Frederick Frese III, Ph.D., opened his plenary session speech at APA's 2005
Institute on Psychiatric Services by urging everyone in the audience with a
serious mental illness to stand.
Nine or 10 people got to their feet in a crowded ballroom last month in San
Frese thanked his "fellow SMI friends" and said, "I know
that... many others have it. That's where I was for many years... keeping a
secret. But I'm not going to stand in the shadows. I'm not going to be
belittled. I'm not going to be ashamed."
"Blending Consumer, Family, and Professional Perspectives on Recovery
from Serious Mental Illness" was a call for an "image
makeover" for those who have been subjected to various forms of stigma
and discrimination and urged to reconcile themselves to the idea of a lifetime
with a debilitating
Frederick Frese III, Ph.D.: "I'm not going to stand in the
shadows. I'm not going to be belittled."
Frese was told to abandon hope of recovery from schizophrenia when he was
hospitalized during the 1960s at a state psychiatric hospital in Ohio. He
recounted the following conversation:
Doctor: "Have you ever been hospitalized for very long?"
Frese: "Yes, sir, for five months."
Doctor: (smiling) "I'm smiling because five months isn't long at all.
You have a degenerative brain disease that will only get worse with time. You
will spend the rest of your life under the care of the state
Thorazine was the only medication available at the time. Frese now suffers
from tardive dyskinesia.
Look at the movies, he told the audience, if you want to understand why"
we need a makeover."
The American Film Institute recently listed the 50 "greatest movie
heroes" in the last 100 years. Leading the list were such iconic figures
as Indiana Jones and Atticus Finch. No person with a mental illness was cited,
but they were represented on the list of villains.
There are signs of change. Frese mentioned "A Beautiful Mind"
and "The Aviator" as movies that suggest a more positive and
accurate depiction of serious mental illness and the contributions of people
who have it. He told the audience that "Proof," a play that offers
a complicated portrayal of mental illness, currently is the most widely
performed play in the world. Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., has helped to
destigmatize bipolar disorder with the book An Unquiet Mind, in which
she describes her own experiences with mental illness.
Frese's own life provides evidence of changed attitudes toward those with
serious mental illness and of the contributions a person diagnosed with
schizophrenia can make (Psychiatric News, March 19, 2004).
He earned his Ph.D. in psychology and has worked for more than 30 years
helping people with serious mental illness.
Frese founded the Community and State Hospital Section of the American
Psychological Association and serves on the boards of the National Alliance on
Mental Illness and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
He has appeared on CNN and "World News Tonight" with Peter
Jennings and is featured in the video "I'm Still Here: The Truth About
Frese told the audience, "When I was hospitalized, I thought that
someday I might write about this, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect
to appear on national television."
He also has helped to develop crisis-intervention teams and other methods
of improving the interaction between the criminal justice system and people
with mental illness in Ohio.
Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a member of the state's Supreme Court,
spearheaded the activities when her 12-year-old son was hospitalized as a
result of a serious mental illness and she began to learn about the various
disorders and their effects on families.
Frese talked to "dozens of judges" about serious mental illness
and helped with the training of police officers.
He termed his work with the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) "more
controversial." The TAC has been active in promoting legislation such as
Kendra's Law in New York, which permits involuntary outpatient treatment under
certain conditions. ▪