Turned her men­tal ill­ness into ad­vo­cacy

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Gale Hol­land ghol­land @la­times.com Twit­ter: @gehol­land

Cather­ine Bond was a li­censed mar­riage and fam­ily ther­a­pist when she had her first psy­chotic break. Her train­ing did not pro­tect her from re­laps­ing into bipo­lar dis­or­der.

But the re­cur­rences didn’t stop her from be­com­ing one of Cal­i­for­nia’s lead­ing men­tal health ad­vo­cates and an early cham­pion of peer sup­port groups and the re­cov­ery treat­ment model.

“She was a leader and spokesper­son for clients, who also em­bod­ied re­cov­ery in her own life,” said USC so­cial work pro­fes­sor Marvin Southard, former di­rec­tor of the Los An­ge­les County De­part­ment of Men­tal Health.

Bond died Aug. 31 in a Los An­ge­les area hospi­tal of com­pli­ca­tions from an ill­ness. She was 79.

Bond earned her mar­riage and fam­ily ther­apy cre­den­tial in 1975 af­ter study­ing un­der Vir­ginia Satir, an in­ter­na­tion­ally known ex­pert on fam­ily men­tal health.

She started what she later de­scribed as a highly lu­cra­tive busi­ness by train­ing other peo­ple to pass the li­cens­ing test. But af­ter a sui­cide at­tempt landed her in a psy­chi­atric unit for six weeks, Bond tried what she called a “geo­graphic so­lu­tion” to her dis­or­der, mov­ing to Bos­ton, and even­tu­ally South Korea and Thai­land, to teach English.

“What hap­pened for the next 17 years or so was that I would work for a while and do pretty well and not take med­i­ca­tion and not get ther­apy and not have sup­port groups and try to be the lone ranger,” Bond said in an oral his­tory for a UCLA web­site on the his­tory of men­tal health in Cal­i­for­nia. “And I would even­tu­ally end up over­work­ing, over­stress­ing, be­com­ing ir­ra­tional, and fi­nally, end­ing up in a hospi­tal.”

With a break in 1999, she re­turned to the U.S. and lived on the streets of Santa Mon­ica for six months.

“I lost ev­ery­thing. I lost my lug­gage — I ba­si­cally walked away from it be­cause I was so com­pletely into my delu­sional state, and found my­self on the street in Santa Mon­ica,” Bond said in the oral his­tory. “And so I was con­vinced that it was meant to be, it was all very sym­bolic, full cir­cle. Ex­cept I was at the bot­tom, not the top.”

A shel­ter re­ferred her to a men­tal health clinic in West Los An­ge­les, where she was of­fered what she later said had been miss­ing from her ear­lier treat­ment: The psy­chi­a­trist said she could get bet­ter, and she of­fered her choices.

“She didn’t just say, [tap­ping the ta­ble with each point,] ‘Take the lithium, that’s what you need to take, you’re go­ing to be chron­i­cally ill for the rest of your life, lithium’s the only thing that’s go­ing to help you, take the lithium,’ ” Bond told the UCLA in­ter­viewer. “She said, ‘Look, [this] stuff doesn’t al­ways work for ev­ery­body. Here are some other op­tions.’ ”

Bond trained hun­dreds of peo­ple in peer sup­port, self-help groups based on 12step prin­ci­ples that are now main­stream in the men­tal health field.

She was an im­por­tant fig­ure in eas­ing Los An­ge­les County’s shift from the med­i­cal model to a re­cov­ery ap­proach, which she de­fined in her oral his­tory: “If the re­cov­ery model says you can get well and stay well, the med­i­cal model says you can get sta­ble if you take med­i­ca­tion and do what we tell you to do.”

She also taught clients to de­velop ad­vanced di­rec­tives fea­tur­ing friends or other peers to call on in a cri­sis to avoid hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.

In the UCLA in­ter­view, Bond ex­plained why peers can be more help­ful than pro­fes­sion­als: “I can take you in my car be­cause I don’t have some kind of li­a­bil­ity with some kind of place that says you can’t drive some­body. I can go with you for a walk around the block and not worry that if you trip and I pick you up, that you’re gonna sue me.… I can sit with you at night at 3 a.m.”

Her po­si­tions in­cluded train­ing co­or­di­na­tor for the Project Re­turn Peer Sup­port Net­work, train­ing di­rec­tor for Men­tal Health Amer­ica of Los An­ge­les and di­rec­tor at the Cal­i­for­nia Net­work of Men­tal Health Clients in Sacramento, a con­sumer-run ad­vo­cacy group. She also headed the con­sumer af­fairs de­part­ment at county men­tal health.

Southard said Bond was a role model for men­tal health con­sumers be­cause of and not de­spite her set­backs.

With her train­ing and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, she was equally at home with home­less peo­ple and psy­chi­a­trists.

Southard said Bond per­suaded him to drop county rules pun­ish­ing clients who re­lapsed into sub­stance abuse.

“She was will­ing to stand up as a men­tal health pro­fes­sional and say she had a men­tal health ill­ness,” said Ruth Holl­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Share, a non­profit that pro­vides self-help sup­port groups and col­lab­o­ra­tive hous­ing for men­tal health con­sumers.

“She could al­ways see the di­a­mond in the rough and in­spire peo­ple to be­lieve they could be some­one more than a per­son with men­tal ill­ness, and ac­com­plish things in their lives,” said David A. Pilon, pres­i­dent of Men­tal Health Amer­ica of Los An­ge­les.

Still, she re­duced but could not elim­i­nate her manic breaks and lapses into home­less­ness, friends said.

“It wasn’t be­cause she wasn’t tak­ing med­i­ca­tion. She was un­der the care of doc­tors. It just would hap­pen,” Holl­man said. “At one point, she was stay­ing at a friend’s condo and she start­ing sell­ing things from the condo to get more money to buy things to do with. Once they’d get her sta­bi­lized again, she would be in­cred­i­bly up­set about what had hap­pened.”

She also would re­turn to ad­vo­cacy and train­ing.

“She was re­ally quite strik­ing — the num­ber of times she strug­gled and was able to re­con­sti­tute her­self and go back to work,” Pilon said.

Courtesy of Share

LEAD­ING BY EX­AM­PLE Peers of Cather­ine Bond, who had bipo­lar dis­or­der, say she was a role model be­cause of, not de­spite, her men­tal health set­backs and re­cov­ery.

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