2016 NAMI-New York State Conference

The news is that I’m going to be a guest speaker at the NAMI-New York State Educational Conference on September 12, 2016.

I will be giving the talk from 5:40 to 6:40 p.m. on the topic of employment. Specifically I will be talking about how I work with peers and others to coach them on writing a resume and choosing a career.

This is exciting if I do say so myself because the theme of the 2016 educational conference is employment. I will talk as well about disclosure on the job and requesting a reasonable accommodation on the job under the ADA Act–the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I will limit my talk to 10 to 15 minutes and then take and answer questions.

The info about this will also be posted in the author appearances section of my website. You can click on that link for more news.

Starting in mid-October I will count down the weeks to the educational conference by blogging about what I’m going to be talking about in my presentation.

What I’d like to blog here about is tips for job seekers and advice for HR professionals–human resources staff at companies.

Stay tuned.

Sowing and Reaping Healing

Dr. Wesley Sowers led a talk at the educational conference on person-centered treatment.

He viewed health as the capacity to engage in living and having a sense of well being that encompasses the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual.

Dr. Sowers talked about how healing occurs via relationships that guide us across the bridge from illness to health.

In Left of the Dial I credited the support of my family and my private treatment team with enabling me to recover.

One person in that time was instrumental: S.–the art therapist who took us for long walks around the grounds continuing into the early winter.

I’m an artist and doing art therapy was the only thing I liked about my involvement in the mental health system.

S. wore a cowrie-shell necklace and I admired her fashion sense. She was an artist too. Her bold signature mirrored her active approach to life.

The focus traditionally and even today has been on treating illness not on how to stay healthy so that illness doesn’t strike.

Thus I respect Caroline Myss the medical intuitive who wrote the book Archetypes that I talked about in the Left of the Dial blog forum. Expressing who we are through animating our archetypes is a way to heal and to achieve optimal physical, emotional, social, and intellectual health.

Hope is a guidepost. We can ask ourselves: “What do I want to recover?” or we can ask if we want to start fresh on a new version of life.

In 1997 when I was 32 I choose to start fresh and go back to school for a Masters in Library and Information Science 10 years after I was diagnosed. This event took place five years after the second hospital stay that I documented in my memoir.

That was how I started to heal: through education. I followed through with my goal of going back to school even though I was unemployed.

I’ll be the first to echo Dr. Sowers and his focus on how forming positive relationships helps us to heal and to recover.

My contention is that we each of need to reach out even though it might be hard. And that our loved ones should do everything humanly possible to try to reach us when we’re not at that point.

One day a light bulb will go off in our heads. It might not be right after a loved one tries to reach us. It could be five months later or a year later that the light bulb goes on.

I say: sisters brothers mothers fathers wives husbands–whoever you are in our lives even if you’re a treatment provider–always keep trying to reach us and always support us no matter where we are in our recovery.

In coming blog entries I’m going to talk about what I think could help people living in recovery more than anything. It’s what was missing in my early involvement in the failed mental health system.

Today is here and we can shift the needle to get our needs met.

Sowing and reaping healing is possible with individualized treatment, therapy and practical career and housing counseling, and medication for those of us who need it.

It’s a great time to be alive living in recovery.

For Mothers and Fathers

A person at the Ask the Doctor session received thunderous applause after his outcry that the opposing camps in the AOT debate haven’t been able to reconcile our differences. Assisted outpatient treatment or AOT is an evidence-based practice for schizophrenia.

In analyzing the details I disagree with what the guy said for one specific reason: people who view AOT as coercive have to date offered no reasonable alternative. The fact too is that not every individual who receives AOT takes medication.

I’m in the camp that aligns with family members of loved ones who have anosognosia–that is, the lack of awareness that you have an illness.

Dr. Xavier Amador, PhD created the LEAP Institute to give family members tools to help their loved ones get and stay in treatment. On page 45 of his book I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help (get the current 2010 edition) he lists over 10 research studies that link anosognosia to frontal lobe lesions in the brain.

“Consumers” think anosognosia doesn’t exist and this is one way I differ from them. I’m Dr. Amador’s number-one fan. He created the LEAP technique for family members to use with loved ones. The LEAP technique is not coercive. It can work where other methods might fail.

I’m confident that Dr. Amador is right when he states that a psychiatrist should first of all determine if their patients exhibit anosognosia so that the doctor can promptly use the LEAP technique to treat the patient.

If you’re against AOT, what kind of treatment do you propose? The LEAP technique is an approach that I think is a great option.

Since 2002, in all my years as a mental health activist, no one has proposed a viable evidence-based alternative to AOT. Trust me: I’ve heard the alternatives: taking a person who is psychotic into a room and talking to them quietly. Another option a mother proposed was “to allow the progression of the disease.”

I kid you not a mother proposed allowing the progression of the disease.

As a person with a diagnosis: I gave up my “right” not to take medication when it became clear I needed to take medication. I didn’t want to “die with my rights on.” As a citizen of the world, I have the duty to uphold the social covenant with other people in society: to be a responsible citizen.

Easily eight or nine years ago at HealthCentral I wrote: “I would rather be dead than psychotic.”

I don’t agree with the idea that “medication is a choice.” I’d rather not take medication yet I have no choice. That’s the bottom line: for a lot of people we’ve chosen to take medication because the alternative is no option.

I will go to my grave championing the right of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia bipolar and other mental illnesses to have a full and robust life.

Having life-long paranoia and delusions is not an option I champion when taking medication can allow someone to live symptom-free or have minimally intrusive symptoms.

Seeing a loved one doomed to be actively psychotic the rest of their lives is NOT something I champion either.

I understand that others like the guy at the conference think AOT is coercive. Yet I’m adamant that the alternative: life-long psychosis: is not something I can get behind.

Mothers and fathers: I’m on your side. I’m the family member of a loved one with a severe illness. Forced treatment might just have saved his life.


I’m compelled to publish this last blog entry today before I go online shopping. I offer it as a disclaimer because in the coming days I’m going to report on what I learned at the NAMI-New York State educational conference.

My high school art teacher taught us the concept of “unity with diversity” in composition.

Michelle T. Johnson, the author of The Diversity Code, tells us that the ideal is the goal of “viewing diversity as the highest form of honoring individualism.”

I want to talk about this as I head into talking about what I learned at the educational conference.

Anyone who reads this blog will realize I have strong views. Yet what I believe is not any more valid than what another person thinks. More so, I’m not going to use my belief to justify discrimination.

I strive to treat everyone with dignity in the same open compassionate way. This to me is what’s missing from dialogue that often devolves into flame-throwing.

Johnson talks about the peril of how a person will counter another person’s belief with their own opinion as if their belief is valid and the original comment is not.

The cross of this matter is that no one is willing to work to find common ground, so that attacking your opposition has become the norm.

The beauty of living in America is that each of us can freely express ourselves. Fear of reprisal shouldn’t stop us from speaking out.

I listen to people, and I understand them. We’re all in this together. It’s precisely because I remember the past that I understand where consumers are coming from in what they say.

Yet I’ve always been more hopeful. Still it’s not “my way or the highway.” Not at all. I welcome unity with diversity. Queen Latifah sang a song “U-N-I-T-Y” in the 1990s. Remember that?

Like I said my new focus in this blog will be on right here right now. My contention is that we each of us need to move forward into the future, not remain stuck on crucifying the psychiatry of the past.

Today is right here right now the day to shift the needle.

I respect that leaders in the field and ordinary peers are evolving the dialogue at the NAMI-New York State educational conference.

The love is palpable there because we are all NAMI-New York State family. And family sticks together.

I just wanted to say this before I present my views of what I learned.

Right Here Right Now

An attendee stated that in Australia 85 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia recover.

That country also if memory serves was where Mental Health First Aid was first created and used by the public to help identify people with emotional illnesses and try to help them right away. This did make a difference.

Easily five years ago at HealthCentral I wrote in detail about Mental Health First Aid. This is nothing new. People can get trained in this service in the U.S. too.

