Tributes to Richard Warner

Richard Warner

Richard (‘Dick’) Warner 1943-2015

Dick Warner was well known to the WASP community, a stalwart attender and presenter at the major congress events where his passion for putting patients first shone through his academic presentations.

Dick was the Medical Director of the Mental Health Centre of Boulder County, Colorado for 30 years and founding director of Colorado Recovery. His book ‘Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political Economy first published in 1985 was widely acclaimed and had a huge impact on a generation of psychiatrists around the world including myself. He showed that the long-term outcome of this condition changes with the state of the economy, improving in better times and worsening at times of recession. He linked this to parallel changes in therapeutic optimism so to quote him ‘pessimism and neglect, often spawned by poor economic conditions, can lead to declining standards of care, poor outcomes and decreasing quality of life for people with mental illnesses’ (Warner, B. J. Psychiatry 2003; 185: pp 376). The importance of this observation was that psychiatrists needed to look beyond short term medical management and symptom improvement and take on the wider social focus on the key environmental and relationship opportunities in their patients’ lives. He developed innovative community mental health services focusing on employment, housing, family and other relationships, fought against discrimination and promoted an optimistic vision of personal recovery. His intellect, enthusiasm and practice were and remain a model for social psychiatrists around the world. Just a handful of the many tributes to Dick are reproduced here.

Tom Craig

Some Words for the Celebration of Dick Warner’s Life.
Alan Rosen & Viv Miller, Sydney Australia

Thanks Phoebe and all at Colorado Recovery Inc for this opportunity to take part in this very special celebration of Dick’s life. We wish we could be with you all for this beautiful event. Internationally Dick Warner is the guy who has so fruitfully bridged for all of us the spheres of psychiatry, social anthropology and social determinants of illness and disability, as well as demonstrating the importance of social interventions for mental illnesses.

Through his landmark books and beyond, he has breathed life into the concept of recovery as an empowering subjective, socio-economic and political notion as well as a clinical concept. He was well ahead of he news and reach of the recovery movement which is so widespread today.

He was a pioneer in providing the scaffolding to assist and allow us psychiatric professionals and academics to give up (at last!) our powerfully obsessional therapeutic pessimism and grasp these wider, much more communal, hopeful and optimistic conceptions of recovery. He helped us to understand intellectually what consumers and their families readily found so intuitively familiar and strengthening. Dick works in, speaks and writes about the real world that individuals struggling with mental illnesses and their families inhabit. He has leapt over our professional and clinical categories and boundaries and has translated the everyday concerns and priorities of service users and their families into practical life strategies, with the enthusiastic and expert help of all you folks in Colorado. These include:
-No longer locked inpatient wards, but 24 hour staffed open-door healing households, functionally engaged in domestic activities and medication only used when really necessary (eg Cedar House, Balsam
-Real pay for real work. Social enterprises and clubhouses. The need to modify government disincentives to work.
-Families kept in the loop as active participants in care and recovery.
-Monks teaching us how to do serenely low stimulus community residential support work.
-Ways of challenging stigma & discrimination.

Dick has been more than an important, we would say crucial, presence on the world stage (eg World Psychiatric Association, World Association for Social Psychiatry, IPS, AACP, etc,) and in the world psychiatric literature: on recovery and its evidence base; on the impact of social context on mental illness, on community alternatives to institutional care; real rehabilitation, involving families; the uses and misuses of prevention; strategies for diminishing stigma; the pivotal contribution of real work to regaining full citizenship, at the same time as recognising the need for a community of identity (eg social cooperatives) as well as promoting social inclusion; and on translating the Italian reforms for a wider audience.

