on a dimly-lit area of mental illness.
Soon after, in July, Katherine publicly scolded the editors of Time Magazine “for allowing an article on a topic that they clearly knew so little about to be published,” then rallied fellow advocates and experts in a letter to Time. Of all things, in its Person of the Year issue, Time singled out Katherine’s letter as one of its “Letters of the Year” of 2009.
Endophenotype allows researchers to investigate an outward feature (phenotype) such as psychosis by looking at underlying phenomena, such as the inability of the brain to filter out sensory stimuli. Today's thinking-outside-the-box translates into tomorrow's practical applications. As this blog says, "Knowledge is Necessity."
Kathi is that she is smart rather than loud. Loud is the unfortunate tendency of mental health advocacy and it has gotten us next to nowhere. For years, Kathi, who is based in Riverside, CA, has quietly championed quality improvement (QI). For years, hardly anyone listened. This year, people are listening.
Kathi comes from a machinist background, where things need to be done right. As an example, if aeronautics refused to apply QI, we would constantly have planes falling out of the sky. QI, which is well-known in every aspect of manufacturing and services, including health, is ignored in mental health. But, as Kathi explains, nearly all the standards we need to improve mental health services are already codified into law and in contracts. We just need smart advocates to act as vigilant watchdogs. Then change can happen, and happen fast.
This summer, at a NAMI CA conference, I heard Kathi lead a workshop on QI. You could have heard a pin drop.
My guess is that as recently as a few years ago, even the most informed amongst us would not have been ready for this. The fact that the movie met with the success it has is a tribute to our ability to change.
In its new incarnation, ALSHS is retooling to reach out to a wider audience. Stay tuned ...
My profound appreciation to this year's heroes, both the ones mentioned here and all those who in their own ways are making our world a better place.