Sylvia Turns Seventy

Monday, August 15, 2005


Sylvia Caras, my grandmother, will be 70 on October 3, 2005

Sylvia, my grandmother, will be turning 70 this October and we have decided to assemble a journal of all the wonderful times Sylvia has shared with her friends and family. This record will tell those who haven't been born into the Caras family yet what my loving grandmother was like.

Tell us how you know my grandmother and tell us a story about you and her together which will enable me to picture her personality and her work.

Just below this note, there is a line that shows how many comments have been left by others. Click on it to read them and to leave your own.

When you do that, there is a box that says, “Leave your comment” and underneath it “Choose an identity”. Select “Other” and then you will be able to post under your own name. If you select "Anonymous" please add your name at the end of the message.
To see some fun images from Sylvia’s life, click on this link
and then use your own browser's "back" to come back and leave a message.

A sincere thanks from,
The Caras family

Cards and Flowers

Congradulations on getting your Blog site going!
Happy Birthday - you've come a long way, baby!
Mom - you can't possibly be turning 70; I can barely keep up with you! I sure am glad I've got a mom like you! Love, your one and only daughter, Victoria.

Your grandmother Sylvia and I have met only on the Internet.
About five years ago I was doing genealogical research of the Bond (your grandmother's maiden name) family. Sylvia was very helpful and allowed me to fill in some gaps in the tree. Her help was appreciated.
Please wish her many more happy birthdays.
By the way, you are related to my granddaughters. Ask your grandmother about that.

Sylvia... Seventy? I thought the number was "SEVENTEEN". You are a truly remarkable woman and the coolest mother on the planet.

Dear Sylvia,

You are a light in the darkness. A magical human being. Wishing you a long and happy life!
I hope we all can learn from your tenacity and drive.
Hope your Birthday is fantastic and we can talk about how fun this was at your 89th!

-- Geoff
To make sure Sylvia knows who left the comment, where it says "Choose an identity", please choose "OTHER" and put your name in the box or choose "ANONYMOUS" and put your name into the text of your post. Thanks!
Here's what it will look like if you choose "OTHER" and put your name into the box before you post.
... and here's what it will look like if you choose "ANONYMOUS" so make sure to put your name into the text of the post
- victoria, syl's daughter
Happy Birthday Sylvia! Just wanted to say happy birthday; Victoria always says how great you are and I hope your birthday is amazing and all your wishes come true! P.S. How cool are you that you thought of having a blog! - by Brook James, Victoria's step-sister's daughter
To My World-Travelling, World-Improving Sister on her Birthday:

When we were growing up, you always seemed pretty amazing--so smart (you skipped two grades); so curious (you were always reading); so competent (you could read and knit at the same time); so efficient and organized (you were pregnant with Victoria at your college graduation). 70 now--amazing still, and unstoppable.

With love and awe--
I know Sylvia from lots of stuff, but the most fun I had with her were our long walks around the city of London. With the moonlight on the Thames River.
Joseph Rogers
70? I think not. Ageless is the picture in my mind, paradigm not person.

Harold A. Maio
Miss Sylvia,

After having only known you in 2D (online) one of my sweetest joys was finally (FINALLY!) meeting you in the meat world during one of your bazillion travels - when you were attending a meeting in Chicago. The embrace was warm, the memory a personal treasure.

You are an amazing force of nature. When I grow up I hope to be a person you will be proud of (yeah, ignore that pesky 'you're already 39, what are you waiting for?!' detail). : )
Knowing Sylvia only from work - it was nice to see pictures of her growing up, with her children and grandchildren. I now know there is a soft side to her!

I never would have guessed you would be 70 yrs old - you have the energy and strength of people half your age.

Looking back, I must say that I dont know many other people with such dedication to a single cause as you. Take good care of yourself cause the Consumer/User/Survivor movement would never be the same without you!

Happy Birthday Sylvia and may you have many, many more....
I know Sylvia since...when? Hard to say. Since before I got my first computer which was 1993. She madness. She gets to the heart of what is going on, especially when it's b***sh*t. I love the way she uses plain language to decode mentalhealthprofessionalspeak. Sylvia I am going to quote from you in my book! I wish you were my mom and my son's grandma.
Get going girl, you only have like thirty more years to use that PhD to stop shock.
I have known Sylvia mostly via the internet--but have had a few precious opportunitities to meet her in person. I for one am glad that our journeys have shared some common paths for a period of time.

Much love to you Sylvia.

beckie child
Sylvia, I met you in 1994, when I sat in on a computer class at Alternatives. You asked me "Do you have a modem?" And I thought "What the heck is a modem?" Obviously, you were eons ahead of me in the computer world. Since then, I've felt a real 'kinship' with you that goes beyond madness -- even beyond politics. So glad to finally get to know you during the 2004 campaign!! You rock, girl!
I am no longer able to travel, and one of the folks I miss seeing at conferences is Sylvia. Today I provide hardware and software IT for persons and organizations for persons with disabilities. The inspiration for this came from my involvement in the Madness List. The positive impact of access to technology for persons with disability labels is vital in recovery.

I have never seen flaming like that on the old Madness list, but Sylvia handled it with grace and wisdom. She brought class to chaos.

Congratulations on seventy years. All I can say is that if I knew I was going to live to be this old, I'd taken better care of myself.
I first came across Sylvia in 1997 when I was first connected to the internet, and searched 'madness' lists.
She seemed such a 'famous' person, and I was delighted when our mutual work brought us face to face in my home country, New Zealand. We have since met in Australia, New York (at the UN), Denmark and Milan.
Sylvia is the most wonderfully organised and efficient person, and does it in the most unobtrusive way. She is thoughtful, compassionate, and has been a wonderful support. Her writing has made a huge contribution to the user/survivor movement, as has her presence and warmth.
She is a true 'taonga' (NZ Maori for 'treaure')

You're a great activist and represent us all very well. Best wishes and Happy Birthday!
Congratulations on the milestone birthday, Sylvia!

