Andrea Schmook has over 30 years experience volunteering, working, consulting and training people diagnosed with mental illness and professionals in the mental health field. Her vision is to share the tools she used and how she applied them to get well. Her story is still being written both in life and in the pages of her autobiography. Through her personal experience, she developed the resiliency to bounce back from the adverse effects of being diagnosed with mental illness. It’s her passion to share her journey with people diagnosed with mental illness, their families and professionals and staff in the field. She believes in a holistic approach to her life, taking into account her physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social wellbeing. In her blog, www.holisticseniors.com, Andrea chronicles her holistic journey with her health challenges of high blood pressure and fatty liver. She reversed fatty liver to the normal range by using holistic approaches. Although she is still on high blood pressure medication, her blood pressure stays in the optimal range since she started eating healthy and began a fitness program.
Since her recovery from diagnoses of acute paranoid schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and manic depression, Andrea has been involved in promoting recovery. Currently, she is retired from her position as the Executive Director of Consumer Driven Services, LLC an affiliate of Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, Inc. In June 2005, she was appointed by Governor Murkowski to serve on the Alaska Mental Health Board and in October 2006 was voted to be Chairperson. From 2003 through 2005, she was on contract with the Alaska Psychiatric Institute to establish the Office of Consumer and Family Affairs. Previous to that she served six years as Director of Consumer Affairs and Development for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health. Prior to that, Elgin Mental Health Center in Elgin, Illinois contracted with her as a consumer advocate. She worked in this capacity for 16 months, providing patient sensitivity training. Additionally, she was involved in interviewing patients on all units, including Forensics, regarding patient opinions about services.
In 1985 during her first year in recovery, Andrea was appointed by Alaska Governor Sheffield to serve on the Governor’s Mental Health Advisory Council and later appointed by Governor Cowper to serve as the first consumer representative on the Alaska Mental Health Board. Additionally, she served on the Board of Directors to the Alaska Mental Health Association; the Board of Directors and Advisory Board to Advocacy Services of Alaska (currently known as Disability Law Center) under the Federal Protection and Advocacy Act; and the Board of Directors of the Alaska Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She has received protection and advocacy training by the Mental Health Law Project (now known as the Bazelon Center) and the National Protection and Advocacy Systems.
In 1986 she co-founded Mental Health Consumers of Alaska where she served as the first President. In this position, she successfully lobbied the Alaska Legislature for $125,000 to develop Alaska’s first consumer-run organization. She developed and wrote the first grant and then served as the first Executive Director. Under her leadership, Mental Health Consumers of Alaska’s first-year program grant was rated 12th out of 46 community mental health programs statewide.
In 1989, Andrea was one of five U.S. consumer representatives invited by the World Federation on Mental Health to attend the World Congress on Mental Health held in Auckland, New Zealand. She headed up the U.S. team of consumers that delivered consumer training and workshops. She worked for GROW (founded in Sydney, Australia in 1957) in Illinois and Delaware developing 12-step recovery groups for people with mental illness.
Since 1995, she continues to serve on the National Advisory Council for the National Research and Training Center on Psychiatric Disability, Department of Psychiatry, the University of Illinois at Chicago; and served on the Advisory Council to the University of Chicago Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.
She has served as President of Peer Properties in Anchorage, Alaska, a peer-run landlord-tenant non-profit whose purpose is to provide safe, affordable, accessible and decent housing for homeless adults with mental illness or co-occurring disorders.
She was a member and served as Secretary on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Consumer/Survivor Mental Health Administrators. Additionally, she was a member of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) President’s Task Force on Employment.
She is the recipient of the U.S. Department of Justice, Award for Public Service for a series of symposiums held throughout Illinois dealing with the Police Response to People with Mental Illness, and the Distinguished Service Award in Recognition of Outstanding Service to the Mental Health Association and the State of Alaska Award for Outstanding Service as a Volunteer in Mental Health Consumer Advocacy, as well as The Maurine Withers Award by Ecker Center Board of Directors for outstanding contributions in the field of mental health.
She is also the first recipient of the Triumphant Spirit Award, Illinois Department of Human Services, Metro Suburban Network Advisory Council Partners in Recovery.
In 1999, she was invited by President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore to Attend the White House Conference on Mental Health in Washington, D.C.