Thursday, November 13, 2014

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO ED


(Any terms or abbreviations you are not familiar with please look up.  Explaining each one would make this blog entry way too long.)

The fight for grassroots participatory decision making in the mental health delivery system has never really begun.  Persons with lived experience (I prefer the term folks with psychiatric labels) get put on boards or committees in token numbers and only then if they can act “chronically normal” during the meetings.  I have been around this thing called advocacy since 1988 and I have yet to see a real grassroots participatory decision making process take place.  If you know of one please let me know.

I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that I believe that Jesus is a real historical figure and further that He is who He claimed to be.  I agree with C.S. Lewis that it is absurd to call Jesus simply a good moral teacher among many.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Next you should know I am married to the most wonderful woman I can imagine.  However, the important thing for you to know here is that she has been an advocate all of her adult life.  The range of her advocacy at times amazes me.  It encompasses education, housing, poverty, mental health and others too numerous to name.  She has worked through Highlander Center, been the monitor for a federal lawsuit at South Florida State Hospital and Director of PAIMI for the state of Florida.  She is also a published author.  The great thing she is my mentor in advocacy.

I started in the ministry as a teenager when I was on the mission field with my parents in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).  I held my first church here in the states before going into the Army in 1967.  I was ordained shortly after coming out of the military after a two year tour of duty as an Army medic.  I remain the Chaplain at Project Dream Again were I am also the Director and Founder.

I have the following DSM-5 labels.  Bipolar I Disorder, PTSD, DID

When I worked more directly as a system advocate than I do now, my work was basically confined to Broward County, FL.  I did not try to go statewide or national.  The only national thing I ever did was to co-chair the religious outreach network for NAMI back in the early 90’s.  I believed I could be more effective working on the local level.  I will not go into my successes and failures, but I am proud of the work I did in Broward County.

I hold some very strong beliefs that get me in trouble on occasion.  Add that to the fact that I have a strong personality that people seem to either like or hate and you have a mix that can leave destruction behind me.  It can also build.

I do not believe the state or any other entity for any reason including the threat of suicide has the right to lock away and force their will on another person and call it treatment or call it anything else unless that person has committed a crime that is a crime and not just a law created for the purposes of locking away persons they label.

I believe that systems of care need to be conceived, operated and monitored by a process that is grassroots participatory.  Let me give you a concrete example.  Each Veterans hospital needs to have a board that is made up of at least 51% of persons receiving services at that hospital.  It needs to have a human rights committee made up of at least 51% persons receiving services there.  It needs independent advocates at the hospital employed by a nonprofit run by persons receiving services there.  You get the idea?

Project Dream Again would like to see a conference to discuss two big issues. 
1) Spirituality and the Reductionist Biological Theories
2) How to Implement Grassroots Participatory Decision Making in the Mental Health System. 

I am not optimistic the conferences will happen because those subjects are not in the interest of anyone but those of us with psychiatric labels who want more control over our lives.

Ed Cooper, Director& Chaplain
Project Dream Again (Est. 1988)
© Ed Cooper, November 13, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

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