I get wrapped up in big ideas. And big ideas are important – the overall picture is important and helps us to understand the everyday and the connections between different issues and events. But I’m interested in the idea of how we can be effective in making change too. So I consider the question – does focusing too much on the big picture get in the way of making any change at all? How accessible is it to only talk about the big picture? Are the wider ideas helpful in getting people who aren’t already interested in mental health advocacy involved at first? Essentially – how can we actually start to make change and reach more people?
The small steps are important. So too is every single voice raised, however it may be. I am reasonably good at writing and giving talks/ workshops. I also love theatre and am passionate about the arts, something I hope to marry more with my advocacy going forwards. I am not particularly good in a protest situation. I can get very overstimulated. I’m not good at phone calls. I’m not good at prolonged in person social interactions. There are many things I’m not very good at, and though I can still lend my skills to different situations, it may not be at the frontline or in the way you might expect. My power lies in recognising that – and so does yours. You do not have to come up with an innovative idea or put your life on the line to make a difference in this world. If you can do that, wonderful! But never underestimate the unique skills and voice that you bring to the table.
So back to the matter at hand – small actions. Very important to have the wider context. But small actions built up are what really make a difference, right? Maybe! Ok, so where do we start? Ah – well there’s a problem now, because I don’t know. No one knows.
Is the long waiting lists the place to start? Or perhaps the funding? But then can you ever really fund a broken system? I would say no. No, we cannot just fund a broken system. But I’ve also been in rooms in CAHMS and the adult mental health service where it smells weird, the paint is peeling, and the lights don’t work. So maybe we do need to bring the basic infrastructure up to a reasonable level of functioning as is before we can start reforming and introducing new ideas/ scaling back ideas that aren’t working?
I personally would love to see an end to the carceral, cruel way the system is. But I also know most people are unaware of the true nature of the issues with the system, unable to imagine a world without it, and that the world runs on profit. So I wonder if by focusing on the immediate abolition of the psychiatric complex this part of mental health advocacy shuts people out? I don’t know! I’m not saying that I know the answer, but I think it’s important to keep asking the questions. Maybe we need to see it in steps. Steps that may eventually lead to a very different system (or even the abolition of psychiatry), but that in the meantime are still seeing improvements. And I know that improvement isn’t enough, but it is something. It’s a step on the way to freedom.
But then here we are again at the question of where to start. Mental health is interconnected with all other social issues. So we could even argue that the first step would be ignoring mental health altogether and solely focusing on, say, housing security. But can we really do that without including mental health provisions? Probably not. So we need all these different voices and people working together on different issues! Ok, so awareness is the first step? But awareness that doesn’t just perpetuate the same easy to swallow narrative of mental health; awareness that acknowledges the need for system change and societal change too. Although, even that awareness sounds complicated so we’re gonna have to start with easier awareness to get people on board, right?
Ok so, maybe awareness alongside something else. Fighting for funding? For changing the laws on sectioning? Both? Maybe… fighting to have a nationwide, government wide, deep conversation about what steps need to be taken. Fighting to be heard by the people with the direct power to start making those changes, so we can make a plan with them. Maybe? Or is that even too tall an order?
See, I prescribe to honest activism here at Our Happy Notes. I have chosen to share my journey with you in changemaking, and for me that means also sharing my thought processes about changemaking sometimes. This is something I am currently taking time to research, to read on, and to hear other people’s ideas on – to try and ascertain where actually might be a feasible starting place, and if that’s even a good idea. I’m not at a point in researching and discussing where I am able to come up with an idea that I can articulate and share or point people towards. But I wanted to share a bit of this process anyways, because I think at the moment I do believe all change starts with a simple conversation; connection.
So what do you think? Do you think there is one specific demand or issue that needs to be in mental health advocacy to set the ball rolling? Do you have something in particular that you think needs to be looked at? Please let me know!
And also… how can you use your voice? That’s a question for you to consider. It’s ok if the answer right now is that you can’t.
Sending all my love and support to you all today xxxx