You were the first person I discovered on the Internet that was extremely helpful.
Like many others, I met Sylvia on the Internet. Even with those limitations, a fiery intellect shined through. I came to consider peoplewho an essential academic resource for my work. Then in 2003, I had the chance to engage her in a project on stigma. Our online and conference call discussions were rich, energetic, and productive. All of the other panel members who did not know her were smitten. Sylvia is one, if not THE, most informed, erudite, passionate scholar and advocate in the human right/disability/people with psychiatric diagnoses arena. I learn from her. It has been a privilege to view her life in photos--and still I do not know enough of this remarkable woman. A heartfelt salute to all of you--what exceptional people you all are--with and for each other.
Mazel Tov to Sylvia--long may you wave!
Happy Birthday. I can't believe that you are turning 70. Your spirit and vibrance has been a bright light in the consumer/survivor/expatient movement for quite a time. It has been a while since we first met electronically and then got to know each other at various federal meetings. I can clearly remember the initial growth of the people who network which now yeild considerable clout. Congratulations again on your birthday. I am so glad to have gotten to know you and happy that your family shares you with the rest of us. Best wishes always,
John Allen
I'm loving reading all the posts. A whole new perspective on your achievements, my world-travelling, world-improving sister. So many friends and well-wishers. And the pictures! But the best part is Zoe--her doing this and all the love that comes through from her.
Congrats on your birthday, Sylvia! I have only known Sylvia thru her work with mental health. The only way to describe how wonderful she is to work with is "Quiet Strength". Not only does she remind me of my own mother, but I just read where she shares the name BOND. Wonderful coincidences.
My Dearest Sylvia, :-)
It is, has been wonderful knowing you, getting to know you, with each new day grow to love you more. I have and always will have the up most respect for you.
I have learned so much from you and everyday try to follow in your foot steps. You are truly a shining star.
You are forever young at heart. On your special day i am with you. As you are always with me.
It's because you were given birth into this world that people like myself have been given the honor of having your in my life.
From interviewing you as a member of the board to having you as an an ever lasting friend is truly a beautiful blessing to me. Thank you. Also for coming into my life.
May your birthday be as beautiful as you are. Happy birthday with many happy returns.

All My Love To You, Forever and Always,
I have too long a story but I will try to make it as short as I can. At first I will try to tell who and where I am. Sylvia visited Finland in I suppose somewehere about 1990. I was then a member in the Board of Mielenterveysyhdistys Helmi ry i.e. the Mental Health Association of Helsinki. Because I quite well know English I was chosen to be the guide of Sylvia In Helsinki.
Helsinki (about 500 000 habitants, Greater Helsinki about 1 milj.) is the capital of Finland, about 5 milj. habitants. Of them about 80 % pay church tax to The Protestant Church of Finland (Protestantism is a quite tiny "sect" in Christinanity, I think you say "goy"). Of them more of less everybody somehow has somekind of relationship with God though here also people get more and more secular.
I myself am a true believer but because I then logically know that everybody else is somehow a true believer to something I am not so eager to push anything on anybody. I am a very well rehabilitated paranoid schizophrenic and therefore I also know that people have an enormous capacity to suffer. That's an other reson why I am not so eager to push anything on anybody.
Finland looks very tiny on the maps beside Russia but that's an illusion, for a Belge this land is enormous.
That's the epilogy.
I met an very pleasing middleaged woman and I think that we had a pleasing day with Sylvia. I showed to her the main sights in the town, the Doom, the Tempel Church, I think that we even wisited the Sibelius monument. I remember how I had difficulties to explain at the Doom what religion it represents but she herself then said: "Isn't it protestant?" I do quite surely have the idea that then I left her to the Synagoga of Helsinki and then again was to follow her with other people from the Association to the Main Railwaystation of Helsinki on an other day.
After this I have occasionally had a "relationship" with her by eMail and I have for a very long time subscribed her Iris pages. There I have very many times got very important knowledge about mental health issues.
Thank You Sylvia For These Years! Congratulations! Still a Long and Meaningfull, Pleasing Life Ahead For You!
I am coming later though I cannot catch you.
My web page did not appear. You may write the address on the address row and then try again.
Hi Zoe

I have come to know Silvia through the creation of a UN treaty on disability rights, where Silvia has been a fantastic facilitator and inspirer.

Thanks for your very good work Silvia and Happy Birthday and we look forward to seeing you in January for the next Ad Hoc meeting.
Dear Zoe

your grandmother has changed the world for those of us who live with madness. She has been at the forefront of a great revolution, don't ever doubt the importance of her work.

On a more personal level, I have known Sylvia in 2 dimensions for a long time, it has been a unlikely friendship but a real and important one. Sylvia has a way of getting to the point and cutting through the BS while still offering great and helpful support. Sylvia can raise a questioning eyebrow in email like nobody else.

When Sylvia finally came to Melbourne for a conference I got to play tourguide and those days were such great fun. We rode trams and ate fish and chips by the beach and shopped until I dropped (your grandmother just kept going of course).

I remember Sylvia looking for a gift for you Zoe and deciding she would need 2 similar items so your best friend could have one too.

That is your grandmother, that is my friend.

Happy birthday Sylvia
I totally enjoyed your family pictures. Your grandmother has been a mentor to me through email ever since I saw her speak at a mental health commission meeting in Sacramento a few months ago. I had wanted to meet her face to face but didn't get a chance. Later I was also impressed with how she took detailed notes of the meeting and posted them for all of us who are not as quick and alert as she is. Now I feel that I almost have met her face to face. Thanks so much for sharing your grandmother with us.
Shelley Martin said:

I met Sylvia several years ago when I was working on the 8th edition of the UC Berkeley Wellness Guide with the goal to be inclusive of the issues facing people with disabilities and their families. I was impressed with your grandmother's amazing ability to speak the truth and bring up issues that others were often too uncomfortable to discuss. Her honesty enabled others to express themselves more freely and fully. Plus, I just loved being around her!

