From Jail to Podium - Londoner Brett Batten Wins National Award

May. 01, 2014

Former St. Joseph's forensic patient, now community advocate, is the recipient of the 2014 Champion of Mental Health Award presented by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health

Brett’s mental health journey has spanned 30 years. Not only has he lived with mental illness since adolescence but he has also been arrested, incarcerated, judged, found guilty and found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR).

Seven years ago, Brett Batten was in hospital, prior to that, in jail. He has abandoned his anonymity to educate, advocate, write and speak about his experiences in the hope of changing perceptions of mental illness especially when it intersects with the law.

In jail for three years, Brett suffered not only from bipolar disorder and psychosis but also post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of incarceration and solitary confinement.

His circumstances have always been different but his mental illness has remained a constant. What makes his story so unique is his willingness to talk about it.

While a patient for seven years in the Forensic Psychiatry Program at St. Joseph’s he was encouraged to make advocacy part of his recovery. He soon became a sought-after speaker and in recent years has presented his story and obliterated stigma at schools, churches, hospitals, detention centres and housing groups in an attempt to bring awareness to mental health care - specifically forensic mental health care.

Brett is captivating with an incredible ability to make people listen. He has become a local hero who has caught the attention of Ontario’s Minister of Health and Premier, among others. His powerful written word always brings insight and understanding and often tears to those fortunate enough to hear him.

The Champion of Mental Health Award celebrates individuals and organizations whose outstanding contributions have advanced the mental health agenda. “I was quite shocked when I found out I won,” says Brett. “After years of thinking I would never be heard, stuck behind walls and bars, this… is such an incredible opportunity and honour.”

“For St. Joseph’s, Brett represents possibility,” says Sandy Whittall, VP Mental Health Services. “We featured him on our mission statement plaque in the lobby of our forensic hospital as a reminder for current patients that they can overcome, recover and achieve.”  

Brett will be honoured in Ottawa during Mental Health Week at the Château Laurier as part of Bell’s Let's Talk mental health initiative. He is in great company along with fellow recipients, Comedian, Mary Walsh and Parliamentarian, Dr. Harold Albrecht.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London proudly congratulates Brett on his win and hopes this national platform will provide him with more opportunities to advocate for positive change for those in need of mental health care.

Brett has been living successfully in the community for seven years; is currently publishing a book about his experiences and lives in a beautiful home with his supportive wife and dog named Ani, short for Sanity.

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Mr. Batten is available for interviews/photos during Mental Health Week on May 7, 8 or 9.

For more information:

Amanda Jackman
Communication Consultant
519.646.6100 ext. 47155
Pager: 519 649-5530
amanda.jackman@sjhc.london.on.ca

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