Psych Congress Remembers Eric C. Arauz

April 2, 2018

The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. - Felix Adler

 

Dear Friends,

The Psych Congress community lost a family member. Eric Arauz was a dear and well-respected colleague, passionate mental health advocate, Psych Congress Steering Committee member and faculty, and above all, friend.

Eric joined the Psych Congress faculty in 2014. His contributions to shaping mental health education are countless. Eric brought a unique perspective to the committee as someone who himself had a mental illness and was a champion deeply committed to fighting the stigma of mental illness. He was a frequent keynote speaker at Psych Congress events across the U.S. An attendee who once heard him speak said, “Eric is a true gift to humanity.” 

Most recently, Eric served as a mentor and moderator for our inaugural re:Think initiative launched in February at Elevate by Psych Congress. The success of this educational experience – that challenges mental health professionals to rethink their approach to mental health care – was due largely to Eric’s leadership, enthusiasm, and vision.

Above all, Eric’s gift was in using his abundant empathy and energy to help people feel hope when they may have felt none. He touched the lives of so many – both within our community and beyond. 

As a community, we gather at Psych Congress each year to learn, connect, and grow together– so it is only fitting then that we offer you a place to mourn this great loss together. Please use this space to post your condolences, thoughts, and stories, so they can be collected and shared as a tribute to Eric’s life and legacy. 

In an interview several years back, Eric noted that if he has learned anything from his battle with mental illness, it is that, “serenity is a gift, not a promise.” Let us take comfort that after giving so much of himself to others – Eric now has the promise of peace.

Taking Up the Task of ‘Double Living’

Many of you may be asking, “How do we honor Eric’s legacy?” Right now, our emotions are too raw to know the exact next steps. Henry David Thoreau observed that upon the death of a friend, we should consider that fate has put on us the task of ‘double living’ – meaning it becomes up to us to fulfill the promise of our friend's life, as well as our own. In the days and weeks ahead, we begin the task of ‘double living’ – and working to identify the best ways to honor Eric and his enormous contributions. We will share these details with you as soon as we know more.  

Memories

Jyoti Sachdeva, MD
Cincinnati, Ohio

Sometimes in life you cross paths with someone briefly but they leave a lasting impression. Eric had such a presence. I had the great privilege of working with Eric as he mentored me while preparing for my re:Think talk at Elevate in February 2018.

Just through 4 online meetings he became a good friend, supporter and a guide. He was tireless mental health advocate and always radiated a message of hope and healing. I was so impressed with his level of commitment to this cause. re:Think was so close to his heart and I feel so honored that I got to participate in it. With his loss, the world has lost a dynamic warrior. I hope we can all do our part in keeping his legacy alive by continuing to work towards healing in mental illness.

Ed Herzog
Sagamore Hills, Ohio

I first met Eric at a nursing convention where he was the keynote speaker. His comments, insights, empathy and compassion touched me as few others had before or have since. I cannot imagine that there could have been a better advocate for those living with mental illness. He was such a kind and gentle soul, yet could be so fierce in his efforts to help those who needed his special kind of kindness and understanding. Rest in peace Eric, and know that you are missed.

Mary Denise Moller, DNP, ARNP, PMHCNS-BC, CPRP, FAAN
Gig Harbor, Washington

To know Eric was to love him, his passion for life and living, his drive to succeed, his positive energy to bring out the best in himself and everyone he met, and his deep devotion to his wife, daughter, mother, and sisters. Simply put, I am a far better person in all aspects of my life as wife, mother, grandmother, sister, teacher, and advanced practice nurse for having known and worked with Eric. The world is a better place because of his presence and influence. His legacy will live on because a piece of his spirit is left in everyone who had the privilege of just one encounter with him. Eric, I miss you deeply and you will be with me always. I can pause anywhere and see your radiant smile, feel your enduring presence, and hear your wonderful manner of speaking encouragement with every breath. Thank you for reaching out that wonderful day in 2009 when you began your journey of becoming such a vital part of the psychiatric nursing community. You are forever cherished.

Catherine Judd, MS, PA-C, CAQ-PSY, DFAPA
Dallas, Texas

Eric exemplified what it means to live life unpretentiously and empathically; to give selflessly; to uplift and uphold others as he has been uplifted; and the capacity for healing and resilience. He lived his life responding to the call, "...to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly...". (Micah 6:8)

Ann McDonald, MD
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

In 2016, I met Eric when he was touring the CMHC in Carbondale, PA. I had the opportunity to share experiences with him about life, traumas and how we can learn, indeed be enriched by the deck we are dealt. When we spoke again it was in 2017 at New Orleans. I am a richer person for these experiences. I am grateful. My thoughts are with those left behind.

