Shery Mead had her first encounter with the mental health system as a teenager. It was a time when most people were over-medicated, shock treatments were routine, and no one even asked about trauma and abuse. She was offered life in a halfway house and a limited future. Needless to say, it was not much to look forward to. Shery began, instead, to put her creative energy into music, allowing her to “say that which could not be said.” Though this worked reasonably well for a number of years, the deep shame, fear, powerlessness and sense of “otherness” finally caught back up with her, and she ended up back in the system. Neither the culture nor the prognoses had changed much. She fell into leading the life of a “mental patient.”
Finally, when loss of custody of her children was threatened (based simply on psychiatric diagnosis), she decided she’d had enough. It was then that she realized that she and many others had a choice: the choice of saying “no more.” Soon after, Shery started a peer organization whose focus was specifically “unlearning the mental patient role.” Everything changed after that. She developed training for judges and lawyers about making reasonable custody decisions in cases where one parent has a psychiatric diagnosis; she developed groups for women trauma survivors using music to speak out; she created New Hampshire’s first peer-run crisis respite program; and she started training mental health professionals and peer support workers locally, nationally, and internationally. You can read more of Shery’s story in her article, IPS: A Personal Retrospective.
Chris has worked in mental health user/survivor politics and peer groups in New Zealand and internationally for the last ten years. Although initially employed in mental health services as manager of a Community Mental Health service, an unexpected promotion to an “out” service user via commitment to a psychiatric ward caused her to see and value the power of peer support. The most valuable contributions to her recovery, she realized, came from those who weren’t paid to be there: her fellow in-patients. This realization, along with the losses associated with a loss of job, friends and self-respect, fueled the anger and passion that drove her to pursue service-user activism at local, regional, national and international levels.
Chris worked as an advisor to New Zealand mental health services, held lead roles in the “Like Minds Like Mine” national anti-discrimination campaign, conducted research for the NZ Mental Health Commission, and worked in an advisory capacity for both the Mental Health Commission and the Ministry of Health in New Zealand. In latter years, she worked as a member of the New Zealand delegation to the United Nations, developing the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She also served on the board for the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, and assisted in the development of peer-run crisis respites in a number of countries. For most of the past decade, Chris has been promoting, developing, and providing training in Intentional Peer Support.
Steven Morgan has worked in peer support services for the past decade. He was originally trained as a Georgia Certified Peer Specialist and worked in traditional service agencies, where he became intimately familiar with the difficulties of practicing peer support within a medical model. This led to an interest in developing alternative supports, so in Vermont he helped create a peer-run respite, was Executive Director for four years of a peer-run agency called Another Way, and finally became project developer for Soteria-Vermont. Steven has provided many trainings in systems change at both a local and national level, and has served on several Boards of Directors for peer support organizations.
In 2013, he joined Intentional Peer Support as Operations Manager with a passion for creating instruments of social change, a love of organizational development, and a belief in the transformative power of community. On full moons, he enjoys writing, playing music, woodworking, and taking long long walks. You can read more of Steven’s story in his article, The Wind Never Lies.
Eva has been involved in human rights activism and advocacy for over two decades. As a survivor of childhood trauma and re-traumatization within the mental health and other systems, she is passionate about creating positive systems change to end abuse and neglect in institutions. In particular, she has focused on infusing trauma-informed practices that are recovery-based and person-centered.
After years of developing and working within peer support, she came to believe the path to healing and recovery was through relationships, creating opportunities for empowerment, and building connected, inclusive, and supportive communities.
Eva is an animal lover with three cats. Family is very important to her and she is blessed with a large extended family. Eva attributes her ability to stay healthy and grounded to meditation and personal wellness practices including yoga, gardening, painting, dancing and music.