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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Angela Vickers's Story

After my first and only known manic episode, in 1988, my husband's attorney told him he must file for divorce to protect our young children. We divorced, but I received custody of the children, as I had quickly stabilized and recovered on lithium.

Six years later, when my children began having their own behavioral problems, a new family law judge set up a chain of events that resulted in my permanent alienation from my children.

My children went off to spend half of the summer of 1994 with their dad, as they had done the previous five summers. They never came home; they have not spent a single night in my home since 1994. The court order did not even give me supervised visitation. I never even got to tell my children goodbye, or to try and explain why they were losing their mother.

Even after writing the Jacksonville Bar Association, the Florida Bar, and the Florida Supreme Court, I could not find a single lawyer to help me. (Ironically I am a member of the Florida Bar.) There was no justice.

My search was embarrassing and painful. Do you know that some lawyers will turn down cases just because you have a mental illness diagnosis?

After losing my children, I began a new job. The second day at work, my medical insurance application required me to list my physicians and medications. I take lithium; I have done so continuously since I was first diagnosed in 1988.

Five weeks later, my weekly paycheck was written by a newly created corporation of fewer than 15 employees. This corporation was created so that I would have no ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) rights. Again, no justice.

So I had lost my husband, my children, and my career. But then I was called to a new career, which was most challenging and rewarding, among the most inspiring people I have ever met. I was called to be a mental health advocate and educator.

The Florida Supreme Court heard my plea and, in a landmark Bar Rules change, has allowed all Florida lawyers the opportunity to learn basic facts about mental illnesses through continuing legal education courses.

To borrow from the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., we will not be " free at last" until all school children grow up learning that they can get mental illnesses and recover, just as they can get heart disease and recover, or heal a broken leg. National student education about mental illness will solve the mental health crisis and educate all future leaders.

Borrowing from the Reverend King again, justice demands that we "Let freedom ring" in our nation's courthouses, with lawyers and judges who understand mental illnesses; in our jails and prisons so inmates will be properly diagnosed and properly treated for their mental illnesses; through our news and entertainment industry, as writers teach Americans the truth about both mental illness and recovery; and in America's classrooms, so other mothers and other employees will not suffer as I have, due to ignorance and misunderstanding.

When the media, educators, faith leaders, and the legal community all work together, we will stop the needless destruction of our families, the addictions, the incarcerations, and the tragic suicides.

Ending stigma and discrimination through education will restore, once and forever, justice for all.

Angela Vickers

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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.