James T.R. Jones's blog
On October 29, 2010, Mental Health America of Kentucky, a/k/a the Mental Health Association of Kentucky, Kentucky’s oldest mental health education and advocacy organization, presented me with the Clifford W. Beers Mental Health Consumer Award for 2010. The award recognizes my mental health advocacy work through my numerous speeches regarding the wrongfulness of the stigma against those with mental illnesses and the ability of some with severe mental illness who have proper treatment to be successful professionals. These especially include my talks to nursing, social work, psychology, and law students. The award is in the shape of a bell and is a facsimile of the 300 pound Mental Health America bell that was forged of melted chains and shackles that once restrained those confined in asylums because they had mental illnesses. The MHA bell is a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. Today it rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses.
In 1900 young Yale-educated businessman Clifford W. Beers, born in 1876, was first confined to a private mental institution. He would later be confined to another private hospital as well as a state institution. During these periods he experienced and witnessed serious maltreatment at the hands of hospital staff. After the publication of A Mind That Found Itself (1908), an autobiographical account of his hospitalizations and the abuses he suffered and saw during them, he gained the support of the medical profession and other prominent national leaders of the time, including the philosopher William James and the Rockefeller family, in the work to reform the treatment of those with mental illnesses. In 1909 Beers founded the "National Committee for Mental Hygiene," now named Mental Health America, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization that addresses all aspects of mental health and mental illness through advocacy, education, research, and service. He did so in order to continue the reform of the treatment of those with psychiatric diseases by promoting mental health and improving conditions for children and adults living with these health problems. Beers was a leader in the mental health field until his 1939 retirement. He died in 1943.
I am featured in the latest issue of Duke magazine, which goes to all Duke University alumni and friends (the magazine features 3 University alumni per issue, or 18 per year). The article is at http://www.dukemagazine.duke.edu/dukemag/issues/050610/depmini-jones.html .
Also, I'm now on the Board of Directors of a new national mental health institute, the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics. Others with the Board include Dr. Oliver Sacks, noted psychiatrist and author of Awakenings; Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, MacArthur Foundation "genius award" winner, and author of a number of books including An Unquiet Mind; Nobel prize in Medicine laureate Dr. Eric Kandel; and Mrs. Michael "Kitty" Dukakis. I'm very honored to be on the Board with so distinguished a group.
On April 1 I spoke to the Masterpieces of the 19th and 20th Centuries class in the Division of Humanities of the University of Louisville's School of Arts and Sciences. I received the following from Dr. Allen Share, the professor in the course:
Thank you so much for speaking to my class last Thursday. Your talk about your own experiences tied in wonderfully with our book for that day--William Styron's "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness"--as well as with our broader theme of this Humanities Division course in examining the connections between the humanities, literature, illness, and the world of medicine.
I so do appreciate your taking the time to do this, especially as my class followed directly upon the completion of a class of your own in the School of Law. I do hope that one day I can return the favor and speak to one of your classes on a subject I have studied or have personal knowledge of. One of the things I have always loved about the academy is that most of us are quite happy to be able to speak to each other's classes--I used to enjoy it every year when Dee Akers was teaching his seminar to third-year law students on Technology and the Law and asked me to talk about the history of technological change and development and to highlight some of the ways in which technology came to involve legal issues and questions. Part of what is so nice about this is that we just do it--if the more than two hours you spent with us were calculated into "billable minutes" I'm afraid that I'd have to ask the President and the Provost to siphon off some of the funds being lavished on people who have left the university and seemingly received golden parachutes for doing so! This does make me wonder--do you happen to know how I could get one of those deals?!?
Seriously Jim, I am most grateful that my good colleague "in the office next door" took the time and trouble to speak with us last Thursday. Would you be good enough to share your friend Elyn's email address with me? I should very much like to write her a bit about what I learn from her book, which I am so glad you told me about. I also will look forward to speaking with you again and to getting to know you. I was intrigued when you said you loved classical music "before Beethoven." I too love early music--I must tell you about the concerts I love attending at The Cloisters in New York City--but I also love many of the 19th century composers, with Antonin Dvorak a particular favorite. I am already looking forward to our talks about music and about much else.
Again, thank you Jim--you made a wonderful presentation to our class and I am most grateful.
Dr. Allen J. Share
Distinguished Teaching Professor
Division of Humanities
University of Louisville
303 Bingham Humanities Building
Louisville, Kentucky 40292
On March 16, on behalf of the MHAKY Speaker's Bureau, I addressed a group at the Ivy Tech Community College of Southern Indiana's Listen and Learn Speakers Series in Sellersburg, Indiana. Today I received the following communication:
Dear Professor Jones:
I wanted to thank you for addressing our Listen and Learn Speakers Series this week on the topic, “Severe Mental Illness, Stigma, and the Value of Treatment”.
As was evidenced by the number of questions asked during and following the presentation and the number of individuals who remained to speak with you one-on-one, I would say the audience found the presentation very helpful.
I appreciate you sharing your time with our group.
Mark Kinkle, MHA, RRT, CPFTAssistant ProfessorDean, School of Health Sciences School of Public and Social Services
Today I spoke to around 20 nursing students in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing class at the Lansing School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Afterwards I received the following from the professor for the course, Dr. Vicki Burns:
Dear Prof. Jones,
Thanks seems inadequate for your presentation and sharing with my psychopathology class. Many students were moved by your story, which stimulated much conversation about the stigma of and biases about mental illness.
It was particularly pleasing for me to hear how you use your strengths to manage your illness. I deeply appreciate your candor and courageous contribution to ending the stigma of mental illness.
Again, thank you so much.
Judy Heitzman, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Kent School of Social Work
University of Louisville
Today I received the following:
We have wrapped up the semester, and I wanted you to know that in our last class, the students repeatedly talked about how helpful your talk was to them; understanding the impact of illness at a personal level really helped them understand in a way a text or lecture never could. Thanks, and more thanks for this wonderful service you have done. And enjoy your sabbatical!
Dru Kemp, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
Adjunct Faculty, Kent School of Social Work