A brilliant and articulate advocate, she has inspired and touched our lives immeasurably.
If you have memories of Rae you would like to share, please contact NARPA.
Rae Unzicker is featured in the "When Women Pursue Justice," a 3,300 square foot mural in New York City, and in a related exhibition catalog and educational program. >Youtube video
Rae Unzicker, 52, died on March 22nd at her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Rae was one of the world's leading advocates for the civil rights of people with psychiatric disabilities. She was an adamant pioneer of the self-evident truth that people with psychiatric disabilities have the same rights as other people to exercise free choice about how and where they will live and how and where they will receive treatment, if any. That they must not be involuntarily imprisoned in institutions, nursing homes, group homes, back rooms, or any other places. That they must not be subjected to forced drugging or forced treatment of any kind.
Over the years Rae advocated in forty-three states and several foreign countries. She authored numerous articles and appeared on prime time national television many times. In 1995 President Clinton appointed her to the National Council Disabilities. It is my impression that she was the first -- certainly one of the first -- outspoken advocates for the civil rights of people with psychiatric disabilities ever to receive a major Presidential appointment.
Rae's crowning achievement was her promoting and editing of the National Council's landmark manifesto, From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speaking For Themselves. This was perhaps the first formal statement by any nation supporting the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to exercise free choice in their all aspects of their lives.
Rae was a brilliant person and a passionate, articulate supporter of her principles. She was full of love for all with whom she came in contact. I was profoundly moved by her epic courage. The monumental accomplishments of her last several years were made in the face of continuous, excruciating pain from terminal cancer. Rae Unzicker was truly a great soldier of justice, a great American pioneer patriot.
Let us unite to honor Rae Unzicker by rededicating ourselves to the kind of passionate, courageous advocacy for justice for all that she exemplified.
Rae, we miss you.
We love you. Lead on.
Justin and Yoshiko Dart
The above is from the Justice For All alert network. It was posted by long-time disability rights activist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Justin Dart.
The disability community mourns the loss of yet another great disability civil rights leader. Rae Unzicker, a longtime disability civil rights advocate and beloved member of the National Council on Disability since 1995, died at her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on March 22, 2001. She was 52. Her work on behalf of people with psychiatric disabilities is internationally known. NCD's 2000 report From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves was the brainchild of Rae Unzicker. She was a passionate speaker who wrote articles and made appearances on numerous television talk shows. Her contributions were significant. We will miss her dearly.
During her career on behalf of people with mental illness, she spoke in 43 states and in England and Holland. Her articles and essays were widely published, and she was named an Outstanding Woman in America by Woman's Day magazine in 1987.
Rae Unzicker was born August 20, 1948, in Ottawa, Kansas. She attended the University of Kansas to study journalism and theater. She moved to South Dakota in 1969, where she began her career as writer at KSOO-TV. She also worked at KELO-TV and became managing editor of Sunday magazine.
She married Jim Unzicker on November 9, 1974. The couple was active in the advertising business for many years. He died on December 4, 1998.
She began the first mental health advocacy project in South Dakota, served on the board of directors of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, and served as chair of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Council for South Dakota Advocacy Services. She received many awards for her advocacy work. She was a true warrior.
As Justin Dart recently said, "Let us unite to honor Rae Unzicker by rededicating ourselves to the kind of passionate, courageous advocacy for justice for all that she exemplified."
NCD BULLETIN A Monthly Publication of the National Council on Disability, March 2001
Mr. President, recently, South Dakota, and the country, lost a friend and dedicated public servant. Mrs. Rae Unzicker of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, died in her home on March 22, 2001. She was 52 years old.
Rae Unzicker was a tireless champion for the rights of the disabled, particularly those with psychiatric disabilities. Her contributions to her field were significant. She started the first mental health advocacy project in South Dakota, served on the board of directors of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, and was the chair of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Council for South Dakota Advocacy Services. She also authored several articles on the subject of mental health and spoke in 43 states, England, and the Netherlands during her career.
In 1995, President Clinton appointed Rae Unzicker to the National Council on Disabilities, an agency dedicated to increasing the inclusion, independence, and empowerment of all Americans with disabilities. She was one of the first outspoken advocates for the civil rights of people with mental illness to receive a majorPresidential appointment. Her work helped minimize the stigma associated with people with mental illness and ensured they had the same rights and privileges as other Americans.
