Monthly Archives: March 2015

Peer Advocates meet legislators at the Capitol


By: Penny Johnson, TA for the SE Regional CSP Committee


On Tuesday March 3, 2015 members of the Take 5 team, myself and other peer advocates went to the Capitol to hear newly elected Governor Tom Wolf present the budget. After hearing him speak regarding lowering property taxes and improving school budgets, we split up into groups of two and were off to see several different Senators to discuss Parity Laws as well as our concerns with the new Assisted Outpatient Treatment bill that Senator Greenleaf has proposed.

While Adam Nester from the Take Five team and I were speaking to Senator Rafferty’s assistant about how the Assisted Outpatient Treatment was not evidence based and how peer support, advocacy and community supports were not only more effective but also more cost efficient, I quickly learned how interested he was in hearing more about Forensic peer support and advocacy. He agreed with me that being released from jail without re-integration programs can be extremely stressful. I explained how Community Advocates in Montgomery County were holding re-entry classes called “It’s T.I.M.E.”  at the county jail as well as doing forensic peer advocacy and he seemed intrigued and requested more information regarding these supports.

Adam, myself and two other peer advocates then went off to Senator Greenleaf’s office where we got into a slightly heated debate about assisted outpatient treatment which basically means a judge can force someone into taking medication and treatment and if they don’t, they can be sent to jail. Adam as usual held his own during the conversation and I added “Who determines when someone is in clear and present danger?”  One person with usually one sided information should not have the power to determine another person’s well- being or lack thereof.  It’s true, if I had a family member in crisis I would also want what’s best for them.  However, I would not want that decision to be placed solely in  the hands of a single individual with no mental health experience or training. We already have too many people in county jails not receiving proper mental health care, why would we even think about putting others there?

Dr. Chester “chet” Pierce: Pioneer in the Mental Health Field

PierceDr. Chester Pierce is Emeritus Professor of Education and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has the distinction of being the first African-American full professor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Born in Glen Cove, New York on March 4, 1927, Pierce received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1948 and his medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School in 1952.  As an undergraduate, he was an outstanding athlete, and played on the Harvard College football, basketball and lacrosse teams.  In 1947, the Harvard football team played an away game at the University of Virginia, which was an all-white University at the time.  Dr. Pierce became the first black college football player to play a game below the Mason Dixon line.

In addition to his talents on the grid, he was a musician who had some facility with composition, piano, accordion, and trumpet.  Despite all of his accomplishment, Dean Woo of UVA reports in her blog that Pierce never felt completely accepted while he was an undergraduate at Harvard.  He had “white roommates who were members of private clubs; the question of his becoming a member somehow never came up.”

Following medical school, Dr. Pierce trained in psychiatry in Cincinati.  While he held faculty positions at several institutions, the majority of his career was spent at Massachusetts General Hospital.   He has had an amazing academic career, publishing more than 180 books, articles, and reviews.  He wrote about the psychological effects of extreme environments, even doing some research on the latter while in the Navy.  (By the way, he held the rank of Commander in the US Navy.) He also wrote about the effects of racism, first proposing the concept of racial microagressions in the 1970.  Microagression usually involves “demeaning implications and other subtle insults against minorities”.  He described these subtle nonverbal exchanges as ‘put-downs’ of blacks by offenders and suggested they may also play a role in unfairness in the legal system as microaggressions can influence the decisions of juries. The concept has since been expanded by other psychologists as is noted in this post on the American Psychological Association website.

In addition to academia, Dr. Pierce spent his time developing the art of psychiatry and building infrastructure to help propel the specialty to new heights.  He is the founding president of the Black Psychiatrists of America, and past-president of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Orthopsychiatric Association.  He has served on 22 editorial boards, was senior consultant to the Surgeon General of the US Air Force, and advisor to the Children’s Television Network (Sesame Street, Electric Company) and the US Arctic Research Commission.

He is an amazing scholar who spent 41 years on the Harvard faculty. To honor this living legend, Massachusetts General Hospital named its global psychiatry division in Pierce’s honor. The Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry was one of the first programs for global mental health in an academic medical center. The program was started by Dr. Pierce and one of his colleagues.  In 2010, the Harvard Foundation unveiled a new portrait of him in the Junior Common Room of Lowell House, Pierce’s residence hall while a student- an honor few professionals of color have garnered.


Celebreties with Mental Illness — Sinead O’Connor

o'connorDiagnosed with bipolar disorder, this famous singer has battled her symptoms since early adulthood.

The pop star notorious for her bold head, candidly discussed her mental illness on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007.

She said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 37 right after she tried to kill herself on her 33rd birthday.

O’Connor said she takes antidepressants and mood stabilizers. “Anything is an improvement when you’ve been in desolation,” O’Connor told Winfrey of the meds, but “it doesn’t mean you don’t have lumps and bumps.”

