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Sunday, 24 June 2018

RLC Articles

The RLC produces a newsletter each and every month that offers monthly calendars, announcements and articles. Although old newsletters are archived on the website, the articles - often on important advocacy-related issues - run the risk of being buried and difficult to find. In an attempt to make that information more accessible, we still also list RLC-published articles from the newsletter (and other relevant sources) here for your ease and perusal.

 

A Word on the Word 'Peer'

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, June, 2012

 

According to www.dictionary.com, the word ‘peer’ is defined as follows: “a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status.” By that definition and as it peershas boiled down in our world to its most common usage, most of us have several ‘peer’ groups. Parents, doctors, students, authors, actors, nurses, artists, politicians, baseball players… all are one another’s peers. More importantly, in order to be a ‘peer,’ by definition, one person quite literally has to be connected to another. There is no such thing as a ‘peer’ standing alone, because then, well… whose peer are they?

Strange then, that – within the mental health system and recovery movement – we should be taking on this word ‘peer,’ as if it is the next best word for patient, client, consumer, ‘person served,’ participant, and/or member. It’s strange for two reasons. The first is that no ‘peer’ should be able to stand alone. There should be no such thing as ‘a peer,’ unless there is another ‘peer’ standing next to him or her. No person should be able to talk about ‘the peers’ as some group separate from themselves because it is antithetical to the very meaning of the word. Peer does not mean ‘someone receiving services.’ It means people who exist as a part of a community of some sort and who share commonalities and relationships with one another. It’s ‘my peers’ or ‘our peers,’ if it’s ‘peer’ at all. It’s stranger still because – in this work of recovery and ‘peer work,’ – we talk so often about how healing through relationship is at the core of what we do. And yet, in essence, we have begun to refer to ourselves by a word that originally was all about relationship and now, through our very usage of it, has lost that relational focus.

And so, before we go beyond the point of no return with our usage of this word, we encourage everyone to consider the impact and to remember that, if we use the word as it is defined, no ‘peer’ can stand alone.

Our Bodies, Our Selves

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, July, 2010

 modern abstract figure drawing of irenka

Society puts a tremendous amount of   pressure on us to look and be a certain way. As a result, many of us can be very unkind to ourselves. We criticize our bodies, call ourselves names, or focus on the many ways in which we’re not good enough. Unfortunately, it’s often considered ‘normal’ for people to talk about hating their bodies or their appearance openly and on a regular basis.

This article is intended as a call to all of us to find ways to be kinder to ourselves individually and as a community.

When we speak unkindly about ourselves, consider these possible effects:

 

  • It Can Make Change Harder: It’s easy to think that being hard on ourselves will lead us to change. However, in reality, being unkind and overly critical is more likely to result in treating ourselves badly than it is to result in making any positive changes.
  • We Impact Others’ Views: Each one of us is a role model within our community. Intentionally or not, if we talk badly and overly critically of ourselves, we encourage a culture where others continue to do the same.
  • We Indirectly Insult Others: When we insult our bodies, our size, our appearance, or our intelligence, individuals who have similar appearances, sizes, shapes or other related concerns will often hear us as if we are also talking about them. For example, if one person says that their body shape is “wrong” or “bad” in some way, they are essentially (though often unintentionally) implying the same about another person with a similar body type.

Read more: Our Bodies, Our Selves

Food Police

Originally published in the RLC newsletter, February, 2013

Food Police?

 police whistle

“Donuts saved my life. You can quote me on that!”

“Raw carrots almost sent me to the hospital once.”

“Wheat bread is the worst thing I can eat.”

“A diet high in fruits and veggies makes me unbelievably sick.”

“Have you heard about that study where the women who drink the most coffee are the least likely to be diagnosed with depression?”

 

These are just a few excerpts from a variety of conversations within our community that demonstrate one common theme: ‘Healthy eating’ is in the eye (and body) of the beholder and cannot be universally determined or described with simplistic pyramid graphics. Yet, for a variety of reasons from financial to health-related, there’s a strong tendency throughout our culture to evaluate everyone’s nutritional choices according to the same narrow standards. As it is so in the media and our broader communities, so is it within the mental health system. In fact, a sense of responsibility for the health and well being of people receiving services combined with stretched resources and other practical challenges may sometimes drive providers to even more stringent measures.

“When I was in the hospital, I would tell them that I have Celiac disease and can’t eat gluten. They would give me a veggie burger or a salad. Every time. It’s incredibly stressful to not have access to food you can eat or to be told that a salad is good enough to eat for basically every meal.” Stories like this one are commonplace and speak loudly to the potential impact of lack of understanding and loss of control. In fact, people have reported a variety of personal outcomes, including the aforementioned higher stress levels, physical illness, distorted body image, unhealthy patterns of eating based on fear of future restrictions, and a general feeling of loss of control that, for some, leads to a greater sense of sadness and/or hopelessness.

