Darby Penney, M.L.S.

Darby Penney is a long-time activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric histories and a Senior Research Associate at Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. Ms. Penny, M.L.S., has worked in the mental health field for more than 30 years. She brings extensive experience in policy and program development, training and technical assistance, program management, research, and materials development. Her subject matter expertise includes trauma-informed approaches, peer support, homelessness, justice system involvement, and peer involvement in policy and programs. An experienced writer and editor who identifies as a person with a psychiatric history, for a decade, Ms. Penney was director of recipient affairs at the New York State Office of Mental Health, where she brought the perspectives of people with psychiatric histories into all aspects of policymaking, program development, and evaluation. In 2005, she was honored for her social justice work by being named a Fellow of the Petra Foundation.

Ms. Penney is the co-author of the 2012 technical assistance document, Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support: A Guidebook. She is also the co-author, with Peter Stastny, of The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic (Bellevue Literary Press, 2008) and a companion website. The book and a traveling exhibit of the same name, which has toured the country since 2006, are based on the discovery of 400 suitcases, boxes, and trunks of personal items taken from patients when they were committed at Willard State Hospital in upstate New York.


The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic - online exhibit