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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.

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the tale of the purple sketchbook

Gather near, collectivers and friends, and I will tell you the tale of the purple sketchbook.

It was long ago, circa 2017, before the pandemic–back when we could nonchalantly hug people, share snacks, share juice, and use the same markers and sketchbook.  How innocent we were!

dream

I went to bed one night and dreamed the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective had a purple sketchbook–dreamt it back then, in 2017.  People enjoyed writing and drawing in it, during meetings, as a thing to do with our hands.  A calming activity, one choice of many.  It was magical, and its purpleness was important to the collective’s success.

So Ming took me to a craft store, so I could buy a purple sketchbook.  (This was before I understood that I can make my own sketchbooks.) But there were no purple ones.  We ended up choosing a white sketchbook meant to be colored, and purple paint to paint it.

yes

Then, yes, like the dream, it was a thing we brought to all the meetings, with markers.  Many people drew in it–doodles, mandalas, symbols, arts.  I wrote poems in there.  The purple sketchbook became a comfort.

Mostly the art is unsigned.  Whoever showed up that day and left their mark, blessing the collective in their unique way.

I photocopied some sketchbook art for the radical mental health collective’s first zine, Radical Mental Health is for Everyone.  Please reach out if you would like a copy!

future

The future of the sketchbook?  It’s waiting for covid to end, I guess.  When we meet again in person, hugging again.  Sharing snacks and markers again.

Maybe I could bring it to an online meeting to show, just for fun.

Thank you for hearing the tale of the purple sketchbook.  I hope you write in it again, one day!  The paper is thirsty for the ink you want to share, dreaming of your attention and time.  Mad love to all artists everywhere, but especially the open-hearted crazy ones.

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patches

Hey, did you know the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective begins to make patches?  Yep, that would be true.

Ming

Ming is holding the first one, the prototype–he was the lucky recipient.  He wants to put it on his backpack.  Though “we don’t need no stinkin’ patches” my dad would say.

Then I sewed this one also, me being Laura-Marie.  I started unintentionally janky, then got control and less janky, and now I can be more intentional.  Now that I have some needle control, and remembered my embroidery skills from childhood.

patch

“How much are you going to sell your patches for?” Ming asked.

I looked at him, mystified.  “Why would I sell a patch?” I asked.

Commerce is a way to get things to people, but there are a lot of other ways.  So I will just give the first few away, and make more of a plan if I keep making more.

Love to all on your journey, radical mental health or otherwise.

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new lvrmhc instagram

Hey, the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective has a new instagram!  Yay–finally!  Please visit and follow, if you are so inclined.

https://www.instagram.com/lvrmhc

There are not many posts yet, but the purple power is evident even at this early stage.  Thank you for supporting community care and inter-dependence.

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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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new sticker

The Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective got a new sticker!  Please let us know a mailing address, and we will send two to you, joyfully.

Happy to share the url of the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective website and these healing colors of vibrant love.

Ming holds the roll of stickers, fresh from the printers, smiling.

Laura-Marie cuts some stickers to share with radical mental health collectivers and the whole entire world.

Sticker design by the multi-talented friend to many, eeeb.  Thank you for skills and thrills.

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open source radical mental health

The way we do meetings, with the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective, is open source.  That means you can take that format and use it to make meetings on your own, in your groups, or do whatever you want with it.  We don’t own the format or want to keep control of it.

Open source-ness is important as DIY, anarchy, and reducing power disparities.  Sharing is vital for resisting capitalism for fun and just being kind, helpful human beings.

Information wants to be free!  And meetings want to be free!  Here’s hoping you will learn from the format and transform it, to do meetings the way you need to.

[Radical mental health collectivers grin for a screenshot during a zoom meeting.]
the format

There’s a format for the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective meetings.  They go like this–here’s a sample agenda.

welcome–thank you for coming

safer spaces policy https://lvrmhc.org/2019/05/01/safer-space-policy/

roles–timekeeper, vibeswatcher, facilitator, one-on-one-er

first checkin–name/alias, pronouns, question such as what is your favorite pizza topping, what do you most want to learn, what’s your biggest weakness (to get all our voices in the virtual room)

material mutual aid moment–what you have to offer, what you can ask for

what is radical mental health moment

mention of the Soteria house dream

housekeeping stuff like proposed ideas, next meeting, new website, new sticker

substantial checkins, up to 5 minutes–how you’re doing, what you’ve been thinking about, how you’re feeling, what you’re looking forward to, what you’re up to

ask if everyone’s ok being photographed–take a photo or screenshot

topic discussions–pick two or three topics, based on commonalities in checkins

checkouts–question such as what’s your favorite winter thing, best thing you learned today, what would your name be if you were a dog, favorite Lego shape

variations

We had two meetings to talk about community, and we used this same format but simplified for the topic.  So we did a welcome, safer spaces policy, and checkins were directed toward community experiences.  Then there were some questions about community that could be answered for the longer checkin, and topic discussion about the aspects of community that we most wanted to talk about.

The art workshop that Brittney held about racism had its own format.  But there was a similar attitude of care, listening, sharing power, DIY, authenticity, and deep honesty mixed with kindness.

go forth and love

Thank you for the ways you help the world.  I hope this meeting format is helpful to you in doing what you need to do for the well-being of all.

Thank you to the friend who asked about using the format to facilitate another meeting and sparked these ideas!

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welcome

Please join the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective to form community, do mutual aid, listen, share, feel emotions, consider new ideas, and be who you are.

Radical mental health is about needing something besides standard care of handing your power over to a professional. Even if we all had access to the best possible health care, the mental health system is severely flawed! Lots of money is made off vulnerable people.

Not saying medication and doctors are never helpful–saying that more options are better. Some people need help besides mainstream psychiatric solutions, which are med-based and can mean locked facilities and the sacrifice of freedom.

Thank you for caring for yourself and others by showing up to something more homegrown, loving, authentic, and free.

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podcast

Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective members Ming and Brittney were interviewed for this podcast Before You Kill Yourself.  They talk about ocd, communication, what radical mental health is, philosophy of the collective, how to care for ourselves.  Lots of important ideas about who we are and how to heal ourselves.  Please give it a listen!