In Everlasting Honor and Memory of Sally Zinman


August 29, 2022 (Reposted from NYAPRS E-News)

Sally Zinman

“Sally Zinman, pioneer, activist, writer, artist, leader, and friend of many in the consumer/survivor movement passed away on Thursday. Harvey Rosenthal shared in a post last week, “Given Sally’s steadily declining health, this has not come as a surprise but as a moment of both grief and loss and of gratitude and honoring the beautiful soul and tireless warrior she was for so many years.

“See the photo below of Sally in her prime (on the left) with her fellow pioneers and the ones below demonstrating the dignity and kindness she embodied throughout her life and struggle with cancer.

“Rest in peace and power Sally and know that your legacy of self-empowerment, community organizing and activism….and transformational change and courage, determination and love will go on forever (photos and tribute by Harvey Rosenthal, NYAPRS, August 26, 2022).”

Sally Zinman’s acceptance at the SAMHSA 2016 Voice Award

“We, all of us, have been soldiers in a march towards transformation, from a system based on chronicity to one of recovery.

From a system that decided everything about us without us, to one in which nothing is about us without us.

From a system that considered people with lived experience as not able to run their own lives, to one that values consumer-run programs and peer support.

From a system based on force to one based on choice and self-determination and freedom.

And, from a world that dehumanized and isolated people with lived experience to one that embraces us as neighbors, friends, family members, business colleagues, and every kind of professional.

I remember my feelings as I left my own incarceration almost 40 years ago, and I can remember them today as I am speaking. I wanted to do something about it, so that those who followed me would not
experience the same inhumane treatment as I had. This award is for and because of all those who felt the same way, and did and are doing something about it.

I am truly not standing here alone. I am standing here with and because of them.”

Sally Zinman at the 2016 SAMHSA Choice Awards

Advocates Laud the Life and Legacy of Sally Zinman

NYAPRS Note: Several days ago, I asked people to send in their person thoughts and feelings on the passing of our dear pioneer and friend Sally Zinman. Thanks to all who shared so fully of themselves in the comments that follow.

Sally Zinman, one of the founders of the consumer/survivor movement, helped lead the transformation of mental health care system in the U.S. to focus on choice, self-determination, inclusion, recovery, and peer support. A recipient of many awards, including the SAMHSA lifetime achievement Voice Award and the MHA Clifford Beers award, Sally established one of the first ever peer run service programs, fought for state and National patients’ rights policy and legislation, led the creation of the first statewide peer organization, was a champion of ensuring the full participation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and much more.  Sally was an inspiration and guiding light to so many in creating a just and healing world for people with lived mental health experiences.

Paolo del Vecchio

Sally was a best friend, devoted mother, advocate personified, believer in recovery for all people.  I call up her in my mind.  Her talking and sweet laughter.  Thank you, Sally.

Gayle Bluebird

We’ve lost so many great leaders of our movement! That photo you shared with Jay Mahler, George Ebert, Judi Chamberlin, Ted Chabasinski, and Sally–Ted is the only one still with us. And, of course, we’ve lost many others too, not in the photo

Susan Rogers

When I finally had the chance to meet and connect with Sally Zinman I was grateful to experience her directness and candor. She supported and encouraged me to have a clear voice about our rights issues, especially when I felt hesitant to do so with people in power. She was a powerful example for me as someone who was always willing to do the often thankless, yet groundbreaking work involved in starting new organizations like the Mental Patient Rights Association and California Association of Mental Health Peer Support Organizations.

Chacku Mathai

This is sad news as Sally was a true champion of civil rights. She wisely to set up her predecessors including Andrea Wagner and Mary Hogden at CAMHPRO California Association of Mental Health Peer-Run Organizations to take the helm before she left and her legacy continues in good hands. For me personally with discussions with her, she exemplified what is it to be a woman, mother and leader in a movement where she held her own as she encountered resistance on the inside and outside of the group.

Here are some videos of Sally speaking for those who may not be so familiar with her and her work: some videos with Sally:

Sally speaks on the history of the peer movement at the Alternatives Conference (2021) (one hour):

Ann Kasper

Sally was an early leader in the psychiatric survivor movement and inspired many of us along the way. Sally was on the board @ the Bazelon Center for years.  She is one of our Lifetime Achievement awardees this year and we will figure out how to properly honor her at the Awards and beyond. 

Sally Zinman – Clifford W. Beers Award | Mental Health America (

Holly O’Donnell

In January of this year, I visited Sally. I recalled that years ago when I was doing interviews to understand recovery, Sally said her recovery began when she decided she was not Sally Zinman. Her family decided that was a sign that she had a mental health condition and had her locked up. However, years later she could see this assertion that she was not Sally was the beginning of her self-determination and of her recovery of her life, a life that has helped so many find their authentic lives. Though she left this mortal plane 2 days ago, she left knowing who she really was and knowing she made a difference in many peoples’ lives.

Thank you, Sally, you changed my life. I will, like her, never stop fighting for the freedom and rights of people who think differently than the chronically normal. I’m very sad to hear of Sally leaving this reality, and we owe so much to her. Her energy, her clear values, her intelligence were an inspiration to our movement. We miss you and will always remember you and your determination 💕  Dan Fisher

She was an indefatigable leader whose vision and voice rang clear while building coalitions in California and nationwide. She could negotiate for people, using skills to overlook differences when dealing with allies as well as political foes, and could keep her priorities uppermost while promoting empowerment for recovery. Sally’s courage and passion, and the warmth of her humble strength helped inspire an entire movement.”

Phyllis Vine

I always admired Sally’s work and had the privilege to partner on a few things with her. She paved the way for many, including myself.  Much love to Sally Zinman and family.

Oryx Cohen

I will miss Sally so. She was a pioneer in the fight for human rights for the millions of us with psychiatric labels.

Patrick Hendry

I’m saddened to hear of this tremendous loss and only hope that Sally’s courageous spirit lives on in all who knew her, loved her and worked alongside her for human rights!

Chrys Ballerano

Although I only was able to share a few minutes with her in my life, I was very privileged to have been part of her presentations and a workshop.  She truly understood how to live our principles, and her example was a source of inspiration for me.

Jacek Jack Haciak

I am so grateful to have met her in this lifetime.

Latosha Taylor

Very sad to hear of Sally leaving this reality, and we owe so much to her. Her energy, her clear values, her intelligence were an inspiration to our movement. We miss you and will always remember you and your determination 💕

Kevin Fitts

As a mother of our movement, she loved, nurtured and accepted us all regardless of where we stood on the spectrum or survivor to consumer. Sally embodied kindness, compassion and love. But she was also driven by an outrage few of us saw directly, an outrage focused on strategies and solutions rather than breast beating. She wanted to win on behalf of our community and established and led so many successful campaigns, coalitions and programs. She was savvy and shrewd…she didn’t waste time raging at the darkness but looking for the light. She herself was always a beacon of light, she spoke the truth plainly and simply, she was always so humble and never a complainer, even as so many illnesses threatened and eventually took her life from cancer to Covid and many in between. I feel great grief but also great love for her and by extension for all of us.

I asked Sally a few weeks ago about what she saw as our greatest victory and daunting challenge. She celebrated the creation of a movement that transformed lives, services and systems and public policy for decades and, at the same time, deeply yearbed to see our broader community come together and get past our differences…beliefs, personalities and styles…and to keep our eyes on the prize of the quality of human life and the imperative of human rights. Rest in power and much deserved peace my dear friend.

Harvey Rosenthal

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: