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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.
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emotional first aid kit

I first heard about emotional first aid kits from someone who attended the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective.  It was when the collective was teamed up with the Las Vegas Street Medics to put on a de-escalation training.  Our collectiver friend brought up emotional first aid kits as a took for emotional regulation, related to de-escalation.

I was intrigued.  I love kits!  Not like baby foxes, though those are cool too.  Cute kits like a smallish package of materials gathered for a specific purpose.  Yeah!  Materials that will help do a specific thing.  It can be fun to assemble a kit.  Or someone else assembled it, and you can see their ideas, when you see the objects.

making kits

I researched emotional first aid kits, envisioned what I would like in my own, made one for me, one for a relative, one for a community space that had people wandering in who were in crisis.  There’s a kit I made for the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective and brought to all our in person meetings, before pandemic.  I made a small zine about emotional first aid kits.

And I use the kit I made for myself.  First time I used it was two years ago, when I went into a strange medical place for a sleep study.  I’d been dreading that procedure for years.  Ming went with me, and while we waited for the worker to hook me up to machines, we played with my emotional first aid kit.  I wrote in the little sketchbook.  We looked at rocks together.  I held smooth rocks in my hand.

It was comforting.  But I realized that it wouldn’t work, to use the emotional first aid kit only when I was suffering, because I would associate it with painful situations only.  So I like to intentionally use it during lower stress times too, to associate more neutral fun with it also.

video

I made this video tour of my first aid kit to show the items I keep and tell a little about them.  People watching it can get inspired to make their own kits.

The video shows sensory pleasure objects to comfort and distract, like delicious smelling body butter and a squeezy ball.  There are good ideas to stimulate the mind, like the affirmations.  It includes chemical comforts, like magnesium glycinate and last resort pills if I really need to sleep.  There’s a fun variety of beautiful objects.

The video is almost eight minutes long, and it’s chill–it includes no suspense, danger, or real surprises.  There’s an option for auto-captioning that youtube provides, a little button that says CC on it, so you can read the words instead of hearing then, or while hearing them.

Thank you for caring for yourself and one another in all the ways you do.  I hope you have a lot of tools to stay well and happy.

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meaning under the meaning

radical mental heath goals

I was explaining to a friend some goals of the radical mental health collective.  There are usually layers of what we’re trying to do, with any project.

Some basic intentions for the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective are to support one another, connect with other people who have similar mental health experiences, offer alternatives to mainstream psychiatry, make friends with vibrant people who see the world in different ways.  Start a soteria house, make art and garden together, have a safer space to be social that’s free.

All that’s super-true, but I was telling a friend some other motivating ideas.

  1. build emotional intelligence
  2. help people learn or re-learn how to trust
  3. help us speak our truth
  4. normalize strong feelings
  5. normalize support
  6. inter-dependence
  7. honesty about feelings, including self-harm
  8. strengthen mental health in homegrown ways to help relationships improve
  9. honesty about our own lives
  10. emotional skill
  11. strengthen ourselves to avoid crumbling when something goes wrong
  12. strengthen ourselves to avoid hurting others
preventing harm

Having better relationship skills so we don’t abuse people or stick around to be abused is a great goal.  Making a pocket of happiness, if only for the hour and a half of a meeting, can have good consequences that reverberate out.

Many homeless people lost their job, struggle with acting normal under capitalism, or have issues with substance use.  But a lot of housing is about relationships.  If we can maintain healthy relationships, we can have a better chance at maintaining our housing.  So radical mental health, as a way to give us better relationship skills, is a way to prevent homelessness.

Similar with misogyny, transphobia, racism…  I’m not saying radical mental health is the solution to all of life’s problems, or the cure for violence.  But happy people who feel steady, supported, and have things to look forward to don’t need to do violence.

When I think of the most racist person I’ve ever known, he wasn’t a happy, well person.  He had so much loose anger, and had never examined many problems he had.  Emotionally, he was unskilled.

So I don’t have scientific evidence that radical mental health stops racism.  But it makes sense that if you can consider others, discuss feelings, and truly listen, you won’t need to hurt people, whether through racism, misogyny, hatred of queer people, ableism, or any other way.

healing

Radical mental health helps us work toward many kinds of healing.  Being skilled about feelings, communication, and inter-dependence will help with many aspects of life.  I feel stronger from it.