I loathe the term mental illness. It’s unhelpful, it’s incorrect and it’s terribly stigmatising. And worst of all: no one actually has one. Now, before you think I really have lost the plot – everyone knows the statistics for mental illness, right? The numbers are increasing every year. – let me tell you why I think this is so.
Mental illness is not an illness; it’s a normal reaction to stressful life events. It’s a coping mechanism for situations in which you have no other cognitive mechanism to cope and it’s a normal experience, not an abnormal one. You get depressed when depressing things happen to you. If you have extremely horrible or continuing stressful events happening in your life, such as poverty or abuse, then you may even develop psychosis or a “personality disorder”. Sometimes, to alter your mental state is the only escape or defence mechanism that you have available in a given situation. This isn’t a theory; this is what current research indicates. If you’re interested, feel free to email me and I’ll send you a few dozen articles from academic journals where the link between stressful life events and mental illness is made clear.
Yesterday I was at a conference on disability and the keynote speaker was a ubiquitous Canadian parent talking about how important it is to hold a positive vision for the lives of significantly disabled children. He was saying all the right things – accept what is, stay in the present, love the child you have, not the child you wish you had.
At the end of his talk he said he thought we needed a new term for “disability”. He said he didn’t know what it should be, but that it should encompass the idea of a valid experience that is not commonly recognised. Hey, I thought that’s great, maybe this guy is worth chatting to.
How wrong I was.
Hi everyone. My name is Barbara and, officially, I’m Philip’s new Personal Assistant. What that translates to, is that I work part time at Diversity NZ supporting projects like DPSN. I am also studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Psychology at the University of Auckland with the intent to gain entry to the training programme to become a Clinical Psychologist (therapist). I have a vested interest in mental health issues, legislation, terminology, issues of discrimination, therapies, medication and anything else you can think of related to staying sane.
Why do I care about these issues? Why should anyone listen to what I have to say? What makes my commentary valid?
In our family we have a No shushing rule. Many people wonder how we manage this and why I would set myself up in this situation. I would like to share the reasons for this in the interests of promoting the value of every child’s contribution, no matter how unique.
I have three sons. They are each unique individuals who I hope will grow up with self confidence, a positive self image, a sense of belonging and feel valued within their family, community and other roles. I intend to provide my parenting support with these goals in mind.
Creating inclusive environments is a key part of allowing diversity to add richness and value to everything we do in our organisations and businesses. But inclusion - or ensuring equal opportunities for people to access environments, services and networks - alone is not enough.
Yes it's important to notice when people are not present on our boards and staff, in our audiences and programmes. And we must identify and address barriers that disadvantage, marginalise or exclude people.
But, according to "Social Inclusion and Participation: A Guide for Policy and Planning" published by the NZ Ministry of Social Development in 2007 (download it as a Word doc), there are four other key dimensions of social inclusion: belonging, participation, recognition and legitimacy.
On Sunday afternoon while discussing with friends the week's political credit card revelations and other minor happenings, I said that anyone who volunteers for political office proves, by the act of volunteering, that they shouldn't be a politician.
That night I dreamt that I had been elected MP for Wellington. I saw myself on the streets of the capital city, being congratulated by people young and old. They assured me I would make a difference, change the world and watch lots of porn.
Actually I made up the bit about the porn, but the rest really happened – it was a perplexing dream.
I just found the link to this video on the Nutters Club Facebook wall, recommended by Russell Brown. It's a great interpretation and analysis of autism, pointing out that people are not "non-thinking" or "non-responsive", just because how they think or respond is unique, not common. A great reminder to accept and value diversity even if you don't understand it.
I struggled last week to to form an opinion about John Key's gaff with Tuhoe, where he joked that he could have ended up on the menu had he been dining with them and not Ngati Porou. Like many others, I could see the wit in the quip, but, as Te Ururoa Flavell so rightly pointed out, it was Key's timing that let him down.
They say that comedy is tragedy plus time. Sadly, Key just didn't allow enough time for Tuhoe's tragic loss of their hopes of getting ownership of Te Urewera National Park to become a laughing matter.
But there is something else in the mix here. Many might say that it would be common sense for Tuhoe to see the humour in Key's throw-away remark and attempt to be clever. Common sense, however, in this sensitive context, is not enough. Common sense draws only half of the dynamic that operates between people – our sense of normality, similarity and the ordinary – which favours mainstream, middle-class and middle-aged values and ideology.
On 1 May my proposal for Performing the World 2010: Can Performance Change the World? (PTW 2010) was accepted. The conference received over 200 proposals and I have been picked to be part of the diversity and passion of social change and performance from all over the world. I need to raise about $12000 for the trip to New York.
The sixth Performing the World conference will be held in New York City from Thursday, September 30 through Sunday, October 3, 2010. My presentation will be a talk and workshop punctuated by performance with Tony Lewis, aiming to demonstrate a more dynamic and constructive social paradigm and recognise diversity as more than characteristics like gender, race, disability and sexuality. Participants will leave with a new understanding of our natural synergy of similarity and difference, uniqueness and commonality that exists in all people, in all places, at all times.
Written for 3news.co.nz | 8 April 2010
One of the things I've always loved about Apple products – and the company itself – is how they rethink technology. They have the knack of continually introducing fundamentally new concepts to inspire people to change how they work, play and interact with each other.