Mental Healthcare

Mental Healthcare Reform Policy Sample

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Statement on my work as a 2020-2021 Fellow with Herstory Writers Workshop and the Coalition for Community Writing: Teaching for Justice and Peace

Too often, psychiatric labels function as sources of oppression that undermine autonomy and self-determination, relegating the voices of those with psychiatric labels to categories of incompetence and preventing those voices from being heard in care systems and society. My work both in and outside of academia is concerned with cognitive rights and the treatment, socially and institutionally, of people with psychiatric labels and disabilities. As someone who identifies as a psychiatric industry survivor, I know from personal experience the kinds of erasures of dignity, freedom, and human status that happen in mental healthcare systems, where differences are pathologized and where labels become the fragments through which the complexity of the whole person is forced into narrow view. My work is part of larger efforts and social movements dedicated to fighting against discrimination and making changes within mental healthcare systems. I believe that it is essential that we listen to people who are affected by mental healthcare systems, and who are, therefore, subject to the forms of discrimination and trauma that are often inherent in such systems. We need to know about their experiences of and perspectives on care in order to reflect upon and reform our care systems. Through the organization that I co-founded in 2017 with my sister, Madwomen in the Attic, I have been able to be part of feminist mental health and madness literacy projects and support that place the voices and perspectives of women and gender non-conforming people with lived mental healthcare experience at the center. The meetings we hold and literacy projects we do aim to provide a safer space, outside of the mental healthcare system, for women and gender non-conforming people with lived experience to gather together to support one another non-coercively and to engage in literacy projects together, in order to advocate for change in our communities and care systems. I couldn’t be more honored and thrilled to be able to work with Herstory to develop writing workshops and programs for people within and outside of psychiatric institutions in order to combat stigma and discrimination, raise awareness around institutional experience, and amplify the voices of people affected and sometimes oppressed by the mental healthcare system in the United States. The development of workshops and writing programs that use the Herstory method would help to sustain and push forward the literacy agenda Madwomen in the Attic is developing. I believe that narratives of lived experience are what our mental healthcare system desperately needs and that bringing together the voices of women and gender non-conforming people with lived psychiatric experiences will affect change in mental healthcare policy across the country.

Description of Herstory / Coalition for Community Writing / Madwomen in the Attic Hosted Workshop

Making Our Voices Heard: Memoirs to (Re)imagine Mental Healthcare


This two-hour weekly workshop, facilitated by Jessica Lowell Mason and Janelle Gagnon, will bring together storytellers who want to write a changed, reformed, or new mental healthcare model into existence by tuning into their experience and wisdom in order to explore, share, and shape stories and deep truths that speak back to power structures and compel a care system to care. During the workshop, we will nurture connections and bring together our experiences to craft with poetic attunement the stories of our souls that we hope will transform and reform mental healthcare. Together, we will gather to shape our stories in our mutual intention to transform care by compelling those who meet at the interface of mental healthcare systems to listen, care, and learn from our stories. Storytellers affected by the mental healthcare system who have in them an untold story about their experiences in the system and want to delve into their power through the act of telling their story in the service of a revolutionary goal are invited to join a mad-affirming, human rights agenda-driven, supportive environment for crafting memoirs that will change hearts and minds, as well as combat stigma and discrimination through the power of storytelling. Whether you have a vision for a different system, a writhing anger at injustice within it, or a need to amplify your truth, we invite you to join us to use the power of your voice to (re)shape our mental healthcare system and (re)imagine care.

Work with Madwomen in the Attic