was nominated for Person of the Year for his
advocacy of mental heatlh issues.He
is the 2007 chapter president of the National Alliance on Mental Issues
The sleep is well-deserved, for Sempell
has devoted nearly every waking hour of his
life to helping people and their families cope -- and thrive -- with mental illness.
"This is a calling," said Sempell
, 49, who although he
not a religious man, said his
profession is so rewarding it's spiritual.Sempell
has now gotten even busier.On Jan. 1, he became the president of the Kern chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
NAMI Kern meets on the third Monday of every month with families, health professionals and patients.
The latter are called the politically correct term "consumers," not by Sempell's choice.He
believes those suffering from everything from mild depression to schizophrenia are afflicted by a sickness that's not their fault.
As a result, Sempell
believes that his
second calling is to be accessible to those who need his
phone rings about every 10 minutes, whether it's his
wife or two daughters or patients suffering from a panic attack.
Sempell's day job is the director of business development of psychiatric services at the Good Samaritan Hospital Southwest on White Lane.He
also runs his
own family counseling practice.
But in the last few years, his
passion has become advocacy for the mentally ill.
On March 11, 2002, his
younger brother Robert was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy near Washington Mutual Bank on North Chester Avenue
.Robert had been walking in and out of traffic and acting strangely, and when the deputy tried to calm him, Robert pulled out a knife, witnesses said.The deputy shot him twice.
"That catapulted me into NAMI
so I could try to prevent it from happening to other families," Sempell
...Sempell once taught parenting classes at a community college even before he became a parent, and said he was once a half-dissertation away from having his doctorate after nine years of higher education.
But just as he
was going to finish that dissertation, tragedy struck.His
wife, Dayna, whom he
met when he
was 18, was hit by a drunken driver in 1987 and has suffered from chronic pain ever since.He
never finished the dissertation.
For more information on the National Alliance on Mental Illness
, Russ Sempell
asks you to call him at 303-1416.