Many psychiatric survivors arrive at the conclusion they want to change the system but aren’t sure where to begin. Mental health activism comes in many forms and can be overwhelming at first.
There are many ways to get started in the movement. Guidelines exist, but there’s no right or wrong way to get organized. A good place to start is to pick a specific issue that’s important to your community. Some advocacy groups focus on issues such as developing alternatives to involuntary treatment, ending involuntary treatment, and ensuring peers are involved in decision making on state mental health policy.
Once groups of psychiatric survivors begin meeting and talking with one another, they start advocating for the ideas they generate together, which helps build their confidence as they face the challenges of approaching legislators and naysayers. They discover their problems are not caused by personal defects, but by the system itself.
In addition to connecting with people who have been directly harmed by psychiatry, it’s also helpful to reach out to people or organizations that share your values and concerns.
The activities of organizations and groups are limitless. They include creating peer support groups, advocating for hospitalized individuals, creating influential art, marching, and protesting.
In deciding how to address your community’s problems, consider how your actions challenge power structures. No aspect is more important than the others — the key is to operate with intention.
People mistakenly think funding is needed before you can take the first step. It’s best to think of funding as helpful for growth rather than a necessary starting point.
As you’ve seen, psychiatric survivors are organizing all around the world. In our next segment, we will explore how various groups have worked toward changing public perception about mental health.
“SOLEMN AND SUBTLE” Written & produced by MARK STURGESS