Thank You Kay, by Shelley Bishop


Keeping a gratitude journal can be a great way to remind ourselves of the positive things that happen in our daily lives. Today, I’m starting my Evidence journal to remind me of all the people I’ve been blessed to have in my life. People who have supported me not only in my recovery, but moreover in my discovery of possibilities. At the top of this list is Kay. Kay was my first mentor.

In the late 1980s, Pennsylvania’s mental health consumer movement was still in its infancy. A job training program took me to my first “real” job as a receptionist in my local community mental health center. Not long after I started, I was offered a position in the treatment aftercare program as a van driver to bring people into the center for day programs. Kay was the director of the aftercare programs, and she knew I had been diagnosed and had received services at the center. She was also ahead of her time in recognizing that people with lived experience have an important voice in the mental health system.

Kay introduced me to the consumer movement. She encouraged me to meet with early organizers and supported my attendance at one of the earliest MH consumer conferences in PA. It was at this conference that I found a group of peers who forever changed my life. It led me to learning about true peer support, to starting a consumer run drop-in center, and ultimately to joining the ranks of consumer leadership.

Kay and I had a real human connection. She offered me hope and encouragement through dark and challenging times. She gave of her time to share her talents, teaching me how to write proposals, develop budgets, and all the details that go along with running not only a program but an organization. She saw the possibilities for my growth and recovery even before I could.

It is because of Kay that I was able to go onto so many other opportunities, and to be able to recognize a multitude of others as the Evidence in my life—my list is long and still growing. Thank you Kay.

Who is in your Evidence journal? Who believed in you, offered hope and encouragement? Take a moment today and start your list. And take a moment to thank them for being the Evidence in your life.

Shelley Bishop is an ITE/MH Campaign consultant and founder of A Collective Journey.

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