Psych Ward Greeting Cards

By Katherine Ponte, NYCPS-P

“Tens of thousands of psychiatric patients will be spending the holidays in psych wards across the country, but they are not alone. They are in our thoughts and our hearts, especially those who have spent time in a psych ward as I have.

This Christmas, as a small gesture of comfort and support, as thanks for the inspiration and example of strength the patients offer us, the Psych Ward Greeting Cards program created by Katherine Ponte, a NYCPS-P, and managed by ForLikeMinds will be reaching out to patients at 3 hospitals.

The program will be delivering 342 largely handmade greeting cards with heartfelt messages written by people living with mental illness, 342 personal messages by Katherine, 342 Christmas stockings stuffed with 3,420 Hershey Kisses and 1,026 Candy Canes. It’s a small, but meaningful gesture, a reminder to patients that they are really not alone. We cannot forget them this holiday season, they are our peers too!” 

Here’s a photo of my little holiday tradition – stockings for patients at 3 hospitals (1 in CT and 2 in NY)

  • 342 patients
  • 342 Christmas greeting cards
  • 342 personal messages from me
  • 342 Christmas stockings
  • 3,420 Hershey Kisses
  • 1,026 Candy Canes

I’m exhausted, but I love doing it! Xoxo, Katherine

Learn more about the program and donations: https://medium.com/psychwardgreetingcards

STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION are around creating havoc all year round

By Howard Diamond

Stop Discrimination

So why does December and the holiday season think that they be exempt from any of this? Hope for a better day and life ahead is here for all to avail ourselves of. Naturally, December will have plenty of hope and a fair share of STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION. My role is to assist everyone through their time in the labyrinth. At least, I will do my best in our journey. Ready to begin, I know I am. 

Ho, Ho, Ho!  Hope is in the air. “High hopes”, originally sung by Frank Sinatra and performed by others,  mention a  probability that there is hope for all of us.

Sadly, both STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION are here, too. Especially, during these holidays, they peak the speak of bad times and cruelty. Of course, there are many non-believers who go around spouting negativity like, “Bah Humbug”, or “There is no Santa Claus”. There is still hope, continue to read on! However, on Planet Earth, we have other religions with many ideas.

My focus is to discuss hope for Mental Health as related to holidays. No belief necessary.

Yes, yes STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION, as well. HOPE is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Isn’t that what the December holidays are all about?  “Hatikvah”, The National Anthem of Israel, literally means Our Hope. This anthem was written and published as a poem in 1876 or 1877 and when The State of Israel was finally established in 1948, the first stanza and refrain were adopted as its national anthem. 

In the Middle East each religion or culture use STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION methods to gain an advantage. When one is from a specific religion, treating people from a different faith as evil or devil worshippers is their way to affect the words. Inevitably, this often turns into violence for territorial control. A song by the musical band War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”, fits the mood quite well and offers hope in our volatile world. Several religions share the same city, Jerusalem, as their focal point.

Now, hope comes into play – there is hope that all people of all religions will live in peace and harmony without STIGMA or DISCRIMINATION anywhere.

Tell me everyone, isn’t that what the December holidays are all about? During this time, most of us sing and pray for hope and good will towards mankind. On the other side, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION are here, too. Christmas time signifies the birth of Jesus who gave people around the world hope with the promise of freedom and prosperity for all. Chanukah is celebrated with the hope that we survive just as the Maccabees soldiers did all those many years ago. The lyrics of a song by Peter, Paul and Mary begin with, “Light one candle for the Maccabee children”. Plus it ends with, “Don’t let the lights go out”. What a concept, put the light on for all to see and let it shine forever and ever.

“Hope Springs Eternal”, an expression by Alexander Pope in, “An Essay On Man” shares his optimistic point of view that human beings will continue to hope, no matter what the odds. Now, during the holiday season or anytime over the course of the year, hope can come displaying themselves in many ways.

