Although stereotypical views of mental health consumers are those of dependent individuals perpetually in need, some people with mental illness are succeeding at erasing such images from the minds of the public. Among such successes is Michael Skinner, a professional guitarist and drummer from Manchester, who has been publicly advocating for a less negative picture of what mental health consumers have to offer the larger society.
He donates his time as a professional guitarist and drummer to fundraising events in N.H., especially those sponsored by organizations raising money to address mental health related issues. His performing helps erase erroneous public images of mental illness and serves as a type of self-help therapy. Last year, Mr. Skinner performed live during registration for the Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) Annual Walk-A-Thon, held in Portsmouth on April 22, 2001. This event succeeded in raising more than $20,000 for SASS.
According to an article recently printed in Seacoast On-line, "Mr. Skinner uses his music on two levels: to entertain, and to speak out against the stigma of mental illness."
"The one thing that I hope comes through loud and clear is how much I plain enjoy playing now," Mr. Skinner told Karen Dandurant, who interviewed him for Seacoast Online. "I love music. It's a healthy part of me that gives me a pleasure that I want to share. I want to erase the stereotype of mentally challenged people only being capable of doing piece work in a workshop.
Skinner released an album entitled "Train of Tears" last year. Part of the proceeds from each sale of his album, available on CD, goes to benefit the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of N.H. In addition, Mr. Skinner co-chairs the Manchester chapter of NAMI-NH with Nancy McGuire, who has a family member with a psychiatric disability. Further information on NAMI-NH aactivities is available at their website: http://www.naminh.org.
Mr. Skinner is also President of the Consumer Advisory Council to the Disability Rights Center, as well as an active member of the Coalition on Family Law and Mental Illness. The coalition seeks to end discrimination against parents with mental illness in child care, visitation or custody matters, and is funded by the N.H. DBH and DCYF, the N.H. Bar Foundation and the N.H. Charitable Foundation.
For additional information on family law and mental illness, one may visit http://www.ffcmh.org as well as http://www.bazelon.org/custody.html. Also recommended: The N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence at http://www.nhcadsv.org.
Excerpts by Karen Dandurant reprinted with permission of Seacoast On-line, http://www.seacoastonline.com