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Línea de apoyo de MHV, atendida y administrada por pares

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Mental Health Virginia is the oldest mental health advocacy organization in Virginia.

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About Mental Health Virginia

Founded in 1937, Mental Health Virginia (MHV) is the oldest mental health advocacy organization in Virginia. Our advocacy and direct services are based on empowering individuals seeking wellness.

Mental Health Virginia is a 501(c)(3) non-profit mental health organization.

Our vision: All people in Virginia achieve optimal mental wellness.

Our mission: To educate, empower, and advocate to improve the mental health of all Virginians.

We are the Virginia affiliate of national Mental Health America. Five community-based non-profits in Virginia are also affiliated with national Mental Health America. They are located in: Charlottesville, Fauquier, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg and Staunton, Virginia.

Our Team


Executive Director
Bruce Cruser

Warm Line Team Lead
Elizabeth Avila

Peer-Run Warm Line Manager
Erica Bullock

Recovery Education Manager
Danielle Donaldson

Probation Peer Support Manager
Betsy Edmonds

Warm Line On-Call Support/Spanish Services
Paula Gorman

Peer Recovery Specialist with Alive RVA
Jerri Knight

Peer Recovery Specialist with Alive RVA
Jonathan Lang

Social Media Manager
Alie McArdle

Aimable Munyakayanza

Warm Line Team Lead
David Rockwell

Warm Line On-Call Support
Shelly Roman

Outreach Coordinator
Jenny Sappington

Operations Manager
Rita Utz

Peer Recovery Specialist with Alive RVA 
Jessica Whitton

Board of Directors

Stephanie Barker
McKesson Corp.

Vice President
Cherie Hammond

Lauren Stevens, LCSW

Laura “Meg” Viar, M.Ed.
Code RVA Regional High School

Past President
Dr. Arcelia Jackson, LMHP-R, CSAC-R

Alexander Güzman

Emily McGinley, MSW, CPRS

Renee Snyder Norden, M.Ed.
Mental Health Association of Fauquier County

Z.B. Snapper Tams, Esq.

Steven Walker

Alyssa M. Ward, Ph.D.
Carelon Behavioral Health

Jennifer M. Wicker, MSW
Riverside Health System

About Mental Health Virginia

“Wild Propaganda Schemes for Sterilization Deplored”

This Richmond Times Dispatch headline of February 20, 1937 described the address of Dr. Beverley R. Tucker to the organizational meeting of the Mental Hygiene Society of Virginia, known today as Mental Health Virginia (MHV). Dr. Tucker was a professor of neuropsychiatry at the Medical College of Virginia and founder of what is now Tucker Pavilion at Chippenham Hospital in Richmond. He was elected that night as the first president of the Society.

Although specific issues and services have changed with the times, the agency’s core mission remains essentially the same: To educate, empower, and advocate to improve the mental health of all Virginians.

In 1925 Virginia had passed the Eugenical Sterilization Act, a codification of the eugenics movement in the Commonwealth until its abolition in the 1970s. The practice in Virginia’s mental hospitals was wholesale sterilization of those “afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness or epilepsy.”

Dr. Tucker spoke against “archaic sterilization laws” and of the need for individualized approaches, with trained doctors determining the provision of care. He was joined on the society’s first board of directors by many prominent physicians and other leaders of the state’s health care, social welfare, education and faith communities.

The Mental Hygiene Society of Virginia led this state’s mental health reform and public awareness efforts through statewide meetings, presentations and the formation of local affiliates. An early example, from the October 13, 1940 Times-Dispatch, is a notice that the theme of the society’s annual meeting would be: “How the nation may keep its mental balance in the present national emergency, and how it may safely guide youth through the shellshocked era of the second World War.”

A 1942 Times Dispatch editorial praised the Society and Dr. R. Finley Gayle, Jr., “a prime mover” of the group and a leader of the State Hospital Board. It added: “Several strikingly able young psychiatrists have in recent years been attracted to the State hospital system, because of the opportunity it now affords to do work that will count. All of them are taking a part in the work of the Virginia Mental Hygiene Society, which deserves a major share of credit for what Virginia is doing in mental medicine.”

In the 1950s the Virginia organization affiliated with the national Mental Health Association, which adopted as its symbol the Mental Health Bell in 1953. The bell was formed by collecting chains and shackles from mental asylums around the country (including Virginia’s Eastern State Hospital), melting them down at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, and casting the 300 pound Bell of Hope. The bell’s inscription reads: “Cast from shackles…, this bell shall ring out hope …and victory over mental illness.”

In the 1950s and 1960s local MHA affiliate volunteers throughout Virginia provided free mental health clinics, and the state association organized annual research and training conferences. MHV’s advocacy in the 1960s helped produce Virginia’s community mental health system, the Community Services Boards that are the front line public mental health safety net for adults and children.

In recent decades MHV became a leader in the peer support movement, forming partnerships with the state to develop training curriculum and empowerment tools for adults in recovery. Of particular note was the Consumer Empowerment and Leadership Training, a 4-day retreat style training to prepare consumers (peers) for leadership roles on Community Services Boards, workgroups and commissions.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, the state asked MHV to develop and manage a free crisis support phone service for mental health related calls. The line served over 5,000 people with valuable support and local resource information.

Today, Mental Health Virginia provides recovery support for adults to prevent a mental health crisis, public awareness to break stigma, and advocacy for access to a continuum of mental health services statewide.

MHV’s recovery services include Virginia’s free, confidential peer-run Warm Line for non-judgmental listening and mental health support, serving 5,000 adults a year who call or text any day of the week from anywhere in the state. Our Certified Peer Recovery Specialists (PRS) present free recovery education webinars and in-person trainings. Our PRS also support adult probationers with mental illness by providing recovery and wellness planning, and help staff the Alive RVA addiction recovery support warm line.

MHV also provides training and a professional network for Peer Recovery Specialists. PRS are a relatively new addition to the behavioral health workforce, using the lived experience of illness and recovery combined with certification training and supervision to support others on their own journey to a healthy life.

Our outreach includes providing mental health information at annual conferences of mental health and crime victim service providers, health fairs and community festivals. We provide helpful mental health information to nearly 8,000 people/year through our social media platforms, and advocate with policy makers and legislators for a better, more accessible mental health service system.

Mental Health America Bell of Hope

The Mental Health Bell: A Symbol of Hope

Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.

—Inscription on Mental Health Bell

During the early days of mental health treatment, asylums often restrained people who had mental illnesses with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. With better understanding and treatments, this cruel practice eventually stopped.

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. On April 13, 1953, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Md., Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings, including shackles from Virginia’s Eastern State Hospital, and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.

Now the symbol of Mental Health America, the 300-pound Bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses. Today, the Mental Health Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses.

Over the years, national mental health leaders and other prominent individuals have rung the Bell to mark the continued progress in the fight for victory over mental illnesses.

Mental health bell being poured at foundry

Maryland Gov. Theodore McKeldin and Mrs. A. Felix DuPont in 1953 pour the metal made from melted chains used to restrain people with mental illnesses to create the Mental Health Bell.