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Gayle Bluebird

Bluebird has been involved in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement since it began in the early 1970’s.  At that time she was in California, having left her three children and husband because of extensive sadness and withdrawal from living.  She went to a residential treatment program that offered promise in “re-parenting” but realized soon after that she was in a repressive punitive environment and left.  Her life then took many different directions; she worked in psychiatric hospitals as a nurse while healing herself personally in a variety of settings.  It was at this time that she became aware of a newly formed group called the “Network Against Psychiatric Assault” and organization of ex-patients that protested harmful  and abusive treatment and practices in mental health facilities.  She maintained her affiliation with this organization as it grew into a national network creating a national civil rights movement.


Her work at a psychiatric hospital in Berkeley, California, gave her insight into the treatment that allowed for seclusion and restraint, but not for touching or healing alternatives.  Thus, her dream to create comfort rooms took seed.  She immediately started to actualize her dream, connecting her professional nursing experiences with her commitment as a mental health consumer/survivor.


In the early 90s she began working in Broward County, Florida for the Department of Children and Families and after several years created the Office of Consumer Affairs serving as its director.  She created a team of consumers who were hired to facilitate satisfaction focus groups in all of the community mental health agencies and inpatient facilities.  After leaving the department she worked at South Florida State Hospital as a Resident/Consumer Advocate for two years.


While working at South Florida State Hospital she helped to develop comfort rooms in 1998 and later developed tools for their replication in other hospitals throughout the country.  In 2000-2001 she worked for the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, and during this time also wrote a guidebook “Reaching Across with the Arts”, a how-to guide for creating arts programs in consumer-operated programs.  She wrote this and other guide on “Participatory Dialogues” with funds from the federal government, CMHS/SAMHSA.


By 2004 she began to work independently as a consultant to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) and ultimately created an Office of Technical Assistance for Peer Networking.  In this capacity she created a network of peer specialists working in inpatient facilities and wrote a guidebook, “Paving New Ground” with an accompanying DVD with the same name.  She continues to network with peers working in inpatient facilities as well as doing training with staff who are creating these positions around the country. 


Currently Gayle is working as an independent consultant and working with the state of Delaware to help develop their peer roles and create comfort rooms among other activities at  Delaware State Hospital.