Dear Friends,

It is with great sorrow that we - at the Washington Institute for Mental Health Research and Training (WIMHRT) - share the news that the Washington State mental health community has lost a wonderful friend and talented colleague. Cynthia (“Cindy”) Willey passed away on Thursday, February 24, 2011, after just recently being diagnosed with cancer.  We wanted to share some of Cindy’s story below, as we know many of you would want to remember her this way.

Cindy grew up in the Midwest and moved around the country quite a bit before settling in Washington 21 years ago. She reared four children and delighted in being Nana to eight grandchildren.  She loved writing, reading, cooking, hiking, and most of all spending time with her family.  After many years working in the corporate world, she turned to teaching computer skills, and then to human services education.  Beginning in September 2002 she co-facilitated “Pebbles in the Pond,” a 36-hour psycho education course, at Comprehensive Mental Health in Tacoma. In the same year she became the Operations Manager for the Center for Psychiatric Recovery & Rehabilitation in Tacoma. 

Cindy was a leader on recovery and peer-based services, as well as consumer-driven evaluation and research. Beginning in 2005, Cindy became a Program Manager at the Washington Institute for Mental Health Research and Training (WIMHRT) in Tacoma.  While at WIMHRT, she was the primary instructor for the Washington State Certified Peer Counselor Program and a key trainer for the Mental Health Transformation Project’s Anti-Stigma Program.  She also helped to spearhead the Consumer and Family Evaluation Mini-Grant Program for the Mental Health Transformation Project and conducted peer-to-peer interviews as part of the data collection methodology for several WIMHRT research and evaluation projects.

Cindy received a Hero Award at the 2002 Washington Behavioral Healthcare Conference.  In 2006 she received the Stigma-Buster Award at the Washington State Consumer Conference. 

Cindy blended her presentation skills and life experiences to engage, encourage, and inspire her peers. She shared her love of her work and challenged each peer to find his or her own best wellness strategies. She brought kindness, gentleness and integrity into the lives of many.

A memorial for Cindy was held in Marysville on Saturday, March 5th. Family, friends and coworkers attended and shared remembrances.

Cindy will be missed by us all. We will continue to carry her spirit in our ongoing work at WIMHRT. A memorial fund to help defray training costs for Peers will be established in the near future. Please contact Roxane Waldron ( for more information about how to contribute to the Cindy Willey Memorial Scholarship Fund for Peers.


All our best,

The Washington Institute for Mental Health Research & Training

University of Washington