I’m an oboist who just happens to have a diagnosis, but there are very very few opportunities for me to get together with others in the mental health community to make music. We should do this outside our community, but when I had an episode, I lost my ability to read and play music. A mental health culture — others who might have similar problems — would help me get it back before I try again in the larger community.
Mental Health Culture: Making Our Own Art, Music, and History
By mental health culture, I don’t mean all the artists we think had what is called “mental illness.” They were not part of any movement. Those masters were not known for promoting human rights for others with “mental illnesses,” who were locked away in asylums when these artists were alive,
I’m talking about a mental health culture generated by out movement, like happened in the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement.
Where are there any bars or restaurants where you can go and feel free to be “psychotic,” or OCD, or suicidal?
Where are the “crazy folk” choruses like gay men’s choruses? Where are there sports leagues like the Gay Olympics, Special Olympics, women’s golf and soccer, and the Para-Olympics?
How about basketball teams or volleyball leagues for mental health “clubhouses” or centers?
We Don’t Know Our Own History
We don’t even have a written history of the early folks like Judi Chamberlin, Joe and Susan Rogers, Laura Van Tosh, Sally Zinman, David Oaks, etc. People don’t remember the big debate within the movement over whether Alternatives should accept federal money, and move from campgrounds and campuses to convention hotels.
It became an enormous conference, but in return, we had to agree not to launch demonstrations from there, and submit our list of speakers to SAMHSA in advance.
People don’t even know that Fountain House was started by a group of ex-patients, but was later taken over by staff.
We shouldn’t be stuck in ghettos to do cultural things, but there is nothing wrong with using them as stepping stones if we need to. I think that doing these things would be very healing, and much more beneficial than the day treatment and clubhouses we now have.
Where is Our Art, Flag and Movement Songs?
Do we have a flag like LGBT folks? Do we have songs we all know and sing like “We Shall Overcome”?
I’m talking about mental health culture, not just goals or values. I mean music, art, literature, dance, fashion, hair styles, myths, stories, history, habits, language, stuff like that.
I think that we have been terribly oppressed and repressed into thinking that anything we might create in our mental health culture has no value. Gayle Bluebird has really made an effort, as well as things like the copyrighted Suitcase Project. I think we need to do more!
NARSAD Artworks offers a wide selection of poster art by people in recovery on its website, www.narsadartworks.org/art.html
Part of that is that “they” want to control our culture, not “us.” I think there is some sense among a lot of providers that nothing that a “consumer” does has the same worth as others who do similar work in the larger community.