Tag Archive | WFTH authors

New Book: “Not Guilty But Not Free” by Zerom Seyoum

A New Book by ‘Write From The Heart’ Graduate
Zerom Seyoum:
Not Guilty But Not Free
An insight into mental illness from 20 years of personal struggles in and out of a psychiatric hospital.
price: $17.50
purchase from author:
phone: 604-565-5515
cell: 604-828-8130

Susan J. Katz wins fourth place in the Seventh Annual Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest

Susan J. Katz won fourth prize and $250 for “The Bowpicker”, a narrative in which two visits to a seabird-watching festival, three decades apart, reveal the differences between youthful romance and long-married love. The judges said, “The poet majors on what she actually saw at the Annual Seabird Festival and what she expected to see. The joy of reading these verses does not just rely on that contrast, however, but on the unusual yet amazing subject matter which is so deftly and unobtrusively introduced into the natural flow of the poem.”

Full Results of 2009 Tom Howard Poetry Contest — and More!

2009 Tom Howard Poetry Contest Results 

First Prize, $2,000: Rita McGregor, Baby Girl

Second Prize, $1,000: Carmine Dandrea, In the Delhi Station 
Third Prize, $500: Tony Peyser, What I Did in the 20th Century 
** Fourth Prize, $250: Susan J. Katz, The Bowpicker 
For a complete review of the winners and their poems, go to:

Mary Ellen Copeland and Susan J. Katz at the Voice Awards!

Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, to be honored with Lifetime Achievement Award from SAMHSA

2009 Voice Awards Logo
Press Release from SAMHSA:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will present Mary Ellen Copeland the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Voice Awards for her work and leadership in the mental health recovery movement. The event will take place on Wednesday, October 14, at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA, and will bring together representatives from the entertainment industry and the mental health community.
The Voice Awards celebrates the achievements of mental health leaders who are working to promote the social inclusion of people with mental health problems and the real possibility of recovery. Also, the event honors writers and producers who have given a voice to people with mental health problems by incorporating dignified, respectful, and accurate portrayals of these individuals into film and television productions. This year, the event will celebrate nominees that include The Soloist, Michael Clayton, Lars and the Real Girl, “90210,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Law & Order: SVU.”
Copeland is one of seven mental health leaders and advocates to be honored at the 2009 Voice Awards who have been instrumental in both raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues and promoting the social inclusion of people with mental health problems. Through their leadership and advocacy, they demonstrate that recovery is real and that people with mental health problems are valuable, contributing members of their schools, workplaces, and communities.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity, and effectiveness of the Nation’s substance abuse prevention, addictions treatment, and mental health service delivery systems. The Voice Awards are part of the Campaign for Mental Health Recovery, a multi-year public service advertising program of SAMHSA and the Ad Council to promote understanding and support for young adults and others with mental illnesses.

Susan J. Katz, Vancouver free-lance writer and CIF Project Manager for the ‘Write From The Heart’ Program, was also nominated for the Voice Awards, and will be attending the ceremony.

New Writing Course for Consumers!

Get It Write

April 23/09 from 10am – 12pm and April 24/09 from 10am – 4pm

Developed and led by Susan Katz (creator of the Consumer Initiative Fund’s ‘Write from the Heart’ and ‘Recovery Narrative Project’), this 1.5 day writing workshop is for mental health consumers wishing to lift their writing to new levels and learn how to carry on their own writing practice at home. We focus on producing writing; learning creative and fun methods of accessing our words with simple writing exercises and body movements; and developing skills to effectively give, receive, and incorporate feedback from your audience.

This program is a real confidence-builder, and ideal for consumers wishing to go on to conventional writing programs or to create their own writing practice. No previous experience necessary, but do bring a journal of your choice to write in, a bag lunch and wear loose, comfortable clothing. Light refreshments provided.Cost: $100Registration: PeerNetBC 604-733-6186 http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/1819631/
Location: PeerNetBC boardroom #306-1212 W. Broadway www.peernetbc.com/

CIF Wants Your Story!


Are you or have you been connected to CIF?
Have you got a recovery story?

