Monday, November 21, 2016

Alternatives to Suicide - Tuesdays 8-9:30 PM EST

Some of us have been having a rough time of late.

If you're in the same boat, this is a space for conversation with others who feel that way too.

Call 331-205-7196 or click

No pros, no cops, no 911.

Just people who get it and know from experience that life really is that hard.

Details below:

Alternatives to Suicide

Tuesdays 8-9:30 PM EST

Call 331-205-7196 or click

Modern society has created a world that many of us do not want to live in. Many of us are in pain and can't imagine this ever changing. We sincerely ask if life is worth the effort.

No one should face these kinds of difficult decisions all alone.  This is a space to have a respectful conversation about serious issues that seriously matter.

Our Intentions:

1. Offer human rights-informed, coercion free space

2. Share from the heart & make space for others to do the same

3. Hold each other’s truths with dignity, respect, interest and willingness to learn

4. Maintain a heavy dose of humility for the things we don't yet know or understand

5. Respect each person’s conscience and right to decide for themselves

6. Create a community, rather than a support group

7. Change the world in ways that make it liveable for all human beings

8. Support each other’s human rights, including the right to be left alone

To Join Us:

By phone: 331-205-7196 (no pin)

By computer: Click:


Having trouble? Text Sarah Knutson at 802-279-3876.

For Added Privacy:

Please use the *67 feature to block caller ID.  For instructions on how to do this:


This event is sponsored by Peerly Human.  We question the labels of conventional behavioral health.  We approach issues like mental distress, substance use, conflict and corrections involvement as part of the challenge of being human. We encourage respect, dignity and access to the basic material, emotional, social and developmental resources that everyone needs to live and be well.

For more about Peerly Human alternatives to conventional behavioral health, see

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday Night Salon (11/5/16) - 8-9:30 PM EST - Abandoning the Disease Model of 'Mental Illness'

Current issues in Mad Culture.  Tonight's topic:  Abandoning the Disease Model of 'Mental Illness.' In a bold and unprecedented move, the UK Division of Clinical Psychology called for the end of the unevidenced biomedical model implied by psychiatric diagnosis,   Dial 331-205-7196 or click: to join the discussion.  Details below.

About the Topic:

 In a bold and unprecedented move for any professional body, the UK Division of Clinical Psychology called for the end of the unevidenced biomedical model implied by psychiatric diagnosis. To read about the details, see

About this Group:

Open Mic/ Salon for Mad Culture - Forum for inspiration, innovation, blogs, posts, poetry, essays, creative offerings, wild ideas, etc. - original or admired. Conversation and community that goes to the heart of what people with lived experience are thinking, reading, writing and imagining possible.

Join us:

By phone: 331-205-7196 (no pin)

By internet:

International callers:

Need more info?

Call Sarah, at 802-279-3876 or email


This event is part of the Virtual Drop In/ Respite, a project of the Wellness & Recovery Human Rights Campaign,

We take a 'Peerly Human' approach to behavioral health challenges like mental distress, substance use, conflict and crime. We offer each other respect, dignity and support to access to the basic material, social and developmental resources that everyone needs to live and be well.

For more about Peerly Human alternatives to conventional behavioral health, see

Friday, November 4, 2016

Virtually Mad Cafe - Fridays 8-9:30 EST

Not up for going out? Drop in from the comfort of your couch. Call 331-205-7196 or click Better than Friday night on the town. Kindred spirits, shared experiences, judgement and label free.

Details below:

Virtually Mad Cafe

Fridays 8-9:30 EST

Dial 331-205-7196 or click

Friday night with folks who get it. Pour a beverage, stake out a spot on the couch and drop by from the comfort of home. Meet up with old friends or make new ones from around the world. Share stories, ideas, interests and values. Speak the truth of your experience. Listen & learn from the voices of all.

Frequent topics include: Human rights, social change, life beyond labels, surviving mental intensity or distress, voices, visions, excluded realities, alternatives to suicide, the virtue of non-compliance, coming off/ questioning medications, current events, consciousness raising, good old-fashioned peer support

'No pros, no cops, no 911': This is a label-free, expert-free, coercion-free space. We meet each other as human beings. We speak for ourselves from our own experience. We don't privilege professional roles, training or opinions. We offer each other the dignity of conscience and personal choice.

