Truth and Reconciliation project around psychiatric and mental health services

Listen to this post: 

At the TBI and art NW NOGGIN event the other night, something truly amazing happened. Nothing like this has ever happened at one of my presentations. No, I’m not talking about how the audio didn’t work on my movie. So we played the movie on a laptop, and I acted out all the parts and the sound effects by myself. That was weird but not amazing.

The amazing thing was how many people in the audience shared pieces of their stories not around brain injury. People brought up experiences of other disabilities and of things typically referred to as mental illness, psychiatric disability, madness, and the like. That’s the part that hasn’t happened to me before because usually, the ones who speak up tell a brain injury story.

One person asked how to get the brain injury community and mental health community to unite. The answer I first gave was, “I know! I say that all the time!” Fortunately, she pressed for a real answer.

And I told her to keep talking. Keep saying it. Keep coming to events and sharing the need for unity and dismantling the awful hierarchy we support when someone with brain injury says, “Yeah, but I’m not like one of them. I have a real disability, a real injury. I’m not mentally ill.”

Regardless of what medical or life experience you have, distancing yourself from other stigmatized and marginalized groups isn’t going to help anyone. It oppresses people with mental health diagnoses. It reinforces the idea that there exists good people with real medical conditions and then fakers, liars, malingerers, and lazy folks who are fine but just can’t get it together. We have enough administrative law judges, doctors, and clinicians who give us this message on a daily basis. (I know first hand, being someone with a brain injury who was told by doctors I’m only crazy. And they continue to add diagnoses into my chart without telling me!) Let’s not add fuel to the fire that divides us. Or ignore the economic, racist, classist, and other oppressive cultural forces clearly at play in the way people are diagnosed or not, medicated or not, institutionalized or jailed or not. Or continue to look at people’s minds as sites of individual shortcoming when we could be looking at all of this as a social justice crisis.

The M.O.M.S. Movement, Rethinking Psychiatry & The Icarus Project are co-sponsoring a storytelling community event for people who have received psychiatric/mental health services and people who have provided services to share their stories, witnessed by each other and the community. This will be a time of powerful truth-telling, deep listening, and respectful interacting, facilitated by a psychiatric survivor, a mental health provider, and a family member.

Come to listen. Come to share your story.

Wed., March 16, 6:00-9:00 pm
Center for Intercultural Organizing
700 N. Killingsworth Ave.
On the #72, near the #4 bus

For questions, contact Cindi Fisher:

View the Madness and Oppression Art Show from The Icarus Project on Flickr. While they don’t necessarily have image descriptions, each picture has a short story or discussion by the artist.