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Death of Judi Chamberlin, Pioneer in Social Justice Movement, Casts Spotlight on Struggle for Rights of People With Psychiatric Disabilities

Friday, January 22, 2010 Mental Health News J E 4
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 The National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations (NCMHCSO) mourns the death of Judi Chamberlin, an internationally renowned activist in the mental health consumer/survivor movement and author of the groundbreaking book "On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System" (1978). Chamberlin, 65, died at home on January 16 after a long illness.

Since the early 1970s, Chamberlin worked tirelessly to create peer-run, non-coercive alternatives to traditional mental health systems, and to end rights violations and discrimination against people with psychiatric disabilities. She founded a number of early consumer-run organizations and had a profound impact on furthering the recovery and wellness of people facing psychiatric challenges around the world. In 1992, Chamberlin received the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States. She authored the seminal National Council on Disability report "From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves" (2000). She chronicled the last months of her life in a blog, "Life as a Hospice Patient" http://judi-lifeasahospicepatient.blogspot.com.

In the wake of Chamberlin's death, many spoke of her legacy.

Said former first lady Rosalynn Carter, "I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Judi Chamberlin. Since 1978 I have admired her groundbreaking legal and human rights advocacy work and the key role she played on the Carter Commission on Mental Health. She worked fearlessly to ensure that the voice of consumers was heard from the clinical level to the public policy arena. Both as a leading advocate and an inspiring individual, she will be sorely missed."

"Judi was the wind beneath the wings of our movement here and around the world," said Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., a founder of the NCMHCSO. "Her dream and courage will live on in our hearts."

"In the nearly 30 years I have known Judi, I have been deeply inspired by her passionate efforts on behalf of individuals with psychiatric histories," said Joseph Rogers, executive director of the federally funded National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, which serves the consumer movement.

"Judi Chamberlin's life and work gave people in the mental health field an example of how people [with psychiatric disabilities] can have full and rich lives in their communities," said Richard Frank, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary, Office of Disability, Aging, and Long-Term Care Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations http://www.ncmhcso.org works to ensure that consumer/survivors have a major voice in the development and implementation of health care, mental health, and social policies at the state and national levels, empowering people to recover and lead a full life in the community.

CONTACT: Lauren Spiro, NCMHCSO, 877-246-9058, info@ncmhcso.org

SOURCE National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations
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