the painted brain spring 2013
contents and contentments
events and travels the painted brain plays well with others......................................................... outreach art groups bringing art to social service agencies.......................................................... painted brain mental health arts workshop bringing art to the art bringers....................................................................... poetry expressing the impalpable through words alone............................................ photography do you see what i see?................................................................................. interviews world changers large and small in mental health........................................... dear ozzy finding the love you want, from yourself and others....................................... fashion, painted brain style itâ€™s the end of the world, what are you gonna wear?..................................... pb personals answering that burning question, â€˜why am i involved?â€™................................. prosumers in mental health care mental health services for us by us............................................................... the funny pages funny you should ask about that.................................................................
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For just $36 you can receive the next three issues of The Painted Brain magazine delivered to your home or office. Reaching our goal of 1000 subscribers will enable us to create 24 stipend positions and four part time jobs for young adults with mental illness. Send in the card at the back of this magazine or visit us at www.paintedbrain.org.
players and yay-sayers
editors - jenna rodman and dave leon web master - eli esraelian fashion editor - naomi barrett
fashion models - amer azad, dash, jenna rodman, tijana quilici cartoon editor - ozzy blount chief illustrator - larry rozner photographers - naomi barrett, janna takeyamaamer azad, samantha seto, gabriela artlantico morales, pere ibenez reporters - justin donaghho, jenna rodman, naomi barrett, rob van gessel, mark klein, eli esraelian featured artists - ozzy blount, lucien lee, rob van gessel, otto bixler, ash lethal, naomi barrett, jesse helt, â€˜rone, rowan woods, sebastien/golden, artie, jesus matias, jen spazmaster, mattison teeter, william quiĂąonez, amer azad, angel panfilio, x-mann, marcus white, sarafin, bebop featured writers - daniel concharty, aaron wallman, clement featured poets - kenten olsen, robert seabrook, miguel alcantar, justin donaghho, ailleen, corey featured abider (above) - jules perkins cover - ashley payne
Events galore this past season! Out and about at the Rainbow Youth Fair in West Hollywood, presenting our eighth issue at artworks in Riverside, talking to an active minds at UCLA , peer recovering with art in Modesto, making t-shirts at Community Build in South Los Angeles, and the Voice Awards in Hollywood. Check out all the action photos from this event on our website. We also got our art on in Santa Monica.
art groups around town
left: the way that my thoughts are created, chaotically. the picture doesn’t mean one singel thing but many things. below: lost in thought - rowan
According to Rowan, whose first day at My Friend’s Place was on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013, “It’s just as the name says, a place where you can make some new friends, start brand new. The atmosphere is chill, a good sort of chill. It’s inviting. I like it. Art gives me a way to express my feelings without having to tell anybody. It’s easier to put my feelings into art than to put them into words because you can’t describe one word to mean many things, but art can mean many things at once. My words don’t always come out right but art comes out almost perfectly.”
Jesse Helt vs. Dave
My Friend’s Place is truly a place like no other, where all the harsh realities of street life for young adults in Hollywood are acknowledged and present, a place of safety, support and reality testing. The painted brain’s small contribution is to creat a respite of art within this respite of safety. We’re now a weekly participant in the healing and hope offered by this incredible agency and we have met some cool and talented young artists as well, including Golden, Rone, and Jesse Helt, all featured on this page.
and the Weber Community Center TAY Art Group Painted Brain interns Malia Javier and Efrain Rodriguez facilitated an art group at the Weber Community Center for transitional age youth. Group members made collage goal boards, learned how to draw street art style, cut out snowflakes, made skeleton faces for Dia de los Muertos, and wrote and read poetry. A couple of members got their art onto t-shirts at pbâ€™s Community Build T-Shirt day. This group continues to meet every Friday.
outh Center on Highland is full of color â€“ floors painted orange, pink and green and it hits you the minute you walk in the door. It opened rather recently and you can tell that it is very well-managed and clean. There are shower facilities onsite, places to sleep, and very energetic staff. The LGBT kids walk around like they run the place, which might not be too far from the truth. Things are rarely quiet or buttoned-down at Youth Center, which can be a little jarring at first, but then you realize that the alternative would be for the place to feel like a library. Weâ€™ve talked to some kids there with amazing stories, like the young man from Iran who spoke perfect British English (fooled us about where he was from) and had gotten in trouble for fooling around with his boyfriend in public in Iran. Stories like that just seem to pop up at Youth Center. -David Willwerth, OT Intern
The Painted Brain Mental Health Arts Workshop Wednesday, October 3rd 2012 A daylong event at LA City College allowed the Painted Brain brought its unique perspective on the usefullness of the arts in creating community. The act of joint creation can bridge the gap between mental health providers and consumers. This train-the-trainer event demonstrated methods for forming and running dance, drama, quilting, zining, poetry, drumming and creating an open studio for close to 300 participants.
The Painted Brain partnered with several great organizations to bring a breadth of the arts recovery projects to the workshop, including OM Rhythm Circles, Street Poets, Rita Project, and Creative Minds. The response was overwhelmingly positive, there was truly love in the air. More than 100 individuals filled out our end of the day survey on impact, here’s a couple results: • 95% felt they understood how art groups increase socialization and decrease isolation. • 87% felt they had learend the skills to facilitate an art group. • 58% had met someone at our workshop with whom they planned to stay in contact.
Each face on this page was drawn by at least six people. The morning of the workshop we had close to three hundred people in one room drawing faces together. Just one of dozens of easy art projects described in the painted brain guide to art groups.
I have left several places remembered as the shyest one From the past I emerge To return As a leviathan So powerful, So much courage Within me, I have never seen Any person Overcome being nervous As Cleverly As I have, focusing on a single purpose Which is to accomplish whatever seems Too dificult of a challenge, nothing is a better feat To accomplish than one that I learned from no caculations or measuring When trying to figure out or overcome Only observation and thinking better leads To successful outcomes, the satisfaction I deserce comes Leaving me content, now I desire comes Leaving me content, now I desire to put this puzzle together piece By piece, searching for another puzzle because I finished this first one I am bored, but there is nothing left worth me Attempting to complete, I have all my work done I have left several places remembered as teh shyest one From the past I emerge To return As leviathan Corey
Rise Woke to a new morning ready for the light to come through filling the empty space from last night an empty feeling that goes away feels like iâ€™m loosing my mind yet all the above feels so right. . . Miguel A. 16
iño ne z Qu am illi W
Spiders in the Garden Creepy creepers creeping slowly. They see me! Now they are creeping quickly away. Their round bodies with long legs creep... in the dirt...on the leaves... They help my garden thrive. Lush green worlds away from sky scraping humans. Justin Donaghho
I picked up a rose to smell it I held it close But there was a thorn That tore My skin I cringed From the pain Don’t let my blood stain The ground on which it fell Because I dont want to leave a painful reminder, reminder My cheeks were blushing As the blood was rushing To my head from the adrenaline rush I’m in love With the rush My heart stopped As my tears dropped I am not heartless I emerge from the darkness With a Story to tell This emotion I have felt Un the past I’ve knelt Down to pray I was feeling so afraid But now i am saved Because I saved myself I emerge from the darkeness with a story to tell.
