The Silver Key Award is presented annually to “individuals or organizations whose contributions to the mental health field demonstrate a devotion to the eradication of stigma that often prevents people from seeking treatment. The award acknowledges the effort, values and ethics that comprise the character of those who support improved treatment and care of people with mental illness.”
We would like to share the text of Dr. Morse’s acceptance speech:
I am very grateful to Mental Health America, long a leader in mental health, for this award, and to Karl and Brian Vandenberg, who nominated me.
I’m honored to stand before you, yet mindful of Thomas Merton’s words: “My successes are not my own.”
Rather, they reflect the contributions of many, including:
- My late father, who taught me to always try your best,
- My late mother, who instilled compassion, even as she struggled with her own mental health disorders,
- My friend and former spouse, Susan, our son Vince, and my current, wonderful partner, Susan Abbott.
The award also reflects the contributions of 100s of colleagues across many organizations, including:
- Mentors like Karl, Bob Calsyn, Joe Yancey
- The dedicated Management Team and Board at Places for People
- Colleagues, I have worked alongside for 30 years, like Joris Miller, Barb Zawier, Julie Blanco, Don Shipp, plus rising stars, like Nathan Dell, Dr. Throop, Cara Jacobsen
These people inspire me not only for their professional skills, but for their caring, dedication, and goodness of heart.
Truly, I’m blessed to know some of the best people on earth.
Similarly, my life has been enriched from working with 100s of mental health clients—from executives in therapy to outreach with homeless people with schizophrenia.
I have witnessed—often with awe—their courage, resilience, and spirit to face and overcome great hardships.
These are wonderful gifts that have added much meaning to my life
This award also reflects processes as well as people. In particular, it is clear our system is better when:
- We innovate new ways to serve, and
- Use research—just as in general healthcare—to discover more effective ways of helping.
- It is also clear we need to do more of those things in a system that embraces recovery and the health and well-being we all want.
In closing, I’ll say when I first started my career, I chose to be part of the growing national movement to end homelessness.
Within 5 or 10 years, I thought, we can accomplish that goal.
That was 35 years ago.
Today, homelessness still persists, still pervasive, still tragic — despite the fact we have learned we can end homelessness thru services and housing supports.
I still want homelessness to end.
But an even bigger wish is that we move our country to a culture of compassion and caring.
To do so, will take commitment and action:
First, we must advocate for public priorities to better support the well-being of all people.
Second, we must know, as Tolstoy said, the most important person is the one in front of you.
As we see that person, we should remember that 1 in 2 will struggle during life with a mental health disorder, and all of us will experience mental health symptoms.
Knowing this, I hope we realize it’s not us and them—it’s all of us.
And in each moment, we have the opportunity to reach out, to open our hearts and minds, to offer caring—even love—for the suffering, while embracing the goodness, the potential, and, to paraphrase Mother Teresa, the divine, even within its most distressed appearances.