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guidelines to culture

Hello!  How you doing?  Ming and I found a stash of physical materials from back when the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective met in person.

  • sketchbook
  • markers
  • emotional first aid kit
  • books
  • zines
  • swag stickers
  • papers

There was a paper that lists some guidelines to Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective culture.

I like this list because it spells out values we mostly all had in common, but it’s good to be clear.  Also it’s smart to specify how the stickers and zines are for donation, but it’s ok to just take them, if you don’t have a dollar or two.

Confidentiality is always good to mention, as people like to talk, and after a while we’re mostly friends.  It’s good to differentiate meeting from regular life– stuff we hear in meeting should stay in meeting.  It’s an extra vulnerable place.

It’s funny to see “kindness rules” and other phrases and vibes carried over from old, formative radical mental health meetings.  Some are from Icarus days of yore.

Will we ever meet in person again?  We’re spread all over the globe now, and zoom is ok for most of us.  So Ming and I disperse the materials.  If and when we meet in person again, new materials will be gathered.

guidelines to culture

thank you for being here. 

  1. sharing is always optional.  you can say “pass.”
  2. kindness rules.  we’re here to build community and make a culture of care.  please treat one another with love.
  3. please use I-messages, speak from your own experiences, and consider whether another person wants feedback on their share.  when in doubt, ask.
  4. confidentiality–please keep shared info here.  take the lesson with you to share, but don’t share names or personal details.  thank you.
  5. zines and stickers are available by donation.  if you don’t have one or two dollars, you can just take one.  they’re a resource to use and share.
  6. please refrain from harshly judging anyone during the meeting. we’re pro-choice about meds and all of psychiatry.  people need different things at different times. (you can judge harshly before and after the meeting.)
  7. step up, step back: 

talkative people, please give conversational space to quiet people.  quiet people, please feel free to speak up.  we want to hear you.

  1. please see Safer Spaces policy for detail on dos and don’ts of behavior.

our events are free.  thanks again for being here.  hope to see you next time!

open source

Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective materials are open source.  So please feel free to use these guidelines “as is” or adapt for your own projects.

peace, Laura-Marie

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ways to help

Happy new year from the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health.  Here are some ways to help us thrive.  We’re a mutual aid collective.  Many of us have mental health challenges, hear voices, see visions, experience extreme states, feel big feelings, or engage reality in ways that others don’t.

Some of us have diagnoses, and some of us identify as psychiatric survivors or crazy.  Others of us might identify as neurodivergent, and we might enjoy doing support and disabled inter-dependence.

Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective has been going since 2017.  Wow, this May will be our seven year anniversary.  Is that right?

love and options

We’re working toward a world where love is more important than money.  We need options.  Radical mental health as a powerful way of caring for ourselves and one another.  Paid professionals are part of a system that helps many people and hurts many people.  Some of us want to engage doctors, while others of us choose to avoid psychiatry.  There are many ways that you and I can help one another in a non-hierarchical way., with shared power.

Radical mental health changes the world with kindness and healing culture.  There’s nothing wrong with being different in how we think and feel.  Many of our qualities that are pathologized by mainstream medicine are also strengths.  Being sensitive and feeling a lot is ok.  By supporting one another, we can have good lives outside the usual narratives.  We can define success on our own terms.

Through radical mental health, we can encourage diversity, strengthen one another for survival, and bring more people to the table of humanity.  Too many of us are isolated and shamed for what we’ve lived through.  Radical mental health is a way to encourage truth and being who we really are.

more than support

Some say it’s a support group, but there are agendas besides talking in a format.  Over the years we’ve done ecstatic dance, deescalation trainings in collaboration with other orgs, garden days, art workshops.  We dream of starting a soteria house as a place of refuge for people who are in crisis–a place that’s safer than a psych hospital.  In psych hospitals, many patients lose our freedom and suffer abuse because of the power imbalance.

You could say Food Not Bombs feeds the poor, but it’s also about reclaiming material resources that would otherwise be wasted, respecting houseless and poor people, and making peace through connection and love in action.  There’s a physical act of sharing food, but there are greater goals at the same time.

Likewise, radical mental health is support group style relating, but there’s a vision behind it.  Through free, non-hierarchical care, we’re taking mental health into our own hands and creating a better world.  There’s so much we can do for one another.

It’s a lie that we all need professionals when we have mental health challenges.  Love helps us.  Friends make the best medicine, and I will be there for my comrades as well as I can.

ways to help

LVRMHC is no longer based in Las Vegas.  Yet we keep the name as a gesture toward our roots.  Several of us are west coast, but anyone can be part of what we do.

Here are some ways to help, if you ever want to contribute to the work.

  • table at events
  • create new materials like postcards, fliers, stickers
  • print materials
  • distribute materials
  • make event postings
  • invite radical mental healthers to events
  • write emails
  • remind people to come–txt, msg, call
  • create content for website and instagram
  • post links, memes, art on facebook group
  • work on deescalation training materials
  • organize a hike, potluck, garden day
  • facilitate or co-facilitate a meeting
  • create a facilitation skills training
  • help schedule meetings – pick dates
  • donate for web hosting etc
  • fundraise
  • plan workshops / events
  • analyze alliances with other orgs and strengthen
  • vision collective’s future
  • work toward Soteria house–research, plan, network
  • organize a radical mental health movie screening

Radical mental health is an option besides what mainstream culture offers us.  The option most of us experience of “suck it up as long as you can, then lose your shit and go to a psychiatrist when you have no other choice” is not a workable plan.  There are so many ways to care for ourselves and one another that don’t involve health insurance hell,  being institutionalized, rock bottom arrest, medication with horrible side effects, or otherwise handing over our power.

Thank you for caring for yourself and others in all the ways you do.

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what I like best about radical mental health today

At every Las Vegas Radical Mental Health meeting, there’s the question of what we like best about radical mental health.  It’s one of my favorite parts of a meeting because we reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing.  I love considering motivation.

It can be something as simple as, “I like these people,” “It’s free and there’s no paperwork,” or, “It’s a way of socializing where I pretty much know what’s going to happen.”  Or it can be something as big as, “This is the only place I feel safe telling the truth.”

What I like best about radical mental health today is about healing in a group.  I made a meme about it.  Here’s the text.

I’ve survived harm from myself, in intimate relationship, and in a group. So I need healing by myself, in intimate relationship, and in a group. I love radical mental health because it’s the only way I’ve healed in a group that feels safe.

– Laura-Marie Cumulonimbus Nopales

healing in groups

I’ve tried healing in other groups, like intentional communities, non-radical mental health support meetings, in workplaces, at music events, at learning events.  But mostly there’s money motivation and other painful relationships where power isn’t shared fairly.  Often there are “experts” and then the rest of us.

I show up vulnerable, as myself, ready to love and do justice.  But other people aren’t showing up for that, so I experience more harm.

In radical mental health, we can make mistakes and harm each other also.  But most of us are motivated by love.  We’re all the experts of our own lives.  There’s no buying or selling, or other reasons to dominate.  So we have a better chance to be intentional and do something beautifully safer.

When I let my guard down and tell the whole truth in a radical mental health space, I’m met by others who are doing the same.  It’s refreshing and helps me feel like there’s a chance at a better world, and I can live.

Laura-Marie

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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