On surviving yourself: the challenge of advocacy

September 3, 2015 by

I listened recently to a conversation between two people who have played a significant historical role in the peer/human rights movement (I apologize if that is a politically incorrect term). Both have been involved for many years at a national and state level. They talked about being burnt out, but more than that sad and maybe a little bit disillusioned. They thought the movement that meant so much to them was dying. It wasn’t being killed by psychiatry or by any other adversarial forces. They were no longer convinced that we could survive each other.

Since the 60’s I have watched more than one group, more than one movement either collapse or simply evolve into impotency and irrelevance. The culprit is normally the same. They split, they evolve different denominations, and find the people they are in the most passionate battle with is the same as those who at one time seemed to want the same thing they do. To one degree or another advocacy becomes cannibalistic. We eat our own.

Is that going on now? I don’t know. Several weeks ago I wrote a post about what I saw as a progressively negative and attacking stance that many people who identify with this movement were taking towards others. There seemed to be a rising battle and demand for orthodoxy and coming from people who were about human rights and freedom that seemed to be very disturbing.

Perhaps I was wrong. The reaction I have gotten since then from most people was that I was not. More than one person told me they had to be careful about public statements for fear of attack from those who disagreed with them. One person wrote: “It is not just that they attack what I say. That is okay. They attack who I am. They question my motives, my honesty and my integrity. And that is not okay.”

One person told me that a certain Facebook group was not on safe. I asked her what she meant. “I told them treatment had helped me. They told me I was delusional.”

There is a point where people who argue and attack each other with gusto and passion become unable to argue for anything. Everything becomes about victory. Nothing is about change.

I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I am concerned. And I wonder if you are too?

When people talk to me privately the words they often use are “it’s become so mean… So intolerant.”

Everything I have been told by people I trust and believe have more access to information that I ever had tells me the Murphy Bill is not going to happen this year. It is late in the year, much needs to be done to even reach resolution on any proposal and the legislative process (as all of us have noticed) is not exactly effective or conclusive. Not much really happens. And with the presidential campaign and the possibility of some trying to shut down the government to prove a point about Planned Parenthood focus on anything may be in short supply.

All that may be totally wrong. Events may change everything and it is certain Tim Murphy is not going to give up because the time is running late.


I have also been told that it will be much harder to stop this next year. Leadership in the Senate may get behind some proposal and as long as it doesn’t give one presidential candidate some kind of political advantage it may be hard to stop. Perhaps the presidential campaign may buy us another year. It is all guesses from where I sit.

But what will we do? Will we be an effective voice? Will we get so caught up in the battles that we forget the war? I don’t claim to know the answers to any of this. I am concerned and I believe there is reason to be concerned. And if I am wrong I am relieved.

A final word from another friend: “The biggest problem with the Torrey people is that they think there is only one story…. Their story. And they are so wrong. This is not just about one thing…. One truth. I fear that many on our side believe the same thing. There is only one story and it is theirs. The truth of your story need not threaten the validity of mine. Treatment can work for you but it does not mean it was not a harmful poisonous thing for me. And I wonder if we do not welcome all truths if in the end we have any. ”

If this all seems a silly concern to you I encourage you to ignore everything I have said. If this seems an attack to you it is not intended to be that way and should you decide to come hunting for my head please be a little gentle. But in the end I don’t think my head solves any of your problems. If you are worried too know that your concerns are shared. I don’t know the answer. But maybe part of the answer is first asking the question. Perhaps that is a good place to start.

On the gap and other stuff about Insure Tennessee

September 3, 2015 by

Love vs Fear: the battle to Insure Tennessee

September 2, 2015 by


Advocacy in the end is a contest between love and fear. Fear is the you better do it or else. Fear is the consequences of not doing this is something you don’t want to even consider. Fear is we expect your loyalty and disloyalty will result in you being punished. Fear is we will be very angry at you if you say no and our anger is bad and terrible and you will regret it if you don’t. Fear is suspicion and attack.

Fear kept Insure Tennessee from being implemented this past year and unchallenged threatens to do the same this year.

Senator Ron Ramsey, the most powerful person in the state (and the real governor) made it really clear recently. Insure Tennessee had 0% chance of being passed this next year because he said it did. Someone could “bring it up if they wanted…” The implication was clear for Republicans though… Don’t. “A Democrat could bring it up if they wanted.”

