Vice President, Consumer Affairs, Government Programs
“I am both a consumer of services and a family member. While I work hard to live with my own illness, it is my sister Barbie's suicide in 1999 that has made me determined to do what I could to make a better world for all the "Barbies" in the world. I was helping my 80-plus-year-old mother organize family pictures the other morning and even after 10 years, the pictures of my sister — so beautiful and smart and kind — struck us both like a blow. Over 33,000 people die by suicide each year, we cannot keep losing special people like Barbie because of these devastating illnesses.”
“In my role leading a large consumer-run national organization, I heard story after story of the pain and anguish my fellow peers go through every day. I also heard story after story of the amazing work consumers are doing to turn their lives around, to move into recovery and then give back to their peers. I want to do my part, to help support recovery principles and practices within this system, to eliminate the anguish and support the journey to recovery for every single one of my follow consumers. For me, this is not a job, it is a calling.”
Susan Bergeson is charged with overseeing public sector network operations by providing guidance, strategy and fostering a culture of recovery and resiliency. She promotes practices that are anchored in the belief that people with mental illness are able to live, act, work and participate productively in their communities despite their disabilities, and are resilient and able to rebound from trauma, stigma and other stresses with a sense of mastery. Bergeson’s work with OptumHealth is informed by her personal experience both as a family member and as a consumer.
A frequent speaker and author, she has presented on such topics as Patients as Partners: from Compliance to Alliance; Consumer Perspective: DSM, ICD, WHO, and Beyond; The Seven Dirty Words; Consumer Use of Electronic Records; and has authored many articles and contributed to many books, including The Physicians Definitive Guide to Mood Disorders and Bipolar for Dummies. She has been featured in notable media, including Newsweek, ABC's "The View", "NBC's Today Show", WGN radio, the LA Times, among many others.
Previously, Bergeson served as CEO of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the nation's largest consumer-led mental health organization. While in that position, in addition to overseeing all staff, programs, publications, fundraising, operations and representing DBSA to the media and legislators, Bergeson served as a voice for the consumer community on various task forces and advisory boards, including Psychiatric Leadership Project Advisory Committee, NCCBHP; Non RX Treatment of Depression Technical Expert Group, AHRQ; Annapolis Coalition on the Behavioral Health Workforce, Board of Directors; The Institute of Medicine "Closing the Quality Chasm" Mental Health Workforce Training Workgroup; and The National Institute of Mental Health Advocacy Coalition.