In contrast to hope, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION appear also. Hope vs. STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION feels like good versus evil, but if Hope Springs Eternal, we know that hope inevitably wins. However, for the years ahead it appears that hope, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION will continue to coexist. Still, the more we hope, the less STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION will have an effect. 

As we close this year of perfect vision (2020), we have seen STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION through many perspectives. In part one, we talked about them in general terms, while in part two we showed how media was influenced by those words. Part three discussed SELF-STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION, while part four showed us ways to combat each one when they arrive and we know they will.

Stop Ignorance

Unfortunately, this year is not the only thing that is ending. They say, “All good things must come to an end” and this will be my last article on STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION. My hope is that you enjoyed my pieces and maybe learned a thing or two. 

Don’t despair, I will still be writing articles. Any comments or suggestions are welcome and can be sent to me in care of the Newsletter or Blog Site. See everyone in the NewsBlogs.

Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island.  

Recent posts from Howard Diamond

Combating STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION
By Howard Diamond

Election Day. Veteran’s Day. Thanksgiving Day.

Each one has its own meaning and significance for all of us.

People similar to that deal with mental illness (health) issues, are being affected more and uniquely, by different days. Also, it occurs mostly every morning when we wake, not just on the three days above. The words STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION make our overall situations exceedingly difficult, especially during certain times of the year. Here in part four of these articles we will focus on assisting us with ways to combat and lessen those dreaded words.

To move forward, is to reflect back at the definitions. STIGMA is when one group of humans act or treat others in a way differently because of specific characteristics. When someone is victimized unfairly because they have mental illness it is then called, DISCRIMINATION. Unfortunately, they are both way too prevalent in our societies and need to be removed entirely.

Before we can eradicate them, we begin with reduction. Harm Reduction, 101 for those in the know. Of course, ideas and strategies need to be developed. Some of them have been tried, but many of us do not know they even exist. Try not get labeled and get the help we need. This in itself is STIGMA often called labeling, whether it be done to us or inflicted by us to others.

Want a hard one, do not believe what they are saying. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is relevant to our conversation. Indeed, I say it is hard, but we can strive for self-awareness and to help ourselves and assist others. To fight STIGMA, is not to degrade oneself or let someone else define it; therefore, it is utterly wrong.

DISCRIMINATION of people with Mental Health Issues are not the answer. We are folks that are valuable members of a city, a state, a nation, and the world. Many lead productive lives, by working, getting a paycheck, spending on what we need to survive and are responsible for others. Do something about this, write Congress and the President and hold and go to peaceful meetings and discuss equality. Alert the media and spread the word that STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION is still going on. When doing this exercise, I am emphasizing to be careful what vocabulary is used.

Take the time and discuss sports, the weather, or the economy with any one of us because we are intelligent, too. However, due to DISCRIMINATION we are the ones with Mental Health

Issues and not given the same opportunities as mainstream population. In addition, many remain either underemployed or unemployed while getting much less money to work. Plain and simple, THIS IS DISCRIMINATION. Never antagonize anyone and be as peaceful as possible.

My hope is that if we begin to use some of these ideas, we can be in less fear with decreasing anxiety and maybe live together as ONE human race. As it is said and as it is written, “All Men Are Created Equal.” Tough five words to live by, but it has to be accomplished for people everywhere to exist in

harmony. As mentioned over and over again by Mr. Spock in Star Trek, “Live Long and Prosper”. Also, I wrote this in my previous articles on this topic and I will state it again, both terms STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION must be removed from all the dictionaries, eradicated from our collective vocabularies, plus eliminated from our thought processes, once and for all.

Now we hark back to the first line from the beginning of this piece. Citizens with a form of mental illness or a cognitive or emotional impairment are often left out of political involvement. Smells like STIGMA. There are positive alternatives.

Weeks, if not months before Election Day, officials canvas our great nation to find individuals with Mental Health Issues. Their goal is to educate, register and encourage everyone including those with these issues to go through the election process. Ultimately, we are able to vote which is a right of all us. For those in certain areas and cannot travel to voting places, they offer transportation on Election Day, itself.

We turn our attention to reducing and combating STIGMA in Veteran’s Mental Health. Many come back from service duty with a host of mental ailments, but most do not get the assistance they can avail themselves with. This may disproportionately impact military individuals and the many returning veterans. Today, there are more places to assist with their feelings of shame plus inadequacy to better encourage treatment. In large part this can be attributed to STIGMA.

Throughout time, people have had many things to be thankful for and try to set aside petty differences. However, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION often makes this more difficult for some individuals with Mental Health Issues to combat the idea of being indebted to anyone. Thanksgiving marks the period of time to remember the little things and to be grateful for what we actually have. Although many of us are struggling, we might be able to pick one or two. Whether it be having family or friends, adequate physical and or mental health, or just a place to lay one’s head, there is one item out there. We can win this battle.

Despite STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION, we are appreciative to be alive. Try not give into temptation or greed, as they are the roots of evil. Focus on what gives us pleasure and if all humanly possible try to do more. Hey everyone I try to walk, go for a drive and or write almost every day! It helps me to feel better (yea, physically and emotionally), increase my self-awareness and self-esteem and breaks the STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION in my head. If I can do it, everyone can do it! At least try, one thing.

See you in the News Blogs. Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island


Fall Sports 2020, Not Like it Used To Be
By Howard Diamond

Sports has returned for us to see
In 2020, sports not like it used to be
Focusing on four of them is enough for me
Baseball, basketball, football, and hockey.

Basketball had been played in a bubble
Less likely for COVID19 to cause any trouble
Lakers were in the finals with the Heat
In four games to two the Lakers sent the Heat to defeat.

Hockey was contested in a similar way
There were no more games left to play
Raising the STANLEY CUP was what every team waned to do.
Lightning prevailed against the Stars four games to two.

Baseball had a strange schedule each team played sixty only
Without any games plus playoffs it would have been lonely
Finally it was the Dodgers against the Rays
World Series won four to two by Dodgers and their winning ways.

Football are playing games entering week nine
Halfway through the Steelers are playing mighty fine
Still too early for a favorite to be said
The Super Bowl is still months ahead

When one likes sports, we watched from home and enjoy
When one does not, we read a book or played with a toy.
As we turned our calendars to November
Enjoyed these sports when they converged together.

Howard Diamond,  Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island


THANKSGIVING MEAL AND FUN, FOR SOME?
By Howard Diamond

Thanksgiving is here with many people to greet
Thanksgiving is here with plenty of food to eat
Everyone have your pants and belts relatively loose
Of course we are having turkey as main meal not a goose

Turkey is already in the stove
Fruit was picked from the grove
Many vegetables ready to be cooked
Desserts sitting everywhere waiting to be hooked

Feasting is what the holiday is for
Sharing stories of family lore
Together we are here to enjoy this day
We would not have it any other way

Gobble, Gobble, who wants some turkey
Take what you want there is plenty you see
Stuffing and potatoes for all to share
No dieting today, we don’t really care

An assortment of vegetables too many to count
Food on our plates are beginning to mount
Remember to put some gravy on top
Wash it all down with cider, soda, or pop

Leave some room for cakes and pies
Can’t stop eating, no one even tries
Another Thanksgiving meal is done
Too full right now to have much fun

Most of the men go and watch football
Or use their cell phones to make a call
While most of the women do the dishes
Discussing what they desire as holiday wishes

The children are in one of two places
Enjoying the day with their happy faces
They are playing outside around near the trees
Or doing things on laptops, busy as bees

It was nice to spend time with friends
When the day begins, we know later it ends
Football teams have many huddles
Before we leave we have group cuddles

Now I’m starting to wake
What I dreamt was totally fake
Another year spending Thanksgiving alone
Later I will call one or both of my friends on the phone

Maybe it’s the time to start a book
Reading the inside covers is where I look
Deciding on one to be read
Maybe I will begin the book in bed

My meal this day will be a frozen dinner
Either chicken or turkey will be the winner
Spending most of the day on my tablet
Just another day I’ll probably want to forget.

