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The dilemma of “responsible mental health advocacy”

Posted Feb 18 2014 2:37pm

From the archives:


The Tim Murphy Mental Health Reform Act (“TorreyCare” ??) has a lot of goodies in it.  It provides for funding of a bunch of ideas that have a lot of merit:  The excellence in mental health care act, mental health first aid, and reauthorization of funds for suicide prevention chief among them.  The operative question is at what cost.

There has always been a tension in mental health advocacy between the needs of providers and large organizations and the needs of consumers or persons with lived experience.  “Respectable” organizations tend to believe that what is good for mental health providers is good for mental health.  To an undeniable degree that is true.  The health of helpers is related to the degree of help they can provide.  But they are not the same.  The problem with the mental health system is not that the voice of mental health centers, large organizations or “professionals” is inadequately heard.  The problem is that my voice and yours is not heard.  “Professionals” may and hopefully will speak with me in advocating a position.  They most assuredly do not speak for me. 

Rep Murphy to have best chance of making his ambitious bill reality needs the support of “responsible” organizations, the big money, big ticket organizations whose collective efforts define so much of what the mental health system is about to support him. He may be successful anyway, but his chances skyrocket with “responsible” supporters.

So the question becomes price. What are you willing to give up to get what you want? I have seen pronouncements from several large organizations saying they would “work” with Rep Murphy to develop a “good bill”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The real question is what is negotiable and what is not. And so much rides on that. I know I will be eager to hear the answer. I dont pretend to know, but I am sure listening.

Mine is a very small voice and in the scheme of things not very important. But it is the only voice I have so I do want to speak it. “Torreycare” regardless of how it is dressed up is not okay with me. It does not reflect my goals, my values, or my interests. It defines my rights as conveniences and anyone who advocates for me as a criminal. It is a huge step backward and I oppose it at the top of my lungs. My guess and it is only a guess because I dont know is that if “respectable” organizations sign on they will find they have done their standing with consumers grave damage. Everything that looks good or tastes good is not good and hope due caution and care is used before anyone decides to go forth.

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