Dick is more than a little whimsical and irreverent about academia: When I recently copied him into an invited bilingual article in the East Asian Archives of Psychiatry where we had quoted his work, he replied:
“Loved where you cited me, but is this bit really accurate —
“神分裂症)的康復過程。對服務提供者而言,一種” ?
I have questions about it. “

Dick has long been a very special mentor and dear, dear friend to both of us, and to many others in Australia. Lucy has also been an essential and constant partner in our warm and lasting connection. We have enjoyed many adventures together with Dick & Lucy, (just as I imagine those children’s first readers would be called, if transposed as adult experiential primers: “Adventures with Dick & Lucy”) in so many different places from Sydney to Boulder to San Francisco to Marrakesh to Vienna to Lisbon to Milan to Florence to Spoletto, where we have cooked and eaten from the local fish and vegetable markets together, wandered and explored together, made multiple trips to local osterias and to the opera, (eg to Rigoletto twice in 2 days) discussed and argued together, walking and running up the impressive hill near their home together, chasing their loping, bounding dog. We have shared with Dick his militant intolerance of fashionably noisy restaurants, and have walked out of several together in solidarity with him, including on his birthday.

It is hard to imagine the most athletic distance running Richard Warner that I have known all these years determinedly dragging an oxygen supply along beside him. Cue the theme tune to Chariots of Fire…….We will have to campaign to make this a new Olympic demonstration sport.

Dick, you are and always will be a long-distance runner. Your life is a testament to delayed gratification and long-term goals. Your prolific spoken, published and exemplary practical work with others, including many of you gathered in Boulder today, is a slow-burn exercise in changing hearts and minds. You have indelibly transformed our ideas informing what is most worth doing in our field on this planet. Dick, your legacy will endure and grow beyond all our lives.

With all our love and big hugs to Dick & Lucy, and also one for Phoebe & all of u for getting this very special event together.

Alan & Viv

Zacha & Tully & families

Sydney Australia.

Tribute to Dr Richard Warner
Peter Huxley

Thank you Phoebe for allowing me this opportunity to pay tribute to the life and work of my friend Dick, and to Dick and Lucy for creating the Colorado Recovery family.

I want to say a personal thankyou to Dick and a professional one.

Beginning with the latter.

In academic terms Dick has what is known as an ‘international reputation’, not simply for his work for the World Psychiatric Association, and for the reach and impact of ‘Recovery from Schizophrenia’ but also because he brings the same integrity, intelligence and sense of humour to his work all over the world. Like my old friend Jo Oliver, you can be anywhere in the world and someone Dick knows will turn up out of the blue and be delighted to see him again. He has a well-deserved reputation for his academic and clinical work and many friends around the world as a result.

My life would have been very different had Dick not intercepted my plan to spend a sabbatical with the mental health division of WICHE in the fall of 1989. He said “don’t do that come here” (BCMHC), so I did and over the next 15 years we researched the quality mental health services that he and Phoebe and others helped to create.

Turning to my personal thanks…, I have to thank him for introducing me to the Broncos, CU and the Rockies (how many games behind are we this week?) and sharing good times at the games. For the Rockies, Walt Weiss stands out for me, and Dick and Lucy too, but my baseball highlight (apart from nachos with jalapenos and the rocky mountain oysters) was actually going with Dick to a very windy Candlestick Park, to see the Giants and Barry Bonds play.

On the CU front, we saw many live games in the McCartney era, my daughter Katy (who was 7 then) was very fond of JJ Flanagan and Eric Bienemy. The high spot of the Orange Bowl for Dick, was not rocket Ishmael’s discounted touchdown, but David kicking a hole in the kitchen wall, when he thought Ishmael had won the game for Notre Dame.

The Broncos highlights shared with Dick were being present at the old Mile High when the longest field goal kick was made by Jason Elam (1998) (63 yards, beaten by Matt Prater’s 64 yards.. as you all know)…..and the Championship game against the Jets, when John Elway ran across the field to his family after what could have been his final game on January 17 1999, and the Superbowls of course.

So, thanks for all that Dick, and also for the wonderful meals over the years, and for sharing the music. There are too many gigs to mention, but we have enjoyed bluegrass, country, blues and more during those nights at the Boulder Theatre, Red Rocks, the Gold Hill Inn, Chatauqua, and the Acoustic Café.

Keep rocking Dick.

A tribute from Courtenay Harding

My goodness gracious me.  I, too, had heard that Dick was not feeling well but this is a celebration of a life well lived so I will dwell on how wonderful it has been to get to know Dick and Lucy since 1989 and maybe even earlier!  They are a terrific pair  and they have a lovely family and have been so very proud of and rightly so of their boys!