Happy Birthday Sylvia--here's to the beginning of a fabulous new decade! Much love and good luck!!!
Happy Birthday Sylvia! I looked through the photographs, some of which brought back so many childhood memories. It made me want a hug in the worst way!

I am Melanie, oldest friend of Victoria. I believe we did the playpen together. Victoria, I saw your photo on here and it just about took my breath away. You are so beautiful, and it's been such a long time since I've seen you. Please email me:

My memories of Sylvia are from her home in Newton, across the street from my home until the age of 6. Sylvia had family photos hanging in the hallway, which I loved and I have copied the idea in my own home. I remember Sylvia's warm smile and soft spoken voice, but I also remember her great laugh. I remember playing in the basement, especially the day my brother, Mark and Geoff were doing Tarzan tricks from the pipes in the ceiling. Ouch. I remember the modern flatware, was it Dansk?

Geoff, you look wonderful and your family is beautiful.

I send my love to all of you.

I'll go back REALLY far - to Camp Queen Lake, then to Wellesley College, then to San Francisco where you were one of my main supports - when you left, it was never the same for me, and not only because I then had to fill out my own IRS returns! I was always an admirer, and I wish you, dear Sylvia,at least seventy wonderful wishes on this day. Love,
From my trip to Denmark, where I met a lot of wonderful people, I will always remember you the most. Thanks for being such a wonderful person, Sylvia. Happy B'day, and may all the good powers of nature be with you through your seventies.
Lots of love and hugs from Bhargavi, India.
Happy birthday Sylvia,

I have been reading your posts for many years and have appreciated your work with WNUSP but only from a distance.

You have many followers in the UK and I am sure that all wish you the very best at this special time. How good it is to know that you have a wonderful family. You certainly deserve it:-)
Dear Sylvia,

Happy birthday to a wonderful role model! Your vision and your politic reminding me over the years about the power of the internet and its possiblities have helped me to focus on what is really important in my work. And, not matter when I see you, its not only business - you always ask me about my son. Why am I not surprised that you have such a wonderful family who is making this birthday so special?

Ingrid Goldstrom
Sylvia is pure joy, brilliance, illumination, a constant star shining over everyone and at the same time a partner. Just please remove all thoughts of who Sylvia was, and dwell on who Sylvia is. And please accept congratulations of a contemporary and pleased to be one, LDMF.
Hello, Sylvia. Happy birthday from Belgrade!

I just wanted to say happy birthday to you and also say that you have a wonderful grand daughter (I guess you already know that)! What a special thing she has done! Also, I had no idea that you were 70! You look great!!!

Have a wonderful day on October 3rd and happy birthday!

Sylvia - I loved those photos. Do you remember that we first met in Dublin in 1995 (where I attended your internet workshop of course)?
We've met at various places here and abroad since then. Carry on travelling and don't let this momentous event (55, was it?) slow you down!

Congratulations, happy birthday.
Elena Berger
Hope you have a great birthday, Sylvia, and many many more ...
Thank you for you patience and help
Wow! Seventy, too! I just turned 70 this Summer...and it's not bad...especailly when we have our health and wit.

What a wonderful tribute to your Grandmother, Zoe, and such a unique and ever-lasting idea. She's lucky to have you!

I first met your grandmother at a client forum in Sacramento many, many years ago. She was the facilitator and did an excellent job. I was also impressed with her ability to gently quiet down a rather explosive group of people, and yet keep the meeting constructive and flowing.

Your Grandmother has contribted so much in the mental health field, and we are all lucky to have her "in our corner." She has been an inspiration to me in my anti-stigma work.

Happy 70th Sylvia!

Carmen Lee
I was thinking about this last night and I decided there was another Sylvia story to tell you Zoe. When she was here in Melbourne we spent some time in bookshops where Sylvia noticed that the cost of books seemed high. Your grandmother went home, swooped on a used bookstore and bought out what must have been close to their whole section of mysteries and thrillers (my preferred guilty pleasures)and mailed them to me. I have a whole Sylvia shelf on my bookcase (and a US mailbag in my cupboard but don't tell anybody, I believe I was supposed to return it to somebody but it is so useful!)
I have only met Sylvia on the internet lists we are both on, (unfortunately); Her comments there are both very articulate AND very caring. I would love to meet her in person.
Happy Birthday, Sylvia!
Love, Marie (
Dear Sylvia – You were the first person that I met on the internet. It was 1993, and for awhile there it seemed that there were only a handful of other people using this new technology. But you were already busy planning a way for mental health consumer/survivors to communicate with each other online. It was not long after that that you created “ThisIsCrazy,” one of the very first mailing lists on the World Wide Web. And the rest is history!
Love, Sally Clay
Hello and warmest wishes on your next stop up till 120 years!

Being one of the few native English-speakers in the Israeli consumer/survivor movement, it naturally wasn't too long before I turned to the English Web for inspiration, and not much longer before I encountered the IRIS list and its unusually wise owner.

What I feel to be a quite constructive virtual friendship has helped guide me through some rocky times on the local c/s scene. For a while, I envied how just the right response came naturally to you. Now I can say to myself, "don't worry -- by the time you're seventy, you'll have that kind of wisdom, too."

We here in Israel are just getting off the ground when it comes to consumer advocacy. Your gentle, yet firm example is one I'd like to take when doing whatever I can to facilitate change here.

