Sunday, May 27, 2007

Faces of Recovery

These remarkable individuals are from the Peer Support Outreach training in Louisiana. Each one of them touched my heart in a way that I will never forget. I am so grateful that I was able to meet them face to face and gather so much video footage. They all had something to say! In this video, they talk about recovery, and they show us what recovery looks like. This is also the first video posted to my new blog Faces of Recovery and it includes a short intro of this new video project.

Meet the true faces of recovery in Louisiana!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dinner Conversation with Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is a practicing psychiatrist in Massachusetts who fully recovered from schizophrenia many years ago. He is a walking example of recovery, which is something the mental health system doesn't believe can happen except in rare occasions. People who enter the mental health system with pronounced symptoms are typically given a serious diagnosis and a bleak future. They are told they will be on medication the rest of their lives in order to keep the symptoms stabilized, but that there is no cure for the illness itself. Recovery is unheard of by these newly diagnosed patients, and their future is mapped out by an unbelieving mental health system. I am not exaggerating. This is how it is, and this is something I saw first hand, again, at the Louisiana Peer Support Outreach training. Every person I interviewed said they had been labeled with an incurable mental illness and told they would never recover. Their only hope was to maintain stability by taking medication and participating in day treatment programs, which are designed and run by the same system that diagnosed them. These programs do not teach or expect recovery. They are hospitals without walls.

The thing that struck me the most was that all of these individuals are now in recovery. This happened only after Dan Fisher began his visits with them after Katrina, offered them hope, and introduced the reality of recovery. This is how recovery typically begins.

When people are offered hope and support and encouragement by other people who have recovered, recovery happens all on it own. It just does.

It wouldn't take hundreds of millions of dollars to transform the mental health system. It would take a FREE, NO COST paradigm shift at core levels of the system, starting with medical colleges and universities. If the system itself truly believed in recovery, people would routinely recover. How simple is that?

I get incredibly frustrated when I think about it. Sometimes it makes me cry, especially when I have an experience like I did in Louisiana. This whole concept of recovery hit me over the head like never before. The mental health system in Louisiana is more backward than any other I've seen in this country, yet all it took was Dan Fisher to offer hope to the "hopelessly labeled" for recovery to begin its course. I saw it in each of their faces. I heard it in their stories. It gleamed in their eyes. Hope is a beautiful thing to witness first hand. I'll never forget this trip.

Why is the mental health system so resistant to hope?

Unless hope is instilled at the core level of the system, recovery will not be possible for hundreds of thousands of people - unless they have an encounter with someone who has recovered in spite of the system. It doesn't need to be that way, but it is.

This video is one of my favorites from the Louisiana trip. It's candid and unedited with Dan, Beth, me, and two people from Meaningful Minds, the self-help support network in Louisiana, talking about the terms people adopt to call themselves when they begin to recover and challenge the mental health system. The woman talking is Debra, the executive director of this newly formed organization. We also discuss the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness, which is adopted like religion in the mental health system. It is the primary focus of treatment and prognosis and, most of all, medications. It is highly debatable, as you will see in this video.

I took 106 video clips of my trip. I've just now finished viewing all the footage. I'll be making DVDs to send to the folks in Louisiana as well as to Dan Fisher. The Office of Mental health in Louisiana has also requested a DVD of the footage. Interesting. Meanwhile, I'll be posting clips here and there on this blog. I couldn't resist showing this one first because it is my personal favorite! It's a wonderful introduction to Dan Fisher.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

NAMI on Chemical Imbalance Belief

More on the legislative session in Minnesota debating TeenScreen. This rep socks it to NAMI by stating the obvious. It blows my mind how the obvious is so routinely denied. I have high hopes for Minnesota due to the passion of this man. He's determined to not let the bill slide through unnoticed like it was intended to do.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Behind the Veil

Beth and I went to the Carter Center to talk frankly and honestly about mental health issues. There is no way I could pack all of it into one video, so I will be adding videos one by one as I finish them. I'm disappointed that this is the first clip I'm showing from my new camera because the quality is shocking to me. I tested the camera many times, and this is the only footage that came out badly upon encoding. The raw footage is excellent but something got lost in the translation. Grrrrr! I've done exhaustive tests to figure out what went wrong, but came up with nothing. And it was just the footage at the Carter Center! I don't get it! None of the other footage loses quality upon encoding, even when I choose the lowest quality settings!

I'm posting the footage regardless of the quality because we covered some powerful topics that I don't want to go to waste. This video is Beth talking about connecting with others no matter how isolated some may appear to be.

Next week Beth and I are going to Louisiana!!! She's be doing a training with Dan Fisher from The National Empowerment Center, and I will be tagging along with my camera. This trip just fell into my lap, thanks to Beth. Dan Fisher is someone I admire immensely and could only hope to meet one day. Well, that day has arrived. What a wonderful opportunity!