I Have a “Mental Health” Oppression Story

I attended the Jewish “Mental Health” System Survivors’ Workshop,1 led by Janet Foner,2 and got the opportunity to work squarely3 on my “mental health” oppression story for an entire weekend. I see now how “mental health” oppression is tied into all oppressions and into making oppressor material4 thrive in the world. Telling my “mental health” oppression story helped me get directly to the early places where the hurts of oppression came in.

It was refreshing to be around a group of Jews who were willing to admit to themselves how hard their childhood had been. I didn’t have to navigate the patterns of assimilation and upward mobility that tend to prevail in most groups of Jews.

I learned that a pattern I’ve had, for most of my life, of being preoccupied came directly from my mother and grandfather who escaped from Germany in 1937. My preoccupation has been so strong that I was diagnosed at age six with a “learning disability.” I’ve been preoccupied with what happened in the past so as not to repeat it in the future. This has made it hard to think and act effectively to end racism, classism, sexism, and so on, in my life and in the world. It was a relief to get some discharge on it.

Before coming to the workshop, I didn’t think I had a “mental health” oppression story, because I’d never taken psychiatric drugs or been institutionalized. But with my “learning disability” diagnosis, my having had some therapy, and my family members who’ve been through the full gamut of experiences with the “mental health” system, I definitely have a “mental health” oppression story. Probably most people do.

Lori Leifer
New York, New York, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Jews


An RC workshop held near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in April 2015
Janet Foner is the International Liberation Reference Person for “Mental Heath” Liberation.
“Squarely” means directly.
“Material” means distress.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00