When I first began writing about mental health, and topics concerning my own experience with schizophrenia, I was a bit naive. I thought since I lived through “this”, meaning, the various incidents, challenges, and pitfalls of my disorder people who struggled with similar hazards in their life could relate to my writing. I wrote, and wrote, and hoped, that something would resonate. Today, just in a review of what I already said, I know, given what I learned about the system, the peer movement, prosumer culture, and the world at large, I needed to be more carful with my language. Today, with politicians throwing langauge around like hot cakes on a grill for consumption by an ignorant public, I have a duty and obligation in my writing to be extra vigilant. But where is the line drawn between being hypersentive and critical, and the message becoming lost in translation to the general public.
I can hear my editor talking right now: “Well, Mr. Peters, rememberer your audience!”. This is where the problem comes into play. My audience is everyone that can benefit. In most cases, I’ve learned from being a prosumer, most of the people out there in the world could benefit from gaining more awareness and a deeper insight into their own personal mental health. So, given I’d like to stand at the world stage, and use the internet as my rostrum, how do I find the perfect formula for reaching such a mass audience? How can I speak to a divided movement, and a world even more divided about issues concerning mental health? I would hazard to say it all harkens back to language. Finding alignment language, connective tissue within and around my message to target a larger, broader audience. There will always be critics and criticism, but hopefully, the world now is fully aware of my intentions.
My intentions were always to rise above academe and the highly refined and distilled, often reductive papers I circulated in the academy. Sure, there are papers out there written by academics that aren’t purely techncial, but I also found the converse to be as difficult to navigate as a reader. The overly metaphor laden poetic discourse that is so open to interpretation, that people dont know what to do or are so puzzled as how to proceed in a psychiatric emergency or mental health crisis that the intended message of the author is lost and rendered moot. There is very little in between in academia, and this is a bigger problem, not just for academics, for but students that could benefit from a well rounded professor and scholarly approach to learning about and talking about mental health. This why the prosumer again must continue to infiltrate the academy and higher education to rebalance the conversation in the classroom for the next generation of social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists (anyone in the human services) or impacting mental health treatment and consumption.
I gesture to the prosumer to rebalance the writing and generally discourse of mental health because this is the agent of change that understands both sides of the coin. We now see a number of students, professionals, and prosumers out there revealing their lived experience. These are the people that are reshaping the mental health system and need our support. We must rally behind the prosumer. Living in two worlds, and bridging the gaps in treatment and ultimately, the entire discourse of mental health takes courage. The prosumer is up against the unknown. In my own experience, I have heard from collegues, supervisors, and others along my journey that “we didnt know how to behave around you or what to do in case of x, y or z given your lived experience”. These sentiments became all too familar, and sadly, recurrences during my career. Being a professional without disclosing your history has its convinces, and avoids conversations the prosumer is not afraid to venture into given his or her added insight and awareness. However, this requires special supervision, and must certainly oversight from a supervisor who also understands the burden and draw on the prosumer to deliver such rich, person centered, and close to home therapy or peer support outside the medicalized norm and yesterdays standard of care.
To harken back to what I was saying in the beginning about langauge. That mouthful where I used the world “diagnosis”, and “pitfalls” to talk about my experience with schizoprenia. I will make as many revisions, recalibrations and if need be, tectonic shfits in my writing to capture a larger audience pool and bridge the gaps I talked about earlier. My hope was and still is that even more people will benefit from what I experienced as a prosumer. The experience, no matter how many revisions, and beautiful words I use to characterize my journey with a mental health problem, was just that. A giant problem, for me, at least. I experienced heartache, grief, hallucinations, and the chaos of my mismanaged altered state on my personal and academic life as a student.
I think all too often people forget that those living with a mental health disorder, diagnosis, or issue with their health are unique and singular in the expression and needs as individuals, and people ingratiated into a large system of care. We all require different forms of treatment, support, and often help. This is why I will never understand why there are so many niches and cliques out there championing mental health reform yet disabling the voices of people with different sets of needs, opinions, and ideas on how to advance the discourse further. Our voices are diverse and should be diverse. Our voices should reflect our needs as professionals and consumers.
Only when are needs are truly articulated will professionals, and peers alike, reform the system progressively. It is up to all of us, to be clear about our needs, and throw our support to ongoing research to drive the discourse of mental health for of all people needing understanding forward. This is why I beleive, and still do, in bridging the gaps not only in academia, but among the prosumer, peer, and professional community of all people interested in improving the mental health system, with or without a diagnosis, requiring medication or just a supportive friend.
We all can benefit from advancement in the way the system handles plurality. Our voices must be as diverse as possible, instead focused on the agents which limit and marginalize us further away from our goals and dreams of tomorrow.