Press Releases

Massachusetts Advocate Honored For Personal Courage, Leadership, And Advocacy On Behalf Of Others Living With Serious Mental Illnesses

NAMI Presents Lionel Aldridge Award to Moe Armstrong at Annual Convention

Jul 18 1998

Washington, D.C. - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today presented the Lionel Aldridge Award to Moe Armstrong of Boston, Massachusetts for his tremendous courage in successfully living with schizophrenia and extraordinary efforts to advocate on behalf of consumers and family members similarly affected by serious mental illnesses.

“Moe Armstrong is a hero among heroes,” said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. “He is an amazing and inspiring individual whose tireless efforts have empowered others to push for the treatment and services that he knows from personal experience really work. His efforts and passion can be felt at every level of the mental illness movement, and his profound courage and dedication to his own health and continued recovery is an outstanding example of what people with serious mental illnesses can accomplish when provided with appropriate treatment and resources.”

In accepting his award, Armstrong said, “As someone who has depended on the mental health system for more than 30 years, I am honored to receive this award – not so much in recognition of my own recovery – but as a message of hope to other persons who are in need of psychiatric services. Recovery is possible. I believe – as I know you do too – that now, more than ever, we must maintain the momentum in bringing mental health services and treatment to those who most need them.”

A former Eagle Scout and captain of his high school football team, Armstrong grew up in Illinois and experienced a childhood and adolescence unmarked by mental illness. At the age of 18, he joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a medical corpsman during the Vietnam War, and participated in over 30 combat missions. It was during this period that Armstrong experienced his first psychotic break. Ultimately he was discharged from military duty and, during the next two decades, proceeded to live a virtually homeless and reclusive existence, largely unaware that he was suffering from untreated schizophrenia.

At the age of 40, Armstrong began receiving treatment for the first time for his illness, which allowed him to begin managing its symptoms and to move on with his life in a way previously not possible. He returned to school where he earned a BA from the College of Santa Fe, and an MBA and Masters in Human Resources from Webster University. In addition to completing his graduate work, Armstrong launched a career in public radio, and passionately began advocating on behalf of those with mental illnesses. Armstrong’s advocacy efforts continued to grow and he went on to become state president of NAMI’s Consumer Council in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In 1994, Massachusetts-based Vinfen Corporation – an organization that provides consumer services through the Department of Mental Health – hired Armstrong to serve as its director of consumer and family affairs. He also took responsibility for implementing a highly successful advocacy-training program for peer educators at Boston University.

In addition, Armstrong has served on the United States President’s Commission on Employment for People with Disabilities, the Democratic National Committee Continuum for People with Disabilities and the Board of the Northeastern Chapters of the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (IAPSRA).

The Lionel Aldridge Award, established this year by NAMI, recognizes one outstanding consumer for his or her service, courage and leadership on behalf of people with mental illness. The award was named in honor of Lionel Aldridge, Green Bay Packers defensive end and NBC sportscaster, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and later became an outspoken advocate for those with brain disorders. Mr. Aldridge died earlier this year.