Mental Health America Bestows Highest Honor To Georgia Mental Health Professional Sharon Jenkins Tucker
Decatur Resident Recognized For Dedication To Training of Peer Specialists
Contact: Eileen Sexton, 703/837-4787, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, VA. (June 11, 2008)-Mental Health America announced Sharon Jenkins Tucker of Decatur, Georgia, as its 2009 recipient of the Clifford W. Beers Award.
Tucker was recognized for her outstanding achievements in mental health advocacy during Mental Health America's Centennial Gala on June 11. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN).
Named after the organization's founder, the Clifford W. Beers award is the highest honor Mental Health America bestows on an individual annually. Since its inception in 1976, the Beers award recognizes a consumer of mental health whose attitudes, actions and advocacy fervently carry out Beers' legacy of improving conditions for, and attitudes toward, those living with mental illness.
"In the spirit of Clifford Beers, Tucker has dedicated herself entirely to helping better the lives of all individuals with mental health conditions," said Dr. David L. Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America. "As a peer specialist, she contributes her knowledge and life experiences as a mental health consumer so others may live productive and healthier lives."
Through her tireless efforts with GMHCN, Tucker has secured two statewide Consumer Networking Grants sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and has been involved with the training and certification of more than 500 Certified Peer Specialists.
Tucker most recently established Georgia's first Peer Support and Wellness Center. The Center is run by certified peer specialists employed by GHMCN and supports mental health consumers by connecting them with wellness resources in the community. Under Tucker's leadership, the Center works to promote lives centered on wellness, not illness.
A certified peer specialist herself, Tucker attributes her ability to help others not only to her role as an advocate, but also to her real life experience of living in recovery following personal struggles.
When working as a counselor for West Virginia University, Tucker felt her life completely falling apart.
"I lived with crippling depression, despair and self-loathing for years and years," said Tucker. "I thought I would retire from that job, but my illness did not allow that to happen. Between the symptoms and the subsequent behaviors associated with them, I was fired and thrown in the street."
Faced with homelessness or hospitalization, Tucker credits her ability to work as her salvation. She became a behavioral health advocate and found that her qualifications-this time her experience living with mental illness, rather than education and work credentials-helped her connect and advocate for those with whom she worked.."I knew how to connect," she says, "because I had been there, done that and wore that T-shirt every day."
Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation-every day and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy, Forging the Future."