Fear has operated on several levels and like fear always needs little proof, little fact to have leverage over feelings and actions.

Fear the proposal. “It will destroy our economy…. It will give Obama a victory…. It is a Democratic thing…. We won’t be able to get out of it….. It is taking money out of our pocket…. And on and on.

Fear the people making the proposal. ” This is really not about Governor Haslam. This is about the desire of the federal government to control Tennessee.”

Fear the reason for the proposal. “Hospitals are making money hand over foot and those that have problems just need to manage their business better. The people without insurance could just get a job like the rest of us. The sob stories are just sob stories. They always have a hand out. ”

Fear the consequences of the proposal. “It will financially ruin us. It makes a bigger problem than it solves. This just allows Obamacare a bigger foothold in Tennessee.”

Fear disloyalty. Their is a good chance that you will face a challenge in your next election. You do not want to make the leadership mad at you. This is your future on this line and if you let us down we will not forget.

Love is this is too good, makes too much sense, and is so needed we need to do this. Love is that I buy into the purpose and vision of what you are trying to do. Love is this is about a better Tennessee. Love is this issue is not reducible to partisan politics. Love is I am committed to doing this, not because of what that commitment will bring me, but because it is the right thing to do.

Love is what I care about is more important that what I am afraid about.

Insure Tennessee on every factual level is a no brainer. On the heart level it is a battle between fear and love. And sometimes fear wins out. It has so far.

Unless the advocates for Insure Tennessee find a way to address the issue of fear I fear they will lose. Ron Ramsey does not lose often or about many important things. Perhaps for some people education is what is needed but what I really wished I knew how to say to Republican legislators was “fear not.” Face the fear…. Ignore the fear… Do what you can… But don’t let fear define the issue for you. This is not about what happens to you. It is not about anything but 280,000 people and if they win everyone wins.

The petition above started about 8 hours ago. Please sign and pass it on to others. If you could get 3 to sign who could get 3 to sign who could get 3 to sign… Well you get the point. The numbers would be astronomical.

The message of the petition is simple. It is the message of this post. Act not for fear of what it means for you but out of commitment and concern for what it means to your fellow citizens.

It is long past time to Insure Tennessee. Please sign the petition and pass it on.

Light one candle

September 1, 2015 by

“Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice justice and freedom demand….. ”

Today the” counting the costs tour” came to Knoxville. The tour is at least in part an effort to put a human face to tragedy. Over 280,000 people in Tennessee remain without insurance because of their refusal to pass Governor Haslam’s proposal to Insure Tennessee. The tour is about telling the stories, counting the costs for what it means for communities and getting people to realize it is about them….. It is about me.. It is about you. All of us are touched. There are no free passes.

It started a dark day for me. I read Senator Ramsay’s remarks that there was 0% chance of Insure making it through the legislature this year. It is a presidential election year and they want to see if a Republican president will give them a “better deal.” He has never explained what a better deal than free to the state is and I don’t think can.

Fear is a problem. Overwhelmingly I hear from people that Republican legislators are afraid of retribution, of primary challenges, of the Tea Party, of the Koch brothers. I have thought about it a lot and the only message I know to send is fear not. It sounds stupid I think. But I listened to the song above and how it talked about lighting one candle and that was all any of us could do. But it was important to light the candle.

I know fear and know it well. It is my every day companion. I fear much in my life. It crushes me to hear Sen Ramsey talk so confidently about Insure Tennessee not having any chance.

Light one candle. Fear not. Spread the word. It is time to Insure Tennessee. So long, so far past time.

The petition below asks you to spread the word to the Republican members of the legislature. I hope you will sign and spread it to as many people as you can.



Why try….

September 1, 2015 by

A friend asked the simplest question..  Why try?

Life was not okay for him and hadn’t been for a long time. When I listened to him I agreed with a lot of what he said.   He was probably not going to get any less poor.   The health problems probably weren’t going to get much  better.   A thousand problems of daily living were going to stay a thousand problems of daily living.   He had been victimized and hurt more than once.    He said people found him too hard to be around and there was really no one he could count on to be there for him.   Believing in something seemed wishful thinking  to him.   He wanted to hang on… He just wanted to  know…. Why try?????

He said he knew things had been hard for me for a long time.   He thought at times I struggled too.   He thought at times I  didn’t know either.

And the honest truth was he was right.

