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Brilliant and Inspiring "Mental Health" Liberation

I recently attended Janet Foner's "Mental Health" System Leaders' Workshop held in a beautiful house with a pool and hot tub overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. For me the workshop was an inspiration as well as acknowledgment of how far we've come. Being with almost forty "mental health" system leaders from all over the continent, including Canada, was a great high.

I told Janet I would write a report back if I could get a copy of her notes because I find notetaking to be distracting. As I am reading over her notes I find myself discharging while being reminded of the truth about us. Much of what I will write here will be directly from her notes, but I will not put it in quotes. You will also get some of my own interpretation of what she said.

Janet talked a lot about having strong large support systems for ourselves. She pointed out how essential a good support system is in order to keep going when things start to get really tough, which is inevitable if we are effectively doing the work. The bottom line in building this support is to bring up the issue of "mental health" system oppression whenever and wherever we are in RC -- in workshops, classes, newsletters, and gather-ins. It was also pointed out that wherever there has been a leader who has persistently brought up "mental health" liberation, things have happened.

Janet talked about the basics of what's needed to deal with tough distress and how to stay in touch with reality. She suggested we have a mini-session every day, and think about our goals with someone at least once a month, ideally once a week. It is important to clean up restimulation as it happens so we don't get stuck in huge built-up restimulation. We cannot allow common patterns of "mental health" system survivors to run our lives. These patterns include getting overwhelmed, leaving or quitting when things get hard, and dropping out of RC.

Setting action goals and staying focused on reality is important. She emphasized that we must remember we never went "crazy." What happened for many of us consisted of trying to heal from early hurts and that process got called "going crazy." The interruption of our attempt to get help and heal often leaves us feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and out of control when we try to use the healing process. However, we were reminded that those feelings are all simply recordings!

Setting action goals and staying focused on reality is important. We are capable of far more than we feel like and we are far more powerful than we now realize. We need to do what we think we can't do, but want to do. Even if something seems totally impossible we can take it one chunk at a time. After taking the first step, the rest will feel more possible. If we don't know what to do we can simply try something. It is important to not stay in indecision about what to do. It is better to try anything and simply learn through trial and error rather than staying passive, doing nothing.

"Have fun leading" was another message from Janet. We can create ways to contradict the fear and heaviness associated with this issue. We must lead just for ourselves and enjoy it. She shared personally how much she enjoys doing this work.

Within the "mental health" system we were conditioned to be dependent, to give up on ourselves and each other, and we were forced to rely on someone else's "thinking" instead of our own. To contradict this hurt we must take charge by staying firmly in RC and making the Community our own. We cannot hope to tackle people's patterns who don't know RC if we can't even deal with RCers' patterns. Although RC may not be perfect, it's the best thing we have and it continues to improve. We cannot let our isolation patterns or hopelessness cause us to abandon or give up on RC. All RCers have a huge stake in "mental health" liberation, whether they know it or not, so they can be our best allies. Our job is to take charge and create allies for ourselves. Getting allies is just like making friends. Once someone understands and likes us they almost have to become our ally.

The reality is that people are hungry for this information and work ("mental health" liberation). Everyone is touched in some way by this. Janet said that ten years ago getting a letter from a "mental health" system survivor every six months was an exciting event. Now she gets letters and calls every week, sometimes several times a day.

The workshop was wonderfully inspiring. I felt so proud of all of us and connected to a great group of leaders. Janet was brilliant and inspiring. The workshop was excellently organized, and we ate delicious food prepared by some of the workshop attendees. I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make this powerful event take place.

Kris Yates
Berkeley, California, USA

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00