To Join Us:

By phone: 331-205-7196 (no pin)

By computer: Click:


Having trouble? Text Sarah Knutson at 802-279-3876.


This event is part of the Virtual Drop In/ Respite, a project of the Wellness & Recovery Human Rights Campaign, and

We regard behavioral health challenges - like mental distress, substance use, conflict and crime - as 'Peerly Human.' We promote respect, dignity and access to basic material, social and developmental resources that everyone needs to live and be well.

For more about Peerly Human alternatives to conventional behavioral health, see

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why We Need a New 'Recovery'

Whatever recovery group we're in - mental health, substance use, criminal justice, anger management, stress management, the list goes on - we've been told we are defective. We've been told the problem is us. Some how, some way, in someone else's judgment, we didn't do it right or get it right.  Our biology is wrong, our thinking is wrong, our feelings are wrong. We behave badly. We don't measure up.

For a lot of us, this is a familiar story.  We grew up with it and so did our families.  In schools, neighborhoods, communities, with key people in our lives. The misery and failings are our fault. Everybody else got it right, but not us. We need to work harder, try harder.  It's up to us to make it better.

 As adults, it's the same words and attitudes, but coming out of different mouths. The very people and systems that are supposed to be helping us are telling us, all over again, that we are the problem. Perhaps it's in kinder gentler words. 'It's not what's wrong with you, it's what happened to you.'

But the essential message is still the same.  In the opinion of some expert somewhere - whether self-appointed or officially licensed:

'The problem with you is [fill in blank]. It's your responsibility to fix it. Here's what you have to change and how. That is just the way it is' 

As a factual matter, this approach just doesn't stand up.  The social determinants of health are well-known.  There really are some things that all of us need in order to live and be well.  According to the World Health Organization:

'Poor social and economic circumstances affect health throughout life. People further down the social ladder usually run at least twice the risk of serious illness and premature death as those near the top. Nor are the effects confined to the poor: the social gradient in health runs right across society, so that even among middle-class office workers, lower ranking staff suffer much more disease and earlier death than higher ranking staff.' 
'Both material and psychosocial causes contribute to these differences and their effects extend to most diseases and causes of death. Disadvantage has many forms and may be absolute or relative. It can include having few family assets, having a poorer education during adolescence, having insecure employment, becoming stuck in a hazardous or dead-end job, living in poor housing, trying to bring up a family in difficult circumstances and living on an inadequate retirement pension.'
'These disadvantages tend to concentrate among the same people, and their effects on health accumulate during life. The longer people live in stressful economic and social circumstances, the greater the physiological wear and tear they suffer, and the less likely they are to enjoy a healthy old age.'

Social determinants of health: the solid facts (2nd ed.) p. 10 (Wilkinson, R. & Marmot, M. eds. 2003),

Here is how this plays out - as a practical matter - in behavioral health.  In behavioral health demographics, adverse life experiences are nearly universal.  Roughly ninety (90!) percent of mental health, addictions, corrections and homeless service users have grown up in conditions of fear and want in at least one major dimension (economic, social, developmental) of our lives.  The consequences are devastating and speak for themselves:  
Trauma occurs when an external threat overwhelms a person’s coping resources... Untreated trauma that begins in childhood — which is often intentional, prolonged, and repeated — exerts a powerful impact on adult emotional health, physical health, and major causes of mortality in the United States. ... It is widely accepted to be a near universal experience of individuals with mental and substance use disorders and those involved in the criminal justice system. ... We cannot hope to rein in healthcare costs and improve healthcare quality if we don’t attend to trauma and its consequences. 
National Council Magazine: Breaking the Silence: Trauma-Informed Behavioral Healthcare, p. 10 (11:2012),

This is why we need a new recovery.  The recovery we need is way bigger than healthcare.  It is not about treating sick or unwell individuals. It is about how we treat each other as human beings.

At core, it is about an entire social fabric that needs to change.  Currently as neighbors, communities, entire nations - we are operating in ways that produce devastating, irrevocable harms.  These harms are predictable, repeated affects of social conditions and attitudes.  We are poisoning our relationships with each other in the same way that we are poisoning the air we breath and the water we drink.  We are killing - rather than nurturing and developing - the good will that our collective survival depends on.

