There is a stigma against me and my peers, but there is also one against mental health care providers. Common stigmas of me and my peers vary from lazy, possessing a split personality, to mass murderer- ugh! The stigma of health care providers are they abuse patients, treat us all the same, or do not listen to patients' concerns.
However, I view my peers and health care providers totally different. I see my peers living independently or contributing to the household. They seem like peaceful individuals- practicing mindfulness and keeping to themselves- not inflicting pain on anyone or starting a riot. They engage in creative hobbies such as art or poetry, and other activities. My peers not only help themselves but also other peers by offering advice and a listening ear. And they're far from lazy!- a lot of the people I associate with who have a mental illness volunteer. They also work jobs that they take pride in and enjoy, part-time and full-time.
Despite what really goes on in the mental health community, a majority of our society views us differently- why? Why don't they acknowledge us striving to live "normal" lives? How can they overlook the creativity we add to our culture... Is it really fear? Ignorance? or preference in order to have a false sense of seniority? or all that combined?... Sad. Its not sad for us (people directly impacted by mental illness) but sad for them because they are losing out on great relationships, conversations, and understanding of someone with different experiences from them.
A Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training I attended last week reminded everyone in the room that providers have helped each us in some way to reach recovery. In my experience with the mental health care system, providers like their jobs. They even had discussions with my mother to help her to have a better understanding of what I am going through. They don't talk to me like I am a child. Instead they provide resources to guide me to get the full benefit of recovery with outside supports. In fact, my state hospital doctor told me I could go back to college. My therapist recommended I become a CPS- a peer who acts as a liaison between staff and peers in order to help others in recovery.
Today, I did a presentation with a peer to a group of providers at an Atlanta hospital in the behavior health care unit. They were very interested in our stories and interactive. They came off as very passionate about their jobs and wanting to help patients... So why is there this belief that they are not encouraging or supportive of our recovery?
In my experience from California and Georgia peers are not dangerous or lazy. Don't get me wrong, I know there are peers out there who can fit the stigmatizing description like the isolated few among the general public, but the truth is most don't. And I believe my peers who have had horrible experiences with their provider, but the truth is the mental health system is changing- for the better. It is not like it was centuries ago, or even 30 years ago. Even the language within the mental health field is adopting new standards. For example instead of calling a patient "schizophrenic" or "bipolar" we are saying someone living with (diagnosis)... Nice. I used to use those terms but now I avoid them because I am not my illness I am Ashley living with an illness called schizophrenia.
Stop spreading stigmatizing messages and language- we are in a new era, a new outlook on the culture of recovery, it could only get better with us sticking together like we do online, and I'm loving it!