In closing, I believe you can judge a person's success as a human being in this world by seeing how many people love him, or her. If the loving entries by your family members and (I see) many friends are any indicator, you are a true "mensch" (Yiddish for human being)".

Good luck, Sylvia -- Mazal Tov!
Happy birthday & lots more!

Dear Zoe thanks for sharing this with us. You're lucky to have her & so are we. Sent lots more.

PS Our congresslady is Zoe Lofgren.
dear sylvia and all,

i was trying to remember how i met sylvia - not sure, but it was on the internet. at times we corresponded many times a day. sylvia gave me an opportunity to speak on human rights issues early on, that was one of the stepping stones to advocacy i'm now doing.

sylvia & i are colleagues in WNUSP and in the work we are doing on the disability convention, some of the most exciting things going on right now. she has consistently been willing to give her time, energy and skills to advocacy and inclusive organizing in the user/survivor community and the wider disability networks.

i don't know what to say about turning 70 since i'm not there yet, and i hope i'll be going strong as you are. i guess 70 isn't old any more.

happy birthday & many happy returns, and thanks for sharing this celebration with all of us.


(WNUSP is World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, for anyone who is interested)
If you don't know Sylvia, you should She's a fabulous, warm, dedicated, inspiring woman who's been advocating for decades to stop harmful treatment for people who
interact with the psychiatric system, folks that Sylvia and others call "people who...experience mood
swings, fear, voices, visions"

We rarely get the opportunity to tell people how much we love them and appreciate their work while they
are alive. So, for her 70th birthday, send Sylvia good wishes on Zoe's blog.
Dear Zoe-

I would very much love to leave a birthday message for your grandmother but I am having some technical difficulties. I am trying to register on the Blog but it rejects every user name I come up with including my own name, my dog's name, my horse's name, etc...names no one else could possibly be using.
Dear Sylvia,

I am all with you! And as the youngest grandmother in the world please welcome my words of heart.
This year I was created the youngest grandfather in our globe. Nice coincidence.

Best for all,

Happy B'Day! This clearly warrants another lunch date! What a lovley coincidence that we both are in Sta Cruz and get a chance to spend some time together every now and then--at someof teh town's best lunch spots I might add (don't forget the little Chineese restaruant just last month!) These events are more important perhaps than you realize--you keep me on my toes and attuned to the most cutting edge and challengeing thinking. I'm lookign forward to another 30 years--at minimum.
Sylvia and I served together for years on the Board of Trustees of the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center.Syvia, of course, was very actively involved in maximizing the efforts of SCCCC to provide quality mental health services in Santa Cruz County. When I served as Chair of the Board it became my practice to open the meeting by calling on Sylvia for her announcements and comments. She always had a series of relevant announcements and incisive comments related to needed social services. Sylvia was always articulate, concise, and perceptive.Should I forget to call on her to start the meeting, Sylia would raise her hand and in a very firm and not to be ignored manner remind me of my oversight. She,over time, trained the entire Board to look in her direction at the start of every meeting. Sylvia served on the strategic planning subcommittee with me and brought a great sense of humor, wisdom, and very helpful international travel tips to our every meeting.Thank you Sylvia and happy birthday. Steve La Berge
Sylvia, you are one of the outstanding examples that time is not Newtonian. It can't be measured by just one number! I feel privileged to know you, meet you regularly at the UN and other places, share most of the values you tought me.
I met Sylvia in 1995 at MHCAN because she was on the Board of Director's. Later, I took a look at her website and found out more about her personal experiences with having a psychiatric disability. In 2003, she came back on the Board and I just really enjoyed her intellectual comments that she gave to us. Once in a Board retreat she was my partner and she complimented me on the fact that she noticed that I liked to collect pretty things. I just admire the fact of knowing another woman who isn't jealous when she sees another that's pretty and tells me so. I hope to be friends with Sylvia for a long time.

Happy 70th Birthday, Sylvia!

Love, Carla McSweeney
Hi my name is Kathryn and I met your grandmother in July 2001. She came to me to get relief from chronic neck, shoulder and back pain. I've been treating her ever since.... including today! She is an inspiration, healthy, good natured and articulate and the best walker in Santa Cruz. Its been a pleasure to work with her adn I hope to do so for may years to come. Happy Birthday Sylvia!
Happy Birthday Sylvia!

The Clinton-Gore administration brought mental health clients, advocates and family members together in the City of Brotherly Love around the time of the republican revolution. Spending time with you for me was the memorable part of the conference. It is fun now to hear from some of the many people you have influenced so positively.

Best wishes always, Mike Stortz
Dear Sylvia,

Happy birthday from another of your international friends. I especially remember Finland where I think I got to know you better. I admire your quite strength and inner determination and have learnt a lot from you. I hope you continue your travels however maybe I should try and make it to Santa Cruz! It's not all that far from England. Thinking of you.

The photos were wonderful!! Happy Birthday!! It has been a joy working with you as the PAI Board President and now Chair. You have made such wonderful contributions to PAI - leading it forward programatically, technologically, and organizationally. We have benefitted from your committment to bringing us into the current century with emails and websites that work and have a presence in the online community. We have benefitted from your strong and heartfelt committment to disability rights, particularly for people with psychiatric histories/disabilities. We have benefitted from your delightfully smooth, efficient, thoughtful and warm running of meetings (yeah, gavel! and yes, remembering to ask for discussion.) I have greatly enjoyed our conversations and hearing about your world travels. I have learned a lot from you - hope you have many more wonderful years of traveling and contributing and learning and resting!

Dara L. Schur
Director of Litigation
Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
Last night at midnight I read many articles on your web site and was impressed with the depth and variety of your life adventures. I know relatively little about the problems relating to mental health and you are a wonderful advocate for the people who have been discriminated because of their mental disabilities.

My life has been an easier path than yours.

I am working on our reunion next June and hope you are tempted to come and join us.

I loved seeing the pictures of you and the family on your web site.
Happy Birthday, Sylvia. I wish you all the best.

With love from your not-too-distant cousin,

Sylvia, Zoe is fabulous! You do not need to fret about this grand daughter.
I met you as a result of your friend Jane, of course. I have learned so much about you thru our telephone conversations and you about me and my family.
I know the aspect of your personality that I admire most is your candor and openness about manic depression. The fact, that your original website was called"Madness" allows all participants to stop hiding if they want.
You are adamant about your beliefs and offer solutions that are contrary to the accepted opinions.
It takes guts to move forward when manic depression grips people's lives, but you did and you do and you found a way to help other people not be ashamed, find alternative treatment, and show governments a way out of ignorance.
You are well educated, articulate , and above caringly tenacious.I love talking to you on the phone.
By the way, weren't you supposed to talk to me about retirement? Is it really true that this is a possibility? You could wait another 5 or 10?
I got so carried away with paens, I forgot to wish youa happy 70th birthday. Happy Birthday!!!!!
Way to go Sylvia. It's so great that you have such a wonderful network of adoring fans, supportive relatives and fantastic friends. Thanks for displaying the power of mutual support in action. Your decades of thoughtful efforts for deep social change are much appreciated by many people.

I hope you and yours celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.

In support,


David Oaks, Director
MindFreedom International
Dear Fellow Crone,

I think I first heard about you through Howie, but maybe it was at an Alternatives... I wasn't on-line for This Is Crazy, but not too long after I was a Madness addict.

It was your support, both with your booklet on Getting Off Drugs(?) and conversations, and with the help of Howie that I finally kicked the habit.

I have such a deep respect and admiration for you! What you have done in one lifetime is awesome!

Love you dearly!

I wish Slyvia the best on her 70th Birthday and thank God for allowing her to see and nurture her grand children.I have known Slyvia to be a down to earth person,ordely and willing to lead others to a good cause,a good and strict time manager.May God grant her more years in the land of the living.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dear Sylvia
Happy Birthday!

In Japan one of founders of our national group became seventy in this year.

Thank you for your long activities for us all user/ suvivors in the world.

Sorry I made a mistake please delete previous message.

Mari Yamamoto
I send you all best wishes for many good and healthy years ahead, as active as you are now and with all your kindness, skills and impressive personality as a contribution to us all - at least for the disability movement!

Dear Sylvia:

Your birthday is near!

Taking into consideration that you are surrounded by your dear family and friends, I wish to join all these people, who know and love you very much.

We have had a lot of communication and exchanges for several years ever since we personally met at the World Federation Mental Health Meeting in Kuwait. It was a daily living during several days around a special environment together with very kind persons of different culture and habits than ours.

During the meetings of the Board and our personal contact, we started what then continued as an intense virtual exchange.

I am convinced you are a respected and representative leader for the users/consumers all over the world. Your good links and personal advices allowed me to understand that even in well developed and with high techniques, there are unfair and unequal situations. I was also able to understand that prejudice and stimulation persist and interfere in a healthy life and recovery of mental illness not only in my region but also in my country.

Your hard struggle is not easy but creates conscience. I continue receiving information which is distributed in the groups recommended by you. It is read and sent to professionals of my country and the region. We do not yet have strong confrontings with extreme psychiatrists, many of them protected by false "scientific" postures. The time to be able to have a correct model for Mental Health and even less for diseases has not yet arrived. Therefore, professionals like myself must be more humble, more ethical and compromised.

I wish you a happy birthday, to enjoy it with your beloved ones, and that after a short rest, you return to your PC to continue your magnificent effort, to help us to be more conscious in order to be clearer in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Paulo Alterwain
Montevideo, Uruguay
"The greatest of all human pleasures is to seek truth in conversation." - Albertus Magnus (1193-1280)
I love Sylvia! She gives me the greatest of all human pleasures. Our approximately 10 yeat long conversation continues - always filled with exploration of the mysteries, outrageous howls at the injustices and rollicking, racous, explosive laughter at the absurdities. We have our different perspectives but age and experience have increased our tolerance. Sylvia continues her worldwide stance for what she believes and to share her wisdom. May she have many years yet to continue to do so. I am honored and blessed to have her as a friend.
Beverly Cooper
Sylvia, it was such a privilege serving with you on the Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) Board. It has even been more of a privilege getting to know you and to see the wonderful work that you have done on behalf of individuals with disabilities. I am truly amazed at all that you have done and continue to do. I wish you a very happy 70th birthday! Enjoy the day with your family and friends. May the coming years continue to be good to you. It is a blessing to have you for a friend and a colleague. Love, Nancy
Sylvia was the best find I made in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. There she was in a support group. She brought sanity into my life thanks to her quick intelligence, inimitable voice and responsiveness. I'd been shaken out of my family home and she could bear with my troubles as well as share conversations about anything else that might be going on in the world. She helped break my obsession with the crisis.

Now we only meet every year or three when she comes to Sacramento and when I can break away from my current practicalities. She's always refreshing.
We have known Sylvia for many years since we live in the same neighborhood and frequently see each other. We have worked on various neighborhood projects with Sylvia and have always found her cconcerned, caring, and willing to help.
She deserves a special award for all she does for the less fortunate. We agree with her politics and hope she lives to be a hundred! Happy Birthday, Sylvia!
Madeline Spencer & Mayrebelle Lukins
Hi I met Sylvia in Texas
in 1991. She was a math major in
college and had lost her career
to family and her family to the oppression of the mental health system. She says that, as a
mathematician, I encouraged her
to renew her studies and get
through graduate school.

