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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Sandy GobleI am a 60-year old nurse with bipolar disorder forced into early retirement by a group of educated professionals who should have known better. I want to put a face on mental illness, but more importantly, fight the stigma.

I had my master's in psychiatric nursing at age 23 and had aspired to get a doctorate and teach in a graduate school setting. I began dealing with mental illness at the age of 24, just at a time when there seemed to be so much promise. The first few years were difficult, and I encountered discrimination at every turn. Unfortunately, I began this period with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, which can be difficult to treat. As a result, I was placed on medications that were inappropriate and put me at risk for potentially life-threatening consequences. Somehow, I managed to emerge alive and with my career intact, with the love of my soulmate and family.

When I was 58, a much younger and more astute psychiatrist delivered the news that my problem was not schizophrenia, but bipolar disorder (manic depression), a mood disorder much more amenable to treatment. The doctor prescribed lithium, and I am both fortunate and pleased that it works beautifully in my case. I am rediscovering myself, and my spirit is back.

I am a professional woman with two college degrees, yet I have faced stigma from the beginning and most recently in 2002. The previous fall, following an injury, I experienced a manic episode at home. My lithium dose was doubled, and in three or four days my health came back. I returned to work in February excited, anticipating a warm welcome back into the fold. This was not to be.

For a decade and almost half of another, I had worked there, embraced as a person and valued as a professional. Now, however, they knew my secret. In this workplace there had always been a distinction between consumers and staff personnel—an "Us and Them" dichotomy, if you will. These consumers, who came in periodically, were delightful yet seriously ill individuals. Somehow, now I didn't fit in. The line between "us" and "them" suddenly fell away, leaving behind a river of uncertainty and discomfort for my co-workers. I was now like "them." Interestingly, another colleague received extensive cancer therapy, along with unfailing, steadfast support from everyone in the workplace. Even today when I think of the disparate attitudes, the hurt is still fresh.

Now, they will not have the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with an effectively treated consumer. Remember, they did for 14 years, without knowing. I am turning to other matters now: primarily fighting the stigma and the hurt in other context. With God's help, I'll work and pray for the day when all my consumer brothers and sisters can come forward and walk proudly without fear of discrimination.

Sandy Goble

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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.