Afterlife What do you see in there? Are you celebrating. Are you still here Invisible.
The armor I wore was sturdy and impenetrable, For years it shielded my heart from pain and vulnerability, You may think it was heavy and cumbersome, But I hardly noticed. The armor I wore felt comfortable and natural, Bonded to my skin like an extra layer of epidermis, You may think it was unnecessary and unsuitable, But I hardly noticed. The armor I wore stood the test of time, It kept me intact, carefree, and in control, You may think it kept others out while keeping me in, But I hardly noticed. The armor I wore on my head was the first to come off, With it removed my eyes started to see the world, myself, and you differently, My ears were no longer shielded and could not tune out the words you had to say, You spoke of gibberish woo -woo energy and your mindfulness way, And I noticed I was considering it more and more with each passing day. The armor I wore on my legs came off next, 18
With it removed I was no longer planted firmly to the ground, It was no longer possible to brace myself in place and hunker down, I should have run away from you….I wanted to run away from you, And I noticed that my legs were following you instead. The armor I wore on my arms was the third piece to go, And once it was removed I was dealt quite a huge blow, You see without it I felt powerless to push you and your ideas away, I wanted to keep you at a distance………. I wanted to keep you at bay, And I noticed that my arms were embracing you instead. The armor I wore on my chest was all that remained, It protected my heart and kept it restrained, With it gone you were clear of obstacles and free to enter, And when you did you became more than a mentor, I wanted to deny any “connection”…….. I wanted to deny that I cared about you And I noticed that I did when you told me you were leaving. I have a confession to make, I was really skeptical about you at first, You were just this la -di -da hippy chick, With her green walls, woo -woo energy, and feelings, So I cruised along, doing my thing, acting the fool. Not really aware of how my perception of you was changing. And I don’t recall the exact moment everything changed, I just remember that it did. One minute I was impenetrable…nothing could touch me, The next my heart was somehow beating outside my chest, Devoid of my armor and completely exposed to the elements. ixler Otto B
And what is left now that my armor is gone? After I’m left vulnerable and exposed? After things have been said for which I wish I could take back? I’ll tell you what is left... A child in a man’s body…who cares for nothing and everything at the same time Scared shitless that you gave to him more than he ever gave to you, That he cared more than you ever cared, That it was wrong or stupid for him to care in the first place. And this boy, this child, this man, he has two options, Put the armor back on and go back to what he has always known, Or try something different. Something has to change, something has to give Mike Hannant
The parting of life is what seems to be what earth is destined to be As the eyes of attention catch the leaf as it brushes past your skin on a warm windy summers day Only to be lost in the echoes of fate doth eternity delay As the cry of a baby touches your ears as the sound is reverberated only to leave you echoingly as silence once again touches your life As all life as they are born into this world like the blooming of a bright golden sunflower only to have it close at destinyâ€™s will Yet the fleeting of life is not without reason or heart but as every little touch of a warm hand leads up to the whole as it passes into the aging deliverance of time But the hope of something more is the cry of mankind as it passes through the dying current of time The hope that what was can be and the hope of what is to be will be As we all stand here waiting for the hopeful breath of a new day I wonder why mankind cannot find peace with what is
Abandoned Walking down a back alley In an anonymous seedy town, I pull up my collar As a cold breeze sweeps the daily hot sheet past my feet. The Headline reads “Home Ownership Down” How ironic, I think. That’s assuming you had a place to call home. I blink and the moment stretches as I remember the beatings and the verbal damnation in the house I grew up in. My eyes open and I am confronted by a homeless man. He is nodded out, a needle in a small puddle at his feet and as my heart mimics the nights sky, I wonder. Is his life so different than mine? Life handing him a crappy hand, probably at his most vulnerable state. He’s given up….God that must feel good….To stop trying. Give in….. I blink again and I contemplate it in my mind…raising the white flag. I open them and my heart drops a smidge more. “I can’t give up.” Im a forever cursed fighter condemned by a bigger opponent, with never ending rounds. No coach. No fans. No support. But I can’t call it quits. No one taught me how. And now my shoes, echoing off the concrete and brick are hollow and empty. I blink again. I belong here, my brain rationalizes. Next to “john” abandoned by all, exiled by the ones who swore to love him all the days of his life.
I o p e n my eyes, grateful to be exiting the hallway of despair. I take one last glance back and witness the homeless man. I wish I had the luxury to numb out. But I don’t. The feelings are too strong. So I zip up my jacket and head up the street. The cursed fighter. Heading for the next alley. Robert Seabrook
(What I was trying to accomplish with this was to stray away from the post-modernisim trend of creating surreal, abstract art, ambiguous left-to-interpertation art. Realizing that I couldn’t do that, I just wrote “The theme is expansion,” but too expanse to read. In reality, I wrote “Expansi-” too large, but commiting to a psedo-intellectual explaination to the piece is the next best thing I’m sure) All Cracked Up All I can think about is crack, crack, and more crack. So looking forward to getting my next sack. Still remember the moment I took my first hit. I was hooked and thought you were the shit. I let you take me away from all my family and friends. Because of you I have committed so many sins. When I can’t have you I can become so mean. Don’t give a damn about staying clean. You made me no longer interested in making love. Thanks to you I have forgotten about my heavenly father above. It’s hard to believe you made me lose so much weight. When I’m not high and look in the mirror I see a person I really hate. I still must admit that I love to get high. Hope to stop using I won’t have to die.
Since I can’t stop using many feel that I’m dumb. They don’t realize that I’m so full of pain and just trying to stay numb.