We are looking for short stories about how CIF has impacted your lives:
• your work skills
• your friendships
• your overall experience of living with mental illness

~ Please think of submitting – we look forward to hearing from YOU ~
Consumer Initiative Fund # 239, 520 W. 6th Ave, Vancouver, V5Z 4H5
604-708-5317, Fax: 604-874-7661

These may be used in our Evaluation Report, our website and our newsletter

Why I Am a ‘Consumer’ by Susan J. Katz

Why I Am a ‘Consumer’
by Susan J. Katz1

My first experience with the term ‘consumer’ was in 2006, 21 years after I was first diagnosed with a mental illness. I had just moved to a new city and a new health authority and was now receiving care at a community mental health team. My new care team introduced me to this term with the disparaging remarks that ‘everyone hates this word, but we’re stuck with it; it implies that you are buying your services, like groceries, which you are not’. So why use it? I thought. Now two years later, always keeping that conversation in mind when I was asked to identify my role in the mental health system, I have come to love the idea.
The rapid journey since that first encounter with the term ‘consumer’ has been like riding in a car on ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’ at Disneyland, where all sorts of alternate suggestions and endless opinions, arguments and discussions about them, became the inevitable digression at any meeting of persons with a diagnosis. People hated being labeled ‘consumers’ because they are not shopping for laundry soap; because they know they are not offered any options in services even if they did wish to comparison shop like a true consumer; and because the term has developed derogatory and stigmatizing connotations, much like the labels it was created to replace, such as ‘mentally ill’ or ‘insane’.
The problem remained, what shall we replace ‘consumer’ with? A few recollections by peers and my own literature search have turned up some alternatives. Here is a list of the most common ones and a summary of their arguments:
• Consumer: this term was promoted by mental health activists themselves during the Disability Rights movement era of the 1970’s and was intended to empower service users and instill them with the authority of choice in their care. In 2002, the B.C. Ministry of Health defined ‘consumers’ as: “people who have direct and personal experience of a mental health issue and who have used or are using the resources available through the private or public mental health system.”2 , including those choosing to be treated by private psychiatrists, psychologists, general practitioners or through alternate therapies.
• User: only refers to those actively using services and widely refers to people who have difficulties with substance abuse.
• Service user: again, refers only to people actively using services and many people with a diagnosis do not. Also, in reality, services are not freely used, but are supplied only after there has been a needs assessment by an assigned care manager. Interestingly enough, many people, especially men, feel that the term ‘service user’ labels them as a welfare dependent, and therefore a drain, on public resources and strips them of their sense of self-worth.
• Survivor: can refer to surviving the mental illness, or to surviving the mental health system. In the latter sense, it has a very negative and inflammatory message, and as such, erodes the potential for improving relationships with service providers. Also, borrowing this term diminishes the experience of Holocaust survivors, for whom it was originally created.
• Patient/mental patient: the word ‘patient’ comes from the Latin root ‘one who suffers’ and connotes a passive supplicant seeking relief from an expert. This is contrary to the collaborative process persons with a diagnosis desire.
• Ex-patient: refers to persons who are no longer using services.
• Client: this is the most preferred term in any survey of terminology; however, the Latin root is ‘one who depends’. The power of self-management and healing becomes dependent upon someone else. Usually clients pay for therapy, which in reality most persons cannot.
• Victim: implies person with mental health difficulties has been attacked or is defenseless and is contrary to the need for personal empowerment.
• Psychiatrised: meaning a person has been treated by a psychiatrist; a term I have never seen and has undesirable associations of receiving treatment unwillingly imposed.
• Receiver: similar to user; does not address what is received, and invites shame as all euphemisms do
• Person with a psychiatric disability: well-liked, but many people do not consider themselves disabled and lead what they feel is a meaningful, fulfilling and functional life.
• Person in recovery: is becoming popular, but can be mistaken for many other types of recovery journeys, most commonly, substance abuse.

Over the last two years, I tried out each new term with; they all seemed better than the ‘consumer’ word, at first. Then I tried them out with others with a diagnosis: No one term seemed to be inclusive of every person in recovery. In the meantime, I began to acquire the confidence and voice to create my own preferred care program. Through peer-led programs I learned how to self-assess and manage my symptoms, and part of that self-management was to develop the ability to request services that I knew were right for me. I gradually recognized that this is what consumers of any product do, and that being an informed consumer was a good thing.
I began to become comfortable calling myself a ‘consumer’ again, but so many of my peers were still angry and skeptical by the false promise of this term. They said, we are not consumers because although we may want to be, we are not allowed to choose our services; there are no choices, and compliance is still the only option.
Hope for change is on the way. Hope is the cornerstone of the widely adopted psychosocial rehabilitation model, which emphasizes collaboration rather than compliance. One sign of hope on the horizon comes from an article by Janet Meagher3, in which she calls to the reader:

“Our dream was to expect that mental health services would provide their services to meet a range of reasonable needs which would respect the rights of the service user, and, that these individual needs and rights would be adequately protected by regulations, standards and laws. At the time the concept seemed somewhat fanciful and quite unattainable, but something to aim for and work towards.
Today, we have achieved that fanciful dream, at least on paper, but there remains a need to see that dream fully functional. Human Rights protection, National Mental Health Service Standards and National Mental Health Policy, consumer and carer participation and partnerships were the stuff of those dreams and now do exist. We need to ensure that they become more than that, that they are fully enacted across every health service and in every mental health activity.”