Howard Diamond is a Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island.


SELF-STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION using self-thinking
By Howard Diamond

Have these statements ever been said to any one of us? We are crazy, we are stupid or stop acting like a mental patient. Perhaps, we are told to, “Just get over it”.  My notion is that at least one of them have been heard by most of us. However, each person reacts to this quite uniquely. Some laugh this off and think it is funny. Others take these comments as an insult and keep them inside for future use.

For many years, people with mental health issues have experienced some form of “STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION”. When mentioned often enough, individuals begin to believe what is said. Often this is called, “PUBLIC STIGMA” as it represents the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination of a specific group such as mental illness. My focus in this article is on something slightly different, but no less significant.

What happens when we use these negative phrases on ourselves? A couple of examples, I am stupid or I am behaving like a loony. Real confidence or self-esteem cannot be very high. Overall, these words are hurtful mostly to ourselves which can lead to other issues. Many times this is referred to as, “SELF-STIGMA”.

As a Mental Health Peer Specialist, I feel “SELF-STIGMA” is much worse for people that have mental health issues, because it is what we call or label ourselves. “SELF-STIGMA” occurs when we internalize public opinions  and attitudes, while suffering mentally from a variety of maladies.

Stereotypes are the way we collect information about others out there. Like the current COVID-19  pandemic, “SELF-STIGMA” and its consequences  can and do lead to negative feelings and emotions which many times turns into mental health issues and or social isolation. Additionally, from these bad feelings, people from the public, stay away from someone with mental illness because of fear “SELF-STIGMA” and or belief “DISCRIMINATION” that anyone with these issues are dangerous. What a absolutely horrible way to live.

Furthermore, “SELF-STIGMA” for me was a distorted belief of how people conceived I was. One way was that I was less than others, just because I had a mental illness diagnosis. These people continually discussed me and my given diagnosis, behind my back. Also, individuals saw that I had many types

of behavior differences so a lot of ‘avoidance’ occurred. No, my diagnosis was never Paranoid. Regardless what was said or perceived, the more relevant and significant notion here was, that “SELF-STIGMA” caused a major impact on my self-esteem and my anxiety in the mind of others. Yes, it still influences me sometimes now.

“STIGMA” along with “DISCRIMINATION” are especially significant to “SELF-STIGMA” and more and more are now thought of as a front for treating many forms of mental wellness disorders. This overall effect of “SELF-STIGMA” is to help seeking individuals for anyone, not only to folks that deal with any of the vast assortment of mental health issues. In part four of this series will talk about the ways we already dealt with “STIGMA” or “SELF-STIGMA” and “DISCRIMINATION” and we will begin to reduce or even eliminate the words from our collective thinking plus our vocabularies, forever.

See you in the Newsletters and News Blogs. Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island

Halloweens Past and Present

by Howard Diamond 

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Trick or treat! Want fish or meat? Can this be beat? Not from my seat.
Whatever one does for Halloween this year, it won’t be the same. We do not want exactly what we had last year, but some relevance to our Halloween past would be appreciated.

Knowing that COVID19 has disrupted many of our plans and holiday celebrations, so why did we think that this one would be any different.

Of course, Halloween did not start this way. A no warning is in effect ahead! Scary thought, no children walking in the streets, no costumes were worn and no one going from door to door expecting candy or coins.

Really frightening, no pumpkins were carved plus being placed in the window or left on the porches. Just imagine there was not even any hint of parties anywhere so no one went bobbing for apples. It does sound kind of boring, though. No warning is thankfully over.

Like many holidays, Halloween has had many names. All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve are two of them. In its beginning, it was a three-day observance of All Hallows tide dedicated to remembering the dead, including all saints (hallows), the martyrs and all of the faithful that have departed. It is widely believed that many of its traditions originated from Celtic harvest festivals called Samhain. No, we are not talking about the Celtics from Boston.

Samhain, (pronounced “sow-win”), marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the wintertime. It is celebrated on October 31 to November 1, due to Celtic days are from sunset to sunset. Their reasoning for deciding on this date is because it falls halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. 

Historically, it has been widely observed by Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Celebrates often wore a variety of different types of costumes, flames from lit bonfires were everywhere and children many times received sweets all to ward off ghosts of their dead relatives and friends returning from the great beyond. 

Sounds eerily similar to current day, Halloween. However, in 2020 it might be different. Due to COVID19, many of the kids may not be able to walk through their neighborhoods (of course, I mean trick or treating) and there may not be the usual parties where many people typically attend.

Hey there, some good news for all! Ironically, when politicians lessen some of the many restrictions, these trick or treaters are already wearing masks.

Remember, when we decide to go outside or attend a get together by participating in the custom of trick or treating, make sure we use our masks and they must be on and correctly at all times, no excuses and no exceptions. Also, be more cautious than ever, walk in small groups with everyone at least six feet apart. Please keep staying positive and stay safe, always. HAPPY HALLOWEEN! 

See you in the Newsblogs.


Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island 

Six Society Stigma Statements

by Howard Diamond 
SEPARATE                    SOCIAL                             SENSITIVE 
THINKING                    TENSION                        TALKING
IDEALISTS                     INVOLVING                  INSIDE
      and                                GANGS                           GET-TOGETHERS
GOVERNMENT           into                                     of
MAKING                       MULTIPLE                   MYSTERIOUS
ACCUSATIONS            ACTIONS                      ADULTS
STRONG                        STRANGE                         SPECIAL
TACTICS                        TESTING                          TREATMENTS
INFLUENCING            INCLUDED                      INDIVIDUALS
GANGSTERS                with                                     GROUPS
 into                                   GENERAL                        with
MASSIVE                      MEDICAL                       MENTAL
ATTACKS                       APPOINTMENTS        AFFECTS
by Howard Diamond, a Peer Specialist on Long Island

GROUPS FOR DISCUSSION

by Howard Diamond

Students don’t belong in these groups.
Everyone wants to find a better way
Students please seek out different troupes
Hoping others agree to what I say.

Most of us are here for a reason
Sharing why we want to stay
New members arrive in every season
Speaking about work and about play.

Some come talking about depression
Getting support and maybe it will go away
For others anxiety is the topic of discussion
Wishing to relax and have a better day.

Groups happen morning, noon and night
Pick one or more whenever you may
Occasionally we argue and have a fight
It ends quickly so we can live for today.

Howard Diamond, A New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island 

Celebrating an Extraordinary Life: Mark A. Davis (a/k/a MAD)

Mark A. Davis, M.A., an award-winning mental health, LGBTQ, and human rights advocate who was also known for his warmth, kindness, humor, and his larger-than-life personality, died on September 14, 2020, in Philadelphia. He was 64.

An Ohio native who spent more than half of his life in Philadelphia, Mark was hired in 1985 to work at Project SHARE, the new self-help and mental health advocacy project Joseph Rogers had founded under the auspices of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “Mark helped build the efforts…to be a large part of the national movement for social justice in mental health,” Rogers says.

Mark was the founding president of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (PMHCA). According to his bio on the NARPA website, he inspired over 75 consumer-run groups across the country; and he has been a speaker, consultant, and trainer in 43 states for a variety of consumer, family, community, and professional associations. In 2003, Davis founded the Pink & Blues, an ongoing support group for individuals from sexual and gender minority communities who also have lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

With Gayle Bluebird, Howie the Harp, and others, Mark was a key organizer of Altered States of the Arts, celebrating the creativity of people with lived experience. “To the arts people, he was our role model,” says Bluebird.

Until recently, Mark often performed at conferences and in parades in what he called “drag with a tag.” In his debut performance in this role, at Alternatives ’92 in Philadelphia, Bluebird recalls, “the audience watched him as he was escorted on stage, where he disrobed from a fur coat, then to a ballroom gown, finally to the pink bathing suit. People in the audience were shocked, and laughed until they nearly fell out of their chairs.”

Miss Altered StatesAs Miss Altered States, Mark won Best Performance in the 2004 Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade.

As Mark’s NARPA bio noted, “As a person who is gay, living with mental illness, in recovery from addiction, dealing with hearing loss and living with an HIV-positive diagnosis (1988), he has consistently used his experiences and skills to combat stigma, inspire others in similar circumstances and [e]ffect change,” particularly in developing culturally competent services for the LGBTQ+ community.

 

Having attempted suicide and lost his sister to suicide, Mark served on a committee of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In his LinkedIn profile, Mark highlighted his interest in “building movements of people seeking personal life enrichment and system change to eliminate stigmas, ignorance, and biases.”

Mark believed that Recovery Happens. He urged those with co-occurring conditions and many identities to “NAME IT, CLAIM IT, TAME IT, FRAME IT, LIVE IT!” He also believed that

SILENCE=DEATH,

TALK=LIFE, KNOWLEDGE=POWER, and that VOTING IS VITAL.

Addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, Mark wrote on his Facebook page that “We already have experience from Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, with social and physical distancing, unlike those experiencing this for the first time.”

In 2009, Mark received a prestigious Voice Award, presented by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, for his achievements as a mental health consumer/survivor advocate.

Mark Davis will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues all over the country; many have left loving messages of loss and remembrance on Facebook and the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery e-list. One such memory is from acclaimed human rights activist Hikmah Gardiner, who said, “Mark was my supervisor years ago. His sense of humor was phenomenal: He joked about my being a woman of color and I joked about his being gay.” Dr. Mark Salzer, director of the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion, called Davis “a colossal spirit and force in our mental health, HIV, and LGBTQ+ communities.”

Mark earned a B.A. and M.A. in Speech Education and Higher Education Administration from Bowling Green State University (1974-1981), where he participated in student government and the National Forensic League Team. In his LinkedIn profile, Mark reported that he was a varsity cheerleader, Sigma Nu Housemother (sic), and “the first ‘Male’ (sic) BGSU Homecoming King.” He was also director/producer of Miss Bowling Green State University, and was an “IFC Beer Chugging Champion.”

“The whole world is crazy; I just got caught,” Mark Davis once said. “We know that humor is the best medicine because there is no co-pay.” Memorial donations may be made to the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association and/or the Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition.

Written by (alphabetically): Bluebird, Susan Rogers, Bonnie Schell, and Dr. Phyllis Solomon.

If you have a memory of Mark, please feel free to share it with the community!

What if Daniel Prude had Peer Support?

CCIT-NYC

In a recent statement about the brutal death of Daniel Prude at the hands of police in Rochester, CCIT-NYC (Correct Crisis Intervention Today) points out that a “peer with lived mental health experience, trained in de-escalation techniques and paired with an EMT, would have responded more humanely and effectively to Mr. Prude’s health and emotional needs, rather than violently escalate the crisis as occurred. Mr. Prude should be alive today.”  (Read More)

It occurred to me that stories about working with people, like Daniel Prude, written by peer specialists who are doing the work could change hearts and minds about “people like us”.  Our stories of hope can help to reinforce the idea that recovery is possible. In fact, recovery should be the expectation.

Howard Diamond’s previous blog on Stigma and Discrimination is a narrative that can be changed if we collectively tell a different story. One in which we simply offer snippets about changes we’ve witnessed in people we support. Maybe we write down things people say when they thank us for the difference it made to have a peer to peer relationship. Maybe it is about having someone who believed in them. Or simply how they no longer felt alone. Our collective stories by and about the people we support can educate and inspire others (possibly policy makers). By writing a simple quote said by someone we support, an example of a life changed, we may be able to change — maybe save — someone’s life in the future.

Let’s tell our short stories about recovery, resilience, and the difference peer supporters make, one person at a time.

If you are not aware of the circumstances around Daniel Prude’s homicide, I invite you first to read the CCIT-NYC statement (Read here), and then respond using the comment section below to the question, “What if Daniel Prude *had* peer support at the time of the incident? How might his life have been different?”

Stigma and Discrimination – Abused by Media by Howard Diamond

HEADLINE!!  HEADLINE!!  – READ ALL ABOUT IT     

MENTALLY ILL MAN PUSHES AND KILLS ELDERLY WOMAN BY USING TRAIN TRACKS 

 WE INTERRUPT  THIS BROADCAST…      

A DISHEVELED LADY WHO WAS HEARING VOICES HAS BEEN FOUND AND ARRESTED

Crazy news
Does this look and or and sound familiar? Did it grab our attention? It is in gold print in our local newspaper or perhaps it is the news personality that breaks into our favorite programming. Of course it does, at least to most of us at some point in our life. Utterly deplorable and a very sad day when this occurs. Wow, media strikes!

Mass Media often reports on people with Mental Illness. Whether it be on radio or television or even in newspapers or magazine, my feeling is that the folks suffering are not even close to being portrayed in a correct manner. More often than not, media depicts mankind with mental illness in a extremely negative way, which often causes others to perceive each guy and gal dealing with this differently. In addition, inaccuracies stated by media causes judgmental and stereotypical thinking that many times leads to STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION. 

Worse of all, media shows people with mental illness as incompetent, dangerous and undeserving which serves to distance everyone from each other. What a life! Realistically, what is needed is a more on the mark capturing of what someone dealing with these issues are like. This way and only in this way, one can discern between what is true or false, stereotype or reality and characterization versus real life story telling. Studies do inform us that people suffering from a form of mental illness are less likely to commit a violent crime, however, they are more likely to be victimized themselves. How does one like them apples?

People continue to STIGMATIZE and DISCRIMINATE others with mental health  problems that look different from everyone else. Boy, is this false! Maybe it is their dirty hair or is it torn and tattered clothing being worn. Perhaps it is the wild eyes or the way one is meandering down the street. So, now we are lumping categories altogether. Think about these possibilities. Ultimately, is it because there are signs of mental health difficulties present? Once again, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION rear their ugly heads.

Do people really appear that different? Of course not. These attributes tell us when casting for characters who look evil, threatening or at least are unkempt, interviewers need to check prospective candidates thoroughly before hiring. Out there are the homeless who lack funds or possessions to maintain the ability for an adequate appearance. These folks who have a right to perform and can and do possess any assortment of mental health issues. Also, there are huge numbers who get up every day, shower, go to work and lead productive lives.

Both STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION causes media to portray others dealing with any mental illness in a dismissive way. Applause, applause. Really it does seem like everyone looks and acts similarly, not like what the media often shows.

Mass Media glorifies Mental Health concerns. While many people are beginning to try talking about these issues and gains, recovery isn’t often displayed. Characters portrayed in media formats are rarely shown with any progress or recover from any of their maladies. If indeed humans do eventually improve and get better, it will only last for a short duration and is only a temporary situation. Ultimately, this creates a belief that there is little or no hope for someone who develops any type of Mental Health problem. Okay, I know, this is another way for media to justify that the words, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION do exist.

In reality, people do recover! With an adequate combination of medications, therapy, social interactions with family and friends plus using the right mindset, many of these individuals can and do recover. Maybe in the future everyone can coexist and live in both peace and harmony.

Added to this, STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION will be removed from our collective vocabularies. Yes, earlier I said recovery is not only possible, it is probable. What do all the readers out there think? Let me know with some comments.

Next time, the article will be about how self stigma effects us and how we can develop other mental health issues. See you in the Blog.

Howard Diamond is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island 

Wounded Healer Discovers Her Limitations

By Zisa Aziza, Peer Specialist

There are certain truths that we can only discover for ourselves. Since writing my article in the Fall 2019 edition of City Voices, much has been elucidated. Between August and November of 2019, I had met my aspirations and still felt unsatisfied. As I had intended, I applied to Yeshiva University for their Wurzweiler School of Social Work Program. I applied on August 20th, the deadline, and by the 22nd, I had a student identification number. At work, I desired the role of Case Manager, which at the time exclusively required an MSW or Master’s degree. Due to the bail reform and expansions within the Supervised Release Program for pretrial services with justice-involved individuals, bachelor’s level case management was available. I didn’t immediately apply because it was adult-specific and I had a desire to work with young adults, ages 16-24. I was encouraged to apply for the position by my colleagues. It took about two weeks to receive the job offer, with a salary in the mid-50s. I was convinced that I was on my path—The Path—to the perceived greatness I wished to embody.

