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community, power, and radical mental health

Hello, I’m Laura-Marie, she her.  I help run the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective for the last five years.  Yay, happy collective anniversary!

I’m happy my spouse Ming and I helped form community here in this desert around radical mental health.

I’m a psychiatric survivor and writer.  I do meaningful unpaid work.

  • fat liberation
  • queer liberation
  • radical mental health
  • autistic liberation
  • art
  • ecstatic dance
  • veg cooking
  • permaculture
  • trike witchery
  • anti-nuclear peace work
  • intentional community

I’m always looking for new ideas I can savor, take into myself, share with community, and understand reality with.  I’m happy to learn with you.

what is radical mental health

We need huge change in how mental health is treated and thought of.  How do we enact this change?  One way is to speak the truth about how mental health is for everyone, not just some crazy people over there.

Any person can have an extreme state and big feelings.  Mostly power is what determines how distressed persons are treated.  Poor people, people of color, fat people, and queer people can have our moods and outlier experiences used against us.

Because we’re seen as weak and lesser-than, culture has decided we’re not worth as much, and the usual freedoms don’t apply.  We can be scapegoated, othered, and controlled paternalistically, as if we need to be protected.  But the protections offered are usually invasive if not abusive.

We can lose our freedom in psych hospitals easily.  Our needs are ignored, and our bodies are harmed forcefully without our consent.  This is unjust and bad for society overall.  By deeming us too much, bad, and worthless, culture dooms a lot of people and loses the rich brilliance we have to share.  Culture dumps a lot of amazing people.

But people such as ourselves could be helpful in many ways, including visionary possibilities.  The very people who could help culture become more functional and bright are locked away and pathologized.  That’s not good for people like me, but isn’t good for anyone.

let’s keep power to ourselves

One of the goals of radical mental health is to share tools that make sense to the people.  Let’s keep our power in ourselves, as much as we can.  Doctors and pills might be helpful for some things.  But I prefer many choices.  We don’t need to hand our power over to doctors who pretend they know everything, when psychiatry is way more prejudice than science.

I’m happy when medication helps my friends.  But my experience on a bipolar cocktail was of sedation.  Pysch meds made me easier for other people.  My own joy and life’s work were not considered.

I was sedated for my own protection, by doctors who were far too busy and disrespectful to see the actual human being before them and find out what life I wanted to live.  They didn’t care what my life’s work was or what gifts my ancestors handed me.  They didn’t want to help me be the person I wanted to be.  They saw me as incapable and not a helpful member of society.  I was treated like trash.

faith in regular people

The Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective and other groups doing radical mental health have a homegrown approach with a lot of faith in regular people.  We’re the experts of ourselves.

It’s not that we’re perfect or know everything.  It’s more…I’d rather listen to creative people working for a better world, than listen to rigid doctors who make a ton of money dominating vulnerable people.

Friendship is the best medicine.  Love is the best medicine.  I want to form community with equals in a non-hierarchical setting, not bow to the superiority of someone in a white coat who endured med school and can afford a lot of cars.

mutual aid

Let’s try new things that help us heal ourselves and our communities.  Let’s come together to listen to one another and do mutual aid.  We can learn new ideas and ways, to bring back to all the people we care about.  We can change culture with a motivation of love, not money.

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next meeting April 9 2022

Hello, next meeting is April 9 2022 at 3p pacific.  Love to all!

We will meet for support, mutual aid, and to spend virtual time together as beings who feel. Thank you for doing mutual aid and caring for yourself and others as you can. Thank you for doing community.

Please come to offer care if you have any to offer, and receive care if you need it, but probably both.  We may smile, laugh, cry, think, and build a new world where love is more important than money.

We are all the experts of ourselves. Our meetings have a facilitator or two, time keeper, and vibes watcher. Please feel free to take a role or choose not to.

Late arrival is ok–early departure is ok. All 18+ who agree to our safer spaces policy are welcome.

Please msg at least half an hour ahead of time for the zoom link. lasvegasradicalmentalhealth at gmail dot com

See you then!