Dick and I were in the same department of psychiatry for about 10 years and I too have been very grateful for his writings and lectures which have influenced all my work in the public sector. His ability to rethink ideas and suggest new ones is a delight. He has a wry sense of humor, speaks Italian like an Italian, and is a joy to travel with. My last great memory was at a fantastic restaurant in Milan where we were for a meeting and Dick picked out the restaurant and guided a big table of boisterous people to order all the good things and the correct wines. And appropriately, we were there for several hours!  We have also been to Florence and Trieste to shake up things about recovery.  The only time I upset him traveling (that I know of) was when I got lost in Sienna and he had to find me but after a while he forgave me.  He and Lucy shared their lovely flat in Spoletto  where we discovered that the residents show up at the Gelato Shop every day at 4 pm for a cone.  A bunch of us adopted that cultural habit very quickly!

I wish I was in Colorado and could celebrate with him, Lucy and everyone. Greetings to Phoebe and thanks for doing this celebration.

Big hugs to the whole Warner family and enjoy the party!

Courtenay Harding
Visiting Professor of Psychiatry
Eastern Virginia Medical School

Tribute from Ron Diamond

I had heard that Dick was ill, but had not heard the extent of the problem. Please pass on my wishes, condolences?
I am sorry that I am not there to be a part of the celebration. I was not a part of his inner circle, but our very occasional conversations over the years and certainly his books influenced me tremendously.
He influenced me to look at recovery in different ways, to look at people with schizophrenia in different ways, and to think about the world in different ways.He was one of the people who could put philosophy together with data to make a very convincing story.
Please give him my best and I hope that he has a great celebration party.
Ron Diamond

Tribute from Paul Polak

To the Peyton Manning of the economic life of the mentally ill in the community-
our work together was a huge step in helping complete the circle from mental health to poverty and back again.
I hope our evening together next week over smoked salmon and memories will complete the circle.
Congratulations, Dick!

Paul Polak

Tribute from Alessandro Svettini

Dear Dick,

We all have to thank you for your work  as a real fore-runner, for showing another, better, way to treat and cure mental illness and its disabilities. For giving it walls, faces, evidences. Psychiatry owes much to you and if today we all as professionals, service users, family members, administrators, can ENJOY recovery-oriented solutions to psychiatric disabilities is for many aspects thanks to you.

I was not able to come across your way before, and I definitely did not have the opportunity to have you as my professor, the privilege to have you as my mentor, the luck to have you as  my director in my professional work.

But I had the honour to get to know you at a later point of my professional life. I had the joy to share with you your vision, (some of) your knowledge, several very enjoyable moments with food for the body and the mind with good music, with the company of other pleasant people,  from Morocco to Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Colorado…

I really have to thank you: thank you for your company, thank you for your teachings, thank you for your generosity, thank you for your affection.
Un grande abbraccio (a big hug)

Alessandro Svettini

A Tribute to Dr. Richard Warner
From Phoebe Norton

August 7, 2015

I first met Dick nearly four decades ago, when he applied to be Medical Director at our community mental health center where I was (at that time, the Clinical Program Director). I remember well how moved I was to meet a true community psychiatrist who believed that people with major mental illness should be treated and integrated into the community to the greatest extent possible with excellent psychiatric services, small residential treatment homes, housing alternatives, and social/vocational programs. This was just at the beginning of deinstitutionalization and many places were trading state hospitals for nursing homes or huge board and care homes. He was absolutely opposed to warehousing people with mental illness in any setting. I was so excited to hear a psychiatrist who was so committed and authoritative about high quality community treatment, that after the interview, I ran out to the parking lot (probably inappropriately) to tell him that I really hoped he would choose to come to our mental health center. I still remember that he was wearing a navy blue, double breasted blazer with gold buttons and he looked very regal. He said that my encouragement meant a lot to him. Little did he know how much his coming to Boulder would mean to me, all of our colleagues, our clients and their families.