The Voices of Reasoning by Aaron Wallman We leave the billiard room. Einstein and Hume go into the darkness; Suga and I go to a road parallel to a river. Near the river are wooden shacks with doors on them. There are two older women; I could see their profiles. Both of them wore pointed hats. One had slanted eyes and the other had round eyes. Suga looks at them with repulsion and disgust. “They are witches of hell,” he said. “But there are laws to obey even here in hell,” he adds. “Yes, there are these laws,” said Einstein as he appears again. “The polarization of 1+1 is 2 as things stay the same, 1-1 as things decrease into 0 and 1+1+1 as things increase into 3. Just as the square root of Pi is infinity as things stay the same on paper, or finite as they decrease, or increase as 3.14 to the power of 2,” he adds. As the blackboard appears in the distance, he continues on as he writes on the blackboard with a spotlight directly over him. “So, there is a negative charge, neutral charge and positive charge in the universe,” he said, looking at me and Suga from a distance of about ten feet. “What if Pi changes?” Suga asks. “Then the three answers to the square of Pi changes as well, as I have indicated,” says Einstein. “Thank you Mr. Einstein,” I said. “You’re welcome,” he answered. The light dims and darkness surrounds Einstein, and he is no longer visible. (A preview of A Schizophrenic’s Search for Meaning, on our website at www.thepaintedbrain.org)
Some Thoughts on Education by Daniel Concharty We’re educated to fear God, to fear teachers, to fear our parents, to fear our feelings. When we out ourselves, see ourselves as others see us the stigma is staggering. Mental illness is a tortuous route, a side road on life’s highway often leading to a precipice where the preciousness of life hangs in the balance of an unbalanced sad soul ...the toll is immense. Does education make one whole or are we just a part of society, an empty desk apart from the world? As polar icecaps melt and continents drift we search for our countenance to see in a sea of questions if our education has given us confidence. The martinets yield a Mayday, an SOS, a please save us from drowning, a martyr to misunderstanding...why me, who am I anyway? Do the teachers answer these questions on the proverbial blackboard or are they just the eraser who erase the trace of who we are? I’m tired of the memory of misinterpretation. I’m tired of clapping these erasers to prove myself only to inhale chalk dust...must I endure forever this fate? Oh pundit, tell me I’m not a loser, tell me oh learned one how learned I’ve become how my quest is within and no matter who, what or where, I wear the badge of my life with pride as the lions roar and so must I. (follow daniel’s blog at www.thepaintedbrain.org) 23
Amer Azad > < Pere Ibanez
Gabriela Artlantico Morales
i n t e r v i e w s
Walking on the Right Side of the Road to Recovery Dr. Robert P. Liberman
interviewer: mark klein photographer: janna takeyama “living on the same unit for 30 years and yet didn’t know each other’s names”
The Business of Advocacy Keris Myrick
interviewers: jenna rodman and eli esraelian photographer: naomi barrett “I’m effective as an advocate because, for the most part, I don’t scare people,” she laughs.
All in the Family Christine Lee Ferrero
interviewer: justin donaghho photographer: janna takeyama “I was not looking at somebody who was a little dirty or hungry or not doing what they were supposed to do, I was seeing the human being.”
Still Working It... David Rucker
interviewer: naomi barrett photographer: naomi barrett “My work is not my recovery. my recovery is my recovery and my work is my work and that’s what keeps me sober.”
A Voice at the Voice Awards Raoul Peter Mongilardi
interviewer: rob van gessel photographer: naomi barrett “One of the things I really like about the Voice Awards is that the event centers on raising awareness within the entertainment industry.” Sebastien/Golden
Robert P. Liberman
y name is Mark Klein. I have known Dr. Robert Liberman, in different ways, for close to 30 years. In that sense, I have been fortunate. At the moment, he serves as my Life Coach; in the past, he was in charge of my medications. He helped me as my psychiatrist, and provided various types of psychotherapy. I would suggest as you read this interview, that you pay attention to the real power and control of language and thought that Dr. Liberman has at his command. Mark: Why have you chosen to keep me as a patient so long? Dr. Liberman: I feel it is very important to have a continuing relationship with my patients because new obstacles and challenges arise in anyoneâ€™s life, and my role in rehabilitation is to teach the skills and problem-solving capacities of the individual to meet those challenges and to achieve those goals. Goals change and problems emerge. The provision of services for any
kind of a long-standing disorder, where there is always vulnerability for relapse and stress-related difficulty, requires an indefinite kind of working relationship. Also, one of the things thatâ€™s very clear in memoirs of people who have made good recoveries from a serious illness, and it doesnâ€™t matter whether it is a psychiatric disorder or serious neurological or cardiac problem, that one of the key things about people who do well and go beyond illness and achieve normal lives, is that someone, some medical person or someone in a help giving role, has held out hope and optimism for that person even when that individual has given up hope. It takes a relationship that has to be built up over a long haul. Mark: Have you, during this decades-long relationship as my doctor, changed any of your theories about my rehabilitation and serious mental illness and type of treatment plan that you applied in my case? Dr. Liberman: One of the things that became clear to me, which I learned from, even though I had known, was that stress could trip a person into a relapse or pull the rug out from under his efforts to make a normal life, because vulnerability is always there. If too much stress is added, a problem can occur.
Mark: Dr. Liberman, you are open about your psychiatric illness, bi-polar disorder. How does this affliction figure into how you practice psychiatry? Dr. Liberman: Well, I think certainly it enables me to have more empathy for my patients. It has helped at times, quite a few times for me to point out to my patients that I take medications every day and that I had electroconvulsive therapy to pull me out of a deep depression. I think it motivates my patients to follow treatment and not to see it as a stigma because they see a person who is a successful physician, and has gone through something along the lines of what they are going through. I think that it gives them hope that if they get the best treatment and continue with it and use their medications appropriately, collaborate with their physician, psychiatrist, and therapist, then they can reach the goals they have for themselves. Mark: Is there any aspect to your relationship with me that exists because of the length of our relationship? Do you think that it is extraordinary that two people can maintain a relationship like this? Dr. Liberman: There is something that is special about this relationship. At times, I was fully responsible for your treatment. I was providing you with medication and also doing very active, regular and frequent treatment sessions with you. I can recall that part of this time, when you were going to CSUN, getting a bachelor’s degree, going through an Internship, and after you accomplished a number of things, that I felt I needed to change the relationship from a doctor/patient relationship, into more of a coaching relationship. I defined myself as a Life Coach, and saw to it that you received your psychiatric treatment, medication and any evaluation of symptoms with the psychosis clinic and residents at UCLA. So, I think that my shifting away from being your psychiatrist, and even being your therapist, gave you the sense that you didn’t need me as a psychiatrist; you could get what you needed from very infrequent sessions from the residents at UCLA, and you were stable enough that you could demonstrate to the residents that you were a reliable consumer of your treatment, your medication, and that you didn’t need to see me on a regular basis.
