The Alternatives National Conference has decided not to hold an independent conference this year. Instead, Alternatives is collaborating with Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon to host elements of Alternatives in its Peerpocalypse conference, April 20-23, 2020 conference in Seaside, Oregon. We welcome Alternatives to Peerpocalypse 2020 and encourage prospective participants to learn more or submit a workshop proposal at https://www.peerpocalypse.com.

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Keynote Speakers





Alternatives Opening Session Tuesday, July 9, 7:00-8:30 pm

Phillip Schulman

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The Longest March: Personal Healing and Social Transformation

A collision between Phillip Schulman on his bicycle and a truck took him from death’s door into a new experience of multiple disabilities. The way he has applied himself to the tasks of rehabilitation has been a source of inspiration for many. Phillip will share some insights and gifts from his post-traumatic spirituality. He will challenge us to consider our movement as more than a peer support recovery movement but a human rights and liberation movement that has an important contribution to make to humanity.

Phillip came to the movement 30 years ago through a peer support community that helped him through psychiatric labeling and coerced drugging. Beginning in 1993, he has worked on numerous MindFreedom International campaigns. He organized ECT survivors to testify before the Texas legislature. He directed the “Crisis Alternatives Program” in Essex County, New York, one of the nation's first peer-run crisis respites. Phillip has served four Unitarian Universalist congregations as Minister, and has served as chaplain at several Alternatives conferences. Phillip’s broader activism has promoted peace, nuclear disarmament, environmental protection, and restorative justice.


Keynote Session Wednesday, July 10, 8:00 – 9:00 AM

Celia Brown

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Building a Vision Moving Forward:  Healing, Mentorship, and Communication

 Celia Brown will discuss building a vision for the future of our consumer/survivor movement to support healing, develop mentorship with our fellow peers, and achieve effective communication.

Celia Brown is a psychiatric survivor and a long-time advocate for people with psychiatric disabilities. Celia was one of the first peer specialists in New York. She was instrumental in developing and implementing the Peer Specialist Civil Service title for the New York State Office of Mental Health. She currently works as a regional advocacy specialist for the Office of Consumer Affairs at the New York State Office of Mental Health. Celia has presented nationally and internationally,was the main representative to the United Nations for MindFreedom International, and collaborated with other disability rights organizations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

caroline mazel-carlton

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The Power and Potential of Peer Support in Navigating the Extremes

When Caroline Mazel-Carlton stepped out of a psychiatric group home in 2009 and into her first peer role, she was given a limited view by clinical supervisors of the impact of peer support. However, the past decade has revealed that peer support may hold the keys to addressing systemic failures around supporting people navigating through thoughts of suicide and/or non-consensus reality states.

 Caroline has laid her head in a number of places, from Indiana jail cells to Texas psychiatric units, but now enjoys a freer existence as director of training for the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community. She has been redefining peer roles in diverse settings and disparate parts of the world for over a decade. Her work with Alternatives to Suicide and the Hearing Voices Network has been featured in publications such as The New York TimesForeign Policy, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is passionate about reclaiming cultural and spiritual wisdom traditions for navigating extreme states, and is studying to become a rabbi. 


Keynote Session Thursday, July 11, 8:00 – 9:00 AM

Sarah Felman

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Finding Meaning After a Suicide Attempt

 On June 2, 2018, Sarah Felman confronted death and survived. Sarah will present a first-person narrative of an attempt survivor and her search for meaning and purpose following the devastation of a suicide attempt. Her presentation will draw upon the work of Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who believed our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life. As Frankl did, we can agree with Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” 

Sarah Felman is a certified peer support specialist at the Mental Health Empowerment Project in Albany, New York, where she facilitates Alternatives to Suicide and Hearing Voices peer-to-peer support groups. She is the 2018 recipient of the New York State Excellence in Suicide Prevention Award. Sarah is a professional equestrian and is currently studying at Maria College to become a registered nurse.

John HErold

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Unhinged: My Relationship with the Concept of “Mental Illness”— A Tour of the Most Useful Ideas in my Escape from The Big Lie

John Herold writes: “For 15 years I’ve been fascinated by matters of trickery, deception, and propaganda. Dictators and advertisers alike know that colossal untruths have a way of becoming accepted facts when repeated enough times. I never imagined this understanding would play such a crucial role when liberating myself from the mental health paradigm. Join me as I break apart misleading messages that silence voices and shorten lives—replacing them with stronger ideas!”

 John Herold—a speaker, facilitator and trainer from Gig Harbor, Washington—is founder and director of Puget Sound Hearing Voices. John has experienced altered and extreme states of consciousness, involuntary “treatment,” and drug withdrawal. He credits going against common advice as the foundation of his recovery; (he prefers the word discovery). John completed a master’s program in Process Work in 2017. He is passionate about promoting non-pathologizing ideas regarding unusual experiences. John is working with a grant from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care to support the growth of the Hearing Voices Network in the Pacific Rim. Learn more about his work at www.johnherold.net and www.pugetsoundhearingvoices.org.