I don’t know if I  had any great or wise answer.   Probably not.   But I don’t know that was what he was looking for and don’t even know there is a  great or wise answer.

Here is what I said :

I would be lying to you if I told you I  had the one true answer about why you should try.   I don’t.   I have asked myself the same question many many times.   Sometimes life is hard.   Sometimes it seems like it is  always hard.   And sometimes it doesn’t seem like much I do matters.

I  try not because I should although I  believe I should.   I try not because it always makes a difference although sometimes it does.   I  try not because I learn and my efforts get smarter and better although I hope they do.   I try not because I am stronger or better than you. I  am not  and with all I know I know that tomorrow or the next day or the next hour I will not feel like trying and I will wonder too.

I  try  because I can…. Sometimes not as well as I would like… Sometimes not as hard as I would like… But I try because I can.

Sometimes it is the only victory available.   I  often can’t make things different.   But I don’t want them to make me  different.   Sometimes the only thing I can control or effect is who I am.   I don’t always want that freedom.   Sometimes it  screams back at me and says it is a lie.  “It doesn’t matter if you try or not.”

It does because I matter.   It does because you matter.   It does because we all matter.

I  hope this makes a little sense.   I pray you will find some easier days.  Sometimes we just get tired and you sound so tired to me.

Thanks for reaching out.   It  will make this an easier day for me.



August 31, 2015 by

No person is the diagnosis that tries to explain him. It is neither identity or destiny.

No diagnosis is ever true in the same sense that no map is ever the place it tells you how to get to.   At best,  they are either useful or not. Many are not. They may or may not tell you something about yourself but even if they do you are more, much more than what is told. Your life is not a symptom of what you have but a journey to what you would like to become. There may be many things difficult and overwhelming. There are for me. At times you may not do as well as you would like or hope. Life is hard because life is hard, not because it is a disease.

The assumption made by those who diagnose is that everything that has the same name is the same and because they are the same there is an underlying brain pathology shared by everyone with that name. There is no reason I know to believe that behavioral checklists have neurological correlates. That is a matter of faith and not of science.

For me I believe my life is more like the weather than like a chair or a table or something you put in a box and label. It is fluid with many factors intersecting that make things more or less likely to happen. The difference is I can’t do anything about the weather. My choices, my values, my goals, my aspirations, the people I love and care for and those who do the same for me all make a difference.

The poem below was something I wrote a long time ago but it still expresses how I feel.

You are not the things

You are called

No matter how frequently

you are called them,

Or who calls 

Or why they call.

You are not the things

you are like

regardless of how much

you are like them.

You are not

the things that measure you,

that place you

or limit you.

You are not

what you have,

how you look,

or how you feel.

You may be many things,

But no thing is all you are.

You are a gift

in a world needing gifts,

an opportunity,

a miracle,

in a world that often believes in neither.

You can care and be cared for,

Touch and be touched,

Laugh and cry,

Live and live for.

You can be alone  or be with,

be brave or be scared.

Nothing is closed,

but nothing is free.

Close not your eyes

And reach to be all you can be.


August 30, 2015 by

Has anyone celebrated you today?   Has anyone celebrated you being in there lives,  you being in particular situations with them,  just you being alive?

How about you?  Have you celebrated anyone?   Who have you told how grateful and excited you are that they are in your life,  that they are with you,  that they are alive?

The answer for most of us for most of the time is nobody.   Somebody once told me: “No one has ever been glad I am there.   No one… I do not remember a single time that I genuinely felt like me being there made it a better day for someone else.”  She went on: “Life is not the hardest thing.   Living alone is the hardest thing.  Particularly living alone in the middle of a crowd.   It is the loneliness…. The soul crunching,  mind killing,  heart breaking loneliness.   And maybe I am wrong.   I know all of us see ourselves in other people but I don’t think I am the only one. It’s not possible to feel good enough not to be lonely.   I know I have tried.   There is not a feel good that substitutes for another person.”

To celebrate and to be celebrated is a human  need.   It is not just what makes life tolerable.   It is what makes it worthwhile and energizing.   And the lack of it is,  I believe,  at the bottom of way too much of the emptiness that too many of us live with.

Celebrate someone today.   Look for a reason.   Someone no matter how small the way has made today a better day than it could be.  Say thank you.   Someone (a much smarter person than me)  told me a long time ago the more things you say thank you for the more things you will find to be thankful about.

