Brave New World: Celebrating Three Champions for Mental Health

Ken Braiterman, Gretchen Grappone and Arpiar G. Saunders Jr. received Rainbow Awards on October 9. They were celebrated by a group of over 180 numbering friends, families, colleagues, mental health and health care professionals and business and civic leaders at the Grappone Conference Center.  The awards were presented to recognize their contributions to improving the lives of those living with mental illness and emotional disorders.

Courage was the clarion call of the evening:  the courage it takes to speak openly about living with an illness that still carries negative connotations for many, and the courage to give voice to those whose voices cannot be heard.

Gove & Champion“By fighting the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding mental illness, you are also carrying on our longstanding tradition in New Hampshire of inclusiveness.  When we bring people in from the margins and fully include them in the heart and soul of our democracy, we grow stronger,” said Governor Maggie Wood Hassan in her remarks.  “As we recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week around the country, it is important that we celebrate the leaders who are addressing these challenges head on, and that’s why I am honored to join you here tonight in congratulating and thanking this year’s Champions, as well as all of  the past Rainbow Award winners.”

Ken Braiterman has courageously spoken openly and honestly about his mental illness during years of advocacy efforts, fighting to earn consumers the respect to be in charge of their own recovery.  Using his experiences, including those as a journalist, Braiterman, long a leader in the State consumer movement is also well-known for his work with NAMI NH, New Hampshire Hospital and the NH Police Standards & Training Council.

“I am a much wiser and better person for having known Ken Braiterman,” said Captain Robert Stafford in presenting the Rainbow Award to Braiterman.  “How can you not respect and like Ken for all he has done in the State of New Hampshire to de-stigmatize having a mental illness?”

Gretchen Grappone was 20 years old when she marched down to the Concord Monitor to tell her story of living with depression, so she could help dispel the misconceptions that surround the illness. Sharon Sweet cited Gretchen’s professional work researching, developing and presenting training programs aimed at reducing stigma.  “Her best work, however, is reflected in the successful life she leads, said Sweet, “Gretchen is a beacon of light to those who suffer from mental illness and the families who love them.”

Arpy Saunders has influenced a generation of lawyers by example, and through his years as a UNH law school professor, to stand up and fight for the rights of the disadvantaged.  Among his notable cases were the Laconia School lawsuits, early victories in the move toward  community-based systems of care.

“With zealous advocacy and a humble grace, Arpy has spoken for those whose voices were still and quiet in the wilds of our present world,” said Steve Gordon.  “His voice was for the simplest of things.  That in a society filled with riches and opportunities for the few, we must never forget the many.”

How especially fitting these Champions were honored this year, as the 50th anniversary of the President’s Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act approaches. On October 31, 1963, this landmark bill created the foundation of contemporary mental health policy, based on a belief that all Americans – including those with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and addictions – have a right to lead dignified lives and to share in the benefits of our society.


To view photos of the event, please click   Here  …