Archive for the ‘mentalism’ Category

Fyah links Friday

indexHey Fyah Family, this week has been full of stuff. Good stuff, bad stuff and all that lies in between. For the bad and in-between I found some internet inspiration. I hope you enjoy it as well.

1) My younger sister is a boss. Caring, funny and smart, she is the true super-star and heart of my family. She also happens to have special needs. When I read about Aaron Philip in the NY Times it automatically thought of her and her bravery and strength navigating this world that sadly does not appreciate her skills and contributions.  Read this story about Aaron and check and follow his tumblr.

2) I came across this listing of photographs depicting  love/love stories and even my jaded icebox of a heart went all warm and mushy. Awwww 🙂

3) So, life as a grad student is  something I think you have to experience to believe. Readings, grades, assignments, schedules, a shit load more readings and assignments, working as a TA, working on a thesis, looking for a job that pays cus this tuition is expensive, more readings and assignments, weight gain, and then it all seems worth it  for the times when I am reminded that it is pretty great to be a grad student. Yes, it actually is that frenetic. I was sitting at my desk staring at about 6 student emails about something or the other  and during one of my Facebook breaks , I came across this hilariously revealing post.  Fellow grad schoolers or recent grads, let me know if this resonates.

Have a great weekend!

Fyah Friday links


1. October 2013 marks one year since Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen – her “crime”, to have spoken up for the right of girls to be educated in a blog that she was managing anonymously for a few years.  This is the first in depth interview she has given since the attack and she has some very interesting views on how she believes peace can be attained with the Taliban through discussions.

Two things stood out to me:

  • The treatment of women and girls by the Taliban was used as a reason for intervention and military action. I took some time to look for what has been done to attempt to learn about some of the plans to achieve this objective and was unsuccessful. I certainly found out a lot about military engagement though.
  • Malala believes that the US (hmmm) and ambiguous governments are the ones responsible for brokering peace with the Taliban. She hopes to take an active role in this in the future as she aspires to hold political office.  I hope that she can continue to bring a voice to girls in her region but her sources of that hope give me pause.

2. Since the tragic shooting in Newton CT. late last year, the public discussions around dealing with people living with mental illness has been really difficult to sit through. Laws that significantly compromise confidentiality in mental health care and stigmatize those in treatment or who may have been treated in the past have been rolled out in a frenzy to appease some unfounded urge to save ‘us’ from them ‘them’

This Atlantic article shows are ill-prepared police officers are to deal with mental illness in times of crisis, relating the the recent shooting death by the police of a woman at Capitol Hill

I was reminded about attempts to facilitate gender training sessions with police and immigration officers . I left those sessions knowing that most officers were only there because they had be and were less than concerned about the subject matter. Additionally, the  fact that these sessions were being as one-off sessions and not part of comprehensive mandatory training , made me even less hopeful that the change I was hoping for would be realized.

images3.  Sigh. Why does the Dominican Republic want to manufacture more hardship for people of Haitian descent? The Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo has ruled in favor of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929. Really? Really now?  Here, PJ Patterson, former Jamaican PM is asking that CARICOM take a stand to strongly condemn this ruling.  What does strongly condemn really mean? I don’t know. But hopefully enough negative attention on this matter will force the D.R to pull this foolishness back.

justice, rape and sexual violence

Trigger warning: This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.


  • I have written about rape and sexual violence.
  • I have read a lot about rape and sexual violence.
  • I have thought a lot about rape and sexual violence.
  • I support a lot of initiatives regionally that deal with rape and sexual violence.
  • I have said no and it’s been ignored.
  • I have said no and it’s been accepted with grace.
  • I have said no and it’s been accepted and I’ve been made to feel shitty about it.
  • My politics are unapologetically feminist. I think rape is violent and often inextricably linked to masculinist notions of power and entitlement. Victims and survivors of rape (who are predominantly women) are never to blame.
  • I believe that regret regarding a sexual encounter and not wanting it to happen at the time (regardless of whether it is conveyed in ways a partner thinks are “strong enough”) are two very different things. The first indicates a conscious decision to have sex at the time, the second does not.

