This week’s essay is by Jim Probert:
Having worked for years in a professional world before I came out as a peer, I know it can feel so profoundly demeaning when even genuinely compassionate people talk about us as if we were a separate species.
At the same time, when I’m offering recovery-oriented ideas to grad students and interns in my role as a psychologist, sometimes one will be honest enough to say, “I’m afraid if I do anything unconventional, I’ll be sued or fired.” I think many professionals realize the need for change but fear they must do exactly what they were taught, or risk being held responsible for anything that goes wrong in the lives of the people they are trying to help.
Not too long ago, Harry Miree sat down in front of a camera and opened his journal. It’s best to watch his video before reading further.
Harry was pleasantly surprised to learn about this growing movement of “out” attempt survivors. “It’s like the past seven years, this entire universe has been contained in my own head,” he said in a recent phone call. “It’s such a ‘don’t talk about it’ kind of thing. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Meet Rory Butler. He’s the founder of the Canada-based mental health group Your Life Counts and an outspoken attempt survivor. This post grew out of a recent conversation about his idea of founding an international organization for attempt survivors, which easily would be the first of its kind.
One of the first issues to be addressed is language. A national summit of attempt survivors this month in the U.S. seized on the term “lived expertise” as more empowering than having “lived experience” of suicidal thinking.
Rory argues that in a world where we’re trying to make the unspeakable speakable, we should be as clear as possible about defining who we are:
Last week, a national task force of suicide attempt survivors met for a groundbreaking summit. Within weeks, we’ll release a smart report on the kinds of support, and the changes, we’d like to see. Also at the table were a handful of allies, all of them playing national roles in the suicide awareness field.
“I can’t say how glad I am to no longer be the only voice of attempt survivors,” said DeQuincy Lezine, a psychologist and author who’s been “out” for nearly two decades. Now it’s a growing movement, with murmurs of starting a national, or international, organization of our own.
This week we hear from Christine O’Hagan, who writes about opening up to colleagues and others as a high-achieving Texas businesswoman. Good timing, as the director of psychology at a top-ranked U.S. psychiatric hospital wrote this weekend about this website and what his field should think about our emerging voices. It’s worth reading.
Thomas Ellis comes off as kind of nervous, but he’s trying to understand. It’s a good glimpse of why the mental health field still moves as cautiously as it does around us. “These are arguably vulnerable people putting highly sensitive information ‘out there,’ where it cannot be controlled by the AAS or anyone else,” he writes. “Or are these perhaps paternalistic sensitivities of an overprotective clinician, viewing these individuals as less resilient than they actually are?”
We tend to agree with that second part. And now, here’s Christine: