Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hope at Caramore

I've often been asked what specific attributes are the most important for someone to have in order to succeed in Caramore. Of course there are many intangibles to consider, but I am convinced there are two underlying forces that link everyone who has ever been successful at Caramore—first is the willingness to embrace a philosophy of sacrifice and hard work to achieve goals; and second, is the inner desire to develop a life built around hope.

Hard work and sacrifice, I think we all can grasp the meaning of that. But I believe it is that elusive concept of hope which is truly the underlying foundation upon which Caramore has been able to guide people towards success. But what is hope? And can hope, together with hard work, actually alter the course of a disability and its effect on someone's life? We believe the answer is yes.

At Caramore, we don't confuse hope with optimism—a sense that things will work out for the best. Hope is very different from optimism. Hope does not arise from merely “thinking positive,” or crossing our fingers and wishing things will turn out ok. Hope, unlike optimism, is deeply reflected in one's personal efforts and determination to overcome the harshness of reality.

Although there is no universal definition of hope, I found one that seems to capture the essence of what makes hope so vital in everyone's life:

Hope is that elevating feeling that we experience, in our own mind's eye, of our personal path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the enormous obstacles and deep pitfalls that exist along that path. Hope is our inner guiding light that empowers and propels us through the darkness towards achieving our best destiny.

For any person, from anywhere, I can't envision a meaningful life without a strong sense of hope.

Barry Shanley

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Gracious Goodbye to Mickey Locklear

Since I've been at Caramore, I've witnessed and have been part of many changes around here. Hundreds of clients have come through our doors, staff has come and gone, programs have been revitalized, and all of our offices and residences have taken on a different appearance. But one valued constant that has not changed has been the calming and lasting presence of Mickey Locklear at Ephesus.

Mickey's legacy is incredible. I have never heard from a single client anything in the least bit negative about Mickey. In fact, many of our clients have regarded their relationship with Mickey as one of the most supportive and nurturing aspects of the Caramore experience. Mickey had a warm way with everyone who lived in the group home. She could make people feel appreciated and comfortable, not an easy thing to do when so many people come to us who might be anxious, frightened or feeling depressed. Mickey's charming, relaxed demeanor could cut through all those tensions very quickly and people would know they had a close friend and ally with Mickey.

In times of crisis, Mickey was a good person to consult with, share feelings with, and lean on for comfort. In times of joy, Mickey would be the first person you would want to share your happy news with. She connected with all of her clients—young or old, men or women, outgoing or withdrawn. Mickey had a personal touch with each and every one. I have nothing but admiration for the lasting memories she has left in the minds of all who resided with her.

And, of course, Mickey's many cooking and baking skills are legendary. Everyone looked forward to her Sunday evening meals and everyone learned from her down home cooking techniques. Mickey enjoyed putting food on the table for all to enjoy, and she could see how the communal meal could bond people together and make for a shared, enjoyable experience. With Mickey in or around the kitchen, Ephesus was filled with warmth, comfort, and good vibrations.

Mickey's last day will be this Friday, January 23rd. She has been with Caramore for longer than I can imagine, I think around 14 years or so. Incredible. We have hired Nancy Phillips and Caroline Crumpler to cover most of the duties that Mickey had. Caroline and Nancy will be wonderful new additions to our staff and do a fine job. But I cautioned them that they should do their job in their own style, and not think of themselves as Mickey's "replacement.”

That would be just an impossible order for anyone to undertake ... to try and replace someone as uniquely revered and special as Mickey Locklear.

Thanks Mickey, and here's to many happy days ahead for you.

Cheers Barry

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Our Voices: First-Person Accounts of Schizophrenia

Forwarding the Recovery Paradigm

Here’s a snapshot of a new local book connected with our friends over at UNC STEP Clinic…

Forwarding the Recovery Paradigm

Our Voices: First-Person Accounts of Schizophrenia is the first book of its type. There are similar books on schizophrenia, one where patient-authors ask the questions and share their first episodes. Our book is different in that it was designed to emphasize that schizophrenia is a lifelong illness with long-term and daily challenges, not isolating the focus on initial episodes. The market also has books with a similar format to ours: some interview and ask questions to experts, and some attempt to record or analyze answers from the popular mainstream. It should be pointed out that the subject matter of the interviews in these books varies greatly from ours.

The commitment and long process of writing and editing our own book became a reality when Jenny Edwards, one of the social workers from the UNC STEP Clinic (the University of North Carolina Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program) recognized the potential of one of many ideas that were proposed to her. It is so incredible that she would choose an idea, and have the vision, faith and confidence in us that we would make it happen! Her colleague Bebe Smith, Director of Outpatient Services at the STEP Clinic (who has worked in publishing), put the process in motion. Technically, Bebe and Jenny were just advisors for our book project, but we relied greatly on them, much more than they would have liked.

Our team of author-editors consisted of five individuals, each with some form of schizophrenia, who have weathered the worst part of their illness, have put their lives back together, and have really started to succeed in life again. Our author-editing team consists of talented writers, some accomplished, some truly solid. Because of all the unique battles we have triumphed over, we started this book project to share our personal perspectives with the world.

Our goal is to develop understanding in our readers that schizophrenia is a life-long illness, as well as an understanding of shared perceptions, experiences, and challenges people with schizophrenia face in daily living and throughout the course of their illness…”

Kwami Jackson Featured in Chapel Hill Magazine

Forwarding the Recovery Paradigm

This month’s Chapel Hill Magazine features our own Kwami Jackson. Available at Weaver Street

Monday, January 12, 2009


David Chapman and David Cooley were fortunate to meet Peer Specialists Larry Fricks at the State NAMI Conference in October. Larry has vast experience and credentials and achievements as a force for change in the public mental health system, where people with serious mental illness die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population.

The Peer philosophy that Larry espouses focuses on individual's strength rather than illness. Recovery is no longer only about what clinicians do to consumers, it has become, with the assistance trained peers, what individuals do for themselves and each other. Peers are trained to assist in skills building, goal setting, problem solving, setting up and sustaining mutual self-help groups, and in helping individuals build their own self-directed recovery tools.

The mental health field has been shifting to this recovery model in the last few years because it’s effective, flexible, innovative, and offers choice and self-direction. Caramore’s Tier 3 project efficiently utilizes peers to sustain lasting recovery from mental illness, and in 2009, we plan to host one of Larry’s trainings to further the potential impact our experienced clients have in helping our newer clients recover and live well.

A short clip Larry Fricks appears in: