Interview with Author of the “V-papers” and founder of Mental Health Affairs, J. PETERS

Interview with Author of the “V-papers” and founder of Mental Health Affairs, J. PETERS

Interviewer: Please tell us, J., why do you insist on writing about Mental Health when it continues to be so widely discussed and covered by talented authors in recent years?

JP: I write because my message continues to be different than all the other authors out there in academia and clinical practice, even from folks publicly sharing their lived experience in biographies and self-help books. At the very moment, my readers interact with the text. A deep connection is forged. It is a relationship like no other. It is a deep psycho-social and spiritual connection between the reader and the world of possibilities, realities, and non-normal experiences from the eyes of someone who has lived in both worlds. Not a sick and a healthy dual-experience, but a very human, and very real, a constellation of in-betweens, successes, failures, and tested knowledge in its most platonic form.

Interviewer: Your work continues to stand apart from your counterparts in mental health and academia. Can you say more about this?

JP: Well, you have to understand my stance. My philosophy is no Pat Deegan flowery and sugar-coated version of the reality of mental health disorders. I speak from my experience. You’ve heard it before, I am sure.

There are an entire discourse and cannon of so-called strengths-based jargon and self-appraising, self-vindicating nonsense out there in the world of “recovery.” I’ll never forget the first and last time I listened to Pat Deegan speak at a conference. It was as if privilege and consumerism had joined hands in the name of mental health and recovery. Well, Pat Deegan doesn’t speak for myself or my readers. I am not willing to give my readers any of that garbage or opportunist ideology passed off as hope and healing.

Interviewer: Why ‘Mental Health Affairs‘?

JP: There is no question that the re-appropriation of the language used by the Nazi party to justify and organize the Holocaust is fundamentally important to re-balance both the social impetus and human rights necessity, situate in the problem in a context of historical grand-scale and enormity, as well as the required organizational feat ahead of us. Whether it be the documentation and planning aspect of reform or the “final solution,” we need to solve it to move the discourse out of the 20th century finally. 

The implications are as clear as day. Without further delay, we need to act swiftly with institutional, systemic, and cultural reform in grand harmony and with the highest moral and ethical high ground when thinking about moving towards universal access and integration. Nobody can deny these implications have global reaches and affect us all as humans equally and without regard for the lines that all too often divide and distance us from peaceful co-existence. Yet, we continue to ignore the proximate and ultimate possibilities of deferring any final solution in mental health and its treatment to expect a real resolution to this universal and truly worldwide crisis.

Interviewer: You said you give readers this and that. Tell us, please, what exactly do you give your readers?

JP: Authenticity. Any way you want to describe or put language it. My writing is the most candid, transparent, and vividly analytical appraisal of experiencing first-episode Psychosis you can find in a library or internet database. I hold nothing back. Even if it means admitting to my own ethical and spiritual limitations and biological flaws from anatomy to my human emotions’ governance. There is no way to have a conversation about illness’s true experience without talking about things in sometimes very overtly negative and alarming ways. In my own opinion, there is no way to prepare the world better than to be completely honest about my experiences, even if it means losing the respect of a few members of my audience. At least, in the end, everyone will be the most prepared for bad times when if and when you draw the short stick in life.

Interviewer: You’ve said it a few times in your works. You are arming your readers with information. How does this intended aim fit with the aim of your so-called V-papers?

JP: I’ve been public about my love of language and advocacy and how both intersect in mental health and forwarding the discourse for some time now. I’ve also spoken about the overtly visible urgency in achieving both of these aims, simultaneously and in harmony, should there be any hope of lasting reform and progressive changes to the care system. 

I’ve been less candid about my belief in moving forward at lightning speed and certainty, at all costs, until our global culture can declare word-wide victory over the fallacies and atrocities committed by negligent and outright criminal treatment of mental illness in the past. We need to be fanatical in our approach to reform. 

Blocking admissions, establishing mental health courts, and being aware at all times of the impetus to move the discourse beyond the limits of today’s shortcomings and the possibilities of a future painted in broad strokes of hope and recovery from whatever ailment we come across in our lives or need relief. Indeed, the vengeance papers are the metaphysical manifestation of my theory in practice and the convergence of praxis in working seamless harmony.

Interviewer: You speak of great harmony. But there is no such harmony in the mental health research base. In terms of forced treatment, what harmony is there?

JP: Look, I am an overweight, self-identifying Jewish native New Yorker with an active schizophrenia diagnosis. My mother’s last name is Goldstein. I might as well pushed Kendra in front of that train regarding how much stigma and push-back I have felt when working in the world of mental health treatment and it’s enforcement on ACT teams and other modalities enforcing mandatory mental health treatment. In the end, Kendra might have died for us. Not in some Jesus-like, religious bend, but for society to realize how much farther we need to extend the research and reform measures before we can say mental health care is no longer in immediate crisis. 

I am suggesting that in this regard, I would have without hesitation pushed her in front of the subway train, too, if it meant the public finally accepting that we have no choice but to reform the system and find a solution to universal access and integration of mental health services before there is no real threat of immediate harm or danger from having a diagnosis as severe as Goldstein had when he went without the care he sought out so desperately before Kendra’s law became a lived reality.

J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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