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NAMI-San Diego President Wins National Lifetime Achievement Award

Advocate Honored for Tireless Work on Behalf of the Underserved Within the Mental Health Community

May 16, 2005

When she began volunteering at the San Diego chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), Sally Shepherd's life had been torn apart by depression. It had robbed her of a meaningful career as a nurse, destroyed many of her personal relationships, and the electroconvulsive therapy she turned to as a last resort had erased memories from a year of her life. Nevertheless, she persevered in treatment and found meaning again by reaching out to others with depression -- especially those that are often overlooked, such as the elderly and people with HIV. For touching the lives of thousands of San Diegans in need, Shepherd has been honored by an independent panel of national mental health leaders with the 2005 Welcome Back Award for lifetime achievement. Eli Lilly and Company sponsors the national awards program, which is in its seventh year.

Ms. Shepherd felt cheated when the severity of her depression forced her to leave her job. This loss fueled a determination to fight ignorance and stigma about mental illness, and to reach out to those affected by it, many of whom are often overlooked. Ms. Shepherd has strengthened the focus of NAMI, a non-profit group dedicated to improving the lives of people with mental illness, onto providing support, advocacy and education to all that need it, by actively including the elderly, people with HIV and the friends and families of those with depression.

"I was an experienced medical professional, but I didn't recognize what was going wrong when it happened to me and neither did anyone around me," said Shepherd. "Education is crucial in making sure that all people struggling with depression are diagnosed, treated, and supported in a way that best works for them."

Shepherd speaks on NAMI's behalf to people living with depression as well as their loved ones, giving advice on talking openly about depression. She tells audiences how she educated her husband about the illness, and how he went from not understanding depression, to giving his own educational speeches to NAMI audiences.

Because Shepherd's own depression occurred mid-life, she has become known as a powerful advocate for older adults with mental illness. She co-founded the pioneering San Diego Older Adult Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition to help her community understand that depression doesn't have to be suffered in silence during life's latter years.

Recently, Shepherd developed an innovative educational program about HIV and depression -- two illnesses that often occur together, and can impact treatment choices. She has worked with healthcare professionals, HIV workers and community support groups to help coordinate the best possible care for people living with these diseases.

"Sally is a role model for people with depression. She is living proof that it's possible to fight back against the crippling blow depression can deal," said Dr. Rodrigo Munoz, MD, Welcome Back Awards committee member and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. "Her own struggle for wellness, and her struggle to give everyone a chance at education, support and recovery has become an inspiration for thousands in the San Diego area and beyond."

Shepherd is one of six individuals who will be honored at the seventh annual Welcome Back Awards ceremony on May 21, in Atlanta. Sponsored by Lilly, the Welcome Back Awards is a national program that recognizes outstanding individuals who make a difference in the depression community. In addition to her award, a $10,000 contribution from Lilly will be shared between NAMI San Diego and the San Diego Older Adult Coalition, on Ms. Shepherd's behalf.

Nominations for the 2006 Lilly Welcome Back Awards may be submitted by anyone wishing to recognize an individual for outstanding achievements within the depression community. For more information, call 800-463-6440 or visit

Source: PR Newswire

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