Sylvia has pursued a remarkable
path through the world of the
mental health "client/survivors"
or as she would say "people who."
A totally fine and constructive and
Visionary person, she lives with
grace and does good. One should
recognize merit when one
comes FTF with it.
Dear Sylvia,

I know that I am very late, but please accept my best wishes for the birthday that you celebrated recently. I have not seen, as yet, other peoples messages to you but I am certain that each and every one of them will acknowledge the huge input you have made to the work around the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

You have been a person who has brought out the very best in all of the contributors and I know that at times you must have been frustrated at the slow pace of the work here on the internet, but you have stuck with it and you have contributed enormously, both from your own personal experience and, probably more importantly, by listening to others experience of being disabled.

Again please accept my apologies for not responding sooner but I was out of action and am still trying to catch up on my mails.

Best wishes,


Frank Mulcahy
Co. Kildare, Ireland
I have had the pleasure of meeting Sylvia in a professional capacity over 5 years age. From the beginning I've associated the word "elegant" with her: the first time we talked I used it refering to her web site; and as we grew to know each other I've associated it with her. I love the passion and concern in her careful consideration of language referring to consumers. "Language matters" she would always say and I hear it today. "People first!"

She represented consumers well for several years in a group of program evaluators in western states, the WSDSG. I continued to meet her in conferences after her term expired. And I continue to this day a subscription to the IRIS Digest to get good leads on information valuable to my work.
Sylvia, thank you so much for your involvement in the mental health community over the years and for being a friend.

Happy birthday Sylvia!

Chuck McGee
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
Dear Zoe,

What a great gift you are giving to your grandmother, your family and those of us who have been privileged to know and work with your grandmother. I was grinning from ear to ear as I read the comments which described Sylvia’s effect on lives, thinking, programs and processes. What a lady! I really enjoyed the photos, especially the one of Sylvia expertly astride a horse going up a hillside path. You see Sylvia has long stressed to me that she is happiest when surrounded by pavement. That smile on her face tells me otherwise.

I met Sylvia in 1992 at a National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy meeting. It was my first national meeting. I was thrilled to find that I was no longer alone, that others felt as I did about the mental health treatment system and that we could work together for improvements. In the midst of the throng this dynamo kept appearing. She handed out copies of the booklet she had written to help people safely get off psychiatric meds. The next time by she had ideas for an upcoming meeting. She was friendly, enthusiastic, energetic and engaging. We followed in her wake. As the years have passed, her wake has grown ever larger.

It has been a gift to watch her in action and occasionally to sit at her elbow. Your grandmother has been a leader, at times a pioneering leader, in a world wide civil and human rights movement. Some of its most effective tools are those she has promoted. When she is in a leadership position she strives to be inclusive and to ensure that every voice, even those who don’t share her viewpoint, is welcomed, respectfully heard and carefully considered. When she is a participant, she is a dignified, passionate advocate; calmly, clearly and logically making her case.

Humility and lack of self promotion distinguish your grandmother. I have often encouraged her to tell more of her story. It is a struggle for her. Her focus is on accomplishing the task, meeting the goal, establishing a forum, communicating the message, sharing information, building a community. She does this with honor, respect and skill. I trust her absolutely.

I remember long walks along the beach in North Carolina, city streets in Portland, or the San Diego ocean front during which we talked about our lives and our futures. She often spoke about her joy at spending time with her cherished grand daughter. I remember leisurely meals in various distant cities. The setting and menu never as important as the delicious conversation and exquisite sharing.

I say thank you Sylvia for who you are, what you are doing and what you will do. I am grateful to know you.

Sheila Cooper
Alcalde, New Mexico
Dear Zoe,

Thank yo for inviting me to help Sylvia celebrate her 70th birthday. 70! But she was just 50 a little while ago.

I met Sylvia in the late 70s at a New Age Workshop held at UCSC. I don't remember the Workshop, but I do remember Sylvia - she had this incredible smile - joyful and present.

No matter what she's been involved in over the years, she has always brought her intelligence, enthusiasm and her ability to connect with people to the matter at hand.

The community has benefited from having Sylvia as an active advocate. I look forward to her raising hell & consciousness for the *next* 25 years.



Happy Birthday to my Aunt Sylvia!

As a child, I saw Sylvia as an exotic mystery--traveling to remote lands and sending us strange and exciting gifts. As I've gotten older, I've learned more of who she is. I've seen her strength and determination in educating, and when necessary, battling others. I've also seen a sweetness and a deep love of and commitment to family, which shines brightest when she talks about her granddaughter Zoe.

I've only known Sylvia as a mental health advocate, so seeing her photo biography as a young, gorgeous Mom and an international trekker was really a treat. I think Sylvia and I met about 10 years ago, at a training program I was doing for the California Department of Mental Health. I remember us sitting outside on the grass talking about mental health issues and our lives - I was guardian of my sister who had schizophrenia at the time. I was struck by her openess, honesty and intelligence. And I remain in awe of how Sylvia can communicate great empathy, compassion and respect, while at the same time telling you that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I was lucky to recruit her to work with me and the Mental Health Section of the American Public Health Association, which I chaired from 2001-03. She was the inspiration for a great program we organized in 2003 in San Francisco and which we had a lot of fun planning. And did I say how much I enjoy her sense of humor, or how sharp, dry and hilariously funny she can be. So here's to you dear Sylvia, someone I am very honored and pleased to know. I wish you many more decades of productive trouble making and hope to be on the front lines again with you some time soon.

Much love and congratulations!!!!

Janice Cohen
From Bernice:

Well I have looked at so many who have appreciated Sylvia from all over the world. Fantastic. Also enjoyed the family pictures.

