By Leah Harris — As I got deeper into the research about childbirth options, I began to notice the commonalities between the natural birth movement and our movement of users and survivors of psychiatry. The first commonality is that we are confronting industries – the birth/obstetric and psychiatric industries, respectively. In both cases, the trend is toward the most invasive medical technologies, which also just happen to make a lot more money for these industries. When it comes to mental health – as we all know, it’s institutionalization, shock, and expensive psych drugs. … (post included information and a trailer about a new documentary too) [click on title to read the rest]
By Leah Harris
Like millions, I am sitting with the fact that one of the funniest people to grace the planet has died by his own hand. Robin Williams’ death has hit people of my generation, Generation X, especially hard. After all, his face flashed often across our childhood screens. Mork and Mindy episodes were a source of solace for me as a little girl, as I bounced around between foster homes and family members’ homes, while my single mother cycled in and out of the state mental hospital, fighting to survive. I could laugh and say “nanu, nanu – shazbot” and “KO” and do the silly hand sign and forget for just a little while about living a life I didn’t ask for.
“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it,” may become one of Robin Williams’ most famous quotes. I was always struck by how he moved so seamlessly between wacky comedy and the most intense dramas. He was so magnificently able to capture the human experience in all its extremes. He threw all that intensity right into our faces, undeniable, raw, frenetic. He showed us our own naked vulnerability and sparks of madness and gave us permission to laugh in the face of all that is wrong in this world. … [click on title to read and view more]
As a trauma survivor growing up in various adolescent mental health systems, I learned that my current coping skills (self-injury, suicidal behavior, illicit drug use) were unacceptable, but not given any ideas as to what to replace them with. No one seemed to want to know much about the early childhood traumas that were driving these behaviors. Instead, I collected an assortment of diagnoses. I was told that I would be forever dependent on mediated relationships with professionals, and an ever-changing combination of pills. The message was that my troubles were chemical in nature and largely beyond my control. Care would always be something I would have to accept from others, not to perform for myself. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
by Leah Harris
As I walked alone up the stairs to the Rayburn House Office Building this morning to attend the hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on H.R. 3717 – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act – I thought about how I wasn’t truly alone. In spirit with me were all the people who had experienced scary, coercive, and dehumanizing interventions in the name of help. In spirit with me were all the well-intentioned family members who didn’t want to force treatment on their loved ones, but didn’t have access to or know about alternative voluntary, recovery-oriented community resources. In spirit with me was every mental health provider who went into the field hoping to really make a difference in their communities, but became cynical and discouraged in the face of so many broken systems and broken spirits. … [click on title for the rest of the post]
by Leah Harris
I tried to kill myself when I was 14. It wasn’t the first time. My psychiatrist had just upped my Prozac, a whole lot of unresolved early childhood trauma had flared up at puberty, and the baseline sadness and confusion I felt mushroomed into an overwhelming desire to die. The thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone: Everything I could think of circled back only to suicide. I wrote out a suicide note and made an attempt. I won’t go into the horrors of waking up alive in an emergency room where the staff was clearly annoyed they had to deal with me and my “attention seeking” behavior. … [click on title to read the rest]
___ Leah Harris, psychiatric survivor, mother, and social justice activist tells the story of how she overcame a legacy of oppression to become a part of the global movement working for rights, dignity, and justice for people labeled with mental illness, mad people, and people living with emotional distress.
It often strikes me as to how my experiences as a psychiatric survivor color most facets of my life, informing my perspectives and my choices in so many ways. When I became pregnant, I immediately knew that I did not wish to give birth in a hospital setting. Given my past history with involuntary hospitalization […]