The Key Update, Volume 14, Number 1 - July 2017

Key Update, July 2017

Volume 14, Number 1

Action Alert: The Federal Government Will Not Fund Future Alternatives Conferences

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has announced that the federal government will no longer provide any funding for the annual Alternatives conferences, beginning in 2018. (Alternatives 2017 will not be affected.) “Those of us who have been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions are often told that our situation is hopeless—but the Alternatives conferences celebrate hope and success!,” according to a letter from the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery to the Department of Health and Human Services, which handed down the decision. “These annual recovery-oriented gatherings have brought together thousands of people with serious mental health conditions…to share skills relating to recovery, advocacy, peer support services, and holistic wellness practices…Please help us move forward by continuing to fund the Alternatives conferences! The federal contribution to these conferences is relatively minuscule, especially when compared to the enormous rewards reaped by those who are fortunate enough to participate.” If you believe that the Alternatives conferences are important, you can add your voice by writing to Secretary Thomas E. Price, MD, US Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201 or emailing him at .

Stopping Psychiatric Medication Is Difficult but Most Are “Satisfied with Their Choice”

A recent survey of 250 long-term users of psychiatric medications who chose to discontinue the medications found that more than half succeeded in discontinuing usage, despite having little professional support while experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. The majority of respondents cited side effects and the health risks of long-term use as their main motive for quitting. Fifty-four percent managed to stay off psychiatric medication for at least one year, with few reporting relapse or rehospitalization. Eighty-two percent of those who discontinued use reported being satisfied with their choice. “Over 70% of our study sample had taken medication for more than a decade,” said principal investigator Laysha Ostrow, PhD, founder and CEO of Live & Learn, Inc. “However, these individuals reported having little to rely on when discontinuing except the Internet and social support in order to endure withdrawal.” For more information, click here. [Editor’s note: For the free Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs, click here.] 

NCD Alliance Seeks Respondents for a Survey to Better Understand the Impact of NCDs

The NCD Alliance is seeking respondents for its online survey “to better understand the daily impact of NCDs”—noncommunicable diseases, including mental health conditions and a range of physical disorders, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and others—“on people’s lives and their recommendations for decision makers. NCDs are the most common cause of death and disability worldwide, accounting for 70% of all deaths and more than three out of four years lived with a disability.” Both individuals living with NCDs and caregivers are encouraged to respond. The deadline is August 31, 2017. Questions? Contact To respond to the survey, click here.

Thanks, Janet Paleo

Free Fundraising 101 Webinar to Be Hosted on August 1 by Charity HowTo

A free webinar entitled Fundraising 101: The Fundraising Cycle—What Is It, and How Do You Make It Work for Your Mission? will take place on August 1, 2017. According to Charity HowTo, which is hosting the webinar—targeted to beginners—participants will learn “the five major steps of the fundraising cycle; donor engagement opportunities at each step in the cycle; [and] tips and tricks for board, staff, and volunteers to get involved in donor engagement.” Registrants who are unable to attend the live webinar will still receive the webinar recording, slides, and bonus materials. For more information and to register, click here.  

July iNAPS Newsletter Features Information About Upcoming iNAPS Conference

The July newsletter of the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS) features information about its upcoming national conference, to be held in Phoenix October 16-18. The keynote speakers are Pat Deegan, Chacku Mathai and Sally Zinman. For the newsletter, click here.

Free Webinar Interview with Dr. Ed Knight to Be Hosted by the STAR Center

On August 9, 2017, at 2 p.m. ET, the STAR Center will host “An Interview with Dr. Ed Knight: Mastery Through Accomplishment in Mental Health Leadership.” Dr. Knight is the founder of the Mental Health Empowerment Project in New York “and a person whose story made headlines when he transformed what some people called ‘delusions of grandeur’ into his goals and a vision for his community,” writes the STAR Center, which will engage him in a live interview on peer leadership.  For more information and to register for the webinar, click here

In General, Individuals with Mental Health Conditions in Federal Prison Receive Little to No Treatment

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ OIG) released its report examining the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) use of restrictive housing for people with mental health conditions who are incarcerated in federal prisons. “[T]he DOJ OIG concludes that while the BOP has taken a number of steps to address the mental health concerns for [individuals] in restrictive housing, significant issues remain regarding the adequacy of the BOP’s policies and its implementation efforts in this critical area.” For the press release, which includes a link to the free 103-page report and a video and podcast, click here. Is a Yelp for Psychiatric Facilities

In July 2016, a 24-year-old who had spent time on more than one psychiatric ward launched a website on which people can post reviews of the care they had received in such institutions. According to a recent article in Undark, as of mid-June 2017, “the website had gathered anonymous reviews of 195 public and private psychiatric and general hospitals offering 24-hour inpatient care—about 10 percent of the U.S. total...Reviews have also come in from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, and Hong Kong.” Leah Harris, who has lived through similar experiences and who is now a nationally known mental health advocate, told Undark: “This site is absolutely needed, and there’s nothing like it.” For the article, which includes a link to the review site, click here.

Thanks, Elizabeth R. Stone

Do You Blog? Then Here Is an Opportunity Advertised in the AAPD Newsletter

If you write, or want to write, you can submit a story to Rooted in Rights, which is inviting pitches for articles between 400 and 600 words focused on disability rights. Authors of published pieces will receive $150. To submit your pitch or your story to Rooted in Rights, click here. For the AAPD newsletter, which includes other useful information, click here.