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visioning Soteria in radical mental health

Today we’re having a visioning about soteria houses, which are home-like alternatives to hospitalization for people who are in psychiatric crisis.  We’ll discover what we really want, opening up to our truth without judging it.

Creating a soteria house has been a dream of the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective since its beginnings four years ago.  Soteria is important as a place of freedom and healing, an alternative to the harm many of us find in institutions and hospitals that do violence in the name of help.  The values of soteria houses, which include no forced medication and unlocked doors, respect our bodily autonomy and worth as valid people.

We’ll be led by artist Glynda Velasco, who is a member of the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.  Glynda will facilitate our visioning over zoom.

Please get in touch for the link and password, if you would like to join us.  All are welcome who agree to our safer spaces policy.

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dance party

We had a beautiful dance party–felt great to move some energy through.  I hope Sunday morning is good for you, at Craig Ranch Park.  We’ll do it again next month.

Love to all of us as we feel our feelings.  Thank you for facing reality and doing truth.

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great listener

Thank you to the great listeners.  Thank you to everyone who is there for us and skilled at taking the time to open up to another’s truth.  What an important way to love.

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what we can control

This meme by @cazkilljoy about climate crisis, therapy cliches, and what we can control addresses something we’ve talked about in meetings.

Danger can be something in ourselves, that we create from painful coping strategies.  But there’s also real danger in the world.  There’s the option of adjusting ourselves to the world, and there’s the option of changing the world.

Wellness cliches can be appealing and sometimes helpful.  They can also mean we avoid huge truths.

Climate crisis is real, and the systemic issues that harm our lives, such as racism, misogyny, hatred of queers, hatred of trans people, poverty, pollution, and a culture the doesn’t protect its most vulnerable.

Here’s to finding ways to face reality, and find a good balance between changing ourselves and changing the world, as we do radical care.

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radical care

I like the idea of doing what we can do–no more or less.  I think of it as radical care.  It can be very appealing, to want to do ton, or try to save people.  But that often leads to burn out, and it’s impossible to save people anyway.

Then on the other hand, it can also be easy to get overwhelmed and do nothing.  When I’m overwhelmed, I sometimes want to run away or give up.  Perfectionism can do that to me too–if I can’t do it just right, I’m not doing it at all.

So it feels special, to do something–to find a middle spot where the work is pleasurable and stick with it, for a while.  I’m happy the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective has been going for more than four years, doing what we can do.  Yeah!

how to respond

When someone in our everyday lives or at a meeting expresses huge feelings, big life problems, self-destructiveness, or other intense issues, how do we respond?

An important part of radical mental health for me is to react honestly, caringly, and not with standard wellness cliches.  I want to listen, meet someone where they are, validate, ask how I can help, and give them space if they want it.  The person I’m talking with is someone I deeply respect.  People are allowed to make the choices about their life.

Certainly I don’t want to rush in and try to fix things.  Nor do I want to say, “This is no big deal.  This doesn’t matter to me.”  I want to find a sweet spot that’s sustainable and makes sense for all involved.

I need to be kind to myself also.  How to help others in a way that’s not at my expense is a lifelong lesson.

regret

I’ve had friends and relatives who committed suicide, and that’s intense grief.  I’ve gone through regret, did I do enough, should I have done this or that differently.

The way I treat people is really important to me, including how I care, who I choose to make time for and prioritize.  When I was young, I had very few friends.  As the years pass, I have more friends than I know what to do with.  How I decide who to pay attention to and give energy to is a huge thing to learn.

But I know that I can’t save anyone, a person’s life is theirs to take, and I’m responsible in the sense that I loved them and was part of their life.  But I’m not responsible in the sense that I did my best, and their life was full of many factors other than me.

cause

I often think of proximal cause and distal cause.  For example, you could say a landscaper got skin cancer because they didn’t use sunscreen or a hat often enough.   Or you can say it’s because the chemicals they work with made too many free radicals, capitalism required they work way too many hours, or sunscreen prices are unregulated and they couldn’t afford it.

