The Genie Sleeps Soundly In His Bottle By The Sea

There are two types of stress: DISTRESS, the regular stress that plagues us, and EUSTRESS, a positive form that improves productivity and performance.
THE WORD “STRESS” has been used for hundreds of years — it has roots in the Old French/Middle English word DESTRESSE, meaning “distress,” but it wasn’t used in the psychological sense until the 20th century.
~National Stress Awareness Month, By the Numbers

I went on a google quest for the positives of the ‘mental illness’ label, and found, frankly, that it wasn’t a thing researchers tended to pursue. You get instead this rather polarizing division between the positives of ‘mental health’ and the negatives of ‘mental illness’.

God, the therapist, just doesn’t completely jive with my world view right now. But that’s okay, Roberta, there are other views.

It has been argued that Jesus of Nazareth was widely considered a dangerous madman, due partly to antisocial and disruptive outbursts including physical aggression, grandiose and nonsensical claims, and terse responses to official questioning – and may have been mocked as a king and crucified for that reason.
~History of mental disorders

I did find myself amused, as is often the case, by one article on a research study I encountered recently, considering these good versus evil, positive versus negative values. This was Volunteering as a community mental health educator: Positives and negatives of recovery

An advocacy role that is highly visible within the community is that of a consumer educator, when people with lived experience of mental illness use their personal experience to educate others in the community.

I always had problems with the ‘consumer’ tag in the sense that it is being used here. You have a person who has done a term in a mental hospital. This person calls him or herself a ‘consumer’ because he or she has become convinced that he or she has a ‘mental illness’ for which he or she must ‘consume’ ‘mental health treatment’ in the hopes of eventual full ‘recovery’ of his or her ‘mental health’.

This ‘consumer’ grouping, a social category brought on by the practices of contemporary ‘mental health treatment’, is a rather insular grouping. ‘Educator’ need not be qualified by the word ‘consumer’, and vice versa.

Right, now let us get our terms straight. We have the community in general, and we have within this community in general a community of educators, and a community of ‘consumers’, specifically ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health treatment’. All circles are subsumed under the circle of community in general, but within this wider circle, the circle of educators and the circle of ‘consumers’ intersect. This intersection of circles creates a fourth circle, the circle of ‘consumer’ ‘educators’.

Most community members are not ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health’ services. Most community members are not educators. Most ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health’ services are not ‘educators’. Most educators are not ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health treatment’. All consumers’ of ‘mental health services’ and educators are members of the larger community. Do these ‘consumer’ ‘educators’ educate other ‘consumers’ of ‘mental health services’, or the community of educators, or the community at large, or all three?

This is another one of those studies, conducted primarily in order to reinforce the conclusions that have already been drawn.

The benefits of being a consumer educator far outweighed the negatives and four main themes emerged for the benefits: the unique value of peer support; the personal meaning gained from educating others about mental illness; the benefits of validation and catharsis through telling their story; and the skills gained. Negatives included feeling vulnerable during or after presentations, being fearful of stigma, and dealing with occasional challenges with co-presenters.

Well, when life is a matter of co-presenting, I guess that’s how it goes.

Some among the ancients had a different and more positive view of madness. There was a type of madness that was considered to come through the intervention of a deity, and this was divine madness.

Socrates begins by discussing madness. If madness is all bad, then the preceding speeches would have been correct, but in actuality, madness given as a gift of the gods provides us with some of the best things we have.There are, in fact, four kinds of divine madness:
1. From Apollo, the gift of prophecy;
2. From Dionysus, the mystic rites and relief from present hardship;
3. From the Muses, poetry;
4. From Aphrodite, love.
As they must show that the madness of love is, indeed, sent by a god to benefit the lover and beloved in order to disprove the preceding speeches, Socrates embarks on a proof of the divine origin of this fourth sort of madness. It is a proof, he says, that will convince “the wise if not the clever”.
~ Phaedrus (dialogue)

This leads us back to the link between madness and genius, but then we can’t all be nameplates and stuffed shirts, can we?

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2 Responses

  1. My understanding of consumer educators is that they educate other consumers as well as mental health professionals about living as well as possible witha mental health diagnosis. I am a bit wary of thos eemployed by mental health agencies indeed, but I have seen at least one who spoke at my institution who seemed quite radical on rejecting the psychiatric model. Probably not as radical as you are though.

    • Yes, and if they were educating them about living as well as possible without a mental health diagnosis, they would no longer be ‘consumers’. It happens though, some people manage to misplace their diagnoses.

      There are good people, some of whom get around, and manage to speak at institutions. You’d be surprised at how radical some of them are, if you knew. They just don’t wear it on their sleeves. It’s just a matter of slipping between one zone and the next without startling the residents.

      Thank you, Astrid.

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