Press Releases

Texas Lawmaker Appointed To NAMI Board

Garnet Coleman Battled Own Depression, Now Fights For Others With Serious Mental Illness

Oct 09 1997

Arlington, VA - A state legislator from Texas, one of the country's leading advocates for fair and equitable treatment of serious mental illnesses, has been appointed to the board of directors of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).

Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), who has discussed publicly his own experiences with major depression, was appointed by unanimous vote to a term that ends in July 1998. He fills a vacancy left by long-time NAMI member Roch Thibodeau, who died suddenly of a heart attack in August.

As a board member, Coleman will represent NAMI at the National Conference of State Legislators, an organization in which he is actively involved; will focus on outreach to the African-American community; and will participate in regular meetings of the NAMI board, the governance body which sets the group's national agenda and policy.

In accepting the appointment, Representative Coleman said, "NAMI is at the vanguard of tearing down barriers that have kept people with brain disorders from enjoying basic rights. I am deeply honored to be joining the family and consumer movement in a more formal capacity." Coleman is attending his first board meeting this week in Arlington.

Coleman was recognized earlier this year by NAMI with its Distinguished Service Award for sponsoring landmark legislation that ends insurance discrimination in Texas against individuals with serious brain disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia, or manic-depression. Coleman carried the mental health parity bill (HB 1173) through unanimous voice votes in both houses to final passage. Texas Governor George Bush signed the bill into law in July.

"Representative Coleman's personal courage and professional leadership serves as an important reminder that one individual can make a powerful difference in the lives of many," said NAMI President Annie Saylor, Ph.D. "We believe his service as a NAMI leader will greatly benefit the thousands of consumers and family members we represent."

Coleman has struggled with depression most of his life. When his father died, Coleman's depression intensified and he withdrew from his family, friends and life. Through effective treatment, he began to recover and is now dedicating himself to helping others overcome the stigma of mental illness and ensuring that equal access to treatment is available to all people with serious mental illness.

A member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1991, he currently serves on the Texas House Committees on Appropriations and Public Health. Coleman was born and raised in Houston, Texas, where he currently lives with his wife and two children. He attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Saint Thomas.

With more than 168,000 members nationwide, NAMI is the nation's leading grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for non-discriminatory and equitable federal, state and private-sector policies; research into the causes, symptoms and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illness. NAMI has more than 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.