A Houston Methodist Honored in Hollywood for Mental Health Advocacy

Date Posted: 9/26/2013

God's church is full of people in recovery, according to Robert Gilmore, who attends St. John's UMC, Houston. Gilmore's powerful leadership testimony demonstrates a lifelong journey of relating to others in spiritual and mental pain. His special recognition this month is allowing him to share his story of ongoing recovery with national audiences as never before.


Robert McKinley Gilmore Sr. nearly died from heroin addiction, depression, and two suicide attempts before he was age 20. An Air Force veteran who served as a medic, he felt powerless when so many injured soldiers died in his care, and came to the guilty conclusion that he couldn’t save everyone.  He credits his eventual salvation to two praying grandmas and a God that knew Robert had a lot of ‘real life’ to share with others in similar trauma.


“My grandmas barely made it through the fifth grade, but they were unwavering prayer warriors -- often praying for two or three days at a time for me,” he shares. “I am a living testimony of what can happen when you trust God and give Him some time.”


Changing for the Better

While the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) honored him at the September Voice Awards in Hollywood for four decades as a national advocate of mental health, the frightful memory of himself as a hopeless drug addict continues to motivate him to help others. “I remember being on the hospital bed in the Philippines thinking my life was useless and worthless. From the heroine detox ward I called home in a depressed state to tell my bipolar mother I loved her – for the first time in six years – and she did not tell me she loved me back. But the words of my grandma’s and former Sunday School teachers rang in my ears…call on Jesus.”


Robert’s remarkable life turnaround still empowers him to be transparent, empathetic and real with others suffering in any way. Notes Robert, “Some 22 military personnel a day try to take their lives, so I have made it my life’s work to bring light to this issue and bring light into the darkness that often leads to death.  I am living proof that the church is the recovery center for life, and therefore spirituality is the foundation of all recovery.”


An ordained minister, and now public speaker, he founded Real Publishing in 1989, which chronicled his experiences with addiction and mental health challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service, in the book, A True Story: Hope After Dope, From a Drug Addict to a Doctor, which he hopes to give to a million people during his lifetime.


Robert has served on many mental health and recovery committees, and recorded a message for the Department of Veteran Affairs to urge Veterans, family, and friends to connect and find resources in addressing their problems. View it at http://maketheconnection.net/stories/story.aspx?story_id=41


Offering Hope

He is always on the lookout for others to join this critical cause. “My leadership style is that of an organizer, facilitator and teacher,” he says. “I look for other potential leaders that just have the want-to, and we can work with that pocket of potential!”


A national certified counselor and licensed professional in Texas, Robert is active in the Hope After Project, which works to foster an extensive social network that is user-driven, expert-supported, and provides hope and help for individuals in distress and communities in crisis. He also participates in Real Urban Ministry, Inc., which provides technical assistance, training, and resources to more than 800 community and faith leaders through urban ministry programs. He enjoys teaching and sharing how to overcome addiction, encourage recovery, and impact the community. 


Offering training to local churches

Robert is developing a ministry model he hopes other local congregations will help him implement. “I am available to train churches to start where they are with ministries that can be expanded to address addictions in a relevant way. “I am not asking churches to set up a detox center, but rather to build partnerships with experts serving mentally ill audiences in their vicinity. I am happy to train UMCs throughout the conference how to provide information resources and love to high risk populations in recovery.”


While he is sincerely appreciative to receive the award in Hollywood, Robert is focused on the future.  He approaches retirement as a professor, but his ministry efforts are just getting warmed up. “When God delivered me from the grips of hell I asked him how I could be of service. Therefore, I still have a lot to do. Meanwhile, I want my accolades – and my legacy -- to bring glory to God. ”


To discuss mental health advocacy training opportunities with Robert Gilmore, contact him at 281-546-8168.