Director of Consumer Affairs, Government Programs
“As the child of alcoholic parents, I grew up without the tools to cope with my brother’s death from addiction at age 26. My own addiction took over my life. I grew isolated, could not process information, listen to feedback or successfully hold a job. At one point, on 72-hour hold, I was thrown into a room with a plastic-covered mattress, no clothes, and no hope. I had nothing to hold on to, no tools to use for recovery.”
“But then someone convinced me to attend a peer support group. I was astonished. In a way, it seemed that everyone in the room already knew everything about me. They were experiencing, or had experienced, similar issues. In the group, we could talk it out. I learned to chip away at my problems. I faced my own responsibilities. Recently with the help of my service dog, Bella, I have one more wellness tool that helps me function.”
“Peer support was the beginning of my recovery, and I believe that peer support is the key for others to move from despair to hope. It is my passion. I will not rest until peer support is available to everyone and all mental health services are recovery-oriented.”
Peter Ashenden is a consumer/survivor and has served as director of consumer affairs at OptumHealth since April 2010. He served for two years as president/CEO for the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), after holding the position of executive vice president at DBSA. For 12 years, Ashenden held the position of executive director of the Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP); he has provided training to consumer/survivors and mental health professionals nationally; and has been active in starting many self-help groups. Peter is a well-known keynote speaker at mental health-related events throughout the country, including the Alternatives 2004 Conference held in Denver, CO.
He completed his term as Chairman of the Board of USPRA and will complete his term as past Chair of the Board in June 2013. He is member of the board of the Verrazano Foundation (Staten Island, N.Y.), and the board of mental Health Empowerment Project. He is a former member and secretary of the board of the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, and a former member of the CARF (the Accreditation Association) board. Ashenden was also a member of the board of New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation (NYAPRS), a position he held for over 12 years.