Thank you for being there today.

The meaning of guns

August 30, 2015 by


The article above is as good as anything I have ever read on the subject of America’s love affair with guns.   If you haven’t read it I hope you will.

We have an inexhaustible ability to tolerate the murder, maiming and destruction of our fellow citizens as a result of guns and still hold true to the mythology it has nothing to do with guns. We like to confidently assert if we would just do something about the mentally ill it wouldn’t be the problem it is.

We pontificate on and on about the failure of the mental health system to stop us from shooting each other as if it ever could or was ever supposed to. We romanticize
guns and the ethics of being tough and being strong and being free and not taking nothing from nobody. And when we hear about tragedies we know if we were there it wouldn’t happen because we would have come packing and the bad guy would be a dead bad guy.

I always wondered how someone could become addicted to drugs like heroin that seemed so obviously self destructive and whose momentary good feelings were more than balanced by the harm it did. I always wondered how could people not see.

We have a love affair with guns not unlike the way some people have a love affair with drugs. What the author above points out is that the key is to understand what guns mean to us, what they symbolize. What can be so important, so compelling to blind us to a slaughter not seen anywhere else in the world? How can we be so blind?

Guns symbolize independence, autonomy, toughness, control and other key elements of what for many are what it means to be part of being an American. Perhaps they even symbolize the ability to do justice in a world not terribly just.

Is our resistance to anything that smacks of making it harder for us to kill each other or for someone to kill us greatly different than the resistance of any drug addict to give up his high? Can you listen for any length of time to the NRA and not wonder if guns have not become a curiously American drug?

Most mass killings are people killing people they know. It is family executing family for some injury, humiliation or betrayal. How long must the innocent die to defend our infatuation with guns? If we make it easier to kill each other more of us get killed. Is there something hard or remarkably difficult to understand about that?

We would like for the problem to be the mentally ill. We would like to blame the mental health system. We would like to blame those politicians who would curtail our ability to protect ourselves from the bad guys. We would like to blame those who would impinge on our freedom or our autonomy or take away from our personal power. But I think the truth is simpler.

In the immortal words of a long ago cartoon in the words of Pogo:

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Practicality and purpose: Do poor people cost too much

August 30, 2015 by


Insure Tennessee will win when people think it is too important not to do and any risk to them, to their political careers, is a risk worth taking. Look at the picture at the top of the article. The lady crying is Tracy Foster. She has the wrong kind of cancer. Without Insure Tennessee there is no insurance for her.

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:


Much of the argument about Insure Tennessee is not what appears to be. Endless arguments are made about the practicality of the program. Legislators tried to get people to believe that a program that would not cost the state of Tennessee any money, that would help 280,000, and that the state could exit from at any time was an impractical boondoggle that they had to rescue the state from. They assured us they were for a better idea. They just didn’t have one to share.

The debate was a sham from the beginning to end. It was never about practicality, but instead about purpose. To accept the purpose of Insure Tennessee, to say that everyone deserves health insurance, is unfortunately a scary thing for some legislators to publicly say. It means taking a risk of being called “soft on Obamacare”. It means taking the chance of a primary challenge. At…

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The cost of the way we live

August 30, 2015 by

“It is not just a matter of the cost of living, but of the cost of the way we live…”

Linda Drain

In every discussion there are questions,  points,  and decisions that define not just the discussion but the kind of people we are.   What we do defines us as much as it defines a situation or our response to it.   And if we are to be the kind of people we wish to be then there are some things we can’t afford to not do.   There is a cost to the way we live.

The most aggravating,  enraging thing about the discussion of Insure Tennessee is not that there is a disagreement about how to solve the problem but an argument whether or not the problem should be solved at all. There is not one real option,  no alternative plan to Insure Tennessee that I am aware of.   The  argument is that we should not care,  that we cannot afford to care and if people get sick or if people die then….well they just do. And then that decision is  justified as somehow being a defense of freedom,  a blow struck for the people of Tennessee.

The politics of a diverse people must be based to some extent on a common sense of decency. Without that there is chaos. Politics decides how to do. Decency decides what to do, what is important and if you lose a common and shared sense of what is important you have what we have now.

It is about power. The lives of so many people in Tennessee are being mortgaged because some people think Insure Tennessee would in some way give Barack Obama a victory. And they are willing to pay any price…. Including my life, your life, your families lives, your neighbors lives, the welfare of your community….. Anything to see that doesn’t happen.

I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know that anyone does. I talk to some people who are optimistic, some that are not. In the end I tend to believe we win but I wonder how long away and at what cost that victory is.

Insure Tennessee is about more than insurance. It is about who we are, what we value and what we care about.

In the Bible Jesus talks about the importance of caring for your neighbors.

Will we care for ours???

A prison of one

August 29, 2015 by


A long ago post. Still remember the night

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

From the archives.

A woman came recently to one of our support groups for the first time. She had never been to one before.

More than anything she talked about isolation. In the midst of family and “friends” she had never- not once- opened up and talked about the issues she was struggling with. She talked about the fight to get out of bed. She talked about the pain of being alone in a crowd. She talked about the pool at her apartments and how she watched people go and wished she could go to. And she talked about how often she wanted to die.

She was alive because she thought her death might inconvenience other people. She talked about trying to find a month when no one had a birthday or there wasnt a holiday or a special event. She didnt want to make something good into something bad…

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On counting the costs

August 29, 2015 by

The Tennessee Justice Center has been going around the state all summer in what it calls it’s “counting the costs tour.” The idea is real simple.   Put names and faces to the 280,000 Tennessean without insurance.   Find out what the impact of lack of insurance has met in their lives and what the passage of Insure Tennessee could mean. It has been about telling communities what the real life impact of Insure Tennessee would be for them.   It is about hospitals in trouble.   It is about the economy and jobs.   It is about safety.   It is about the health of our health system.   It has been about Tennessee.   It has been about justice.   It has been about you and me.

On September 1 the “counting the costs”  tour comes to Knoxville.   I will be  there and will get a brief chance to share some of my story along with other people in the “coverage gap.”

For me the last few days have been about “counting the costs…”

My name is Larry Drain.   I am 63 years old.   In September I will turn 64.

I am one of 280,000 people in Tennessee that would be affected by the passage of Insure Tennessee.   I am in the “Gap.”

But I am one of the lucky ones.   I am not going to die.

I left a job 7 or 8 years ago in which I had health insurance.   I had always had insurance and to be honest I never realized what a big deal it would be to go without it.

I took a job working in a local hospital.   The job became a full time job but was not called full time.   The hospital had been losing a lot of money on uncompensated care and finally started freezing full time non nursing positions when they came open to save money.   I was a PRN employee.   I worked full time hours,  did full time things.   I just had no benefits.   No insurance… Nothing.   I still remember the week I worked with pneumonia because if I took off I would not have enough money on my check to pay the rent.

I retired finally.   I had a period of time when I was in a lot of pain.   I didn’t want to go to the ER.   I thought I needed more than that.   I finally saved enough money and went to the doctor.

He told me I needed an operation.   The condition in medical terms was common place and the surgery itself was minor and highly successful.  When I told him I could not have surgery I thought he was going to have a heart attack.

He told me my outlook.   I would live with pain,  sometimes it would be very minor,  sometimes it would be life disrupting.   If I was lucky I might go years without the need for emergency surgery.   It might happen tomorrow.   If it did permanent disability or even death could be a possibility.

My wife is disabled.   She has had seizures since birth.   Years ago a good day was 10-15 grand Mal seizures.   She had brain surgery and that slowed the seizures for a little while but when they came back they came back with a vengeance.   She is on Tenn Care and needs that insurance in order to survive.

Since Tenn Care was not expanded in Tennessee in order to keep her insurance she must keep her SSI.   If it had been expanded she would not have to fit into a category to be insured.   Poverty would have been enough.

When I retired Social Security called us in and told us that we made far too much money.   Even though retirement was a loss of income we made too much money.   They proceeded to take away almost all her SSI.   They told me I could get a job but if I made more than $40 in a month they would take away all her SSI which would mean her Tenn Care which would mean her death.

We separated on December 26, 2013.  After 34 years of marriage we separated.   She  now has her SSI back and her Tenn Care is safe….. As long as we don’t live together.

We live 25 miles apart now.   Chaos is our every day companion and in practical terms our marriage is illegal.

Insure Tennessee would give us the chance to be man and wife.   Shortly after we separated I started writing letters to Governor Haslam.   I wrote him every day over 140 letters.   I asked him to give us a chance.

