Places for People Executive Director Joe Yancey received the Silver Key Award from Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri at the Snow Ball gala on December 9, 2016.
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 the often prevents people from seeking treatment. This award acknowledges the effort, values, and ethics that comprise the character of those who support improved treatment and care of people with mental illness.
Here is Joe’s acceptance speech.
I first want to recognize and give thanks to my wife whose been incredibly supportive over so many years, Paula. Thank you, Paula.
I’d also like to recognize my family who are here from all over the country. I appreciate them being here tonight.
It is a tremendous honor, as well, to be receiving this award with Bethany Johnson-Javois. She and I have worked together for at least the last 10 years and I think we’ve done, along with a lot of other people, we’ve made some significant strides. Thank you, Bethany.
When I received word of this, I thought about and reflected over those past four decades and the one thing that came to me over and over was the word blessed. First off, I’ve been blessed to do this work that I love for over 4 decades. I’ve been able to do that work with some incredibly amazing people, many of whom are in this room tonight.
I am a product, in my teen years in Chicago, Illinois, I had the good fortune of being very, very close to the civil rights movement, and I consider myself a soldier in the fight for social justice. And this work, to me, and why I love it so much is because it is social justice work. This thing that we politely call stigma, let’s call it out, it’s outright discrimination. Health parity is social justice. Over representation of people with mental health issues in our prisons and jails is social justice. A 12% employment rate is a social justice issue. And people dying 20 years before the rest of the population is a social justice issue. We’ve got work to do, we’re doing that work, we’re going to continue to do that work. I love the last 4 decades.
I’ve also been blessed to do this work in the state of Missouri. Where through exceptional, visionary leadership, both from the state authority, the Department of Mental Health here in Missouri, but also from the Coalition, which is the provider community here in the state of Missouri, we have been able to forge together a collaboration and honest foregoing of going around a very specific purpose together that is the envy of the rest of the nation.
And finally, I’ve been very blessed, early on to recognize the reciprocity of this work. I’ve learned more from the people that I have provided my services to, they have been my teachers, they have been my mentors. I tell our staff that ‘we are they, and they are us.’ And it is important to keep our antenna up for the great gifts that we get back in doing this work, because if we don’t, we’ll miss it. They’ll go over our head. I’m so thankful for those gifts that I have gotten over the last almost 40 years from those very people that I serve, and what they have given to me.
You know one of the things of many things I do during the week, but I have to tell you that the most important to me and the thing I look forward to the most is Thursday nights. On Thursday night, I and my brother and friend over there, Khatib Waheed, and others, we get together with people who have lost a family member to homicide, and it is incredible to be able to watch the healing that occurs where people are able to begin from unimaginable grief, to be able to smile, to be able to laugh, to be able to go bowling and have a good time. I am thankful for this work, mostly because what it has given to me and how it has enriched my life. Reciprocity. I am humbled and I am honored for this award.
Thank you to Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri and Board of Directors. Thank you all very much. Thank you.