Kristina Makansi
Tucson, Arizona

I just learned of Eric’s death, and am deeply saddened. As the editor of his memoir, An American’s Resurrection, I worked closely with him and we often spent hours on the phone as he relived the most difficult moments of his life in print. His thirst for knowledge and his determination to live a life dedicated to helping others was truly inspiring. He will be missed.

Olga Esterov, PA
South Orange, New Jersey

I am so sad to hear of this news, yet so fortunate for having met Eric at the Psych Congress meetings. He will continue to be an inspiration. His commitment to helping others was astounding. He will be greatly missed.

Nisha Chande
Kennesaw, Georgia

I am sad to hear this. I still remember his touching keynote address from several years ago. RIP Eric.

Mary Andersen, APRN, CNS, MSN
Apple Valley, Minnesota

I am stunned and saddened beyond words. He was such a bright light and inspiration to so many people, on both an individual and professional level. His willingness to share his story, along with his compassion and empathy towards others acted as a bridge between so many people. I am heart broken at this loss.

Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC
Austin, Texas

Eric was extremely well-connected. His reach was tremendous – he taught many, he mentored many, he helped many, and he inspired many. I consider myself lucky to have known Eric and I’m grateful to have witnessed his skill and passion as an educator. Eric never met a stranger. He was always ready to engage, to share, and to motivate.

Earlier this year at Elevate in Austin, Texas, Eric’s ability to engage with others was never more apparent.  As he introduced us to re:Think and to the re:Think speakers, those present were mesmerized. Eric was able to orchestrate re:Think like no other. When it ended, I remember thinking, that was a moment in time. Eric, you will be missed but not forgotten.

Andrew Penn, NP
San Francisco, California

I had the good fortune of hearing Eric give the Keynote at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association meeting in 2010. We were fortunate to bring him into the Psych Congress family where he became a core part of our meetings and the Psych Congress family.

Whenever Eric spoke, he brought his own experience with mental illness to bear in hopes that we would return to our practices inspired, reminded of why we wake and go to work each day, and refreshed in our compassion for our fellow man. He did this eloquently and with aplomb.

A renaissance man, he could ground his thoughts in the literary and historical traditions. He never let us forget his own struggles, but also put them in perspective and sought meaning in them. He would probably appreciate me quoting Nietzsche in a line oft quoted by that stalwart of existential psychology, Viktor Frankl - "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." It was clear that Eric lived his life with deep purpose and meaning. His "why" was to give the struggles of his life a meaning that could help others. His voice will be missed, but his impact will be felt for years to come.

Bengi B. Melton, MD
Houston, Texas

I met Eric at a conference, I believe it was an annual American Association of Suicidology conference. I approached him after his presentation and we talked a long time as if we already knew each other. We had a follow phone call for an hour after returning home. He had an incredible vision and endless source of hope/healing energy. In a classical sense, he was a consumer and advocate and I was a burned out provider. He understood me and I felt genuinely supported by him although we just met. Last year in September during Psych Congress in NOLA, I went up to him again and we reconnected as if those years have never passed. He had the same enormous sense of hope and warmth. He looked tired but undefeated and more resilient than ever. Despite very little time spent together he was one of the very few people I felt truly connected with. As long as I live, I salute and honor you and your legacy my friend.

Omar Reda, MD
Portland, Oregon

Eric Arauz died exactly one month after he and I shared the stage to deliver a message of hope and healing during the last Elevate by Psych Congress event.

I was confused and heartbroken, also angry at how quickly death had stolen him, and the many broken hearts he had left behind. We started to make plans for him to come visit me in Oregon and to meet at the American Psychiatric Association conference in New York, we still have lots of unfinished business, the world does still need his gentle touch and healing spirit. He was a fireball of mercy and compassion, he transformed the lives of those who were blessed to cross paths with him, he loved his wife and his beautiful daughter dearly, he made a point to bring them up in every conversation.

But in order to honor his memory, believe in his mission and continue his legacy, we must celebrate his life not his death. I am honored and grateful that I have met Eric and was one of the people who shared aspects of his last journey. He extended a hand of grace to lift my spirit and give me the encouragement and enthusiasm to delivering my talk.

I do not have closure though, yet. I wish if I had known that day in February that I was hugging him for the last time. Rest in eternal peace Eric my friend, you will be dearly missed, and lovingly remembered.

Rakesh Jain, MD, MPH
Austin, Texas

Eric‘s contributions to the steering committee, and to the Psych Congress family at large were enormous. He never let us forget that the ultimate goal of all we do is patient centric – that, our main goal in life is to help fellow human beings who suffered from the ravages of mental illnesses. He also showed us that mentorship is exceptionally important and he mentored an entire generation of psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nursing students, psychologists, nurses etc. etc. His was a life lived with purpose. He will be much missed.