Read more: Food Police

Outpatient Commitment Laws & Massachusetts

 Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, March 2013

 

44 states in the US currently have outpatient commitment laws in place. They are often referred to as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or AOT, though they also go by other names (e.g., Kendra’s

Top 5 Biggest Concerns with AOT laws:

1.It will lead to many human rights violations

2.Depending on how the law is written, it’s not  

   even limited to people with a history of  

   violence, but to anyone who is perceived to be

     at risk for hospitalization

3.It uses FORCE as the primary approach

4.It ignores the fact that people being treated in

   the mental health system are dying 25 years

     younger than others in the community

   5. It ignores or devalues people’s preferences,

     culture and personal belief systems

Law, etc.). Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, and Tennessee are the only states that do not have current outpatient commitment laws.

What is AOT?: Laws can look somewhat different from state to state. For example, the New York Office of Mental Health says that AOT was enacted in their state in 1999 to “ensure that individuals with mental illness and a history of hospitalizations or violence participate in community-based services appropriate to their needs.” Essentially, requirements under AOT can include

1. Medication
2. Drug testing to measure whether or not someone has been taking
prescribed medication
3. Therapy (individual and/or group)
4. Day or partial day programs
5. Vocational training

Read more: Outpatient Commitment Laws & Massachusetts

Are We 'Anti'?

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, March, 2013

Questions about who is ‘anti’ come up fairly frequently in our community. That is, who is anti-psychiatry, anti-medication, anti-medical model and so on. Which group, which person, which community is just flatly against another perspective or approach? The questions get no questionsasked, and often the accusations fly.

 Given the nature of its work, the Western Mass RLC is one of the communities that now and then finds itself accused of being ‘anti’ one or all of these things and so we wanted to tackle this question head on and try to articulate what we’re ‘for’ and ‘against’ as best we can.

 Overall, we see ourselves as less ‘anti’ and more ‘pro.’ As in pro-information, pro-sharing of resources, pro-informed choice, pro-control over your own story and path, pro-change, pro-empowerment, pro-community, pro-human rights, pro-questioning everything.  

 In turn, we are not anti-medication or anti-pscyhiatry or anti-medical model if for no other reason then because being ‘anti-medication’ would mean that we don’t believe in your right to make an informed choice about what you put into your body and what does or might help you. Similarly, we are not ‘anti-medical model’ because that would mean we are disregarding a way that some of us choose to define our own stories. And we are not ‘anti-psychiatry’ in that we believe in everyone’s right to choose who will be a part of their circles of support, including psychiatrists, therapists and other clinical supporters!

Read more: Are We 'Anti'?

Forced Outpatient Treatment

SPECIAL NOTICE:

 

The public hearing on forced outpatient commitment

has been scheduled as follows:

 

Tuesday, October 22nd at 9am

(PLEASE NOTE UPDATED TIME)

@ the State House in Boston, room A-1

 

ALL RLC-SPONSORED MEETINGS AND GROUPS WILL BE CANCELLED (unless otherwise noted) & ALL CENTERS WILL BE CLOSED TO SUPPORT PEOPLE ATTENDING THIS HEARING!

 

About Forced Outpatient Commitment: Forced outpatient commitment can be referred to by many different names. Some people call it ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ (AOT) or ‘Involuntary Outpatient Commitment.’ In some states where it exists, it has been named after a person (e.g, ‘Kendra’s Law’ in New York State). In the United Kingdom, they are referred to as Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). Regardless of what it is called, Massachusetts is one of only six states remaining that do not have any outpatient commitment laws currently on the books. (Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico and Tennessee make up the other five.)

Representative Kay Khan of Newton, Massachusetts has filed a petition to have a bill passed to bring outpatient commitment to our state. You can view the full bill here: malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H1792.

Based on established legislative process, a public hearing must be held in order for a bill to be evaluated and have the potential to pass. This is our one and only opportunity to be heard in a public forum by the legislature on whether or not we believe that outpatient commitment should become legal in Massachusetts. If this is something you disagree with, please remember that it is much harder to get rid of a law than it is to stop something from becoming a law in the first place.

What Forced Outpatient Commitment Could Mean for People with Psychiatric Diagnoses in Massachusetts: Outpatient commitment laws vary from state-to-state in terms of what they allow and how they are enforced. However, essentially, an outpatient commitment law would mean the following: If you are found to be at risk for not following treatment recommendations and if (by not following those recommendations) you are believed to be a likely risk for hurting yourself, hurting other people, or going in and out of the hospital, then a petition for an outpatient commitment order could be made. If successful and you are placed on an outpatient commitment order, you could be required to do any number of things related to recommended treatment. At least in some states, these have included (not a complete list!): Taking your prescribed medication; Electroshock Therapy (ECT); Attending all therapy and psychiatry appointments; Attending day programs, vocational programs and/or drug and alcohol treatment programs or groups; Submitting to regular drug testing; Living in a residential program.

 

If you fail to comply with treatment requirements on your outpatient commitment order, you can be immediately picked up and taken to the hospital whether or not you appear to be doing well overall.

 

Read more: Forced Outpatient Treatment

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