It is time to stop blaming the victims.  As a practical matter, it simply won't work.  It's like expecting people with beater cars to take all the responsibility for fixing the potholes on local roads.  Almost nobody responds well to being kicked when they are down.  Moreover, you're not going to make much progress by focusing on those at the bottom rungs of the ladder.   They have the least power and the fewest resources to actually make the changes needed.

If things are going to get better, the responsibility must be shared.  We need to get beyond labeling and segregating so-called problem people into so-called problem demographics.  We need to stop shaming and blaming so-called problem people and demographics for the human hardships that affect us all.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not against personal responsibility.  In fact, I'm totally for it.  Peerly Human is all about taking responsibility.

In a very real sense - each and every one of us has a non-delegable obligation to vote with our lives for the world we want to live in. To know what this is and what that means, however, each of us has to search our conscience.  We have to develop a vision, take risks and try things out.  Sometimes it works, some times not so well.  That is the essence of lived experience and how we learn from it.

However, any way you look at it, this active soul-searching and engaged learning is a highly personal, highly responsible process. No one else can know what we are called to contribute. No one else can take the action that we alone must take to try to make our vision real.

This fundamental belief in the worth of every single one of us is what we need to recover.  That's not just my opinion.  It is the opinion of people and nations all around the world.  In the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights,, the world community defined our fundamental nature as human beings:
  • We are all members of the human family.
  • We are all endowed with reason and conscience. 
  • We are all equal in dignity and rights. 

This is our birthright as human beings.

This the real work of recovery.  And it is not, at core, a healthcare issue.  It is a human issue.  It is about recovering, together, our sense of being in this together.  It is about recovering our right to belong.  It is about recovering our humanity and the best that we have to offer each other.

In a very real sense, it is about learning to see each other differently.  It is about learning to be true peers on this human journey.  It is about learning to treat each other as 'equals standing', rather than as superiors and subordinates or experts and advisees.

It is about learning to see the worth and value of everyone, everywhere.  It is about learning to honor the experiences, perspectives and wisdom of anyone, anywhere.  It is about learning to appreciate the window to a deeper understanding that each human life gives us into what it means to be human.  It is about coming to value every lived experience, however difficult or painful, as potentially contributing to our collective wisdom.

It is about taking the time to connect the dots.  It is about recognizing that connecting the dots is important - not just for the brilliant successes but also for the horrible tragedies.  It is about asking ourselves what we can learn - when the stakes are highest and the chips are down - if we take the risk of viewing each other as 'peerly human.'  It is about making a commitment to see each other as equals in dignity and rights instead of judging, blaming or demonizing.

It is about believing in and affirming our mutual capacity for reason and conscience.  It is about trying to nurture and access that in ourselves in our deepest darkest moments.  It is about trying to access that in each other across differences and conflict.  It is about asking ourselves why we are fighting:  What do we both need here...? What can we learn from this about the nature and challenges of being human...?   It is about finding out for posterity what future people who care could do differently to make a difference in similar circumstances.

This is the real recovery.  It is the work of social justice and human rights, not just healthcare.  It is about recovering our shared humanity, not just our individual health and well-being.

It is something we can all make a start at.  But it is also something that none of us can do alone.  We need each other.  We need support to do this work.  We need to support each other to start figuring out how each of us can do our part.

This kind of work is more of a hope than a promise.  It's takes real commitment and real courage - something akin to unilateral disarmament in a nuclear age.

We take the initial steps in good faith.  We try to develop the trust and confidence that will inspire others to follow suit along the way.   We hope against hope that what is good and kind and generous about humanity will ultimately prevail.  We dig into the dream and trust in the words of the prophetic Reverend King:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

We are recovering justice.  In Peerly Human terms, this means we are rcovering respect, dignity, fairness and belonging for all of us.  Not 'just us.'

Monday, October 31, 2016

What is Peerly Human?

Peerly Human reflects the search for a unifying, hope-based, practical approach to individual and social well-being. It seeks to understand and address the most difficult social and cultural challenges of our day. In the face of widespread demoralization, apathy, cynicism, othering, social exclusion, labeling, blaming and the difficult societal dynamics that perpetuate this, Peerly Human returns our focus to the common sense wisdom that inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights nearly seven decades ago:

  • Fundamentally, as human beings we are more alike than different. 
  • There are certain basic needs we all share as human beings. 
  • We all need the same basic things to live and be well.
  • Without things like safety, shelter, food, respect, dignity, fairness, the means to make a living and support a family, no one feels well.

When it comes to basic needs like these, the personal and social effects of fear and want are devastating.  Few of us manage to live well, do well or be well in the face of such challenges.

This is more than an individual problem. It affects all of us.  When individuals, families and communities can’t access what everyone needs to live and be well, our relationships with each other suffer. The urgency and desperation created by fear and want, bring out the worst in human nature. This is a recipe for reactivity, jealousy, self-protection and self-interest. 

 When this kind of deprivation persists, such attitudes and actions become routine and pervasive. They infest the entire social fabric. We lose confidence in each other and in the larger social structure of which we are a part.

You can see this dynamic being played out in communities and towns around the world. Here is an important case in point. Some of the most despised social groups of our time include 'the mentally ill', 'addicts', 'criminals' and 'the homeless.' Yet, across these same demographics, there is a single common denominator. Both Government and industry studies indicate that roughly ninety (90!) percent of those so labeled are survivors of adverse childhood experiences. As children, far too many of us were trying to grow up, cope and survive without reliable access to the basic things that everyone needs to live and be well. The outcomes - both short and long-term - speak for themselves.

Peerly Human acknowledges this important truth. We offer a simple, straightforward remedy. Instead of pathologizing, labeling, or condemning, we seek to understand how each of us got where we are. We look at the basic human needs and concerns that everyone has. We ask ourselves whether these things feel safe and secure now, whether they always have, and how that has affected our lives. We seek to transform the quality of our own lives - and to protect the life of the communities we live in. We do this by supporting each other to listen deeply, to learn from the wisdom of our own experience and to access the basic things that everyone, everywhere needs in order to live and be well.

We each do this in our own way and according to our own conscience. We seek to understand and respect both our own needs and those of others. We ask for what we need. We offer what we can. To the best our our ability, we participate in ensuring that everyone, everywhere can access the same important resources and opportunities we want for ourselves. In this way, we raise not only our own standard of living, we also to contribute to the quality of life for our families, communities and the world we live in.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Conflict Revolution: Getting Beyond Shutting Each Other Up and Shouting Each Other Down

My entire blog for this topic boils down to three lines:  

I'm not sure how to do this. 
But I think we need to.  
Who has ideas? 

To talk about this more...

Alternative Conversations

Join us for a free online series of conversations to explore and envision alternatives to the medical model and conventional mental health responses.

Monday 7-9 PM ESTConscience, Not Coercion - Respecting self-determination when needs conflict and discomfort rises.  

Tuesday 7-9 PM ESTFacing Life Instead of 'Treating' It - The high cost of psychiatry on our collective social development

Wednesday 7-9 PM ESTAdaptive vs. Broken Biology - How the human survival response explains away 'mental illness'

Thursday 7-9 PM ESTIn Our Deepest Darkest Hours - Why authentic relationship must become part of the solution

Friday 7-9 PM ESTConflict Revolution:  Getting beyond shutting each other up and shouting each other down

To join the call: 

By phone: (1)331-205-7196 (dial *67 for added privacy)
Toll-free if you need it: (1)855-661-1243

International: Local access numbers available at

For more about the sponsor:

In Our Deepest Darkest Hours ... How Relationships Drive Behavioral Health

What far too many of us learn in our deepest darkest hours – our times of greatest need – is that we truly are alone.  There really is no one there for us.  We learn that in the face of unbearable pain we are better off not asking for help.  We are better off trying to figure it out on our own.

It is not only that others can't fix the problem.  While that would be nice, for so many of us the social landscape gets far bleaker than this.  What we realize is that, in our known world of human beings, there is no one who sees the world the way we do.  Perhaps even more painful, there may be no one who seems to notice or even care why we have come to see the world the way that we do.

If you want to understand behavioral health - and what is going on with far too many people - this is a really important point to get.  The fact of the matter is that the four demographics that society loves to hate - 'mental illness', 'addictions', 'criminals' and 'the homeless' - all have one thing in common.  An estimated ninety (90!) percent of us are survivors of childhood traumas.

