Remembering Judi Chamberlin, Mental Health Consumer Advocate
Judi Chamberlin, a courageous advocate for the fundamental rights and dignity of people with mental illnesses, died in January at her home in Boston. She was 65 years old.
Ms. Chamberlin was part of the SAMHSA-funded and NIH-funded Rehabilitation and Research Training Center at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.
"SAMHSA joins with others in expressing our sorrow over the loss of mental health champion Judi Chamberlin," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. "Her legacy will live on in the work of the individuals that she inspired to stand up and speak out to bring needed change to mental health systems around the Nation and the world."
Ms. Chamberlin helped found the National Empowerment Center—a SAMHSA-funded national technical assistance center to foster peer support services. She also co-authored the landmark 2000 National Council on Disability’s report: From Privileges to Rights: People with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves.
Obituaries in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe as well as a tribute on National Public Radio tell the story of a woman who was energetic in promoting the tenets of mental illness recovery: self-determination, respect, peer support, and, most importantly, hope.
Through her writings, speeches, and personal advocacy, Ms. Chamberlin championed "psychiatric survivors." By emphasizing her message of hopefulness through individual and collective action, she showed that people with mental illnesses can overcome the challenges that face them.
"Judi Chamberlin rightfully challenged everyone—individuals, providers, and care systems, including SAMHSA—to foster greater consumer/survivor choice and voice," said A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed., Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). She was unflinching in her efforts to ensure that "Nothing About Us, Without Us" was not just a mere slogan, but was ultimately the standard policy and practice, Ms. Power added.
"Like Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, Judi Chamberlin provided us with a vision for the future—a future in which a particular diagnosis or label does not define the worth of an individual," said Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Associate Director for Consumer Affairs at CMHS.
"It is incumbent on us to honor Judi Chamberlin’s life and legacy by redoubling our efforts—in communities across the country—and strengthening our commitment to ensuring that this vision becomes a reality," said Administrator Hyde.