On October 5, 2013, she announced on her website that she had some second opinions and that, “I do not in fact suffer from Bi Polar disorder and never did . . . and should never have been put on the medication . . . They are extremely debilitating drugs. Tiring to the extreme. Ironically, extremely depressing. They can cause suicidal or self-harm type thinking.” O’Connor said, in an interview in the Irish Mirror, “I’m delighted to be able to say that after ten years of poisoning myself with these drugs and having to live with the extremely difficult side-effects of them I can shortly begin the very, very slow indeed, process of getting them out of my system and my life and getting my life back.”

She also believes music saved her from the traumas of her childhood, that all politicians are disgusting and that Muhammed Ali can ‘unzip the sky’.
When asked about the child she was, she said, “Extremely traumatized. I’m a survivor of very severe child abuse. I grew up in a time when there was no therapy. Religion was my coping mechanism and music saved me.”

And the worst thing ever said to her is, “Someone called me a ‘jumped up little pregnant upstart.’ It was when I made my first album in 1987, The Lion and the Cobra. I was pregnant and took over production, unheard of in those days.”

Not a nice life, not at all.


This article was borrowed from  The original article can be seen here.

Trish Seidle — The Newest Member of Hopeworx

Hi! My name is Trish and I am the newest member of the Consumer Satisfaction Team here at Hopeworx. It has been a long road to get to this point, but I’m sure glad I didn’t give up along life’s many bumps and turns.

To make a long story short(er), I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 6 and have had Chronic Depression as long as I can remember. At times, even in my young life, the depression was debilitating and at that time there was no treatment for it…I was just labelled a “moody child”. No one knows if the depression was from the pressures of having a chronic Illness or from the same anti-immune process that gave me diabetes. Or both.

Since I was a young child, I wanted to help people who had similar struggles as I did. During stays in the hospital, I learned that the times I got to spend with the other patients (peers) were not only socially fulfilling, but also very informative. The other patients could tell me things that doctors could not in a non-judgmental way.

Fast forward to 2008, I decided to go to college so I could help people in the same situation that I was in. After a stay in the local psychiatric facility, my therapist introduced me to the idea of becoming a Certified Peer Specialist. Completing my Bachelor’s degree was something I never imagined happening but it did, although it did not allow me to work with people in the capacity that I really wanted to. After becoming a Certified Peer Specialist, I was introduced to many different types of jobs that were available for CPS’s. I looked at quite a few before finding the Consumer Satisfaction Team position at Hopeworx. This is a great fit for me as I can use both my education and my life experiences in constructing surveys presenting them to consumers. I am excited about being able to work with amazing people and make positive changes in people’s lives! I am very fortunate!

Are asylums the answer to decriminalizing mental illness?

There is stigma associated with reinstating asylums because the history is grim. The reason to reconsider asylums is to realize that currently there are needs for transitional placement rather than having consumers recycle at a rapid rate through the streets, shelters, prison, and hospitals.


For those who need medicine, some places are incapable and underfunded which leaves consumers vulnerable in the community. This affects many individuals with mental illness who commit crimes, or have to admit themselves into emergency hospitals because they’ve been in the streets and the weather is unforgiving.

Penn Medicine Bioethicists say “most disturbingly, U.S. jails and prisons have become the nation’s largest mental health care facilities. Half of all inmates have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder; 15 percent of state inmates are diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.” (Penn Medicine)


Also, the team of Penn ethicists “…envisions asylums built in a campus like environment with varying degrees of security. They would be ‘patient-centered and collaborative,’ and ‘modeled on the principles of the recovery movement, which emphasizes patient autonomy to the extent that that’s possible.” (Penn Ethicist)


Besides asylums, an idea worth considering is that sometimes prescribing medicine must be court mandated. I know this because I have dealt with lived experience, where I felt ashamed with being diagnosed, taking medicine, and being hospitalized. For me, the power of denial that I was feeling was strong. I would eventually have medicines prescribed against my free will, and that would ultimately be the best course of action for me, leading to now where my health has been stable and normalized. I believe that the decisions made when I was struggling with my mental well-being were the right ones and my experience serves as a positive example for others who are wary about medications.


Additionally, it is an expectation that asylums can serve the community differently then what was possible in the past. There is now more common knowledge about mental health and awareness that asylums can serve the community better, providing a middle ground, and a place that can provide peace.

By: Jomel Silverio



  1. Penn Medicine Bioethicists Call for Return to Asylums for Long-Term Psychiatric Care. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from
  2. Penn ethicists call for a return of the mental asylum. (2015, January 22). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from

Editor’s Note:  Jomel Silverio is a graduate of Hope Academy and the POWER Program at Montgomery County Community College. He works at Community Advocates where he provides peer support and advocacy education for adults with mental health issues.