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radical mental health collective style

This morning I found this document about Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective style, meeting format, and philosophy.  Feels charmingly archaic because it was written before covid, when we met in person.  There’s something about snacks shared, the emotional first aid kit, and the purple sketchbook. Aw!
I miss the purple sketchbook!  The idea came to Laura-Marie in a dream, a group sletchbook we could all write and draw in, during meetings.  I want to find it and give it some attention, during its pandemic hibernation.
Please read on, to see how things are, with the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.  There are differences now, but over zoom, we do similar stuff!  Thank you for caring about inter-dependence, radical mental health, and loving one another.
how our meetings go
Our meetings are welcoming. Many different people come, of all genders, many ages, many mentalities and life experiences. But most of us have been touched by mental health challenges, whether through the system or on our own. We are pro-choice about medication.
Meetings involve a quick first go around for name or alias, pronouns, and some designated small fact about yourself, such as something you love or a favorite song.
Then we have a moment to explain what radical mental health is for newcomers. We share the emotional first aid kit and purple sketchbook. We pass around the safer spaces policy for you to read and agree to. (The safer spaces policy can also be found here, safer spaces policy, if you’d like to read it beforehand.)
We have juice to drink, and sometimes people bring snacks. Then we have a longer checkin where people have a set time of up to five minutes to speak about whatever they want to–how they’ve been feeling over the past week or anything going on they want to share.
We also talk about mutual aid–if anyone needs something or has extra of something to offer.  The whole thing is mutual aid, but this moment is about physical objects, mostly.
Not talking is ok–you can always pass. We offer hugs, but you can opt out of hugs also. Some people have been coming since the first meeting May 2017, and new people show up all the time too.
It’s a good mix of old and new, and the set format gives it more of a safe feel than the open-endedness of a party. There’s plenty of opportunity to connect with others, but in a way that feels less stressful because there are expectations and the certain order we do things.
for us, by us
This is a group run by people who are considered crazy, for people who are considered crazy. It’s not for the family members of the person considered crazy–it’s more for us, the actual affected people.
However, you don’t have to be crazy at all. You can come to connect with others and be social, for support during a rough spot, or maybe you don’t need support but can offer some. Maybe you like mutual aid and building community.
This group was started by Laura-Marie and Ming and has roots in the Icarus Project. Laura-Marie has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, which entails mood swings including depression and mania, hearing voices, extreme states, and times of extreme anxiety. Laura-Marie is a writer (hi!–it’s me writing this!) and makes zines, some of which are about mental health and radical mental health.
The collective has its own zine also, which contains beautiful art and writings about mental health, our collective, the Las Vegas Street Medics, poems, and ways to get more info.
compassion
This group is special because we create a culture of compassion. We listen and respect boundaries, which means offering help when wanted, and being considerate if someone doesn’t want feedback also.
Many of us are unemployed, under-employed, disabled, retired. Many of us are queer and transgender, though not all of us are. Some are parents and some are not. Many are activists, and some are radicals, working to form a new world in many different ways, such as helping homeless people, creating art, working toward justice, street medicine, and waging peace.
A lot of us need a form of support that will accept us outside of the medical model, but many choose to engage with mainstream psychiatry also, to differing degrees. Some of us believe in mental illness as a physical brain disease, while others believe in mental illness as a social problem or response to trauma, or some combination of all this.
We like collaborating with other groups. If you have an idea of how to become involved, please come to a meeting and let’s talk about it, or you can contact us through facebook, our email address, or a phone call.
Below is our old mission statement from the first year the collective was in existence. Thank you for reading, and hope to meet you soon!
old mission statement
Our ideas of mental health are bound up with, and are inseparable from, the structure of the society we live in. In many ways the idea of “good mental health” has less to do with the everyday experiences of human beings and more to do with the degree to which they comply with the expectations of that society. When people do not meet those expectations they are often shamed as crazy, or lacking in good sense, or being delusional. The stigma associated with “mental illness” does not exist in a vacuum, and is not simply an emergent phenomena of human interactions, but rather a deliberate attempt at delegitimizing the suffering of those who do not fit easily within the preconceived and limited “acceptable” ways of being a human.
We are a coming together of people who seek to challenge these ideas, and in doing so create our own language of mental health, one which seeks to empower rather than quiet the voices of those who experience the world in ways that are commonly referred to as “mental illnesses”. We do not believe that these are problems to be solved, or diseases to be cured, but rather natural variances in human experience that should be celebrated. We believe that neurological diversity is valuable and makes our communities stronger by ensuring a variety of viewpoints and abilities are represented within them. We believe that the current psychiatric institutions, because they operate within an environment of social and economic inequalities, are not equipped to assist those most in need of that assistance, and that by reaching out to each other instead we can begin to build a new mental health paradigm, where compassion, self determination, and community support are available to everyone, regardless of economic or social status.
We do not believe that people coming together to help themselves and each other is, independent of this society, a radical notion. We believe that this is the most natural thing for humans to do, because we are a cooperative species, and our health as a whole depends on the health of each individual. That this should be seen as a radical or alternative approach is a reflection of the failure of this society to view those with mental health challenges as being capable of making their own decisions about how best to confront those challenges. Therefore we recognize that in this environment doing so IS a radical act, and so we choose to be unapologetically radical in our approach. We believe that we are our own best advocates, and that we can determine for ourselves and with each other what that paradigm should look like, and we intend to do so.
Our mission is to discover and create together this new language, as well as new ways of caring for ourselves and others with it. We are more than a support group; we are a radical community that seeks to change ourselves by changing our world, rather than the other way around. We envision a world where the differences that make us unique, physically and psychologically, are championed rather than shunned.
We are the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective, and we hope you will join with us in creating this world.
Your uniqueness is essential to it.

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