A Voice and A Presence - Mental Health Advocacy

On an unseasonably warm, clear, beautiful day in January 2010, a coalition of 26 statewide organizations in Maryland convened in the capital of Annapolis to give a clear voice and bring an undeniable presence to the halls of the General Assembly on the matter of the State Budget.  A member of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), I was there.

We came from across the State;  we moved through the halls of legislative power riding in wheelchairs, walking with athletic footwear, striding in furlined boots and strutting on 2-inch high heels.  We came armed with packets of facts and figures in our hands and with personal stories in our hearts. We came with a message: (1) No Further Cuts to the State Agency administering mental health services;  further cuts would cut "bone".  (2) 10 cents makes sense as a tax on alcoholic beverages for a dedicated revenue source for mental health services. 

You may not know that:
  • Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders.
  • 1 in 5 families are directly impacted by mental illness.
  • The costs of undiagnosed and untreated  mental illnesses are borne in our homes, work places,  schools, neighborhoods and places of worship.
  • Mental illnesses are treatable and recovery is possible.
We wanted to be certain that the legislators know.

Individually and collectively we made our case.  As a member of NAMI-MD (National Alliance advocation Mental Illness), we visited the office of each Delegate and Senator; we engaged them in conversation;  we asked for their support; we reminded them that we are voters.  Recognizing those legislators who are championing our cause, we rallied en mass at the Lawyers Mall. 

Not mental health professionals and not as lobbyists, we used our own voices as consumers and family members to educate and advocate for investments in mental health care and thereby an improved quality of life for all residents and institutions in our State.

You may not know that mental health advocacy is:
  • A Voice 
  • A Presence
  • An Accomplishment
  • An Empowering Act

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