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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)


Carmen Lee's Story

Carmen LeeI 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 reality.

Carmen Lee

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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.