ITE/MH first met Representative Donna Bullock (D-Phila.) at a June Rally for Human Services in Harrisburg. During the event, she spoke about living with mental illness in her family and how connection, example, possibility, and hope—the values reflected in the ITE/MH Campaign—have guided her personally and professionally.
ITE/MH was so taken with Representative Bullock’s words and actions that we invited her to join the Campaign as an Honorary Ambassador to help raise awareness of recovery and engage her constituents in its support. We are grateful that she accepted our invitation and celebrate her willingness to stand as the Evidence.
To spotlight Bullock’s story and public service interest in recovery-based mental health policies, we asked her a few questions. Enjoy her answers below!
You spoke very eloquently and personally about your family’s experience with mental illness. Can you share your story very briefly with us?
My mother was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety during my childhood, but as a child I was somewhat oblivious to my mother’s illness. Surrounded by the love and care of my grandmother, and social-service workers in all aspects of our life, I never attributed my mother’s inability to keep working, or keep an apartment for more than a year, to her mental instability. I just accepted it.
Her team worked with her, gave her the support she needed and the treatment she needed so that she could face her mental health challenges head on in a way that she could find purpose in life and be the best mother she could be. That allowed me to have the best childhood possible without the stigma or fear that her condition could have had on me.
I am the Evidence that with the right support system and behavioral health services in place, services work. I have a supportive—and not a co-dependent—relationship with my mother.
Today, she is doing well and she is not only a great mom, but she has great supportive friendships in the community and her church, and she is an amazing grandmother to my two boys—and together we are the Evidence!
How did you learn about the Campaign and why does it resonate for you?
When I was researching mental health advocates in Pennsylvania, I found the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania’s website and have used it as a resource as a new legislator.
The ITE/MH Campaign highlighted the lives of real people, diverse in many ways, and from all over the commonwealth. As I read the stories of these individuals, I realized that as a family member of someone living with mental illness, I, too, have been served with excellent supports. With the support systems in place, my mother was able to be the best mother she could be; we were able to remain a family; and I was able to have a happy childhood, all things considered.
How has your personal experience made you more supportive of public policies, programs, and services that support mental health recovery?
Simply put, my experience has shown me that properly funded and well-managed mental health services work. It is evidence that therapy and peer-support groups work. It is evidence that parental supports, including child care and in-home visits, work.
What are your key mental health-related policy priorities?
I’m primarily focused on:
- Increasing funding for proven, community-based and other outpatient services that keep individuals healthy and safe, while minimizing reliance on institutionalization;
- Passing a mental health insurance parity bill;
- Promoting diversity in the mental health profession so that patients can have access to professionals who they can relate to culturally and linguistically;
- Raising awareness and breaking down barriers to treatment in minority communities, as it relates to insurance access and the fear and embarrassment that comes with being treated for mental health.
As an Honorary ITE/MH Ambassador, how will you help promote the values of ITE/MH—hope, connection, example, and possibility?
I am committed to illuminating how these values form the bedrock of modern mental health services through steadfast public support and strong advocacy. If we all work together, there is no limit to what the Commonwealth can accomplish for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
I want to thank MHAPA and ITE/MH for allowing me to share my story. We need as many people as possible to share their stories so that we can erase the stigma, fear and ignorance clouding mental illness. It’s a pleasure to help in that mission.