Carmen Lee's Story
I am a consumer activist. I established the Peninsula Network of Mental
Health Clients in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985 and developed the
innovative educational outreach program called Stamp Out Stigma (SOS) in
1990. I served as a county commissioner for eight years, worked for (California)
Protection & Advocacy, Inc., and presently serve as a member of the
California State Mental Health Planning Council. I have been featured in
many national publications, and in one widely used university textbook
on public speaking. I have received numerous awards for my work with people
who have mental illnesses, and continue to work towards creating more supportive
and informed communities. Only when the negative myths and stereotypes
are eradicated will those who have serious mental illnesses be able to
truly go forward on their road to recovery.
I know firsthand about recovery after spending 20 years, collectively,
in institutions as a result of severe depression and suicidal behavior.
I believe that if you can help those coming behind you, then a negative
experience can be turned around to be a positive force for change.
I received a B.A. in English from the University of California, was an
airline stewardess for American Airlines, and held other responsible positions,
along with being a mother, only to have my life constantly interrupted
by severe bouts of depression with subsequent hospitalizations. In 1967,
a prefrontal lobotomy was recommended but, fortunately, I was advised against
this drastic measure. I also received numerous ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)
treatments, but what really benefited me was talk therapy - which is relatively
non-existent now in the public mental health arena.
My utmost desire is to see a client-friendly, community-based mental health
system established, encouraging treatment, social support, employment opportunities,
and housing options. Only by educating the community can this become a