Home Inspirational Stories Mental Illness Are Hampered by Stigma and Discrimination – Change Is Needed

Mental Illness Are Hampered by Stigma and Discrimination – Change Is Needed

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Change – what is it? Maybe it is a penny or a nickel? Perhaps it is possibly a dime or a quarter? None of these is accurate. It could be someone who switches buses or trains to arrive at their destination. This is also not correct.

Most change comes from within. Whether it would be a change in behaviour or a change in thought, we must remind ourselves and peer specialists as well, we can change. For this, all of us ought to look inside, find our soul and see what is holding us back in the first place. Do I want to stay like this and remain the way I am? Am I happy or content or utterly miserable? An internal battle ensues and now I must determine which one is me, plus decide the one that fits me best? More than likely it is a combination of all three.

Peer specialists also have to deal with change. We use this often to assist individuals in the efforts to become independent and learn about self-empowerment. As a peer specialist, I aid others with change and find their road to recovery. Since other peers (including myself) have gone through some of this already, we offer our unique perspectives. For many years I have been journeying on my road and often welcomed others and assisted some with the change, from those that were willing. However, not to be selfish this is my road, and each person has to find their road. Remember, every journey begins with one step. 

Although change is hard, many of us can and do accomplish things more often than not. There is an old joke, which nonetheless seems relevant in this instance. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer: none, the light bulb has to want to change. Although change is hard, the peers including myself, find a way to accomplish this, more often than not. It also makes us feel better and we tend to do more. This applies to me, as well.

What does this mean for all of us? To put this simply, to effect change, we must decide if change is necessary and if we need to make this or any change. Also, is there a good reason for the change? Yes, I realise that is a big step and not easy for many of us, including myself. This is where peer specialists come in. Attempting to help others to weigh and see both sides, plus make us aware that change could be both good and bad for this person. However, we must try, try and try again. Change is waiting.

Here is my personal story about change and the effects made in my life. Many years ago, I moved into Long Island Jewish’s Nassau Supportive Living Program (NSLP), where I would relearn how to become more independent again. Within a couple of months, I began group therapy.

For six and a half years, I remained with the same awful therapist, with ever-changing groups, both day and night times. The therapist often said, ‘change is good’. Finally, after almost six years of what seemed like torture almost every week, I began searching for a change in my treatment clinic and where I would get a new therapist and psychiatrist to discuss my meds. Of course, if this was ever brought up in my current group, the therapist would say no, as he has done several times in the past. 

After several weeks, I was given a start date at the new clinic. When I returned to the current group, I requested the last few minutes to talk. Finally, it was now my turn to have the floor and speak. For several minutes, I discussed my reasons for leaving this group. My therapist, as predicted, attempted to stop the process. When I walked out of the room, never to come back to this group again, I said to myself ‘change is good!’

Unfortunately, around the world change arises too often and much too quickly. Whether this could be COVID-19 or social unrest or climate conditions, change happens way beyond our possible control. As human beings, we adjust to each change as best we can. Since peer specialists around this world fight for change, we can encourage others to do similar. Some changes are good and some are not, but the Earth is changing. 

Whatever the reason, we can attempt to make a change no matter how scary it is.  All peers can be at the forefront and can affect change, one peer specialist at a time. By not performing a change it is still a change anyway.

Time for a suggestion that helps me. Often I suggest to myself that I keep it simple stupid (KISS). Also, I think about what I learned as a child – crawl, walk, jog and then run – which may be the best way to proceed. Step by step and evaluate each move before moving ahead and making that change. Then, and only then, can we shout from the rooftops: Change can happen. 

Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist in New York.

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