I'm a home grown fan. and friend. Sylvia and I met in San Francisco when we both lived here. we were neighbors. Sylvia has changed so much since then, but yet there is a constant. Dedicated to friends and relatives. Always working to learn and improve life for many as well as herself. Strength to overcome so many difficulties over the years and to the present Always charming. Always clear and concise and always there. Many more Sylvia
Sylvia is a very important person in my life. She stood by me at a critical time in the 80's, in Santa Cruz, when I ws in the hospital and after, with incredible respect and love. I am in Montanta now, waiting for a hip replacement, and won't write much, yet want you to know how she even still central to me, supportive, loving, giving, open and understanding.

You are an awesome lady! I have known you for about 20 years and have seen many changes. I enjoy our relationship even though it is mostly based on our dental relationship. You are a rare beauty with a wonderful mind and spirit. I know how much you love your family and it is evident that they love you very much!
Keep flossing!! Lindy
WOW! We sure love you Pi! I hope you have an amazing 80th.
whoops, typo 70th!
Thank you sooo much for posting, it's great for us to hear from all of you!
Wow! It's wonderful to learn first-hand how you have touched and inspired so many people all over the world--just by being your true self. What's next? The galaxy? Happy Birthday! Love, Lisa.
Happy Birthday, Sylvia!

When I think of the first time I met you in person - it was a conference, (Alternatives, I think) - after knowing you only online, I remember the anti-psychiatry button on your lapel, the determined way you had about your walk, and your kind, kind face. I think we hugged, that first time.

Always - at other conferences, on strange committees in strange towns - you were a touchstone of sensibility and intelligence and straight-forward humor. You were, to use a cliche, like a breath of fresh air in an often swirling sea of overwhelming personalities and conflicts and drama.

How lovely it is now, to have a teaching job in your hometown every summer, where I can see you in a wholly different context now. What struck me about our last visit over a burrito dinner was how truly happy you seemed - calm, yet full of energy; questioning, yet always instrospective; and content. That's what I most remember, how content you seemed. It was lovely to see.

Seventy looks great on you.

Happy Birthday Sylvia!

Like a number of others here I know Sylvia from the UN Ad Hoc Committee treaty negotiations process, where she is a dedicated champion for human rights. She's also one of the best chairs we have had for the International Disability Caucus meetings - meetings where she has a sharp eye for the clock and a kind word to encourage even the most timid of participants to speak up and be heard. As I seem to be perpetually late for all the meetings we have in NY, I'm much relieved to find that I am just in time with my post here! :) Happy Birthday Sylvia and best wishes for many many more. See you at the UN in January! :)
Kathy Guernsey
Happy Birthday Sylvia! Your leadership has shown the way for so many. Across the globe, we are all the better because of you.

Leave it to you to lead the way again. While you might find it hard to believe, this is my first time adding something to a blog.

I think the first time that I met you was at a NAPAS conference, probably in the mid 1990s. You were determined to ensure (and appropriately so) that the P&A network was consumer driven and doing work of importance to the psychiatric disability community. I will admit to being a bit nervous, wondering how our California P&A would measure up.

Since that time you have joined our board. I have had the privelege of getting to know you and your generous spirit, compassion and desire to move me and the P&A into the 21st century of technology. You are a remarkable leader and PAI has been fortunate to have you as our Board President.

Happiest birthday wishes to you and hopes for many more so that our collaborations can continue.

warmest, most enthusiastic, most effusive birthday wishes to my Fairy Godmother...

do you remember how we met? i had posted about Persimmon's book _Prozac Highway_ on another list and stirred up all sorts of commotion... you made a guest appearance to settle people down and i remember being positively intimidated... you were, and are, my personal Tim Berners-Lee.

much love,
Happy Birthday Sylvia,
Glad I made it on the very day. WOW! 70 must be the new forty with the amount of things you do and boards and blogs and internet presence you have. I hope I stick around long enough to reach 70 but sometimes I think if I make it til tomorrow that would be enough.
As for a story for this blog, I just remember being at a PAI Board meeting and being so proud that you were President. It also was wonderful when you continue to give CNMHC all the support for our forum. Thank you for your courageous advocacy and your warm wisdom both online and in the flesh.
Yours in hope and struggle,
Hello Sylvia!

I am late posting my birthday wishes to you because it has taken me this long to figure out what to wear to your blog. Happy Birthday!

Sylvia and I met first when she gave a presentation on People Who and the Internet in DC in about, oh, 1996 I think it was. I took her card, went home, and tried to join the old Madness list and was refused! I asked in email, in caps (I had no idea of netiquette then) WHY OH WHY CAN'T I JOIN THE LIST?" and she responded with a phone call that literally changed my life. The MadGrrls List came into being as a result of those early conversations, giving me a niche and a sense of purpose that had been eroded earlier by my struggle to adjust to the onset of disability. Oh my, that was a long time ago.

Over the years I have been able to meet up with Sylvia in person a few more times, and each is precious in my memory.

Zoe: your grandmother is a pioneer in Internet communications and conceptualizing the experience of living with mood swings, fear, voices and visions. Hers is a first-rate intellect with wonderful, ever-present, curiosity. She also has superb sense of style, and is, thankfully, extremely generous with all of her talents.

We're all lucky to have her. Sylvia: happy (belated) 70th!

Off Blog:

Well, I didn’’t think she was 70. ...

Wow, Sylvia, you have done so very much for so very many. I'm truly indebted to you for introducing me to internet communication, among so many other contributions you've made to my life.

We at FlyerTalk Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today


Happy Birthday, Sylvia! 70 is sounding quite a fine age for you. I am glad. May you be forever enfolded.

Happy Birthday Sylvia, 70, funny you don't seem like it, more like a forty something! Congratulations, and have a whole bunch of fun!

You make 70 look easy, fun and joyful--what a wonderful model that is for all of us who a bit behind you.
Enjoy your day!

Happy birthday, Sylvia!

Happy Birthday Sylvia! None of this (the MADNESS lists) would exist without you having been born. It is a very, very special day indeed.

