The Alternatives 2010 conference that began Wednesday at the Hyatt Anaheim is billed as a celebration of “Mental Illness Awareness Week” and gathering of “consumers and survivors of mental health services.”
But an advocate for the seriously mentally ill complains the government-funded conference that continues through Sunday is not welcoming the mentally ill.
“By failing to include 'people with mental illness' in the list of
'consumers' and 'survivors' who are invited, they are sending a
not-so-subtle message: mentally ill not welcome,” writes DJ Jaffe on today's Huffington Post. “The term 'mental illness' isn't even allowed in the program.”
The conference is funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, and its backers do not believe mental illness exists, that it “is merely a label society uses to control them,” Jaffe writes.
He points to a workshop that shows participants how to go off their medications. “That could be a dangerous, if not deadly 'alternative' should any people with real mental illness be in attendance,” Jaffe observes. “The keynote speaker wrote, 'Antipsychotic drugs do not fix any known brain abnormality nor do they put brain chemistry back into balance.' One wonders if he ever met anyone with schizophrenia when they were on and off medications.”
According to the conference website, the 2010 Alternatives theme is “Promoting Wellness Through Social Justice.” Organizers say this year's location is “ideal.”
“For 40 years, California's mental health consumer/survivor movement has worked to promote civil rights and social justice, resulting in ground-breaking legislation such as the Mental Health Services Act,” states the site. “California has also long been known as the center of the wellness and holistic health movements which seek to integrate mind, body, and spirit and to empower people to have a stronger voice and greater choice regarding their health and well-being.”
It must be noted there is no mention in the registration materials of the mentally ill being forbidden, so it's the fact they are not explicitly invited that seems to have gotten under Jaffe's skin.
This year's conference, the site claims, focuses on strategies to increase the wellness and the health of individuals and communities through taking action for social change. A previous attendee is quoted as saying, “The conference transformed me so I can transform the system.”
That doesn't impress Jaffe.
“Dollars meant to help people with mental illness,” he writes, “are instead going to people who deny it's existence.”