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.
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.
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.
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.
- build emotional intelligence
- help people learn or re-learn how to trust
- help us speak our truth
- normalize strong feelings
- normalize support
- honesty about feelings, including self-harm
- strengthen mental health in homegrown ways to help relationships improve
- honesty about our own lives
- emotional skill
- strengthen ourselves to avoid crumbling when something goes wrong
- strengthen ourselves to avoid hurting others
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Hey, did you know the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective begins to make patches? Yep, that would be true.
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.
“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.
Hey, the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective has a new instagram! Yay–finally! Please visit and follow, if you are so inclined.
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.
how our meetings go
for us, by us
old mission statement
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.