Likewise, when someone commits suicide, you can say it’s because of the bad news they got the day before, or too easy of access to harm-methods.  Or you could say our culture is dysfunctional, they were isolated by fear, or they had very few tools in their toolbox.

You could stop someone from jumping off a bridge, which is dramatic, but they might just do something else the next day.  I’d rather help create long term well-being by meaningfully being there for someone for many years, than step in at a magical moment for a dramatic save.

I like to work on big systemic issues as well as the small ones.  I want to love my friends and family how they want to be loved, but I also want to change the world.

culture

The work of love has to do with one on one, being there for people, listening, giving, hugging, reaching out, being real, and being vulnerable to an individual.

But the work of love also has to do with being real and vulnerable with the whole world.  I want to connect with individuals and be a good friend, but I also want to do what I can to transform culture.

Adjusting myself to the world is a smart thing to do, when I need to for survival and happiness.  But part of being radical is wanting to change the world.  Racism, misogyny, domestic violence, war, exploitation, hate against queers, harm to mother earth, and many other problems are Not Okay.  I can’t just look the other way, or adjust myself to the destruction.

balance

It’s a lot to balance–my well-being, how to interact with the people I know, how to change culture to be more just and work better for all of us, not just a rich few.

I’m happy to do what I can, treat people with respect, be who I really am, and do radical mental health as long as that makes sense for me.  Thank you for what you do also.

Radical care is a beautiful calling.  Thank you for everyone who answers the phone. —Laura-Marie

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angelic troublemakers

This quote make me think of us, the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.  We speak the truth about:

*our own lives
*psychiatry
*family
*extreme states
*unmet needs
*disability
*medication
*hospital harm
*power
*gender
*community
*racism
*trauma
*feelings
*queerness
*violence
*capitalism
*what really works
All that truth plus mutual aid, with love and humor? Sounds fun / troublemaking.
We trouble the status quo of mental health treatment, and complexify how people with psychiatric diagnoses are seen.  We’re not your scapegoat or inspiration, simplified and easy.  We’re valid people.
But maybe we’re kind of angelic troublemakers also.
“We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” — Bayard Rustin
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meeting in person

Hey, we’re thinking of meeting in person next month.  Then we can draw and write in the purple sketchbook again!

Stay posted for the announcement of the first post-lockdown in person Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective meeting.  Please share your email address if you’d like to be contacted.

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suicide

I hear people scared of the suicidal feelings of others–I hear a lot of “leave it to the experts–that person needs to get professional help.”  Suicide scares people, so I can see why they want someone else to be responsible.  But what if professional help is harm?
Forced medication, hospital abuse, and losing our freedom–institutionalization is hell.  Psych hospitals are mostly prisons for we who misbehave enough to feel extremes and need something different.
If we act weird, that’s where society might put us.  But who comes out of a psych hospital healed?  We might be sedated, but mostly it’s a place of harm, losing our bodily autonomy, and having bad things done to us without our consent.
I love to have 20 tools in my wellness toolbox, to keep me strong enough to avoid mainstream psychiatry as much as I can!  Even science knows that hospitalization for mental health does more harm than good.  So why are we still told to seek it?
pretending
Why: it’s big money.  Emotional authenticity, to treat people as people, and to treat mental health struggles as a valid part of the human experience, is too big a risk, for many people who have power.  It’s way simpler for them, to pretend people who are crazy such as myself should lose our freedom and power.  It’s way simpler for people with more power to pretend that we are Other.
But we’re not Other!  Anyone can have strong feelings and need some sort of help.  Luckily, there are many types of help, including preventative inter-dependence and resilience-building, like the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.
The well-being of others is a collective responsibility.  We can pretend experts can do it all and do it well, but that’s just not true.  Suicide is a lot to face–strong emotions and destructive impulses.  I’m glad there are many ways, besides locking people up.  Psychiatric imprisonment could save them short term, but long term will not help.
Thank you for doing radical mental health, speaking your truth, normalizing emotions, and being who you are.  Hope you have all the options you need, when you need them.