The words and guidance of Dr. Chris Morris are a cornerstone to my peer advocacy

This is an important photo in my recovery journey and the advocacy stuff I do.

Taken at Behavioral Health Day at the New Mexico State Capitol Building (aka “The Roundhouse”) in 2012, this was my first full term as president of DBSA Albuquerque. The photo is of me (obviously) and Dr. Chris Morris, then with Optum Health.

DBSA Albuquerque had a table for the event and Chris dropped by to say hi. When the crowd thinned out a bit, Chris asked to have a private word with me.

By this point early on in peer advocacy, I was fairly well-networked and fairly well-known as a peer advocate. And, it was already a thing I was torquing off prominent stakeholders who’d been in the community much longer than the two years I’d been around.

So Chris pulled me aside and said, “Steve, you know you’re making people mad and upset, right?”

Sadly, I knew this. And it was a mystery as to why.

Chris then said, “Why should anyone be mad at you? What are you doing wrong? You create new support groups, you hold peer focus groups for advisement, you bring peers to meetings so they can have a direct voice, you set up peer education events, you write opinion pieces and letters to anyone you feel can help peers, you hold community education developed and presented by peers. Why should anyone be angry with you? You’re not doing anything but trying to help peers be empowered.

“This is the reason: You are threatening people’s power, money, or both. You are outside their influence and they can’t control you. This is why people are angry with you.”

Wow. A bit of a gut-punch to hear that. I really was naive early on.

Chris then offered advice which is a cornerstone to how I approach advocacy to this day. Chris said this:

“Don’t stop doing things your way. If you do, then you’ll put yourself where others can control you … and stop you.”

These words mean everything to me and are a constant reminder to keep straight on what my friends are saying and the goals I hope to accomplish. Chris’ words are also a reminder of how limiting bureaucracy is and how building new, novel solutions to peer needs is more efficient and successful than trying to fix broken systems.

Chris’ words also guided me to the very foundation of how I view behavioral health advocacy:

The enemy of innovation is asking for permission.

And, yes, I still piss people off. And, yes, people still try to stop me.

Dr. Chris Morris is a hero of mine. With complete sincerity. Thank you, Chris.

“What group are you with?” Stand Up To Stigma explained

A number of folks I’ve recently met asked “Are you with NAMI?” or “Are you with DBSA?” or ‘Are you with MHRAC?” or “Are you with ____?”

The answer is “No.” I’ve resigned from each board and committee of all organizations where once I held leadership positions and I am focusing exclusively on Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, peer focus groups, and peer support groups. These are the projects important to me and my close friends and to be most responsive to the needs of our communities we must be a fully independent peer collaborative.

What I learned is behavioral health solutions must be innovative and opportunistic. The enemy of innovation is asking someone else for permission to do what you KNOW is right in your heart.

When I was 46 the State of New Mexico honored me with an award for Lifetime Achievement in Behavioral Health Innovation. I’m stoked by the opportinities DBSA, NAMI, MHRAC, APD, BCFIC, and other organizations/acronyms provided me. What I realized is what was being honored was the advocacy stuff I was accomplishing independent of existing organizations.

So, the longer answer is it’s great collaborating with good folks like NAMI and DBSA, and it’s doing stuff as a completely peer-developed, peer-managed, and peer-led organization where I feel most useful in mental health advocacy.

My friends and I work best where growth, community, and innovation are encouraged and nurtured.

We’ll be talking a lot more about STS’s mission as we move forward with our support of our community.

SUTS & DBSA Albuquerque are recruiting peers for Peer Focus Group!

Stand Up To Stigma and DBSA Albuquerque are recruiting peers for our Peer Focus Groups.

Currently, we are seeking peers who have life experience with law enforcement while in crisis. Your experience doesn’t need to be “positive” or “negative.” We are giving priority to peers who are willing to share their life experiences with other peers and are comfortable sharing their stories (anonymously if you’d prefer) with law enforcement.

Our peer focus group meets once a week for one to two hours.

Week One (Second Tuesday of the month) – MHRAC Meeting
Meet at the Rock at Noonday from 5 PM to 7 PM
Mental Health Response Advisory Committee monthly meeting.
Be prepared to take notes on any questions or comments you’ll have.
Dinner is provided by The Rock.

Week Two – Education Night
Meet with peer focus group to discuss any questions you have from the MHRAC meeting.
This includes policies discussed, acronyms, meeting participants, agency names and purposes, etc.

Week Three – Directed Discussion Night
Meet with peer focus group to discuss any issues, needs, and concerns from the MRHAC meeting.
Our discussion is preparation for creating the solutions we require to present to MHRAC.

Week Four – Brainstorming & Creating Solutions
Meet with peer focus group to create solutions based on our identified issues, needs, and concerns, as well as our previous week’s directed discussion.
We will be preparing our report to present to MHRAC on the next Second Tuesday of the month.


If interested:

Call or Text: 505-310-5070

(leave voicemail with your contact information)

Email: info@standuptostigma.org


We appreciate your time and consideration. Join us and make a real difference in our community!

Please note, SUTS CEO and DBSA Albuquerque president elect Steve Bringe resigned from the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee to pursue independent advisement of MHRAC and other committees related to law enforcement. Our peer focus group is a free community service provided by Stand Up To Stigma, LLC, and is not affiliated with MHRAC, DOJ, and APD. We are an independent peer community group.