Catch-22 of Mental Health Advocacy

There is a catch-22 I run into doing mental health advocacy as myself, similarto the one I run into doing autistic advocacy. It is a catch-22 similarto how people will tell autistic self-advocates: you’re not autistic enough, you’re too “high functioning,” you don’t understand my [child, relative]’s struggles.

In a similarvein: I’m told I don’t seem “mentally ill enough.” People have told me, “Well, I don’t think ofyou as mentally ill.”Is it because the cyclical manifestations began later? Is it because they‘d be embarrassed to know me otherwise? Or: I have a job. I look, day to day, slightly presentable – on occasion, even fully presentable. I am not homeless. I have never been homeless. I have never been involuntarily hospitalized.

So, people will tell me I’m not mentally ill enough… and then the people who have had all those things happen, been homeless and involuntarily hospitalized and jobless… will be told they don’t know what’s best for them. Will be told, because of the mindset that people with seriousmental illness have no capacity, they have no right to self-directed services and treatment.

That the best place forthem is the hospital and in treatment and being told what theirtreatment is. That HR2646, “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,”will do everyone good, especially forthe desperate families watching theirloved ones’ mental illness. It won’t.That the Treatment Advocacy Center, advocating formore hospital beds instead of jail when neither more hospitalization or jailsare the solution forpeople with people with mental illness, and NAMI, a parent-based advocacy org that supports HR2646,are helping everyone with mental illness. Theyare some of the most prominent voices in mental health discussions, and they do not centerus in theiradvocacy.

Instead of playing into it and trying to describe how seriously my mental illnesses impact me, talking about what the medication has done to me,talking about symptoms and things I’ve done, talking about myhospitalization more in this – trying to justify overand overagain why I deserve to talk about it – I will keep talking about mental health care being broken and people’s right to self-directed services, no matterhow incapable society thinks they are. 

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