Mental Health Affairs aims to bring readers the most critical and rigorous analytical commentary on the status of medicine, psychiatry, social work, psychology, and allied fields intersecting with mental health care today.
Far too many stories and first-hand accounts of recovery are terminal and end with a cure or picturesque life for the consumer of services or ‘sick’ person. These recovery narratives are different. They are stories about struggle, ongoing collateral pushback from friends, and internalised self-doubt.
Mental Health Affairs evolved from a recommendation that writing needs to be cross-pollinated with peer and clinical research elements. My blog was an experiment in many ways. I was charged with the task of marrying two worlds while producing a cogent product that spoke to both consumers and practitioners alike. In many ways, I have successfully merged the two worlds, and in other ways, less effective.
To give the reader a little more background on this blog’s evolution, it all began with this vision of merging ‘two worlds’. Indeed, the common theme I settled upon to bridge the peer and clinical gap was self-management. Under the auspices of self-management, both clinicians and peers can benefit from better teaching better and self-employ techniques to better regulate their emotional and behavioural health.
The initial launch of Mental Health Affairs was in autumn of 2016. After speaking with peers and practitioners who evaluated the blog’s impact, the plan moving forward from the initial launch was to create a platform not only a ‘do this’ or ‘try this’ approach. Instead, the shift was also to provide information on systems issues from ‘ableism’ to ‘stigma‘ and how to use these new self-management skills to mitigate living in a culture rife with these sociological problems and maintain good mental health. In doing so, we created a pathway to the blog’s final expression to champion more significant mental health reform.
Indeed, if self-management was the overarching theme, how could each article speak to both consumers and practitioners without losing sight of the overall goal and mission to disseminate accurate and compelling information to everyone successfully? With this said, to truly get underneath the issues, paint the frontier between both worlds in colours that would not bleed out the information, and lose both audiences altogether.
Underneath self-management, at the ground floor of the mental health problem, was language and its inherent instability to bridge the many intersections that would heal the mental health system and finally challenge the stigma existent in our country. At that moment, Mental Health Affairs took shape and grew boldly among the many blogs circulating the internet and soared above its infancy, becoming something much bigger and more profound than the narrow-focused literature disseminated in the past.
I believe ‘hope and healing‘ for mental health conditions are required to bring about better outcomes. The approach needed and yet left conspicuously absent from the system even though it is the very slogan championed by the state mental health system.
I attribute this weakness to the limitations of the system and the constraints placed upon its workers beholding biased perspectives and approaches to treatment that included the furthering of stigma within the system-of-care. For this very reason, this blog will continue to take up arms and provide readers alike with information to dismantle, repair, and revise the system-of-care at every level that it intersects with people’s treatment with a mental health diagnosis.
Endorsement of peer work in academia is as rife with political intrigue and back door funnelling of money and funding as the White House. The difference with academia is that we refuse to talk about it. And no television dramas are depicting our ethical and moral battles in institutions and library halls’ wings.
Like the perseveration of our patients, we must redirect the very meaning-making and re-target the research areas that aren’t discussed. These are the missing or underdeveloped research that continues to confound and contest knowledge as genuinely unassailable. If we are honest about what we do in mental health, we will do just that. No modality, no study, no manuscript for submission is genuinely above reproach. There are taboo areas of how we do things as problematic researchers.
I have made no secret about my scepticism in the clinical value of new research in mental health in the last decade. I am just not confident we are targeting the right areas or bodies of underdeveloped research and moving forward in the important or needed areas to impact mental health as a discourse or inquiry field truly.
The truth is, chronic illness, either rooted in psychiatric or medical symptoms, can be a lifelong road with many critical junctures for the risk of relapse, suffering, and systemic issues with access to treatment. I hope these stories shed light on the aspects of healing that serve as hope to readers and the plight of the consumer riddled with making endless difficult life choices due to the severe chronicity of their symptoms.
Ongoing and a continuum of symptoms that will wax and wane as our life stories unfold. These symptoms will impact the very fabric and quality of my life. My information is not unique, but it is mostly untold – it is taboo for people in recovery to admit that when there is no cure, the only thing left to do is never stop fighting for life.
Mental Health Affairs highlights the result of never surrendering to mental illness and never giving up. Hopefully, the implications will warn the reader in vivid terms to keep close to healing, even if a full cure is impossible.
Max E. Guttman, LCSW is a psychotherapist and owner of Recovery Now, a mental health private practice in New York City.