Sally Zinman

1937 - 2022

Sally Zinman was born in 1937. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in English with honors. She also has an M.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She survived horrible psychiatric abuse at the hands of her care providers, and her experiences launched a life-long career of advocacy and activism. She attributes her recovery to returning to the earth through gardening and reading, throwing herself into advocacy, and committing herself to changing the mental health systems that failed her. She has been a powerful voice for mental health patients’ rights throughout her career.

Sally helped launch the US’s very first state-wide peer-run organization, and was a powerful voice for fighting discrimination. Her career has spanned many organizations and many years of consumer activism. She believes in a community-based, whole-person approach to recovery and wellness, and continues to uphold the importance of advocating for mental health rights.

From 1977 to 1983, Sally was the Founder and Coordinator of the Mental Patients Rights Association in Palm Beach County, Florida. She administered this client-run organization which developed and operated a community center and residence program. From 1983-1985, Sally was the Co-editor of Madness Network News, which was the journalistic voice of the mental patient movement from 1973-1987. From 1983-84, Sally was the Founding Member and first staff (Coordinator) of the California Network of Mental Health Clients. In 1989, Sally was the Founding Member of the Alameda County Network of Mental Health Clients, an umbrella organization for self-help groups in Oakland, Berkeley and surrounding towns. From 1983-1993, she was the Founding Member of the Self-Help Committee of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, serving as Facilitator from 1987-1989. She remained an active member until 1993.

From 1985-1997, Sally was the Founder and Coordinator of the Coalition for Alternatives in Mental Health, aka the Berkeley Drop-In Center. This Center, run for and by persons with mental disabilities, consists of a drop-in component, providing socialization, support groups, information and referral, food service, and phone use. The Center has an advocacy services component, which includes money management and a payee representation program, and assistance in obtaining benefits. The Center has a housing program consisting of a client-run housing compound and 60 plus subsidized units of supportive housing. The Center also provides job training and experience through a trainee program.

From 1997 to 2007, Sally was the Executive Director of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, a statewide self-help and advocacy organization run for and by mental health clients/survivors.

Sally has served on numerous Boards and Committees. These include:

  • Mental Health Law Project (Now called Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law), Board of Directors, 1980-1983
  • Editorial Board, Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Journal, 1982-1994
  • Berkeley/Albany Mental Health Commission, 1986-1995
  • Alameda County Network of Mental Health Clients, 1990-1997
  • California Network of Mental Health Clients, off and on, 1984-1996
  • National Association of Psychiatric Survivors, 1985-1994
  • Center for Self-Help Research, 1990-1993
  • National Planning Committee, Self-Help Live, 1991-1993
  • National Empowerment Center, 1992-1993
  • Coalition on the Media Stigma of People with Psychiatric Disabilities,1992-1993
  • Berkeley Cares, 1995-1997
  • South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation, 1995-1997
  • Disability Rights Advocates Distribution Committee, 1996 – present.

Sally has credits in writing, film, and video, including:

  • “Dangers arising from Mental Health Legal Advocacy, Advocacy Now, the Journal of Patients Advocacy, 2:2, June 1980.
  • “A Patient-Run Residency”, Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Journal, 6:1, 1982.
  • “Self-Help: The Wave of the Future”, Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 37:3, March 1986.
  • “Maintaining Our Roots: The Challenge for Self-Help Development”, Self Helper, 6:2, Spring 1991. (with Howie T. Harp)
  • “Crazy Women, Madness, Myth and Metaphor”, Midwest Films, 1990.
  • “Museums of Madness”, BBC/PBS, 1991.

Sally has received several awards from various groups and agencies, as well as from elected officials including former Congressman, now Mayor, Ronald V. Dellums, former Assemblyman Tom Bates, and former Mayor, Loni Hancock.