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The Basis of My Mental Health/Mental Illness Advocacy

Posted on September 29, 2015 in Advocacy Stigma

square921I have developed this perspective over the course of many years. Denial was part of my life for many years. I made my wife’s life hell and I was a thrall to those who knew how to trigger me. It has not been easy. Now that I am on medication, I feel much better and in control of my emotions. Nevertheless, I respect the decision not to take medication by some, but often find that they do not respect mine. This article stakes out my position and makes a stand for what I believe.

  • I believe in Mental Illness because I have it and I have no delusions about its harms. Nonetheless, I know that sometimes medications don’t work for people and that in these cases the side effects may be too much to handle, so I am against blindly forcing people to take meds.
  • I believe in Science over tradition, “common sense”, or belief.
  • I am a civil libertarian and a believer in health care as a civil right; I am not an anti-psychiatrist.
  • I believe that no right should be deprived a person without due process and due safeguards to be sure that those intervening on the patient’s behalf are not using it as a tool for abuse, that they be under a psychologist’s care, and that they are not overworked.
  • I believe in the sanctity of medical records and this should not be violated except in a genuine medical emergency. I see no reason to change HIPAA laws as they now stand.
  • People like me are best off living in the community. I am distrustful of those who want to revive long term mental institutions as the primary care vehicle for the homeless. I support Community Mental Health Clinics, more short-term hospital beds, and genuine, quality housing for the homeless where they are not having to share living space with many others because these are shown to have positive outcomes for patients.
  • I believe in evidence-based medicine. Given the softness of the data supporting “assisted outpatient therapy” aka “forced outpatient therapy” or “Kendra’s Law” — ask a statistician about what this means — I do not think we have the evidence (yet?) to justify it. I am likewise dubious about alternative therapies.
  • I do not believe that stigma is not caused by diagnoses or identity: this is to blame it on myself and others like myself. The true responsibility lies with those who hold the prejudices.
  • I believe that nonprofessionals as well as professionals should have the right to contribute to the discussion about the nature of diagnosis and the best way to care for those like me. Psychiatry serves the patient. Its practitioners had best learn to listen to us if they are to help us.
  • I call on others to join me in insisting on continuing scientific research into better ways to treat mental illness.
  • I do not believe that the loudest voices represent the majority of those of us who live with mental illness. I distrust argument by assertion.
  • I am certain that trauma including abuse is a risk factor for mental illness. I feel the same about genetics.
  • I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I believe in confederacies — of dunces — which exist on both ends of the continuum of discussion about mental illness and sometimes in the middle. Extremes of experience, I feel, have given rise to extremes of outlook. I do not discount others’ pain and experience, but I am concerned that these others discount mine.
  • I feel stigmatized for my choice to take medication and to identify myself as mentally ill, not only by the sane but by some of my peers who believe that ideologically denying illness will lift stigma from our shoulder.
  • I believe that having a mental illness or having a mentally ill family member does not absolve one from responsibility for one’s actions.
  • I do not believe we should be striving for a “perfect” system where we do not have any “incidents” that disturb the comfort of the same, but for a just one and compassionate one which helps those wanting care get it without surrendering their personhood.
  • For these beliefs I am willing and have been subjected to bear stigma and hostility from the extremes. I do not believe in appeasement. If necessary, I will stand on my own until convinced by logic and solid scientific evidence, but I do not believe that I am alone in these concerns.
  • I do not suffer fools or trolls gladly.

I wrote this in June and set it aside to season.

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