Remembering Patty Duke (1946-2016)

IMG_0168Anna Patty Duke Pearce connected with 1,200 new friends on Mental Illness Awareness Day in 2006 — that’s what we at Clubhouse of Suffolk called our annual event back then.

Now, thanks to Anna and many of her courageous peers, we discuss “health” and “recovery” far more than we focus on illness and disability.

To this day, some of the attendees from that event tell me about their own warm, personal conversation with Anna that day and the deep meaning and inspiration they gained from her message about her own IMG_0169recovery from childhood trauma and consequent emotional and mental distress.

Anna refused to focus on illness, medication, and diagnosis; she acknowledged these but told the audience — comprised of people in recovery, their family members, advocates, and clinicians — that these did not define her. She said that stories of others similarly affected had inspired her to find her own path and her own voice and that she was now on a journey to share her story so others might also find theirs.

My wife and I got to spend a little behind-the-scenes time the evening before with Anna and her w20160329_153948onderful husband, Mike. Despite being under-the-weather, she was extremely gracious and kind. Unbelievably, she thanked me for the path I chose in my life.

The picture of her with her personal note to me has been on my desk facing me for the past 10 years.

So many others whom she spoke with that day — and thousands more in other venues — are grateful to have shared a similar, personal gift from Anna.

Message to Mike

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Michael Stoltz has been at the agency’s leadership helm since 1990, first as Executive Director of the predecessor organization, Clubhouse of Suffolk, and since July 2014, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW). MHAW is the result of the merger of Clubhouse with Suffolk County United Veterans and the Mental Health Association in Suffolk County.                                                                                                                                             Under Michael’s stewardship, the agency has grown to one with an $10 million annual operating budget, 150 employees, servicing more than 3,000 people each year through its Ronkonkoma, Riverhead, and Yaphank facilities.                                                                                                                                               A social worker by training, Michael received his MSW in 1982 from Adelphi University, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Welfare Policy and Human Service Management. He served as a Program Supervisor, developing and implementing the Suffolk County Intensive Case Management Program, as well as positions in management and direct service at several Long Island outpatient clinics.

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Posted in Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Mental Illness Awareness Day, Stigma
One comment on “Remembering Patty Duke (1946-2016)
  1. Denis Demers says:

    I remember that conference day as one of the most inspiring of my career. Her keynote and example as a person in recovery helped me better appreciate the potential that lies in each one of us and particularly of those I have been privileged to serve.

    Like

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