We would go for a long time without meeting to give you the opportunity to consolidate your progress in different areas, rather than feeling that your progress and accomplishments were only the result of our working together, and to really get a sense of being more independent and more confident of your capacity to solve problems and deal with the day-to-day, weekto-week and month-to-month challenges that you were facing. Mark: I understand that you are prominent in your field. Can you talk about the personal qualities that make you successful as a psychiatrist? Dr. Liberman: I have a natural curiosity. I want to find out about the uniqueness of the individuals that I have tried to help instead of dealing with the individual superficially, I seek the full expression of my patients and their goals and how they perceive themselves . What have been their life paths, where have they have developed strengths and also what weaknesses they may have that need to be strengthened. Another quality is persistence. I am an extraordinarily persistent person and I truly believe persistence is the path to least failure. I have tried to convey that to patients as well as friends and relatives. I don’t give up. I’m like a bull dog. I grab hold of someone’s arm or grab hold of their life and try to do whatever I can to make good things happen. And I don’t get easily discouraged. A third trait is always trying to find answers, not just for myself or my family, but also to solve problems all of the time and when I work with my patients, I search for alternative ways of overcoming those problems and helping a person clear the pathway to success and achieve what he or she wants from life. One example of my problem solving approach is my experience and success at the large hospital, St. Elizabeth’s in Washington D.C., a storied hospital where the famous poet Ezra Pound was treated, and where the man who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan was treated. Here, I helped women who had been in the hospital for 25 or 30 years to communicate with each other; they had been living on the same unit for 30 years and yet didn’t know each other’s names. They were socially iso-
lated. So, I created methods, social interaction games and other ways to prompt and encourage and reinforce their finding out about one another. I also discovered some of the key elements that are responsible for people developing depression which, interestingly, was a focus, because of my own experience with depression, even before this and since then. So, I think I unlocked one of the keys to an understanding of why people do get depression. Mark: You accept Medicare and Medical, is that right? Dr. Liberman: I often treat, because of my role as an active community leader, people who come to me with problems that turn out to be psychological problems. So I treat people without any payment at all because I feel that’s a contribution to my community. Just as being a political leader of any community. Mark: Do you have any respect for Sigmund Freud? Dr. Liberman: Sigmund Freud greatly contributed to psychiatry and the understanding of human development. He highlighted, rather than invented the field of psychiatry. But, he made this very clear in his writings, that the individual’s early life experiences, through childhood and early adulthood, as well as early relationships with parents and friends, are really instrumental in how he or she develops to become the person he or she was meant to become. It was not just some astrological sign they were born under and it wasn’t just genetics or something more mundane. We are the cumulative sum of these early experi-
ences, and this leads to an understanding of how the person has gotten to the point where he or she is. That required insight and awareness. However, the techniques Freud used to convey that knowledge into helping people with their problems and symptoms and live more effectively was not effective at all or at least not very effective. Mark: What do you think of the clergy and their contributions to people who are in their church, synagogue, or mosque? What is the relationship between psychiatry and organized religion or spirituality? Dr. Liberman: To preface my answer to that question, I think it’s very regrettable that psychiatrists and psychologists tend to be disproportionately secular. Many do not understand that religious beliefs and involvements can actually be helpful to an individual. Often psychiatrists will view religion as counterproductive for the individual because it stressesbeliefs in superstition and having unrealistic expectations, rather than stressing what religion can do for them. So, I think some psychiatrists and psychologists feel some competition with spiritual leaders over a client’s a life and the role of spiritual guidance. But I think that one of the great things about religion is that it offers hope to people, and that’s security, so very important to helping the individual move to a better life. If you have hope and confidence, which is encouraged and reinforced by the clergy, and by the fellowship of a church or
synagogue or mosque, that can be powerful in offering a sense that the person is not alone and that there is a God who is looking over the individual and this can console the person and encourages and holds out hope for a better life, and this comes from the clergy. This is a very important aspect of helping a person with mental disorders who has lost hope. The religious aspects I think can be also helpful in improving social relations. Being involved in a religious group brings a kind of awareness and learning in getting along with other people. You, Mark, have been involved in a variety of religious groups, but have moved from being helped in these groups to helping others in these groups. What better way to feel a sense of strength and self-esteem than knowing that you can be of help to other people? I think that is true about you, Mark. Having faith and hope for a better future has enabled you to pursue goals that other people who don’t have spirituality can’t have and would have given up on and not been able to achieve what is most important to them. Mark: Finally, how would you describe your approach to patients with severe mental illness: your theories, the way you try to accomplish success with your patients, what you tell people with a different ideology and basically, your theories of rehabilitation? Dr. Liberman: One of the important things is to make sure that any of my patients grasp the significance of having good relations with their families. We’re never alone in our lives and our family is the thread that holds our lives together from the time we’re born to the time we die. Family almost always, no matter how dysfunctional it may be, how impoverished it may be, its members almost always has a desire to help each other. Many psychiatrists unfortunately feel that the family, and 36 this is partly a result
of Freud’s writings, has a negative influence on the individual so they keep the family at arm’s length. So I think that’s one of the most important things that I have encouraged in my work and I have developed treatment programs from the time I was a resident. I just saw it so clearly-that treating a person in an isolated way, without involving the family, was like trying tying one hand behind the patient’s back, in terms of prospects of recovery and in moving forward in their lives. The other thing I believe, and have devoted myself to, is that it’s extremely important to strengthen a person’s competence and ability to communicate and solve interpersonal problems that emerge at work, with friends and in church. Thus ends an interview that describes some of Dr. Liberman’s views on psychiatry, as well as some of the aspects of my long-term relationship with him as a patient and friend. Dr. Liberman is a genuine person and very hardworking doctor. His character complements his skills as a psychiatrist. From the very beginning, he’s been there for me through thick and thin. All of this still applies, as I still continue to see him. I think if there was one particular reason that I have recovered, it is because of Dr. Liberman’s commitment to me. I would tell others who may suffer from any form of mental illness to pick the best doctor you can find. This will make all of the difference in the world.
eris Myrick is the CEO of Project Return, a client-run peer support network that provides self help groups, trains peer advocates, offers peer led support groups around LA County, runs a non-crisis warmline for consumers needing a friendly support and coping strategies that are bilingual and free. She recently succeded in transitioning Project Return from a program of Mental Health America to an independent entity. She also has lived experience. Welcoming Eli and I into her office with a flourish of her hand we pass walls lined with neatly stacked binders and thick reference books. Inspirational slogans and action figures adorn the walls and tabletops. It is warm and inviting. Keris has a loquatious nature, voluminous hair and more piercings in her ears than I do-- no mean feat. I usually explain my earrings away with a mumbled, “it was the 90’s”, but she rocks the rings. She gives some fast directions to her assistant and then smiles at us. We all sit
down. When she begins to talk she says, “I’m just like anyone else. . .” Keris is not quite like everyone else. Ms. Myrick was recently the subject of a New York Times article titled, A High-Profile Executive Job As Defense Against Mental Ills. One of our goals with The Painted Brain is to represent people living with mental health challenges as they want to be represented, not as subjects but as active agents in their own self-presentation. We started with this subject in our interview. Keris was not prepared for the way that Carey Benidict presented her in the New York Times article. She had wanted it to reflect her professional accomplishments and advocacy, as well as how she gets through difficult times. Instead it focused almost exclusively on her mental health struggles and the anomolous use of high demand work as a method for maintaining stability. “I was asked to talk about my mental illness”
Keris explains, “and I did because it’s very important to talk about my lived experience, it helps people understand I’m ultimately just a person: I’m a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, and a classmate. I’m not the murderer you read about on the front of the New York Times. I just don’t want to be pigeonholed like overcoming schizoaffective disorder is the end of the story. I want to be recognized as someone with many different talents. Mental illness is a part of me but it isn’t me. Sometimes it’s frustrating.” Working with identity politics is a frustrating endeavor. Identifying with a particular characteristic, whether it be race, gender, or disability, in order to politically advocate for it’s members is often a double bind. Talking about mental illness so that society can destigmatize and integrate it into normal life experience might instead entrench the stigma of mental illness further. Disclosure is a unique dilemma for people with mental illness who are able to “pass” as normal. Keris has chosen not only to disclose but to advocate. The level of understanding that she is able to articulate around the policies and institutions that make up mental health care, as well as the experiences of folks whose illnesses usher them through this system, is profound. At this point, Eli asked Keris to explain why doctors in psychiatric units seem so jaded and techs can be violent towards patients, and hospitals have with neglect and abuse. Keris: “I think doctors have come into this profession to help people, they come in with compassion for the most part. They’re not coming in with any kind of malice but what ends up happening is the kind of weird stuff you’re talking about. There are funding and record keeping/billing/auditing constraints that really minimize what doctors can do. The reality is a 38 fifteen minute appointment medication check
gets reduced to about three minutes. All of these issues push down on the unit, how people will be working on the floor. The less people, the less attention, the less time people can spend with people, the more it turns into this battle of control and maintenance of the peace. Thus, out come the booty shots. Instead of giving a booty shot they should send somebody to sit and talk with the person in difficulty. Where is that person? There aren’t enough people.” This kind of plain, direct speaking about complicated issues is one of Keris’ strengths and contributions as an advocate. Keris advocates by speaking to agencies and decision makers across the country. Keris and “I’m effective as an advocate because, Advocacy for the most part, I don’t scare people,” Barbie™ at she laughs. “I help people work better the Voice together, to not attack each other. I Awards 2012 highlight issues and help people come up with solutions together.” Using humor and props like Advocacy BarbieTM (complete with cape) she keeps it light. It offsets the subject’s weight. She travels often, sharing her experiences of symptoms, interactions with police and service providers, and the importance of family and an expansive identity. Her stories bring an understanding that can strengthen communities through trust. As with communities, she advocates for the strength of individuals by facilitating selfadvocacy and self-reflection. Project Return employs peers- people with mental illness. Often, parents call asking for a job for their adult child with mental illness. Keris uses this as an opportunity for self-advocacy by suggesting, “Have your child call me. Even if you have to help them make the call, even if you dial the phone, have him or her do the talking.” Finding work that is a good fit for each individual is a process. “I help people connect back to their dreams, to what they want to do.” It’s impor-
tant to recognize that it’s okay if that first job someone tries doesn’t fit. This runs counter to the usual narrative, that a person with a mental illness should be grateful for any employment. “But I say, ‘Why are we demanding that persons with mental illness stick with their jobs? Did you stick with your first job? It’s a double standard. Keris is a board member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. “It is unusual for people with lived experience to participate at such a high level in NAMI,” she admits. She is grateful for her own family experiences and wants to help and maintain bonds within families with members who have mental health symptoms. “My illness could have split my family, but it didn’t. That’s why I’m so involved. I’m helping families see something different in their children. I seek to raise families’ expectations and stress that recovery is possible. I think about having a healthy family and how much that can impact the recovery of a person.” Language becomes so important when trying to incorporate nuance. Keris wants to change the way
NAMI, “talks about consumers and families as if they are separate. [She] would rather we talk about the whole family as a unit. A consumer is a family member, so really, it’s just about families.” Along with running a thriving Project Return, Keris Myrick has twenty years’ experience in higher education administration, mental health program and organizational consultation and administration and won the Bridgebuilder Award for LA County. She was personally invited to attend the White House’ event for the 20th anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act. As she says, she‘s just like anyone else. “For fun I play with my dog, or play piano, violin, ukulele, or I ride my bike. Mostly solitary activities. I have this really cool bike with polka dots. I try to ride my bike up to the Huntington and back. I go to the coffee shop, go to the zoo, and read. I said I was a person of dichotomies: I’m both an introvert and extrovert. My work life is an extrovert and my personal life is an introvert.”
Christine Lee Ferrero
tanding outside of a cute home with a giant white sage bush in the front, I prepared briefly to knock on the door and meet a fellow painted brainer’s extraordinary mother. I was greeted warmly by Mrs. Christine Lee Ferrero. Our very own, amazing, resident artist Lucien Lee came to greet me moments later. I was welcomed in and was given the grand tour of a lovely, naturally lit abode. Fresh crepes were served which were delicious. I got a very comforting, homey feeling as I sat at their wooden table just inside the front door. The three of us chatted briefly and dove in to the “meat and potatoes”! Justin: How did you come to have a heart or interest for serving young adults in the mental health world? Christine: Because I was forced to. Lucien became very ill when he was nineteen. It opened my eyes. I had to face it, and try to understand. 40 And also in my background I am a physical
therapist at the VA. I specialize in neurobiology, parkinson’s and stroke patients, mostly. So I had a little advantage. Then I started reading. I went to a lot of lectures and classes with Dr. Liberman, for example. I am a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and I learned a lot from them. Lucien’s sister Clara also joined NAMI. Now she’s in medical school, she was at Berkeley when my son was sick. She did not see everything as much as Sebastien, Lucien’s brother. It took me a long time to take Lucien to Daniel’s Place (a community drop-in center for young adults with mental illness). Lucien made friends at Daniel’s Place, and brought them to the house. We would take them in. I think the one who stayed the longest stayed for three weeks. Lucien: He stayed almost a month. Justin: With you guys? Christine and Lucien: Yes. Christine: Everybody loved him. I mean, it’s intense…it’s intense, but we made it. Now he’s
part of the family. He’s in Texas, but he’s part of the family. We have a little group of people now, who have been coming here for many years. I was capable of seeing the human being suffering from a disease. I wasn’t looking at somebody who was a little dirty or hungry or not doing what they were supposed to do, I was seeing the human being behind that. I think it was a big plus for the whole family, we learned from it. Justin: It must have been a good break for him and the others to be here, almost like a sanctuary? Christine: It was sometimes a little dangerous or we had some problems but I did try to make it a sanctuary. When Daniel’s Place is closed on the weekends, where do these guys hang out? Lucien had a garage. I put in a ping pong table and it just happened, it was just one thing after another, and now there’s stuff to do here. Lucien: Basically I was trying to make new friends because when I was out of the military I lost touch with old friends that were in the military and it was hard for me to make new friends. I sometimes had poor judgment of people. Christine: When you are twenty years old and hit with a mental illness, you are kind of confused. Many of [the young people] did not have a lot of parental support. Lucien: It’s kind of like having a tree without roots. Cut the roots from a tree and it will die. Christine: One day I made a huge spaghetti and meatballs meal and someone said, ‘It’s been so long since I had a home cooked meal.” Justin: I think fast food can sometimes make people feel crazy and home cooking can help calm people down. Christine: It’s invisible to have a mental illness, you cannot see it. When people have a men-
tal illness, it is a tough call. When you have a physical illness, you see it. With mental illness, first you don’t see it and it fluctuates a lot, it is up and down and the people around that person feel lost. Lucien: As it says in the bible [about sin] it comes under the cloak of the night like a thief. While continuing my recovery from my own mental illness, symptoms can come anytime. I just have to be prepared. Christine: You need to learn to catch it. Justin: What is your favorite thing about working in the mental health world? Christine: I think I have learned a lot. I am the one who is grateful. I have been there for Lucien and the other people and they have taught me so much. I am a better person and have learned so much more. I would never have stepped foot in this field ten years ago. I learned about schizophrenia in school but it did not strike, it did not get in. I have learned much and I have a lot of respect for people who have mental illness because it is really a tough call. I would have a very ordinary life if I did not have all these people coming to my place with all kinds of different issues and different ideas. Before I left, it was certain that I had to check out Lucien’s hang out garage and their garden, which is adjacent. The garage was an awesome youth’s hang out with chairs and recliners, and a T.V. among other odds and ends. The garden was like a different world. It had a random chair in the far corner where, word has it, people like Lucien’s friend Otto spend time meditating and contemplating. The serenity and harmony of all the veggies, herbs, and plants in the garden made me want to delay my departure just a few more minutes to soak it all in. Countless time and effort had obviously gone into caretaking and tending to this living artwork.
