Advocates that stigmatize

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Advocates can be stigmatizing. Moreover, mental health advocates are the most stigmatized.

Childish Behavior

Advocates disparage each other’s names, making outrageous claims about their ‘worthiness’ as fellow advocates. Going as far as debasing other people’s skill sets, questioning them, and even being openly critical of why you or I became an advocate. 

Pathologizing

At the root of it, they are pathologizing advocates. I have met them. These folks believe people with schizophrenia and the more severe diagnoses are less likely to heal and recover. They feel a certain way about people with my diagnosis, to be more precise. We are less than, sicker, and less trustworthy to adhere to our treatment.

Not Trustworthy or Credible

I’ve heard advocates say downright nasty things about people with schizophrenia. Some of them might seem like they are even cheering you on, albeit condescending. Others will be openly critical and negative towards people with more severe and complex clinical pictures.

Gaslighting

Advocates have also attempted to gaslight me. Stigmatizing other advocates given bias, discrimination, diagnosis, and everything wrong is nothing new in the public mental health system. 

Earlier this year, I was in a car accident due to my unresolved sleep apnea and was overworked. At the time, a peer I was working with had difficulty reaching me on the phone. The peer couldn’t contact me because I was out of town at a conference and was unreachable due to a car accident.

Personal attacks

When I regained access to my phone, it was already ringing from this peer. I explained to the peer that I was in a car accident. That was when the peer made inferences about my sobriety and mental health. I was appalled.

My car accident wasn’t an indicator that I was relapsing. But for this peer, it was enough of an indicator to turn on me. Suddenly, past completed projects weren’t up to par, and there were instances (according to this peer) that I was unprofessional. When I asked him if he could speak positively about our work to date, he said: “No.”

My peer’s meter stick for assessing my health were unreachable, and having car issues. If this isn’t hypocrisy, my following statement will make you cringe. Isn’t being a peer and providing authentic peer support mean not being judgemental and creating a space to listen and support their peers with the issues they define as the ‘problem’?

Judgment Free

Absolutely, but back to my original theory. Advocates, even peer advocates, can be stigmatizing. The impact is catastrophic for people expecting direct and non judgemental support in the system. We need to do something about this and expose people who harbor these ideas and discharge them from their jobs as advocates.

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health, or the city's Department of Corrections.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

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