Sunday, October 1, 2017

Human Rights Competency #1-2: Appreciates My Inherent Dignity

For me, dignity is about being treated like I matter.  The other person recognizes that I have some needs and acts like they care whether these get met.

Dignity also implies that somehow, someway my existences is worth something.  Maybe not to the person I'm with.  Maybe I don't make their life better in any particular way. But at least they concede the possibility that I might make someone else's life better. Or that I might make something else on this planet better .  Or that even if I don't make anything better for anything or anyone, I (like everyone else who was born) have the same legitimate claim for being here.

As a case in point: 

Too often in healthcare settings, I get them impression that I'm just another problem to be managed.  It's like being one of the groundhogs in the Bill Murray movie.  What is important to the provider is keeping the golf course beautiful.  My life is just something inconvenient that keeps popping up in their way to getting that done.

Whether or not someone gets paid for their efforts, that is the hell of a way to see or treat other human beings.  Practically nothing could be less healthy. This is true both for the well being they are supposedly helping me with and for the well being of the relationship I have with them.

To feel well, live well and be well, I need to be seen by others as a someone of value and worth.
Perhaps that's not honest for you and you don't want to fake it.  That's fine, I'm not asking you to. 

Your other alternative is to take the time to have an honest conversation. 

How about you tell me:

  1.  What you need and value as a person, and 
  2. How you would like me to be there for you more in getting it.  

Either way, you are not entitled to treat me like I am yet another inconvenience.  And you are not entitled to demand that I guess your needs, get out of your way, or give you what you want upon demand.  

Dignity means you need to approach me with respect and ask me for what you need or want. And that is my obligation to you as well. 

Then we both have cards on the table.  Then we are both making an effort to engage.  Then we both get to decide what we want and are able to give.  And - most important to dignity - we both get to make a dignified choice about how to respond. 

Human Rights Competency #1-1: Treats Me Like Human Family

There no worse feeling for me than someone making a living off of me and treating me like I'm not worthy to take out their trash at the same time. Human rights are about the things that all of us need from each other in order to feel like we belong to the human race.

For myself, I like to think we both see each other as people.  I like to think we both care about each other's well being.  I like to think we both wish each other well and do what we can to help, consistent with our own needs. 

For you it may be something different.  We are all new at figuring this out and trying to live this way.  The important thing is that we listen and that we try.  That, for me, is what it means to be human family.  To the best of our ability in any given moment, we recognize each other's dignity and support each others rights.

Human Rights Competency #1: Creates Conditions of Well Being

You are seeing a healthcare provider because you feel unwell or someone else thinks you are. So here's the bottom line:

  1. Does your healthcare provider create conditions of wellbeing? 
  2. Do they offer you the basic courtesies of human relationship?
  3. Do you feel better instead of worse when you are in their presence?
  4. Do you feel better instead of worse when you leave? 
  5. Do they 'get' you as a person?
  6. Do they 'get' what your life is like every day and what you have to do to survive it? 
  7. Do they honor your time and energy by making sure the stuff they recommend really fits you and your vision for your life? 
  8. Are you feeling better rather than worse over time as a result of their presence in your life?
These are the questions I ask myself when I try to determine whether a relationship is good for me or not.  This applies to any human relationship I have, not just a healthcare one.  

If these basic needs aren't met for me when I'm with someone, I'm going to feel worse rather than better.  It's just that simple.  This is my bottom line.  

Maybe the things you need are different from me.  Maybe you have your own set of questions and concerns.  But the point remains the same.  

  1. We all see healthcare providers to feel better rather than worse.
  2. Healthcare providers hold themselves out as skilled in increasing wellbeing rather than destroying it.
  3. They may have an area of special skill that is quite useful and that is good and well.
  4. However:  Just because a provider is skilled at well being in one area doesn't give them the right to destroy our need for well being in other areas.  That is like a landscaper doing an amazing job on your lawn & then driving the backhoe through your kitchen.
  5. That isn't competent.
  6. That isn't healthcare.

Is Your Clinician Competent in Human Rights?

 We're going to talk about this for the next 21 hours.  You're getting all the slides here so you have them all in one place. 

These competencies apply to your clinician, but they were written for you.  They are here so tyou can take them into your healthcare appointments and have a frank chat about what it means to have inalienable personhood. 

Just because someone has a degree doesn't entitle them to disregard your human rights.  It's bad practice and bad manners. It's also bad for you and others to let it go unchallenged.

Every one of us has a nondelegable obligation under human rights to educate our healthcare providers to the fact that we are people first.  International standards, as well as common courtesy, apply everywhere.  Professional offices and government institutions are no exception.  In fact, by international standards, such places should be leading the effort - not the last to catch on!

Open Letter to Justin Trudeau - Ronda E. Richardson, Canada

Front page of letter
(text to left)
August 26, 2017

Dear Mr. Trudeau;

I’m not sure if you will ever read this and in that case it will be one more futile exercise in trying to make change for those still openly victimized in Canada and all with taxpayers money and government backing. I have considered leaving this country because I am ashamed of how we treat our most vulnerable. I know it still happens because it happened to me. I have a long story of getting trapped in our power heavy psychiatric system myself and it is too much to tell you here. Many of my friends have already died unheard, forgotten and right under our noses.

There would be a public outcry if we took a group of refugees and tied them to beds, injected them with tranquilizers, or locked them in prisons indefinitely against their will. All of us who seek psychiatric treatment are seeking refuge from trauma and fear but many are finding the opposite of comfort and protection. Those oppressed know the repercussions of speaking out with a psychiatric diagnosis and a mental health act requiring no more than a little future foretelling to let those in power take away your human rights. I am beginning to present internationally not having found acceptance for this painful truth within my own province. I am hoping that when I am respected and no longer simply a patient to those here in Canada that I can bring my story home and start to make change for my friends who still suffer silently.

My U.S. friends talk about how they escaped and it usually involves running out of insurance. I feel envious in many ways because in psychiatry in Canada, even if the doctor is mistaken or heavy handed, you can be treated to death. There is no recourse for our suffering. The child psychiatrist who injured me is well respected, well protected and has been well compensated while I struggle in every part of my life with flashbacks of forced treatment including electroshock. He is wrongly untouchable and I will forever pay the price for his crimes while he lives a life free of want.

Those most at risk for abuse are also those least believed in our culture. I know these victims are telling the truth in a horror so great it defies logic, because I lived it too. I am no longer on medication and my life is beginning to come back together in ways I stopped allowing myself to imagine. The very least I can do, from my new position of international backing, is speak up for those around me too in danger to have a voice. I have nothing left to lose and forced treatment of me now would result in an international media storm and perhaps the very public outcry we need to make real change for those still alone in this very real struggle.

Please hear me. This is urgent. I’ve tried multiple avenues and feel stuck in place. I was told by a politician that any change would take years, but my friends are dying now. The medication side effects alone are gruesomely disfiguring. The pain of knowing you don’t have the same human rights as those without diagnosis is paralyzing. My friends have been committing suicide, not because of illness, but because it is the only way they can see a way out of this situation. When they ask for help they are going unheard by those with the power. “It is an acceptable risk” are the words I was told, but is it really? Would you choose this purgatory Justin if you were in our position? Asking you to choose is redundant. We don’t get a choice. There is no right that cannot be revoked except for the right for my lawyer to access me. This is a cruel cruel clause. How many in lock-down can afford a good lawyer? There has to be a better way.

Those with lived experience of forced treatment need to be included equally in the making and revising of the mental health act. Maybe it is time for the government to step in and police psychiatry for a while whether or not they like it. Just because they have the money does not make psychiatrists deserving of greater protection. If you need proof secretly put cameras on the locked units and the doctor’s offices and just watch it unfold. Please help us.

Eugenics is the horror resulting from this power imbalance in psychiatry and it isn’t the past yet. It is still happening just in a more covert and silencing way. We are putting money into earlier diagnosis and treatment without considering that if you are started on a medication at 10 by 16 you have all the disfigurement of long-term use. Our government is investing in genocide. We are losing the most gifted, the most unique perspectives, and the revolutionaries to treatment. We need these voices most of all.

I’m begging you to take action even if by just listening to our stories. I don’t know who else to speak to. Please. Please. You look kind in your photos. We need your help desperately.

Ronda E. Richardson