e are at Pasadena Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependance (PCADD), a program of Social Model Recovery Systems (SMRS). It is an intensive outpatient treatment facility that provides services for people with mental health disorders and alcohol and other drug problems. What follows is David’s story as told to Naomi Barrett: I was born into a house of addicts, from a long line of alcoholics. My addict behavior started long before I started using drugs. I was selling and using drugs at a young age, selling to my parents’ friends and acquaintances. As a teenager, I really prided myself on being able to do things that adults did, making money and things like that. I dropped out of school because of it, got into some trouble with the law. Instead of facing the music, I just took off hitchhiking. I was out hitchhiking from 17 to 19, which just taught me how to become a better addict. At 19 I came back and tried to clean up my life, to become a responsible adult. I got a really good job yet drank myself out of that within a couple of years. I didn’t use drugs while I was drinking - I thought it was better. At 22 and I felt that I had nothing to live for. I was losing friends to heroin addictions: overdoses and suicides. I started using meth and my life just went downhill very quickly. I was incarcerated at 23, 24, 25, prison at 26, another prison term at 28. I found the program of AA inside at Chuckwalla State Penitentiary. I started going to meetings there just to get out of the dorms, drink some coffee and hang out. I found that there was hope there and it gave me a new outlook on life, but when I got out of prison, I went right back to my old lifestyle. Then I had to have a very real epiphany that was forced upon me by other people. I was home-invaded: robbed, tied up and beaten with guns, all for my drugs and my money - which I didn’t give up. That’s 42 was really got me on the path to recovery.
After that happened, I really evaluated my life and what I was doing. It wasn’t worth my life. It wasn’t worth dying for. So I gave up all my material possessions, which was quite a bit: a four-bedroom house full of top appliances and everything and moved back to my mom’s couch. I started going to meetings, got a sponsor, started working on myself - and that’s what led me to my career path. I went back to school a couple of months after that to become a counselor, to encourage people with a checkered path to come in and get help finding a new way of life. This worked out well because I couldn’t find a job anywhere else with my record. I really found a passion for helping people and learned how to communicate, as well as listen to myself. Communication depends on both listening and communicating your own needs. I really learned how to do that there. I had great teachers. I was very fortunate
to do my externship at Social Model Recovery Systems River Community - which is the oldest dual diagnosis or co-occurring facility on the planet. The very first one, started in 1987. I’ve been a counselor for a little over two years. I enjoy being here for people who have suffered through the same things I’ve suffered from, helping them on a new path of life to find what I’ve found: happiness. Here at SMRS Inc., we are encouraged to disclose as long as it fosters trust and does not glorify the past. There are three guidelines for self-disclosure. Will the self-disclosure enable positive change in others? Will it create an environment that fosters trust and hope in the participant? Are the appropriate professional boundaries being maintained? I try to uphold these guidelines because it can foster trust and hope and can enable positive change in others. There are a lot of people who think that because I’ve been in and out of prison, because I’ve lived this lifestyle, I can’t change. That this is who I am. I’ve let go of all of those judgments and have been able to let go of those behaviors. This allowed me to survive, “inside”. My role at this facility is as a a primary counselor on the AOD (alcohol and other drugs) side. I have two different case loads: an adult case load of about 20 adult participants, and a adolescent case load with five participants. When I first started here at AOD, I really didn’t know what was in store. I didn’t know if I could do it. I thought: What did I get myself into? As I got comfortable I really pushed myself - which I didn’t do in the past - doing things and accomplishing them. That’s what I’ve learned in my recovery today: if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish it. At the same time, burnout is a very real thing in the counseling profession, because the success rate can be very low. You can’t base your sense of your own success on what your participants or your clients do. Knowing that
what you are doing, you are doing to the best of your abilities. You are providing information and support, and that’s it. That’s all you can do. It’s up to them to take that support and internalize it, take those coping skills and use them on a daily basis and reach out for help as needed. As a counselor, the burnout rate is very high, especially with addicts. When an addict burns out, he or she usually gets loaded. So I have to make sure that I take care of myself. When I leave work, I leave work at work. I don’t bring it home with me. I do what I need to do: I go to meetings, I try to eat well, I try to exercise, and try to get out and do new things and have fun. What I discovered in my recovery is that I like the water: kayaking, snorkeling, boating, fishing. I love nature and to hike off-road, and to ride motorcycles. I love music so I see good shows as much as I can. I try to do things for myself that will help me stay on my path and not burn out. Burnout is rampant in this profession and it’s because people don’t take care of themselves. What keeps me healthy inside? Self-care. We practice self-care here. We take days off, we make sure we take care of ourselves. I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I had to find who I was and work my recovery program as well as work on anger management tools and skills. I’ve had a lot of anger issues due to resentments from childhood. I was a very angry person and I took out my anger on other people. My anger ruined a lot of relationships and it affected everybody in my life. I’ve had to take ownership of my own anger and work on it daily. It’s Amer Azad been a hard, long road, but it’s been worth it. I continue to work on myself daily. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to provide the services that I provide. My work is not my recovery. My recovery is my recovery and my work is my work and that’s what keeps me sober.
Raoul Peter Mongilardi
met Raoul Peter Mongilardi at the Voice Awards event presented by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The ceremony is held each year at Paramount Studios to honor efforts by members of the entertainment community and sports world to raise public understanding on the facts about mental illness and drug addiction. The honorees each contributed in their own way: assisting organizations, publishing a book, or producing a film or television segment accurately portraying individuals living with a mental illness. This was my first attendance, a unique opportunity to learn about the presentation, the conscientiousness of its participants, the brave stories of the honorees, and the intricate subject of mental illness itself. Before the show, I walked around a crowded, high-spirited lobby to talk with individuals about what brought them. I approached Raoul. He told me about his film The Changing Face of Autism, his avid support of the Voice Awards, and his own impressive commitment to public perceptions of mental illness and mental health. The presentation was about to start, and Raoul graciously said, “Let’s do this right. Here’s my card and we’ll arrange a time to talk.” Clearly he is a man with 44 much to say on this topic. I was eager to make
the meeting. This interview was conducted at Raoul’s home, and we covered wide-ranging territory on the topic, including some fascinating surprises about Raoul’s own background. Raoul: One of the things I really like about the Voice Awards is that the event really does center on raising awareness within the entertainment industry. TV shows like Glee or House or Law and Order have written segments effectively about the problems for people who live with mental illness. The awards ceremony recognizes these shows as well as people who are doing great work, give their time, and create organizations. Rob Van Gessel: I could relate to what Chamique Holdsclaw talked about, in the light of her book, Breaking Through: Beating the Odds Shot After Shot. This champion basketball player described her fight with depression, that interacting with colleagues or functioning on a creative high, she would exhibit a lot of energy. Home by herself, she often grew overwhelmed by intense anxiety, chest tightened, thoughts fragmented. Raoul: Well, I thought Chamique was great. It was a marvelous story. I was happy for everybody at the Voice Awards. RV: As the night went on, I heard some awards recipients on stage say, “If not for the support of friends and family, I never would have made it.” The reality is that many living with a mental illness are alone and less fortunate economically, deprived of the resources to get the help they need. Do you think there’s a disconnect, where people more privileged forget this fact? Raoul: I think there are two very relevant thoughts here. First, there are a lot people who are alone and disenfranchised and living under taboo. We also have to realize there are people whose parents or family or loved ones refuse to recognize that there is an issue with them. This is also found with autism, a great deal of denial. People at the Voice Awards are celebrating a triumph, having coped themselves or supported others. I think people often are or feel alone, and the very nature of mental illness is an “alone” happening. One of the things I like about what the Voice Awards was talking about is the idea that you don’t have to be alone. When you are disenfranchised, how are you going to be helped by peers?
