It is with a heavy heart that Painted Brain says goodbye to one of the greatest advocates in peer mental health: Sally Zinman.

Zinman had a long, decorated career as a peer mental health advocate and ally. Zinman has spent the past 3 decades at the forefront of the peer consumer mental health movement and would eventually become the executive director for the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations (CAMHPRO).

An official statement from CAMHPRO reads:

Mary Hogden, board chair at CAMHPRO, shared that Sally was with her daughter Rachel at her side holding her hand as she transitioned. It was both a 17-year battle with cancer and then COVID that ended her life. 

We at CAMHPRO are heartbroken and will miss Sally every day. Without her wisdom, resilience, tenacity, and kindness, CAMHPRO would not exist, and each of us would not be the same without having known her.

We will take some time to mourn, but never waver from carrying on the legacy that Sally left behind as our hero, our champion, and a pioneer and trailblazer of the Peer Movement. Just as she never stopped working until the end, so shall we continue what she devoted 45 years to building.

For now, we are saddened by the loss and will miss the ‘mother of the movement’ (as Harvey Rosenthal wrote), our beloved friend.”

Over 150 peers from across the nation attended Zinman’s healing circle to uplight their positive /transformational experiences and work with Sally. PB Co-Executive Director, Rayshell Chambers, exclaimed that Sally encouraged her to be willing to collaborate with others, even if at the time they are not ready to work with you. Her spirit of advocacy, coalition building has shaped my approach to how Chambers connects and serves others.


Painted Brain would like to honor Zinman’s memory with the following poem written by PB‘s Program Manager, Tiffany Elliott:

In Memoriam

She breathes the way my grandmother

sent her last breath into the nebulizer

like an incensed prayer, and this isn’t

about me—she is not my grandmother,

but in a way, she is the grandmother

to my entire generation, and when her

forearms wrap around me, I feel

how brittle her ribcage has become,

how her life is measured in puffs

of oxygen through the nasal cannula, in

last soft squeezes of hands, in final

goodbyes—and I pray there was peace in her

parting, that the halo of her hair frames

a face no longer lined with so many cares.

Those cares are ours to carry now.

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