Building a better mental health system… On the bricks we build with with

This post builds on a previous post that talked about an outline for mental health reform. It looks at the prospects for a new and better mental health system by looking at foundational principles. The worth of any structure is based on its foundation. What are the bricks we should build with? How would a system based on these principles be different than what we have now? What would it do? What would it look like?

These are the principles I think are important . These are the bricks I think we should build on:

The system should…..

1. Start with the confirmation of the worth and value of the people it serves. This is not something anyone has to prove or something anyone can assess. The message “you matter” should be treated by the system as a self evident truth that informs and provides direction to everything they do.

2. Protection The system should proactively and aggressive protect the people it serves from any policy, idea, or services which would diminish them, their rights, or their standing as less than human, as somehow deficient. Nothing in the system should in anyway define someone it serves as less than human or lacking in fundamental human qualities.

3. The system should be realistic and person centered . It should know that no one can be understood apart from the context of his life. People should not be fit into the system. The system should be fit to them.

4. Promote justice . The system should promote real justice in the lives of the people it serves. It should address the ways that people are chronically marginalized in their daily lives.

5. Recognize and promote hope. People build better lives. It is not an accident or an aberration. Any knowledge, any experience, any tools that help people to find better life is the most important resource the system has to offer. Sometimes the best resource is people who have been there and found a way to build for themselves a better life.

6. Honesty . No one trusts or emotionally buys into things they don’t believe are honest. Does the system tell you the truth, both positives and negatives about the treatment it recommends. Does it consistently or chronically make claims that upon examination turn out to be false? Is the system based on a commitment to those things that actually help people or its primary commitment the maintenance of the programs within it? Is it about helping people or maintaining the status and territory of those that claim to help regardless of the real value of what they do?

7. Fair. Does the system fight any effort to make the people it serves the target of discrimination and prejudice including things that may be found in the system itself? Is it actively against stigma in all forms and occurrences?

8. Empowerment . Does the system empower people to take control of their own lives? Does it promote independence or prolonged dependency?

Realistic/person centered
Recognize hope

To get a better idea of the importance of these principles take any services, any programs that you have direct knowledge and rank them 1-10 on each of these principles. 1 being this principle is not part of this service. 10 being this principle is an integral and foundational part of this service.

When you talk to your representatives talk to them about specific provisions of the bill you either like or don’t like but also talk about the kind of system you want, the foundation you would like laid.

Tell them it is time for a difference that makes a difference.


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