I’m happy to know of a lot of people in the Hollywood community – even some very famous people – do a tremendous amounts of work for people who are disenfranchised. They know that awareness is an issue, and it needs to stay in the public eye. RV: What inspired you to make The Changing Face Of Autism? Raoul: My neighbor Lynne Duquette, the co-producer on the film, has a boy named Sam who is autistic. When we started this project, there was limited awareness in social media and on the national platform level of television. She was really doing amazing things with her son through early intervention, applied behavioral analysis, and special schooling. She was able to do this heroic job with her boy. She had been told he’d never amount to anything, and he’d always be in big trouble. And she said, “No! I will not accept that!” The schools don’t really have the money to deal with special-needs children so it becomes necessary to find special schools. That’s what Lynne did. Before I started the film, all I knew about autism is that it was a neurological disorder. RV: Well, you did a great job. Raoul: Thank you.
the w o whartldâ€™s abo are y ut to e dece ou gonn nd, mber a 21st, wear? 2012
I’ve been involved since the painted brain first started at Daniel’s Place back in 2006. I was an outpatient at Daniel’s Place and turned into a receptionist for a couple years, but was laid off because of budget cuts from Arnold Schwarzenegger. During this time I was volunteering for art workshops with the painted brain, and did an interview with the painted brain about my experience in the army – I was coping with a mental illness and running through psychosis at the end of my army career. Now, I’ve been a blogger with The Painted Brain for the last three months, submitting art and writing for the website. I also helped with the Mental Health Arts Workshop Conference at LA City College on October 3, 2012. Showing up and participating in art groups and interviews felt good because it was what I had been looking for for a while. It gave me something to do with my life, something to look forward to. I look forward to creating something and then showing it to people who are not going to judge me or criticize me or what I show them. I learn from my story as well as my friends’ and colleagues’ stories. I contribute to my community; I am an artist and a counselor for my friends who come through my life. 56
I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 2004, and I had heard stories about how people were able to turn themselves around – I wanted to work towards that. In 2009, I was doing volunteer work in Santa Monica at Daniel’s Place as an art group facilitator. It was a cartooning group, but really I let them draw whatever they wanted and felt. I noticed a flier advertising an art group with the painted brain and decided to go, and that’s where I met Dave Leon. I continued to attend painted brain art groups and became excited by the thought of getting my art published with their magazine. I debuted as an artist in issue five; I drew a flaming samurai head that made the “Table of Contents” page! I think there was some other stuff I did in there too, and I remember feeling excited and proud of myself. I like to think of myself as a resident artist and advice columnist for the Painted Brain; always free to dish out my own advice for who ever needs it. I’ve been doing some meditation too, and it’s been helping me become more outspoken, sociable and confident about myself. I feel like I’ve become somewhat famous towards my peers in my own right. I’m everybody’s best friend. When it comes to cartoons, I have a unique style that everyone can benefit from. I’m inspired by watching classic cartoons, like Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbara, old school stuff. Aside from doing cartooning, I’d like to pursue a career in comedy. The world needs laughter, ya know? Too much bad news, people can get depressed easily. I was thinking I’d do a joke column for the painted brain. For me, my philosophy is this: “If you can’t learn to laugh at yourself once in a while, then there is something seriously wrong with you.”
To me the painted brain is an outlet for people who would otherwise have no outlet for their emotions because of lack of motivation or other reasons. For me, it has been an outlet because I am able to express my emotions in my poetry and express my emotions freely in a community that understands me. One of my favorite memories has been performing my art at magazine release parties. I have also enjoyed watching other people have the opportunity to perform. The painted brain offers a positive way to express one’s self through writing or art and a good way to inspire others to do the same. Being a part of the painted brain has been a good experience, which has motivated me to achieve goals in other areas of my life. For example, I have been able to be more productive and confident in my work. I find myself being more productive with my time because I have a sense of purpose.
I first heard about the painted brain seven years ago through an organization called Daniel’s Place. The organization’s name drew my attention since I was very interested in learning how to paint at the time. It was not until threeyears later that I attended a workshop when I got connected to the project. Now, I have been publishing my work with this organization for the last fouryears. Currently I am a member of the group as a blogger. This role gives me a sense of self-worth, a place where I feel that my work is appreciated. Each week, I bring my drawings on paper and then we upload them onto the website to display my work online. I also participate in a weekly meeting where we share our work and do various art projects as a team. This community inspires me because I get to see other people’s work and no longer feel alone as a creative mind. Before the painted brain, I found it difficult to make art regularly on my own. Now I enjoy sharing my work with others, it gives me a sense of purpose and direction in my work. Plus it’s nice to have a deadline each week. The painted brain community helps me collect from the broader perspectives and ideas I might miss out on if I were doing art alone. One of my favorite aspects about the painted brain is feeling accepted by everyone. It feels nice to see members become more selfsufficient and learn to work together on a team. Seeing my work published on the website makes me feel good about contributing. Plus we have a good time together.
Two years ago, my friend was â€œwaiting for the painted brainâ€?. I thought it was just the logo on his t-shirt at the time. Suddenly a car drove by to pick up my friend and his art work and they left me with nothing but a copy of the magazine. Thatâ€™s how I first found out about the painted brain. Eventually I began submitting my own work. At a magazine release party, I met more of the community. Dave, the mysterious man who picked up my friend, was actually the main editor of the magazine. He kept inviting me to events so I just kept coming. Now I am very involved with the painted brain. I am the fashion editor and contribute photography, although I have my hands in many projects at the painted brain. I help out with art groups and also I give talks at various educational panels about mental health at places like USC and local agencies. Speaking on panels has really given me a voice and a sense of purpose. It puts my life in perspective when I share my story with others. For me, being a part of the painted brain has brought me into a community that highlights my assets and build my self-esteem. It allows me to find peers with similar experiences to me. It helps me exercise this new skill of empathy. Participating in a community of peers, allows me to go into agencies as an advocate for promoting safe spaces to be expressive or different. Its not about just sharing stories, its about being able to be with other people without any fear of what they might think of me. Its about promoting a little respite, an escape into a safe haven for others as well.