I’m not a parrot in a suit. More likely I’m not “crowing” about how only 15 percent of the people with schizophrenia in the U.S. recover. Those so-called experts who regurgitate this myth pick and choose the research that proves their point. Long-term studies have indicated that upwards of 60 to 75 percent of individuals recover.

The topic of the educational conference was “Redefining Recovery.” It’s time right here right now to “act as if” a person can recover instead of perpetuating the myth that no one can recover.

In this way I stand out in my contention that giving people in recovery dignity is where it’s at.

I urge mothers and fathers to get a pen and paper and try to write down at least 20 things that are positive about your son or daughter. Sometimes getting out of bed is a victory–and this was talked about at HealthCentral easily five or six years ago too.

I was in the vanguard in what I wrote and talked about at HealthCentral. I will continue in this vein here because I believe in my vision that people can recover.

Continuing to think that recovery is one-size-fits-all is a mistake. Continuing to think that no one can recover is a mistake. Continuing to judge others as not having recovered because their recovery doesn’t look like mine or yours or another person’s is a mistake.

I’m confident when I tell you that what I valued at the educational conference was the takeaway that there is hope and healing for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia bipolar and other mental illnesses.

Today recovery is not a distant dream. For more people than ever if we get individualized treatment immediately we can and do recover.

Recovery then not only is possible it becomes probable.

The naysayers have a lot invested in maintaining the status quo because that is what they base their “expert” status on.

I’d rather not be considered an expert in this regard. I consider myself to be a peer who is a mental health activist because I champion recovery for everyone and I think recovery is possible.

This is The Way I See It. And you can put this on a Starbucks cup: recovery is possible.

Right Aid

The educational Chair told everyone at the lunch on Friday: “Accept recovery for what it is. If your loved one has a part-time job that’s their recovery. Another person might have a different recovery.”

Our mothers and fathers too are in recovery from the shock of having kids that developed a mental illness.

Whatever we’re in recovery from–everyone has in common that we’re in recovery from something.

The educational Chair picked up on what I’ve long been saying in this blog: all hail the cashiers in Rite Aid.

This is not inconsistent. Setting your sights higher can often be shifting the needle to the left of the dial by getting a job in Rite Aid. So for that person it’s an achievement in recovery to be a cashier. For another person recovery is defined as CEO.

What I find unhelpful is all the judging that goes on in society. I find it unconscionable that the bar hasn’t been set or that it’s set too high for what constitutes “recovery.”

“Experts agree that 15 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia recover” is not something I’m willing to parrot. I don’t think it’s true. We need more optimists like the educational Chair who speak the truth to the power of the entrenched naysayers.

Telling people they won’t recover is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Acting as if people can recover will encourage them to think they can recover.

I know which side I’m on:

The side of redefining recovery.

Redefining Recovery

Where: Albany

When: November 13-15, 2015

What: NAMI-New York State Educational Conference

Who: Beautiful people.

How: Car, bus, train.

I’m going to write about the conference in the blog in the coming days and weeks.

First I want to give a disclaimer:

I talk now as a family member of a loved one with a severe illness. Thus I’m biased towards achieving functional outcomes as a determinant of quality of life. This is how I differ from “consumers” in the so-called recovery movement.

I’ve seen how individuals are unable to function without getting the right treatment. For a lot of us to function treatment must be comprised of medication and therapy.

I respect that other people have different beliefs. I’m able to listen to them and understand them without attacking them. Although I usually get attacked even when I do this.

Yes: I align with the mothers and fathers of adult kids with chronic schizophrenia. I align with family members even though I recovered past tense and their kids have not yet recovered.

My life got better after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia; and yet I don’t side with “consumers.” I align myself with family members. You got that right. I’m not a fan of the “let it all hang out, don’t take your meds, and be psychotic” approach that advocates advise clients to adopt.

I’m also biased because I’ve been in remission over 23 years. And being in remission certainly makes it easier for you to live your life without the rampant hell of revolving in and out of hospitals every year for decades.

You see where I stand.

The topic of the educational conference was “Redefining Recovery.”

It’s a topic I’m passionate about so stay tuned tomorrow and in the coming days for reportage on the conference.

Redefining recovery: all I’m for it.