Alternatives 2017 Announces Many of the Exciting Workshops on Its Schedule

Alternatives 2017 has announced many of the important workshops that will be presented at the conference, to be held August 18-21 at the Boston Park Plaza! Among the topics to be covered are peer respites, conflict resolution, alternatives to incarceration, trauma-informed peer support, mentoring young adults, mental health human rights initiatives, grants and fundraising to sustain peer-run organizations, peer support to prevent suicide, Intentional Peer Support, and using social media to foster peer support and social change. The theme of the conference, organized by the National Empowerment Center, is Building Healing Communities Together. To learn more, click here.

World Federation for Mental Health Offers Packet of Materials for World Mental Health Day

The World Federation for Mental Health has announced the theme for World Mental Health Day, October 10, 2017: Mental Health in the Workplace. WFMH writes: “Mental health issues have been shown to the cause of employee absenteeism, lower rate of productivity and an increase in costs. This year’s packet will contribute to taking mental health out of the shadows in the workplace so that people and companies have the tools to help employees and increase the overall mental health of all their employees.” For more information and to download the free materials, click here

Thanks, Janet Paleo

Free “Bird-Dogging Guide” Can Help Advocates Make Their Voices Heard

The Friends Committee on National Legislation is offering a brief “bird-dogging guide” to help people ask questions at town halls and other events involving legislators and candidates. The tips include when to get there, how to raise the odds that you will be called on, how to take advantage of any one-on-one opportunities, why you should work with a partner or a team, and other useful information. The Friends Committee on National Legislation was founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). For the brief guide, click here.

Confirming What We Know, Optum Report Says Peer Support Services Improve Clinical Outcomes

A recent white paper published by Optum backs up what we already know: that Peer Support Services Improve Clinical Outcomes by Fostering Recovery and Promoting Empowerment. “Optum has recognized the role of peer support services as an integral part of state Medicaid plans and has promoted the development and deployment of this workforce,” the document begins. “As health care becomes better integrated serving the combined physical and behavioral health needs of individuals, there is a recognized and important role for peer support services.” To download the free eight-page document, click here. (Note: To download the paper, you will have to provide your contact information.)

Thanks, Janet Paleo

Website Promotes Writers Who Have Lived Experience with Various Disabilities

Disabled Writers is a resource to help editors connect journalists with writers who have disabilities, and to help journalists connect with sources who have lived experience of disabilities. “Our goal is specifically to promote paid opportunities for multiply marginalized members of the disability community, and to encourage editors and journalists to think of [people with disabilities] for stories that stretch beyond disability issues,” according to the website. “Mental health conditions” is only one of the many topics covered in a list of “commonly cited identities amongst our members”—which include various ethnicities, races, gender identities, nationalities, and professions—including one listing under “Ironic”; many writers cite more than one identity. For more information and a link to the website, click here.

OWH Just Released Its Free Report on Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women

On July 19, 2017, the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) released its Final Report: Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women. The report examines the prevention, treatment, and recovery issues for women who misuse, have use disorders, and/or overdose on opioids. It also presents findings and takeaways from OWH’s national and regional opioid meetings held in 2016. To download the free 86-page report, which includes numerous links to more information, click here.

Thanks, Jacek Haciak

“England’s Mental Health Experiment: No-Cost Talk Therapy”

“England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses,” begins an article in The New York Times, published on July 24, 2017. “The rapidly growing initiative, which has gotten little publicity outside the country, offers virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics throughout the country: in remote farming villages, industrial suburbs, isolated immigrant communities and high-end enclaves. The goal is to eventually create a system of primary care for mental health not just for England but for all of Britain.” The program is not without its critics. For example, it delivers mostly Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Peter Kinderman, president of the British Psychological Society, although cautiously optimistic, said, “If you think CBT is the end-all, then you don’t understand mental health.” It appears that the program focuses entirely on professional help and does not employ peer support. For more, click here.

July TRC and SPARC Newsletter Provides Info on a Variety of Topics

The July edition of the Transitions RTC and SPARC (Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center) newsletter offers information on “empowering youth in transition”; whether or not to let your employer know that you have a mental health condition; the Young Adult, Mental Health, and Employment Study, which focuses on Latino youth; the 2018 Youth and Young Adult Mental Health State-of-the-Science conference; and more. For the newsletter, click here.

Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Is Run by People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A coffee shop in Wilmington, NC, called Bitty & Beau’s takes its name from the founders’ two youngest children, Bitty and Beau Wright, both of whom have Down syndrome. “With over 70 percent of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unemployed nationwide, Beau’s Coffee [its original name] created a path for people with [intellectual and developmental disabilities] to become more valued, accepted and included in every community,” according to its literature. “Bitty & Beau’s Coffee currently employs 40 people with [intellectual and developmental disabilities] and has been featured on The Rachael Ray Show, Harry, Good Morning America, HLN, People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine.” The shop is “Changing the way people see/value/accept/include/love/respect other people,” says its website, available here.

Disclaimer: The Clearinghouse does not necessarily endorse the opinions and opportunities included in the Key Update.

National Technical Assistance and Networking Teleconferences Are on Hiatus for Now

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is no longer operating under a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Although we are keeping our doors open—including publishing our monthly e-newsletter, the Key Update—we are suspending our monthly national technical assistance and networking calls for the time being. We will keep you posted.

About The Key Update

The Key Update is the free monthly e-newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. Volume 14, No. 1, July 2017, If you find it of interest, you can check the following link at the end of every month, where each new issue is posted: /the-key-update-latest/ For content, reproduction or publication information, please contact Susan Rogers at – please note that this is a new email address – or 800.553.4539 x3812, 267.507.3812 (direct). Follow Susan on Twitter at @SusanRogersMH