I am a prosumer. When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, I thought my mind would gradually decompensate. I would have to surrender all my hopes and dreams and plans for the future to this disorder and resign myself to my fate: being that crazy homeless woman on the street corner yelling obscenities to the breeze. I was completely alone. I wanted one role model, one person who triumphed over this disease. I couldnâ€™t find a glimmer of hope. Ultimately, I found what I was looking for within myself. I joined the mental health field because I wanted to give to others the hope that I so desperately craved when I was first diagnosed. However, the traditional mental health system does not offer an avenue for this. And so the triumph and success that I was so proud of distorted into a dirty little secret until I met Dave Leon and was introduced to the painted brain. The painted brain is an oasis of acceptance where individuals feel free to be themselves. Individuality and creativity is expected. Weird is the norm. I have weekly hourly supervision with my supervisor Dave. This is the same amount of supervision that everyone in my position receives. I utilize this supervision to talk about how everything is going with my groups and my clients. I talk to Dave about who, how, and when to self-disclose. Supervision with Dave is an invaluable resource to me. I feel confident in my professional skills. I also feel confident in Dave, that if I were to veer off course, he would notice, and provide me with the necessary support. The fact that The Painted Brain encourages self-disclosure allowed me to tell Dave, and therefore allows him to keep a close eye out for any signs of a problem. At The painted brain I can self-disclose my diagnosis and still be respected and trusted as a professional and a consumer. I facilitate art groups and teach clinicians to facilitate their own. The painted brain has provided me with the avenue to share my story in order to defeat stigma, and hopefully, to give others hope. I do this by participating in mental health consumer panels where we visit universities and other agencies and share our stories. I do this by writing this testimonial. At one point individuals with mental illness were shackled and confined to the basement of the hospital. We still find ourselves shamed and hidden. The painted brain has allowed me to come out of the basement and share my experiences.
Prosumers as Invaluable Assets to the Mental Health Field and Profession by Malia Javier Self-disclosure in general, and of mental illness specifically, is often discouraged in mental health professionals. There is a large divide in many mental health facilities between the professional who sits at the desk, takes notes, has knowledge derived from writings by similar professionals, and the consumer who sits on the couch, is analyzed, and has personal experience with mental illness. Prosumers bridge this gap. Prosumer A prosumer is a mental health professional who is also a mental health consumer. The important role of prosumers was discussed at a National Alliance for the Mentally Ill preconference in 1995. The speakers discussed how the experiences of prosumers in the drug abuse field are highly valued, yet the mental health field does not share the same appreciation for prosumers and their experiences (Frese & David, 1997). Stigma of Prosumers The attitude and understanding of an individual with a drug addiction is fundamentally different than an individual with mental illness. An individual with a drug addiction who abstains from drugs is more or less viewed as a “normal” individual. However, an individual with mental illness cannot choose to abstain from mental illness. Mental illness is not separate or divisible from the person, but a part of her/him. The two are inseparable, and people assume this leads to unpredictability. Mental illness can take over an individual’s mind at any time, although it is oftentimes triggered by a stressor. Unpredicatability. Isn’t there a danger of consumers’ mental illness being triggered by having rigorous case loads and a high-demand job? Couldn’t discussing a client’s psychosis trigger the prosumer’s psychosis? How can a psychotic individual treat another psychotic individual? All valid questions. Certainly there are risks, as there are risks in all pursuits. However, one must carefully consider the risks against the gains. To not take a risk is also to risk the gain. Prosumers are invaluable A prosumer is not any person off the street. A prosumer is someone who has already proved that s/ he can manage his/her mental illness. S/he has made it through the rigorous academics and internships required to be considered a professional, like any other professional who has proved they can manage under pressure. However, a prosumer has managed
everything required of a professional while managing his/her mental illness. Therefore, a prosumer has an understanding of mental health management that far surpasses any other professional. A prosumer can serve as a beacon of hope for individuals with mental illness. A prosumer can uniquely understand individuals with mental illness, having insider knowledge and experience unlike neurotypical mental health providers. A prosumer can advance the research and the mental health field beyond any other professional. Therefore, the question is not can the mental health field risk utilizing prosumers, but can the mental health field risk not using them. Thereby forfeiting the invaluable benefits of these individuals. Prosumer Accomodations To refuse to acknowledge and allow prosumers in the mental health field is to discriminate. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Walk et al., 1993) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and requires reasonable accommodations for impairments. Just like other humans, prosumers have imperfect minds and bodies that sometimes fall ill. When this happens, humans need to rest. It’s ok to get sick, and it’s ok to need rest. Even God needed to rest. Reasonable accommodations for prosumers and for humans in general should include taking mental health self-care days, supervision, therapy, and medication as needed. Mental health should be seen as equally important and ubiquitous as physical health. Individuals diagnosed with mental illness are not the only ones who have get burnt out. Mental and physcial self care is not just important for consumers; it’s important for humans. The Mental Health Field needs to believe in individuals with mental illness The mental health field encourages hope and rehabilitation in individuals with mental illness. The field tells these individuals that they can work, that their mental illness should not define them, or inhibit them from pursuing their dreams. Welcoming prosumers in the mental health field is the opportunity to prove that the field truly believes and practices what it preaches. References Frese, F. J., & Davis, W. W. (1997). The consumer–survivor movement, recovery, and consumer professionals. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 28(3), 243-245. Walk, E.E., Ahn, H.C., Lampkin, P.M., Nabizadeh, S.A., & Edlich, R.F. (1993). Americans with disabilities act. Journal of burn care & research, 14(1), 91-98.
Group Cartoons from Weber Center
if only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes. -pablo picasso 66
EDITOR’S NOTE: as part of the expansiveness of this magazine, we are not reflecting on our lived experiences but experiencing living through art and photography and comics, through meaningful (and tangential) conversations, and by sharing the knowledge we’ve gained in our many years’ experience in this project through speakers’ panels, art groups for new populations like homeless and former foster youth, and by holding a large scale arts workshop for the mental health community of los angeles. we continue to see the arts as the best way of expressing the multifaceted experience of mental illness that is at once a cluster of symptoms, an identity, and a mediator of social and familial relations. much love, jenna and dave
talking about mental illness isn’t always easy, but it is important and the painted brain knows you have something to say. we’re a peer driven arts and outreach campaign amplifying the voices of people living with mental health issues and activating the mental health community. come to our friday art group downtown or an event, create a blog on our website or send us your art or ideas or music. get involved! the painted brain is a project of Special Service for Groups, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. donations are tax-deductible.
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Don’t Miss Out:
The Painted Brain #10 July, 2013 Featuring Interviews with: Elyn R. Saks, “The Center Cannot Hold” Ellen Fornay, “Marbles: A Graphic Memoir” Myra Hornbacher, “Madness: A Bipolar Life”
______________________________ Wendy Williamson, “I’m not Address _____________________________ Crazy Just Bipolar” City, State, Zip Code ___________________ Ivy Bottini, Lesbian/Feminist Activist and Artist Email (optional) _______________________
Rob Van G