During my short time at Yeshiva University, an excellent institution, I was introduced to tremendous knowledge and a plethora of theories on human behavior. As a Jew, I was elated to attend Yeshiva, enthusiastic, and enthralled with the newness of it all. I held my professors in high esteem and was very respectful and appreciative of my classmates. I submitted some online assignments and wrote two papers, one a midterm, before withdrawing on November 8th, 2019. Although the papers received A’s, I found the process of learning about trauma and healing in an academic institution to be inexplicably triggering and retraumatizing. There was this approach of objective distancing that felt disconnected from the very statistics on the trauma that we studied. I took three classes at Yeshiva. In two of those classes, the professors distributed the Adverse Childhood Experience survey. I have a score of 9. The highest is 10. Of the questions in the survey, domestic violence between my caregivers was never witnessed, but intimate partner violence was very present.

I began to feel too wounded to facilitate the healing of others. Although I had withdrawn from Yeshiva University, I was promoted to Adolescent Case Manager as of November 18th, 2019, ten days after withdrawing from graduate school. I felt confident that if I focused on work and remained committed to my mental health treatment process, along with self-care practices, that I could maintain my work/life balance. This was upheaved when I performed an intake for two young men who were both charged with crimes of sexual violence against young girls. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, who is currently naming and owning experiences of abuse that were normalized, I simply could not hold my seat at the table. After much deliberation, I applied for the Family Medical Leave Act and Short-term Disability as of January 6th, 2020. I write these words in late February, from a ranch in New Mexico, completely uncertain of my future.

Even so, I deeply believe that wounded healers can be exceptional in their ability to encourage and support the personal transformation of their peers. My pride instructed me that I required an MSW and a higher salary to execute such an intention. Humility is a wise teacher. It is not a matter of what you do, but why and how you do it. The creative impact is my intention. I thoroughly enjoy listening and processing and empowering people. My definitive dream is to live off the land, with a farm, in an adobe home, in a sustainable manner, and with the community. Whatever path that is aligned with my values and ethics that can actualize said dream, shall be explored. I intend on being content and graceful. I have faith in the process. This is my journey.

* * * * * * *

Flash forward to Corona times, Rosh Hashanah is upon us. Between February and September, my life has been full of abundance. I was in London to experience an art exhibit by Genesis Tramaine at the Almine Rech Gallery when the travel restrictions were declared. I recall being seated at a dinner reception after the opening of the art exhibit with Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, who after scrolling through my Instagram post suggested I explore the medium of music. The flight from London to Norway, and finally, back to New York was surreal. I returned to my employer at the end of March. I have been working remotely since that time. I currently have about 30 clients on my caseload and find it very manageable. I have also immersed myself into a community with JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice) and Ammud: Jews of Color Torah Academy. I am currently enrolled in the Certification in Jewish Ethics and Social Justice at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Additionally, through a membership funded by my employer with SWEET (Supporting Wellbeing through Empowerment, Education, and Training), I am enrolled in two certificate programs: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Psychotherapy.

Every day I challenge myself to surrender to the present. To do my best and to be most forgiving when I do not meet my own expectations. I have chosen to love myself as though I were my own child and my own mother; the abundance in such a task is life-giving. HaShem loves me, Spirit loves me, and I love me. How could I ever be lost? My path is of my own divining.

Editor: Zisa is an author and artist who writes poetry, prose, essays, and also does photography and strives to create documentaries. Her websites document her journey of self-love and striving for transcendence. She offers this as an open-copyright creator because she deeply yearns for community. For more of Zisa's creative works visit: truths89.com or zisaaziza.com