When Insure Tennessee came up I was overjoyed.   I saw hope.   When it lost in the special session I was devastated,  not just that it lost but how it lost.

I was one of the 900 people there the day it lost in the regular session.   I had met a lady who had no insurance and was dying from cancer and another lady whose daughter had died because of not having any insurance.   We sat and hugged in the hallway when we got word and she cried and wanted to know if that meant she was going to die.

The sickness and death of its less fortunate people should never be the policy of a decent state.   It is time to Insure Tennessee.

A letter from Wyatt Earp

August 28, 2015 by



After the recent tragedy in Virginia I got the following letter from my old friend Wyatt Earp.  He was devastated by the tragedy of the situation as was everyone.   He wanted to share what he thought he knew about guns and violence.   He knew his time was a long time ago and wasn’t sure what he had to say still applied but after reading it I thought it was worth sharing.

Dear Larry,

As always very good to hear from you. The information you shared about Virginia was horrifying. Guns seem to always hurt the innocent. I looked at the statistics you sent me about gun violence in the United States and couldn’t help but wonder how many of the people who died were innocent people : women, children, innocent bystanders, wrong time wrong place people. I guess it is no wonder when you consider how many guns you guys have. Tombstone and Dodge City at their worst weren’t as well armed as you. You are much more wild than the wild west.

Perhaps what I have to say is dated. I know times change, but I wonder if people really do.

What I learned as a Marshall :

1. If there is a first law of guns it is that the more guns you have the more people will be shot. Regardless of what else is going on the more people will be shot. I have marshalled a lot of towns. some with a lot of guns. I never saw a town that broke the first law of guns. Larry the statistics you sent me about gun violence in different countries prove it. More guns more people shot. That simple.

2. You can’t count on the bad guys shooting the bad guys. Everybody thinks they are the good guys and the guys they are shooting deserve it. That’s why they created marshalls… To keep the peace.

3. Some people believe people need to be shot to teach them a lesson or to make an important point. I don’t know why. They just do.

4. Some things just go along with shooting people :

Wanting to be like someone you have heard about who shoots people.

Talking about shooting people a lot.

Having a history of hurting people.

Believing shooting people makes you big and bad and tough.

Feeling betrayed or embarrassed by someone you know.

Feeling like shooting someone makes you more important.

Believing guns are a source of pride and status.

Feeling like shooting someone is worth the cost, whatever it is..

Being drunk. Anything that makes an angry person have less self control makes them more likely to act out that loss of control.

Feeling like you are defending something worth defending rather or not anyone else understands it are not.

Anything that makes you think a person is less important than you.

Larry I was astonished by some of the information you sent. You are much more likely to be shot by someone you know than by a stranger for example.. Much more.

I think maybe guns are more than just tools. They are not neutral. For too many people they are a part of who they are. And guns are a way to show people they aren’t going to “take any shit” from anyone. I knew a lot of people like that in my day. Life normally didn’t go well for them.

One more thing. I am just guessing and don’t know but it sure seems like you have a very very big and very important death industry in your world. What I found out in my world is when people absolutely refuse to do something that makes so much common sense someone is getting rich or powerful by keeping things from changing. Part of getting things to change is figuring who has the most to lose from the change. Who makes the money, who keeps their power… who profits from the slaughter?

I don’t know if any of this helps. You guys have a more dangerous time than mine and you know I guess I ‘m glad I lived when I did.

Your friend
Wyatt Earp

Letter to a psychiatrist

August 28, 2015 by

Reposted upon request…

Dear Dr……

I start with one simple idea.

If mental health help is supposed to make life better a good place to start is what makes life better.

The dignity and value of the people you work with should be the fundamental assumption that you start with. That assumption should make a difference in the way you treat people. People are much more likely to emotionally invest in what you are doing if they believe that you are emotionally invested in them. My personal experience, based on 38 years professional experience and a lifetime of personal experience is this is not the starting point of mental health treatment for most people. If someone is important what is important to them is also held important and this is most certainly not the case for most people. They are given the message in a million ways that their value is dependent upon their response to treatment and that if they dont do well they are just not worth much. Treating people as people is different from treating them as patients.