I join the mental health community in mourning the loss of a person so dedicated to the rights of those with mental illness. My condolences go out to Rae Unzicker's brother, her children, and their families. In this difficult time, my thoughts and prayers are with them, and with Rae's many friends.
Obituary (from AP, March 25, 2001)
"To Be a Mental Patient. . ." [Rae Unzicker, 1984]
Mental Health Advocacy: From Then to Now [Rae Unzicker, from the NARPA Rights Tenet Newsletter]
History, Principles, and Definitions of Consumer-direction and Self-determination [Rae Unzicker, 1999. Prepared for the National Leadership Summit on Self-determination and Consumer-direction and Control]
Report of the National Council on Disability: "From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves"
To NARPA and All Who Loved, Honored, and Respected Rae E. Unzicker:
I wish to extend my deepest and sincere gratitude for recognizing the work of my aunt so beautifully in the web page and for recognizing her work at the annual conference. Although I was not able to attend, I would have been honored to be there.
Her passing affected all who loved, honored and respected her.. I no none the less. As I write this now tears well deeply from my heart and fill me with the memories this remarkable woman imprinted on my soul.
She championed me and taught me how to be a survivor and no longer a victim of the perceptions (or should I say misperceptions) and actions of others. Her many strengths and her words of love and encouragement stay with me every day. So often I want to call her and hear "I love you honey" but I must now call her from my heart and her words "then"ring stronger and stronger "now". She remains with me in spirit as she will with you all.
I owe my life (literally) to my aunt and the Higher Power of my own understanding, for I truly would not be the woman I am today without her many, many, many nights of endless talks and soothing love. She truly was sent as a "guardian angel" in my life and I am sure in countless others as well.
She brought light to injustice, hope to the broken in spirit, and love to those who never understood or had love before.
As I face today the social injustices of my own personal "medical history" of being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of domestic violence, of being re-traumatized by being strapped down in full restraints and sedated in an emergency room by a nurse who "thought she knew what to do" and who hid her tears when I told her the next morning "All I wanted was for someone to be nice to me", of being misdiagnosed Bi-polar Manic Depressant because a psychiatrist solicited family members opinions (not my aunt's), of once being the "patient Patient" in a mental health hospital where I thought I would receive "help" instead learned I had to take the drugs and participate in "therapy that wasn't therapy" in order to get out, of overcoming the severe suicidal depression that followed that re-traumatization and hospitalization and left me feeling alone, misunderstood and in a world that was too cruel, of fighting for custody in a brutal divorce for my dear daughter and signing myself out AMA because a court listened to my ex-husband and committed me against my will and telling the psychiatrist who practiced "pharmacology" instead of "psychotherapy" that the next time he saw an abused child to remember it wasn't the mother who did it, and surviving through anxiety attacks (although not so severe anymore) as a result of a life once so chaotic at the hands of family, ex-husbands and their hard core military training, and other "traumas"... I stay strong and grow stronger each day with the words this true advocate said to me...
"Honey, the only way out is through", "Honey, you may be mixed up and confused right now... but it's ok because you are loved, you are lovable, you are worthwhile, you are strong, you will make it through this and I am here for you", "You do not HAVE to take the drugs", "What can I do to help?" and most remarkable in my memories as I overcame this all and established myself as a single parent and survivor of the traumas... for her to say "I admire your strength and I am proud of you."
Thank you again for not letting her work fade away in her passing. Her deepest dreams were to be truly recognized for the fact that her truths were truths and that the things she spoke of were real. For her truth to be heard, for her work to be valid, for her existence on this earth to have purpose. If she could see this web page today to know how truly valued and loved she was and is, I can only assume she would smile and say "Thank You". In her name I say "Thank You" and smile.
I wish to let you know that I have my aunt's many awards and certificates of her wonderful achievements and would be honored to share them with NARPA and any other organization that would want to display them. She was and will remain in many eyes "A truly remarkable woman".
In Loving Memory of my Aunt,
Linda Engles Niece of Rae (Engles) Unzicker
P.S. Ms. Prescott... Your beautiful plate to Rae reminds me so of the innocence we are born with, the innocence we must protect within, and the mantra I have always had since I was a child... "Dare to Dream"