My Riverbend Mental Health Center Acceptance Speech

Editor’s note: This speech was delivered last fall by Ken Braiterman, my adopted dad and advocacy mentor.  More of his writing can be found at KenBraiterman.com, and at MadinAmerica.com

When I found out I was getting a lifetime achievement award from the Riverbend Community Mental Health Center, I laughed out loud. I’ve been working since 1995 to close it down, or change its treatment mode from meds first to meds as a last resort when alternatives fail. I thought of rejecting the award, but that would be a small spiteful gesture.

Then I realized that the award made me feel like Stan Musial.

How many people here have never heard of Stan Musial? I’ll tell you the story. He played 22 years for only one team – St. Louis Cardinals- In a city that was not a media center. His contemporaries – Mickey Mantle, Willy Mays and Ted Williams- became more famous after they quit playing baseball. So why is Stan Musial whose statistics are more impressive, fading into history? For years Stan got more major league hits than any major league player except Ty Cobb. Stan was married to only one women for fifty plus years. Mays, and Williams each had ugly divorces. While Mantle was a boozer and a womanizer all his life.

Against Dodger pitching, he hit five hundred over 22 years. Whenever he popped his head out of the dugout, Brooklyn players and fans shouted “here comes The Man”. Stan the Man became the most famous nickname in baseball history, more than the Splendid Splinter, the Big Bambino, or the Say Hey Kid. He was elected to the Dodger Hall of Fame as a worthy opponent.

Like Mays and Mantel, Stan was what baseball people call a 5 tool player meaning he could hit, hit with power, run, throw and field. He played at the same time as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Ted Williams, who all got more famous and celebrated than Musial who had more impressive statistics. So, why are they still celebrated while Musial is fading into history?

Biographers have many ideas:

1) Musial played his entire 23 year career in St. Louis not New York or the west coast.

2) Musial was married to the same woman for 50 plus years. There was nothing to write about in his happy life. Williams and Mays, both had ugly divorces.

3) Musial loved being fussed over, but he did not do anything to encourage it. So, what does that have to do with me?

I confined my mental health activity to NH. I could not afford to pay my own way to national conferences. For years, I was intimidated by national leaders like Dr. Dan Fisher, Judith Chamberland and Joe Rogers who created the mental health civil rights movement. In the earliest days of deinstitutionalization they were released from institutions in their late teens or early twenties. They were traumatized by forced treatment and confinement. I was traumatized in the psych ward at Beth Israel Hospital where geniuses from Harvard tried to convince me I was a cab driver not a writer. They knew that because they refused to look at the folder of published writings I showed them.

I was not as angry as those leaders were as I was not as anti-medicine. When you have PTSD, medicine doesn’t do anything, it just causes side effects. I think that’s what happened to these leaders of the movement.

So, ladies and gentleman, I gratefully accept your award even though a lot of my friends in the consumer movement will be angry at me for doing it.

 

Wordworks Blog Author: Ken Braiterman

Ken Braiterman, Wellness Wordworks board chair, has been an activist, news reporter, opinion writer, and columnist since 1968. From 1997 to 2009, he was New Hampshire's leading advocate for recovery-based mental health services. He is an advanced Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator.

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