How to lose support & alienate mentals.

I would very much like to write a cohesive & comprehensive review of the seeme Scotland conference. I want to be articulate, persuasive & insightful. I find myself completely unable to collate more than a couple of sentences without deleting them in disgust.
The problem is my rage just keeps spilling out. I feel angrier today than I have in a very long time. The doubts I have had about the current state of mental health activism have been confirmed. I am unable to hide from the fact that I am not only fighting the world outside, I am staging a battle against the very people who are supposed to be working for me. In short, I attended a conference aimed at dispelling stigma & felt stigmatised.
I apologise if this is disjointed. I feel more unwell today than I have done in quite some time. I have attempted to create a little clarity with my scalpel. I’m taking a deep breath & diving in.
The conference was billed as a re founding of the organisation. I was invited precisely because I had spoken about the status quo of the big mental health organisations. I did try to be open minded, but correctly thought I was in for disappointment.
I couldn’t even get past the ‘housekeeping’ portion of the event without being insulted. It was repeatedly announced that support lines & trained staff were available should anyone require them. The underlying assumption being that a person with a mental health problem would be unable to make it through the day’s events without hand holding. Oh the irony of being stigmatised at an anti-stigma conference by the very people supposedly fighting for your right not to be discriminated against.
This sort of patronising behaviour continued throughout the event. Whether it was speakers explaining ‘big words’ or delegates being shocked to discover I was university educated. A belief that being diagnosed with a mental illness is somehow incompatible with being a capable adult seemed alive and well.
The organisers of see me put a huge emphasis on the input of those with lived experience. Our opinions, we were told, were paramount. The caveat of course being that we accepted the established recovery bias. Our ‘lived experience ‘speaker was of course recovered. She was careful to explain how different she was now that she was better. She had overcome her brush with mental illness, she now worked, and she now had value.
I kept hoping the next speaker would say something, but was met with more buzz words and self-congratulation. I tired of hearing the same thing over and over. I eventually realised that the much feted ground-breaking new approach was the same tired ideas I had been hearing for years.
I have to confess to ducking out of some of the ketso sessions, used for the participation sections of the day. I found the format, which involved writing on leaves & sticking them to felt, incredibly patronising. It was cringe inducing & very much the sort of thing I would expect to be used to facilitate discussion amongst children. In fact if I was to identify a theme of the conference it would be condescension.
On the second day of the conference I attended the only valuable session of the event. A workshop on ‘the damage caused by the recovery movement’ led by metalpoliticalparent. The discussion was frank and I think for some attendees, surprising. It was only here that I felt I was listened to & only at that workshop did I hear anything that sounded remotely like change.
The recovery model reigned supreme. It is clear that seeme intend to continue with the sanitation of mental illness. They do not & will not hear the voices of those who want to discuss the dirty reality.
I’m aware that this post is weak. I can only attribute that to frustration & the after effects of being made to feel entirely other. I hope at some point to improve on my contribution to the discussion of the seeme event, but did want to offer something whilst the conference was fresh in people’s minds.


2 Responses to “How to lose support & alienate mentals.”

  1. The post is not “weak”, but a very honest one full of clarity.

    I’m sorry to see how invalidated this event made you feel but I hope that some of the anger (rage?) can be used in a way to fight for your voice to be heard amongst the noise.

    Apologies for not having many words, but want to let you know I/we get it and really appreciate you posting this.


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