So I was thinking today at a workshop at the #Alternatives2018 conference that there is an 800 lb gorilla sitting right in the middle of the Pryzbyla Center at Catholic University of America. This workshop was discussing Mad Studies and Survivor-Controlled research in the US, which is practically non-existent, unlike other countries, such as the UK, where it is REQUIRED.
There was a lot of talk about institutional roadblocks, the resistance of the professional class, the money-driven research supplied by drug companies, etc. Many ideas were floated to work on pressuring universities and government mental health agencies to include people with the lived experience of mental illness to be part of the research and decision-making of these critical studies, which is a great goal.
The problem as I see it is simple – the money for this kind of research, even for children, according to researchers Nev Jones and Emily Cutler, is drying up fast. I can see the day coming when pretty much all such research funding by governments, foundations and universities will dry up, with the exception of drug-financed studies and studies with a profit endgame.
The 800 lb. gorilla is the Trump Administration. This edition of Alternatives was produced by the people for whom it was intended – no Federal money was used to subsidize this conference. What I would like to see is a realization that very shortly, if not already, we will truly be ‘On Our Own’ to fight for our rights and influence public policy by ‘alternative’ means, i.e. very impolite demonsrations, ala ‘ACT UP’ from back in the day.
It is not hard to believe that Federal agencies supporting mental health research and advocacy will soon have their funding eliminated. For guideposts, look at what is happening at other Federal departments – Education, Health and Human Service to name two – a complete re-alignment of mission away from true human service and towards the meanness of ideological conservatism.
I really enjoy these workshops and the spirit in which they are given. It truly feels great to be among our own people and using our voices, energy and intellect to empower a movement.
But at the same time, I fear we may be whistling past a graveyard. Due to the outright hostility of the current administration to human service and social activism, what we are planning today may become extremely difficult because nothing moves in the USA without the backing of cold hard cash and friends in high places.
I earlier drew the comparison between the Mad Pride movement and ACT UP. I think while we plan today, there should be some consideration given to the possibility that in the very near future, direct action may be the last and best tool we have to fight for our cause. It is something I think most people would wish to avoid but these times are perilous and lives are at stake.