“We become aware of the void as we fill it.” ― Antonio Porchia
I have been privileged! At the mere age of 22 with lots of “lived experience baggage”, I embarked on an adventure of working with people struggling with emotional pain. With hard work and acknowledgment; I was given the opportunity to travel to many parts of our great country, and to sit on various mental health boards, committees and commissions. However, I soon observed with time and experience that the tables I was sitting at to debate were never my own, nor would they belong to my like-minded friends. We were never the original designers of those tables; the agendas, narratives, preoccupations and politics in reference to mental health were never ours. Instead, these were always presented to us in a manner where we had to react to them rather than having the system react to us.
Meanwhile, it seemed that embedding our voices within these organizations was merely serving to maintain the status quo while virtually all of the available funding was constantly flowing towards strengthening that hierarchical status quo.
I worry when I see the architects of our current mental health system view this as completely normal and acceptable. Should we not advocate and demand better than this?
When this occurs as a cultural conviction in a country such as Canada, our unique voices become suffocated and neutralized, while only the words that resonate well with the owners of the mental health system are remembered and acted upon. Accordingly, systems become reinforced at the expense of individuals who don’t fit in.
At 52 now, it’s clear to me that we have never had the opportunity to author our own-world view of our mental health-ill system in a manner that could make it become part of the national landscape. Whenever we have tried, a third party has always been right there to drown us out. And if by any chance some parts of our world-view are found to have merits, representatives of the system will clutch them as their own and become their chief-owner. Unfortunately, our mental health politics are blood sport in Canada and only the fittest entities survive. And in such an environment:
- What about those of us who have been victims of forced psychiatric intervention?
- What about those of us who seek legal recourse in the event that we feel this is warranted?
- What about those of us who do not agree with the medical storyline of mental illness?
- What about those of us who wish to attempt a detoxification from the drugs that psychiatrists have over-prescribed to us?
- What about those of us who reject the corporate framing of our mental health system, whereby the emphasis is on educating wide-spread pathology to the point of manufacturing epidemics of mental illness and subsequently creating more psychiatric demand?
- What about those of us who need a space to create and to be free with our like-minded peers?
- What about those professionals who are disenfranchised with their profession when they see that all they do is perpetuating a false premise for our mental health system? Where do they go to meet the familiar and to seek a better platform of practice?
These cries have no place whatsoever in our current Canadian one-way street narrative on mental health and mental illness. Oh yes, your cries can sometimes be heard, but there is currently no vehicle that can carry your plights and umbrella them under a community that we can call our own.
Isn’t it time we stop being cheerleaders for someone else’s party, and instead become the ones who are finally the authors of our own celebrations? Should we not be the architects of our own destiny? I believe that we should invest our energies in creating our field of expertise – our own place on this planet – our own island where we can connect, relate and feel prosperous in spirit with others who share in the fight for accurate information and social justice. This should be the space where a true national family could bring about significant transformative changes to our current mental health dialogue.
Let the real breakthrough begin!
Eugène LeBlanc is the Publisher and Editor of OUR VOICE / NOTRE VOIX (www.ourvoice-notrevoix.com) Parts of this article were published in issue No. 65 (December 2017). He lives in Memramcook, New Brunswick