Happy Birthday today Sylvia!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY and as your gift, I won't even sing!

a most happy 70th Birthday and a Happy New Year

Happy Birthday, Sylvia, And many happy returns.
People Who is amazing, and so are you.
My birthday this year fell on erev Rosh HaShana and the traditional wish is for a good inscription in the book of life for the year ahead. I am moved and delighted by these inscriptions in our birthday blog, to have this record to keep. I feel wrapped around, embraced, by the kindness and caring, especially because there is still sometimes shame at not having been the daughter or the mother or the friend I thought I ought to be. It’s hard to overprint that deeply embedded message and I will hold onto your good wishes as the louder voice. The expression of love and pride on Zoe’s face as she related to me what she’d read is a treasure I am cherishing.

I’m reminded of stories of my own, times we’ve shared, work we’ve done. In my head I am commenting too, adding, yes, and I remember when, oh, we met there, doing that, ...

Thank you!

I first met Sylvia two and a half years ago at San Francisco's Fort Mason Center. The event, a presentation of the newly released President's New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health, was heavily dominated by the power brokers of the public mental health industrial complex, who were busily speechifying and patting each other on the back. As a young, outspoken consumer/survivor and advocate, having only recently emerged from the trauma of homelessness into the often cold, sometimes treacherous landscape of the public mental health system as a newly labeled "case", I was feeling more than a little alienated and a lot suspicious of all the rhetoric, pomp and circumstance. The panel of experts was wearing me down and I was about ready to leave, when I heard Sylvia speak. As she spoke simply and eloquently of her life and work, making the case for human rights and self-determination -- two very basic principles that were all but ignored by the long list of professionals and bureaucrats up to that point -- I became aware that she was the token person with first-hand experience on that panel and among the day's speakers. Instantly I felt more at ease, as I realized I was in the presence of a kindred spirit.

Afterwards, I made a point of introducing myself to her, and telling her about my lonely uphill battle to develop, coordinate and deliver a series of consumer/survivor-led trainings for service providers on issues of respect advocacy and harm reduction in San Francisco. As so many have testified here, she was warm, friendly and supportive. When I got home, I visited the website for the first time, drawing inspiration for subsequent editions of my training materials.

Later that year, I met Sally Zinman, discovered the California Network of Mental Health Clients, and soon found myself immersed in the burgeoning consumer/survivor movement on the regional and state level. Since then, I have often seen Sylvia at state-level meetings, taking notes on her ever-present laptop, to share later with other "people who" on one of the many listserves to which we both subscribe. Then I and other list members would comment and dialogue about the meetings. Reading her comments made me feel like I was back in school, only now, instead of being an isolated outcast, I was part of a group of likeminded outsider kids in the same class, waiting for the teacher to turn his back before conspiratorially swapping notes on balled up wads of paper, loaded with subversive critiques of the curriculum. Before long, I subscribed to Sylvia's IRIS List, and now I am regularly bombarded with all manner of news, opinion and humor in concise little newsbytes with links. Following these links, while often overwhelming (this Information Age has that effect on me), has also been quite enlightening, and her brief highlight descriptions cut to the chase while sparing my inbox from bursting at the seams.

Earlier this year I livestreamed a memorable episode of "Bathrobespierre's Broadsides" on Free Radio Santa Cruz, in which Sylvia expounded thoughtfully on the problematics of our state mental health department's attempt to insert language allowing forced "treatment" interventions under the Mental Health Services Act -- a struggle that we have collaborated on since that time. Mental health clients' and survivors' issues have proven incredibly difficult to present to the general public, since the corporate media (as well as public and listener-supported broadcasting) perpetually fan the flames of stigma and discrimination and seldom allow us to speak for ourselves, preferring to air the point of view of "experts" such as psychiatrists, hospital administrators, social workers, and county mental health directors. So when consumers and survivors want to bring a story to the public, we have to be our own special correspondents in the independent media. Despite these setbacks, Sylvia really made her points loud and clear, with a strong voice, using language that was at once accessible and incisively analytical. I was very impressed.

Sylvia always seems to be two steps ahead of the crowd. Either she is drawing from her extensive knowledge and experience on the cutting edge of Information Technology to advocate aggressively for client empowerment, or else she is traveling to places like Milan, Italy, to report back on exciting developments like the movement that led to the closing of Italy's mental hospitals in favor of community-based services.

But until I read Irene's comment, I never realized that Sylvia was also the author of the zine, "Doing Without Drugs: A Guide for Non-Users and Users" (1991). A friend gave me a copy back in 2000, and I carried it around with me for months; it was a silent source of support (often my only source) during the lonely and difficult months following my decision to taper off the anti-depressants that made me dizzy, nauseous and more suicidally depressed than before I started. Years later, when I was visiting a friend of mine in the psych ward, this was among the zines and books that I loaned her. Happily, it was *not* summarily confiscated by the hospital staff; Peter Breggin's "Your Drug May Be Your Problem" was not so lucky.
Keep it up. I enjoy your nice blog. check out my forensic health mental nhs services
site. It pretty much covers forensic health mental nhs services
related stuff.
Happy birthday, Sylvia! You've been a wonderful mentor and friend over the past ten years. I am grateful for our relationship, and am glad the world has the benefit of your gifts and contributions. May your upcoming phase of life be as fruitful, and bring you great joy and peace.
Dear Sylvia,

A belated Happy Birthday from all of us Down Under who have been inspired by your work and your words - there are more of us than you know.

Love and best wishes - David
Belated happy birthday. Our paths have crossed inrequently of late but I have thought of you often. What a Sincere, Youthful, Learned, Vivacious, Intelligent and Articulate woman you are.
May your year be especially happy and meaningful for you.
keep endorsing!
Joan Nobiling

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