May 4 Is Proclaimed ‘Mental Health and Dignity Day’ by People in Recovery from Mental Health Conditions

Press Release via Reuter’s news service

They are coming together to speak out about such grave concerns as H.R. 3717 – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013 – which would destroy initiatives that use evidence-based, voluntary, peer-run services and family supports to help people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses to recover.

The idea started when a group of people in recovery from mental health conditions began talking about the need to raise their voices “to promote the dignity of every person and to continue the fight against the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental health conditions,” said one of the organizers. “This day is to demonstrate that we have a voice and that we are equal members of society.”

Events are confirmed in CaliforniaGeorgiaMichiganNew HampshireNorth Carolina,PennsylvaniaTexas and West Virginia. They include a March for Mental Health and Dignity in Orange County, Calif.; an event on the steps of the state capitol in Lansing, Mich.; and a showing in Philadelphia of the documentary Of Two Minds, followed by a panel discussion.

“Society has defined people with mental health diagnoses in ways that do not represent who we are,” a group member declared. “We aim to fight for equality…the right to choose our own paths to recovery, the right to be architects of our own destiny, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect!”

About one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year. “This is a public health issue,” said another member of the group. “We need to educate the public thatpeople can and do recover.”

To find out more, visit http://www.mentalhealthdignityday.org, and consider contributing to their fundraising campaign. Mental Health and Dignity Day is now a national partner with Creating Community Solutions, which is supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the White House as a part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health.

SOURCE National Mental Health & Dignity Day

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Dignity Dialogues: Because We Need A Genuine Dialogue!

The more I learn about our culture and about people who have been psychiatrically labeled, the more aware I am that the misunderstanding of who we really are has become a terrible burden to our own resilience and capacity to become the individuals we are to be. This is why somehow we must draw our communities into two-way discussions, dialogues that help people move from their assumptions about us to embrace the fully human citizens that we are.

Recent legislative proposals at the national level and some of the thinking of people here in our own state reveal that we are totally misunderstood and mis-defined. We are allowed a station just a little bit lower than human when we can be forced into outpatient treatment yet no other “clinical” group can be. Our human right to be our own decision-making agents is threatened by so many policies and certainly even by the advocacy of many in our state and in our country. Yet how can our society expect people to choose to get help from its systems when our dignity and personhood are not fully respected?

If we were indeed fully respected, citizens would not call police for mental health needs. People with mental illness would not have their circumstances worsened by the trauma of the mishandling, and yes, the abuse. If our person-hood were truly respected, we would count on trained mental health teams, including peer specialists, to be our responders if we need help. Research reveals that the outcomes are far better and the cost far less when well-trained, effective mobile crisis teams are the responders instead of police. In Georgia, which relies on mobile crisis services, they only have the police involved 5 to 10 percent of the time as back-up.

The point is, our society is still operating under such old assumptions when we keep ensuring that there is force and policing involved in the lives of individuals who are in extreme emotional or psychological distress. Yet the enforced treatment proponents have not been challenged in intelligent dialogue.

The reason dialogue is important is that it calls for the exchange of ideas. It is two-way and generates respect for all participants in the process. Best of all, it is relational. These are our communities, and we help define the values that will guide them when we all come together to share ideas. Further, the relational aspect allows the possibility that the playing field will be level and not tilted because of misunderstanding or prejudice.

May 4 is “National Day of Dignity and Mental Health.” There will be events in communities across the country, and at this point, at least two here in North Carolina. We are hosting Dignity Dialogues as a method of breaking down barriers and re-informing community members that we are all people whose hopes and dreams should be validated and who should be loved and comforted when we are hurting.

If you are interested in hosting such a dialogue–even a small one, just contact Laurie Coker (lcokernc@gmail.com).