For nearly 30 years, Dick served as the Medical Director of the Mental Health Center of Boulder County where he provided most of the philosophy, values, vision and design for effective adult treatment and recovery programs, including: a residential treatment home in the middle of the community (now called Warner House), vocational programs to help people become integrated into community employment; outreach and mobile treatment teams; assertive community treatment; and a very successful jail diversion program for adults with mental illness and substance abuse problems. An especially creative program that he developed, is the Iris Pharmacy that employees people with mental illness as pharmacy technicians and earns significant revenues every year that help fund other programs.

His values were strong and persistent. These are the values on which he has now based Colorado Recovery and include respect and compassion for each client, unflagging optimism and recognizing everyone’s need for a sense of community and meaning in life.

Throughout his great career, Dr. Warner has brought a strong commitment to the interface of clinical practice with academic research and education in a way that increases the success of clinical practice and the important value of research and education. We, as mental health professionals, have been inspired by him to reach for excellence, based on objective data, open questioning, continued learning and a desire to help people recover from mental illness.

Amazingly, (while practicing full time), Dr. Warner has published 7 books that have been translated into at least 4 different languages. He has also written over 50 articles that have been
published in scholarly journals and books. His book, Recovery from Schizophrenia, was first published in 1985, long before anyone was talking about recovery from major mental illness.

Dr. Warner has been a visionary and a leader in mental health, long before many of these ideas were broadly accepted. He is recognized internationally for his careful research, his successful programs and his visionary ideas. He has been an invited speaker at many academic conferences throughout the world. He is, in fact, an international “treasure” and we are very fortunate to have him as our own “treasure” in Boulder. I am extremely honored to have him as my “professional soul mate” over the past forty years and to work with him and all of you at Colorado Recovery.

We invited a few colleagues from around the world to send a sentence or two to honor Dick on this day. They enthusiastically sent paragraphs to honor Dick that you can read in the book on the table. We encourage you to write your own thoughts on the papers that we have provided on the table so we can add them to this book.

I will share a few highlights from these international mental health experts.

From Peter Huxley at the University of Bangor in the United Kingdom:
“You can be anywhere in the world and someone Dick knows will turn up out of the blue and be delighted to see him again. He has a well-deserved reputation for his academic and clinical work and many friends around the world as a result. Keep rocking, Dick.”

From Michaela Amering at the Medical University of Vienna:
“Dick is this wonderful friend, amazing teacher, great mentor, trusted colleague, legendary psychiatrist and brilliant author of ground-breaking books among them the first, that combined the words ‘schizophrenia’, ‘recovery’, and ‘economy’ in its title.”

From Alan Rosen & Viv Miller in Sydney, Australia:
“Internationally Dick Warner is the guy who has so fruitfully bridged for all of us the spheres of psychiatry, social anthropology and social determinants of illness, as well as demonstrating the importance of social interventions for mental illness. Through his landmark books and beyond, he has breathed life into the concept of recovery as an empowering subjective, socio-economic and political notion as well as a clinical concept. He was well ahead of the news and reach of the recovery movement.”

From Alessandro Svettini in Balzano, Italy:
“I had the joy to share with you your vision, your knowledge, several enjoyable moments with food for the body and the mind with good music, with company of other pleasant people, from Morocco to Italy, from Switzerland, Portugal, Colorado… I really have to thank you for your company, your teachings, your generosity, and affection. Un grande abbraccio, Dick.”

From David Cutler MD at the Oregon Public Policy Training Center:
“Dick is one of the most important, academically productive social psychiatrists on the planet without being embedded in an academic institution.”

From Jim Mandiberg, PhD at Hunter College in New York City:
“Many of you may not know this in your own experience with Dick, but he is fearless. I don’t mean physical fearlessness – we know Dick has some of that as well. I mean conceptual fearlessness and fearlessness to act on it. I think that is one of the reasons people are drawn to him and what has made him such a leader in our field and beyond. But the thing about Dick is that he backs up that fearlessness with be exquisitely good at what he does.”

And finally from Pompeo Matelli in Rome:
“I composed a Haiku for you:

over the wintry
mountains, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow
their piercing cold
in the bedroom, I have stepped
on your book

Dick you are a special person for all of us, a great ‘Seeker of Souls’, a terrific friend. I’d like to stay with you in this moment to hug tightly and drink a toast of the Highland.”