In the Spirit of Black History Month, Sixties Activist Timothy Fitzgerald Fights for the Civil Rights of the Mentally Ill

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Timothy Fitzgerald was a student leader in 1960s at San Jose State University. In 1969, Mr. Fitzgerald led the winning campaign that made history in the state of California by electing the first African-American campus student body president in the state university system. In addition, Fitzgerald was instrumental in desegregating off-campus student housing in San Jose during that period. Years ago, Mr. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He has faced severe discrimination as a mentally ill person; and in the past, Mr. Fitzgerald was forcibly confined to mental health institutions for short periods. Over the past fifteen years, Mr. Fitzgerald has advocated on the behalf of the mentally ill.

"I am not ashamed that I am bipolar," said San Jose author and community activist Timothy Fitzgerald. "A diagnosis of mental illness should not be treated any differently from a diagnosis of cancer. Both are serious diseases that require treatment."

Timothy Fitzgerald was a student leader in 1960s at San Jose State University. In 1969, Mr. Fitzgerald led the winning campaign that made history in the state of California by electing the first African-American campus student body president in the state university system. In addition, Fitzgerald was instrumental in desegregating off-campus student housing in San Jose during that period.

Timothy Fitzgerald (http://www.timfitzgerald.org) recently authored "The Wawona Brotherhood: The San Jose State Campus Revolt" in which he chronicles his experiences at San Jose State University during the turbulent 1960s through the early 1970s. In his eight-year quest to obtain his bachelor's degree, Mr. Fitzgerald battled mental illness and poverty while he collaborated with establishment campus figures to create a new governing system at San Jose State.

Since his time as an undergraduate, Mr. Fitzgerald has been a community activist in San Jose. He is the former Vice Chairman of the Disability Advisory Commission in San Jose; and he was a Green Party state leader for over a decade. Fitzgerald is considered an authority on the Vietnam era in a standard San Jose State history class.

Years ago, Mr. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He has faced severe discrimination as a mentally ill person; and in the past, Mr. Fitzgerald was forcibly confined to mental health institutions for short periods. Mr. Fitzgerald also has faced bouts of homelessness during his life. Despite these setbacks, he has successfully managed his bipolar disorder.

"I am not ashamed that I am bipolar," said San Jose author and community activist Timothy Fitzgerald. "A diagnosis of mental illness should not be treated any differently from a diagnosis of cancer. Both are serious diseases that require treatment."

Mr. Fitzgerald worked for over twenty years doing various jobs, which ranged from cashier to budget analyst. He also worked as government administrative assistant as well as a security guard. Over the past fifteen years, Mr. Fitzgerald has advocated on the behalf of the mentally ill. He firmly believes that the seriously mentally ill should be allowed to do part-time temporary work to the extent their illness permits.

Fitzgerald further noted, "The mentally ill are not society's castaways. We can provide great original contributions to the workplace unanticipated by mainstream workers. Employers need to treat the mentally ill with respect and dignity."

At the age of 64, Mr. Fitzgerald continues to fight for the human rights of the mentally ill, people of color, the homeless and the disenfranchised. Mr. Fitzgerald is now completing his third master's degree at San Jose State University. He is on track to be awarded this degree in fall 2010.

For more information about author and community activist Timothy Fitzgerald, visit his Web site http://www.timfitzgerald.org. For interviews, call 408.726-9940.

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