Celia Brown

1952 - 2022

Celia Brown was a psychiatric survivor and long time advocate for people with psychiatric disabilities. She was the President of MindFreedom International, and she co-founded Surviving Race: The Intersection of Race, Disability and Human Rights Coalition. For many years she was a Regional Advocacy Specialist for the Bureau of Recipient Affairs at the NYC Field Office of the New York State Office of Mental Health. Celia facilitated trainings on peer supervision, wellness and recovery approaches in community mental health agencies. She was one of the first Peer Specialists in New York State, and was instrumental in developing and implementing the Peer Specialist Civil Service title for the New York State Office of Mental Health.

A field school graduate of the Center to Study Recovery in Social Contexts, Celia was a member of the Advisory committee for the Center for Practice Innovations. Celia served on NARPA's board of directors for many years. She was a founder of the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR). She has presented nationally and internationally on topics such as self-help, peer counseling, advocacy, trauma and cultural competency.

From Laura Prescott, December 12, 2022:

For Celia on Her Way Home Tonight
Celia Brown died tonight. The stillness of my memories are filled with the strength and power of Celia’s enormous heart. So many times she wordlessly anchored a space, making it feel safe because she was there. I admired the way she let us into her world, sharing her joy, anger, sadness, and love with tremendous grace and courage.

Celia Brown was a pioneer of peer support, an ardent advocate for people re-claiming power and speaking for themselves. Her global accomplishments could fill many pages but she most often spoke about the importance of relationships in her life; how proud she was of her son, how much she valued family, being a mother, daughter, a sister and friend. And of course, she remarked on being from the Bronx in an unmistakable accent that became thicker with every word. Celia regularly made communities bigger by reaching out to diverse groups of people and welcoming them into discussions and activities. She believed in possibilities, in the goodness of people, in their ability to work out differences and find a common ground. In this way, Celia instilled hope and encouraged others to do the same. Despite the setbacks, she kept moving forward, with grace and a conviction that it would “be ok.”

I’ve known Celia almost half my life and it doesn’t feel possible that she is gone. Despite the enormous sadness, I am also grateful for the powerful legacy she leaves behind, of profound generosity, abiding belief in others to build connections rather than increase the divides. To me she will always be an example of what can happen when we dare to live with our hearts full and open. Celia Brown is finally free. I went outside this evening to gaze at the stars, to see if I could find her leaving trails across the sky before escaping into the inky night on her way home.
Laura Prescott, President, Sister Witness International