Here's some sources if you're having trouble believing that and want to check it out:

For much in life that is traumatic, relationships are a known protective factor.  Johanne Hari, The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think  But what if such protection is missing...? Even worse, what if human relationships are a big part of the part the problem - as seems to be the case for far too many of us...?

Diagnosis:  Widespread Relational Impoverishment

Here's how the relational impoverishment of modern society plays out to produce the 'behavioral health' movie the industry theatre currently is featuring:

Imagine being a kid - maybe you're a toddler, preschooler, grade school age or even a teen.  Something happens.  You feel bad.  You go to someone in your life for help.  But instead of making it better, they make it worse.  They laugh or make fun of you.  They ignore you or tell you they're too busy.  They get mad or irritated that you bothered them.  They jump into hyper-drive and fix things in ways that leave you out of your own life.  They miss the point, send you in the wrong direction, impose solutions you didn't want.  They cause more distress not less.  Maybe they actually hurt you or take away stuff you needed.  Maybe they expect you to be grateful when you actually feel even more miserable.

(Graphic adapted from Shery Mead
 Intentional Peer Support)
Essentially, you end up with two problems instead of one. You still have the problem you started out with.  But you also have the new, added and equally insoluble problem: Now, there's a relationship with an important person in your life that isn't working.

Maybe it is not with every life issue. Maybe it is not with every person.  But it happens enough of the time with enough people that you begin to draw this conclusion:  

When you go to human beings for help it gets worse instead of better. 

When human beings fail other human beings in times of great need, the options become very stark.  We cope on our own, with what we have.  We fight, flight, or freeze with whatever resources or personal strengths are at our disposal.  Many of us check out emotionally, and some of us never come back.  A lot of us use drugs or alcohol, sex, diversion, pleasure of any kind to distract or kill the unrelenting pain.

A lot of us conclude that life is all about – perhaps only about – looking out for #1.  After all, we’re actively teaching people that when you really need help, other human beings are basically worthless.  The option is to look out for number one – and hope you don’t get caught.  Here you can see the origins of what we call ‘psychopathy’ plain as day embedded in modern social relations as usual.

If you want a better model of behavioral health than psychiatry is giving us, think about what this means at different life stages:

If we're really little (infants, preschool, grade school) when this kind of thing starts to happen, we probably don't have much to work with. When feelings get intense and others don't help, the choices are pretty much fantasy, emotions or activity.   We withdraw into our own minds and develop our own worlds, losing touch with much that's happening around us.  We cry a lot, rage a lot or flip it over into a game where everything is funny.  We engage intensely, motor around, get wrapped up in our surroundings, or glued to favorite activities.

A lot of time this is the kind of stuff that gets labeled dissociative, ADHD or oppositional-defiant. A lot of it also goes unnoticed and just looks like regular living.  The important shift here, though, is in our relationships.  More and more, we're turning inward.  More and more, we're relying on stuff instead of people to make our world work.

Think about the impact of this if you're really young.   You barely know anything about life, yet there is no one you truly trust to ask about the life questions that trouble you the most.  Instead of having centuries of passed-down family and community knowledge to draw on, you're trying to figure it out on your own with the limited life experience and developing  brain of small child.  It's hardly surprising that a lot of us miss the social cues. We didn't 'get the memo' because we never knew to even look.

Now fast forward a few years and get to adolescence.  You're carrying around a lot of questions and pain that you've mostly been handling on your own.  If you're like a lot of us, the way you learned to cope set you apart from you're peer group.  So now you've got a decade of marginalization under your belt to compound the initial isolation.

Enter alcohol, drugs, sex, cars, money, mobility, freedom.  In effect, access to a whole new realm of potential 'pain-killers' has just opened up.  And with all that stuff going on inside, we're primed and ready to go.  Experience has taught us that there's no human relief in sight, so the moment the doors open we're off and running without a look back.  This is where a lot of us get labeled with conduct and substance use disorders.

(Graphic adapted from Shery Mead
 Intentional Peer Support)

This is also where a lot of us learn that the socially designated helpers make things worse rather than better.  All too often, these systems reinforce our views of human relationships as unresponsive, callous, burdensome. ineffective and out of touch with the reality of our minds and lives.  The policies and protocols of health and welfare offices all too often replicate the social dynamics that injured us in the first place.  It's not very long before we cross the provider industry off the list as well:

Even the 'expert' helpers can't, don't or won't help.  So much for expertise.  We're definitely on our own.