If people feel they cant count on you to be honest they feel like they cant count on you for very much. A major part of honesty is not claiming you know things you dont know or that you are able to do things you cant do. You dont know how people feel. You dont know what people are going through. Many of the theories about mental illness are at best theories and not scientific knowledge. They are still searching for the first chemical imbalance. The medications that are used are at best educated guesses. And side effects are real. And you dont know that people need to take meds for a life time. And you really dont know how much progress a given person can make. All of these things are matters of guesswork, conjecture and faith and to present them as some hard fought and hard won professional knowledge leads to people wondering if they can believe you or not. Credibility is key in all human interactions. And if you mortgage your credibility then you lose all value. Arrogance is severely limiting. People actually believe in you more if they know what you dont know and know you dont know it.

Empower people.
Dont just allow people to make decisions. Treasure people making decisions. And help arm them to make better decisions. Teach them skills that matter in a way they can apply them to their lives. So much of mental health treatment is cookie cutter stuff. Teach people things that allow them become more of the kind of person they want to be and live the kind of life they want to lead. A major part of life getting better is regaining control of the effective management of your life. If treatment is not about recognizing, supporting and treasuring independence it is not about much.

All this is extremely hard to do if you believe people are basically the diagnosis they are given. You cannot believe the basic truth about someone is the label you put on them and then claim to give them a sense of empowerment in their life.

Affirm hope.
Tell people and act like you believe it. It can and does get better for people and you can make it better. It may be slow. There will be problems. But it can and does get better. Life has opportunity for you and is not simply a source of deprivation. Believing in the people you are trying to help is such a basic part of helping.

Many professionals are just cynical. They believe in the end people who are “messed up” are likely to stay messed up and it is kinder not to let people get their hopes up too much. Know you have as much to learn as to teach. If the people you work with have nothing to give you in the end you will find they believe you have little to give them. Life does not get better when everything is a one way transaction.

Let people know they are safe.
Your intent is to in no way, either spoken or unspoken, to diminish them. You dont have a point to make, a battle to win, a position to defend. You are there to help. Period. Tell people they can learn. Many people think they cant. Tell them it may be slow, sometimes painfully slow, but they can still learn. They are not so impaired, so limited, so stuck that they cant learn to do things differently that will make a difference in their life.

There are probably many other things that you could add to this list. Mental health help is a human interaction and they things that make a human interaction helpful and part of improving the quality of life are the same regardless of the interaction. For many people that I have known or talked to the things that I have talked about are not their experience of the mental health system. Sometimes I think we make things way too professional, way too intelligent and way too imposing. Maybe the most important things to know are not just your professional skills and knowledge. Maybe its just what you know about being a good person to another person who really needs a good person.

Is integrity possible??

August 26, 2015 by

I am almost 64 years old.   I have witnessed tremendous changes in my life.   I have survived 10 presidents.   I am not sure how many wars or other military adventures I have witnessed. I have seen us become a country more defined by what separates us than by what connects us.  I have seen us become a country that sees the government as the least trustworthy, least honest and least responsive force in our lives.  We have become a country of suspicion,  anger, and fear.   Politics has become a competition for the narrowest political interests in the loudest and most provoking tones.

And for the first time I am afraid.   I wonder is integrity still possible?? Is there a way, a force…. anything…. anybody… that can stop our descent into a country that no longer solves its problems, that no longer seeks justice for the least of its people,  where anger and violence are common sense and who to blame is the only real political question.

I don’t know. I really don’t know. The campaign for presidency has filled me with dread. If this is our best are we not truly in trouble? We have elevated hatred, fear, and prejudice to political platform. The only thing more surprising than Donald Trump has been how many have tried to find political credibility in becoming caricatures of him.

The rich get richer. The difference between them and the poor grows larger and larger. Politicians are bought and spend their energy explaining why the agenda of those who offer them financial support are best for America.

Can politics ever be about more than the personal ambitions and personal gain of those seeking or holding political office? Is the future set or is it what we make of it? Is hope realistic or simply naive?

I think we can do better. I think ordinary people can make a difference and I think life can be more about what we value or care for than what we are scared of or a angry about.

Bernie Sanders is the only person I have heard really talk about this. He is the only one whose message is not based on climbing over the carcasses of those he is running against. He is the only one appealing to the best in each of us rather than trying to harness our anger and fear for personal gain or ambition. He is a leader we deserve rather than just simply one more to fear. He is a credit to this country rather than a bad joke about its people.

Vote for Bernie Sanders. He is the only one who votes for us.

The man who believes in me has earned my faith in him. Don’t ask is integrity still possible? Make it possible.


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