What can consumers do to ensure the dream? Create and participate in opportunities to be a voice expressing what options we would like to have for our recovery process, just like any other consumer driven market product. True, most persons with a diagnosis are not able to purchase their services, but the providers are aware that the best, most cost-effective services are the ones that produce results. And the best results are ultimately the ones we choose for ourselves through informed and collaborative decision-making.
We all win when we become true consumers of mental health recovery services.

  1. From: Vancouver/Richmond Mental Health Network Bulletin, Fall 2008
  2. British Columbia Ministry of Health 2002 Best Practices in Mental Health and Addictions: Consumer Involvement and Initiatives p. 7
  3. From ‘Australian Mental Health Consumer Network’ http://amhcn.org.au/?m=24 What are you? By Janet Meagher

Creative Writing: From Strathcona Newsletter editor Jude Swanson

This article from Write From The Heart graduate Jude Swanson appears in the Strathcona Mental Health Team newsletter. Jude is the newsletter’s editor:
Creative Writing
There are many activities that I love to do but writing is one that I enjoy while in a variety of roles. I write letters to my Grandmother in England. I do paperwork while at work. I write letters to municipal, provincial and federal government representatives advocating for changes I’d like to see. So, writing was already an important part of my life before I took Write from the Heart a creative writing group connected to the Consumer Initiative Fund. Write from the Heart was an incredible course (for me) for a variety of reasons. I took it to improve my writing skills and I feel it did. However, it added in ways I could not of perceived before taking the course. One of my faults before taking Write from the Heart is that I thought I didn’t have time to write. The course really showed some options to MAKE that time for writing. Writing is so important to me that I know I need to make time for it, just like I make time for sleeping, eating and socializing. The Write from the Heart course is one that I would recommend to others. I had already identified writing as an important part of my life. The course helped me improve my writing and introduced me to other people (fellow Writers). Jude Swanson

Testimony from the Braidwood Inquiry: Jude Swanson

I’m a citizen with a mental health diagnosis and a seizure disorder. Originally, I intended to file a general services complaint via the police complaints process to have the conducted energy device’s medical footprint examined. At this provincial inquiry, I have seen there has been a wide variety of people invited to share their opinions and experiences. Thank you for including mine as well. I have shared my written submissions with my MLA’s office and my Member of Parliament. Other citizens have wondered aloud to me about heart conditions, multiple sclerosis, and Tourettes syndrome as just some of the medical issues that could be impacted by law enforcement’s use of the conducted energy device. Epilepsy has existed a lot longer than the conducted energy device. I do not feel myself or the medical community should need to prove conditions like epilepsy are impacted by the conducted energy device. I feel it is the responsibility of the manufacturers of the conducted energy device to prove via independent study that their product does not worsen medical conditions like epilepsy. I feel the burden of proof lies with the manufacturer because these medical conditions existed before any patents of the conducted energy device were granted anywhere in the world. I want law enforcement to be safe, but I do not want to live in a society where citizens’ lives are put in jeopardy due to a medical condition. I feel we live in a society with rights and responsibilities. If law enforcement wants the right to use this weapon, I submit they also deserve the responsibility to be held accountable should ‘misunderstandings’ result due to an innocent citizen’s medical condition. I urge this inquiry to recommend the suspension of use of the conducted energy device while possible repercussions are studied independently. If the inquiry does choose to recommend suspension of the use of the conducted energy device, I suggest that all current budgets allocated to this device be frozen. Then the budgets could be redirected for the continual use by law enforcement. If the conducted energy device is filling a role, then the monies currently used for filling that role should be redirected into finding other options. I also feel law enforcement could use more extensive training in medical conditions and mental health. I feel it is obvious why a person with an electrically based medical condition would be concerned about an electrical weapon. Again, thank you for the opportunity to share my opinions and experiences. Jude Swanson May 22, 2008 @ the Braidwood Inquiry (into the Conducted Energy Device)The full transcript is available at braidwoodinquiry.ca (under transcripts May 22, 2008)