The children's mental health advocacy community lost a true champion with the passing of Norman Smith, earlier this week.
I first met Norm close to 30 years ago during the early formation of the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health. Norm's wife, Sue Smith, a legendary advocate as well, was one of the early presidents of the Federation, placing her mark on, what was at that time, a relatively radical approach to family advocacy. Together, they were a fearsome presence. Sue all fiery and full of snuff, and Norm, a tall drink of water, who had a calming and confident presence about him, always willing to sit down with you, especially if you were buyin' some good coffee. Always gracious, always gentle and ever so patient in his ability to authentically listen to the cadre of advocates who would be whoopin' and hollerin' about injustice.
I hope I convey accurately the immense respect I had for this man. He was such role model for me about how to support those you love in a way that was always firm, guiding, accepting and unconditional. I never got into his head about his relationship with Sue, but I imagine the internal dialogue during those moments when Sue was fighting the establishment on behalf of families went something like this - "I got your back, babe, through thick and thin. Do what you need to do. No matter what they throw at you, I'm here to back you up. I ain't goin' nowhere, and no one is gonna move you or me until you are ready to move."
Rest easy, big guy. Our community mourns.
If you knew Norm and would like to share a comment or remembrance, please do so below. We will forward your thoughts on to those who love him most in Georgia.
Norm's obituary, including options for reaching out to the family, is posted here.
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President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network