(Graphic adapted from Shery Mead
 Intentional Peer Support)

Fast forward again to early adulthood.  Now we're old enough to have enough freedom to really do some damage.  We've already been labeled and identified as outsiders.  We already respond and relate to the world in socially-denigrated 'outsider' ways.

As a consequence, we have little felt connection with - and therefore little loyalty to - the rest of humankind.  We may even have tried peer support and found it wanting.  For us, it may just have seemed like more of the same.

Suffice it to say, at this point, a lot of us have become thoroughly convinced that no one has your back when you really need it and human society is basically worthless.  It's a dog eat dog world.  So, if you're going to get what you need to survive, you'd better look out for number one.  

Some of us do that 'lawfully'.  Others of us don't.  Again, it's a matter of survival.

People Who Need People

If the problem is relational, then the solution is relational too.  Huge numbers of us feel disconnected and cut off from the rest of humanity.  We would give our eye teeth for a principled way back.  We don't know how to create it.  Moreover, we've been disappointed or betrayed so many times that we don't know whether to trust it if it's offered.

Nevertheless, in our heart of hearts, this is what a lot of us want.  (That is not to discredit those who have given up on society altogether and simply want to be left alone. This is a valid - even rational - perspective given what society has been offering and what so many of us have experienced.)

What does real help look like?

Real help starts dignity, respect, regard for our potential.  Real help treats us as members of a human family.   Real help acknowledges that we are where we are for good reason. Real [ractices what it preaches and offers what it hopes to receive.  Real help risks taking the first step, making the first move.  Real help honestly attempts to grapple with the harms the dominant culture has perpetrated.  It refuses to blame victims and works to repair the damage created.  Real help looks for ways to restore trust on both sides of the locks.  It levels playing fields, flattens hierarchies and corrects unbalanced privilege and power.  Real help not only opens up opportunities but actually cares that they are meaninful and accessible.

A lot of real help is free.  It's a matter of intention, not funding.  It's about attitudes and values and belief in people as people -- as opposed to goals, objectives and performance monitoring to measure, once again, if someone has met or failed the grade.

(Graphic adapted from Shery Mead
 Intentional Peer Support)

We have to start offering each other this kind of real help.  Our lives, literally, are the ones on the line, no one else's.  No one cares about these issues as much as we do. No one has as much to gain or lose as we do.

We have to start figuring out, together, how to make things better rather than worse in our darkest hours. The moment we do that - the moment we reliably are able to do that - the mental health system as we know it - will begin to end.

On some basic level I suspect the thing keeping the mental health system going is not the dominant culture, it's not Pharma, it's not the healthcare industry....

What keeps the mental health system going is that, by and large, our relationships with each other are still making things worse instead of better.  As human beings and a movement, we still need to figure out how to make our relationships work. And not just in the good times when we all agree. We have to learn how to do this when the stakes are really high and the going is really rough.  We have to learn how to make things better rather than worse when our needs conflict and everyone involved feels uncomfortable and scared.

Until then, we don't have a meaningful answer to what troubles a lot of our people and much of the world.

Once we have that, potentially, we have it all.

Want to talk about this more...?

Alternative Conversations

Join us for a free online series of conversations to explore and envision alternatives to the medical model and conventional mental health responses.

Monday 7-9 PM EST: Conscience, Not Coercion - Respecting self-determination when needs conflict and discomfort rises.

Tuesday 7-9 PM EST: Facing Life Instead of 'Treating' It - The high cost of psychiatry on our collective social development

Wednesday 7-9 PM EST: Adaptive vs. Broken Biology - How the human survival response explains away 'mental illness'

Thursday 7-9 PM EST: In Our Deepest Darkest Hours - Why authentic relationship must become part of the solution

Friday 7-9 PM EST: Conflict Revolution: Getting beyond shutting each other up and shouting each other down

To join the call:

By phone: (1)331-205-7196 (dial *67 for added privacy)

Toll-free if you need it: (1)855-661-1243

By internet:

International: Local access numbers available at

For more about the sponsor: