It is a bit unnerving to write this. What follows basically proposes a new paradigm for psychosocial well-being. It takes current understandings of behavioral health, and turns them on their head. It suggests that there is a simple, straight-forward, elegant way of making sense of major social issues like ‘mental illness’, ‘addiction’, ‘violence’, and ‘crime.’ It also points to clear, understandable, practical strategies for addressing these issues on individual, social and cultural levels.
As a person who has been labelled mentally ill – as well as someone who has worked in the field – I am well-aware of the implications. Any non-expert who makes such claims in modern times will at the very least be labeled ‘grandiose.’ On short order, a lot of us can expect to be on a back ward some where getting shot up with the latest rendition of bipolar meds.
At the same time, the results for me of this shift in perspective have been revolutionary. I have had 8 official diagnoses and about that many ‘rule outs.’ I have tried over 20 meds, and countless alternative treatments. However, it wasn’t until I put a few simple facts together about myself, human physiology and normal psychosocial functioning, that I was able to make sense of what was happening for me and to effectively do something about it. What I have works for me. I suspect it can work for at least some others, possibly a lot of others.
In sum, this is the manual I would have wanted for me, if I had known what I know now at age 16 when I first entered the mental health system. It explains what I’m up against and what I have to work with. It is straight forward, plain language and practical. I can – and do – use it on a day to day basis to make sense of my experience and decide how to respond. Better yet, it doesn’t require me to think of myself – or my reactions – as ill, disordered or inappropriate. To the contrary, it helps me to find the hidden strength, value, and wisdom in personal idiosyncracies that conventional approaches tend to marginalize.
If this manual helps you reflect on your own experience – and perhaps develop something that works even better for you – then it has served an important purpose. Hopefully it will do other things as well:
- Help family members understand and effectively relate to each other across very different viewpoints and realities
- Help clinicians appreciate the value of the people and experiences they are currently labeling ‘mentally ill’, ‘disordered’, ‘antisocial’ or ‘psychotic.’
- Help professional organizations advocate for the internal and systemic changes required to effectively assist the vulnerable citizens they claim to serve.
- Help politicians credibly articulate the changes in policy and resource allocation that are needed to meaningfully create and maintain public health that will benefit those at all levels of society
- Help the general public understand why such changes are needed, how they can be achieved and the concrete benefits they can expect from their efforts.
Obviously, that’s a tall order. So let’s get started.