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NAMI honors legal scholar for mental health advocacy

July 15, 2011
by News release
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Arlington, Va. — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has honored Elyn Saks, a legal scholar who has lived with schizophrenia for over 30 years, with the NAMI Consumer Council's annual Gloria Huntley Award that recognizes an individual or organization that has made significant strides in reducing the use of restraints and seclusion in the treatment of mental illness.

Saks is Associate Dean of the University of Southern California law school and author of The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness. She was a panelist on the PBS program Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness, produced in 2009 by Fred Friendly Seminars, Inc.

The award was presented in Chicago on July 7 at NAMI's annual national convention.

In 2009, Saks received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, or "genius grant," which she used to establish the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics at USC. Through lectures and symposia, the institute spotlights one important mental health issue per academic year.

In 2010-2011, it focused on the use—and abuse—of mechanical restraints in psychiatric hospitals.

"Elyn Saks is a powerful leader," said NAMI Executive Director Michael J Fitzpatrick. "The award is a high honor and recognizes her contribution to education and policy around restraints and seclusion. Like NAMI, she is committed to improving the lives of people living with mental illness."

The Consumer Council is an advisory body to the NAMI Board of Directors, consisting of individuals who have or have had a mental illness, representing each state and the District of Columbia.

The award is named for Gloria Huntley, who died after being constantly restrained at Central State Hospital in Virginia in 1996. Her death led to Congressional hearings and legislation and regulatory reforms. Use of restraints and seclusion remains controversial today.

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