Today however, my reaction to hearing of a case (of which I know no details) where a man was sentenced to ten years for rape threw me for a loop. I was genuinely shocked at the length of the sentence. Well firstly, I was surprised that the case went to trial, and was successful, without it being a statutory rape case. But secondly, and almost frighteningly and shockingly, I thought: 10 years is too long.

What my reaction made me realise is that I have never really thought about punishment
and consequences surrounding rape and sexual violence. Most of my work has been on the prevention tip. With inspirations like Yes Means Yes I have more readily focused on sexuality, negotiating sexual relationships and teen romance to talk about sexual violence.

Upon further reflection though, my issue is not so much around the sentence itself, or sexual violence but my complete and utter lack of faith in the prison system. For anyone who knows me and my future this is pretty ironic. But I believe Angela Davis has the right idea, prisons need to be abolished. The length of the sentence is not a deterrent and I think in the long run it actually breeds contempt in the individual and the wider community.

Rape and sexual violence are not victim-less crimes but I think we need to think more explicitly about what we would like to see that will make things better. I believe in the possibilities of trans-formative justice. I know we’re not there yet, but I hope one day to be a part of making that shift. So regardless of a conviction, i.e. once a charge is brought, fully off the top of my head I would like to see:

for survivors of sexual violence:

  • praise for coming forward
  • counselling re:
    • (re)building intimacy and trust
    • dealing: with community backlash and negative emotions

for perpetrators of sexual violence

  • counselling re:
    • power, coercion and entitlement
    • negative emotions
  • psycho-education models re: enthusiastic consent

Longer periods in jail do not increase chances of rehabilitation. In the Caribbean as our crime rates continue to rise, and our prisons begin to fill to the brim we need to think more comprehensively about the long term effects of these measures on our communities. As a future mental health professional, I know there are possibilities, I certainly recognise the need. But without a doubt, we need to be more supportive (for the survivors) and creative (for both the survivors and the perpetrators) when it comes to justice.

call me “crazy”

sanism – a school of thought/discrimination that divides people into “sane” and “insane” where characteristics associated with sanity are good and desirable and things that are supposedly insane are bad and not to be desired

mentalism – a form of discrimination against persons who have/are perceived as having a mental health illness/issue/diagnosis; the punishment for not being dominant society’s idea of “sane”

i’ve been working at a mental health agency in toronto for just over a year and a half now running anti-discrimination workshops. this has been a great learning/growing experience for me to work through my own mentalism/sanism as i try and help others to become interested in working through their own. there have been a plethora of challenging moments as i see things in myself that scare me because sometimes i get comfortable and think “i’m progressive, i’m cool, i’m dealing with my classism, homophobia, (internalized) racism, (internalized) sexism, etc.. there have also been a lot of difficult moments because with all my anti-oppression knowledge/understanding, i struggle to figure out one question: “how do i bring this knowledge home?”

i’ve had several of those moments on this visit to the caribbean so far. when people ask me what i do, i often leave it at “i work in mental health” rather than “i’m a person who has identified as living with bouts of depression and run workshops for other people who have dealt with mental health issues and/or the migration process on migration, racism and mental health”. it’s easier. it shorter. it makes for less awkward dinner conversations as people either try to explain that depression isn’t really a mental health illness/issue and it’s natural, unlike all those other mental health illnesses so i’m not like those crazy people OR try not to look uncomfortable and have conversations in their heads or with each other after they leave about the “fact” that they always knew there was something “off” about me. so when i say i work in mental health, the jokes start about working with crazy people or the “concerned” questions such as “do you feel safe? you never do know when those people are going to get violent!”

i am no closer to figuring out how to deal with these moments. how to talk about mentalism in the caribbean. because the fact is these conversations aren’t about translating a few words to make the language “culturally appropriate” because just as racism doesn’t necessarily exist in (all of) the same ways in canada as it does in the caribbean neither does mentalism. but here are a few thoughts that often cross my mind in these conversations:

  1. mental health issues/illnesses aren’t necessarily a forever thing. there are people i was told about (by family members, by friends) who were said to have had nervous breakdowns at one point or another and i/we (were taught/told to) always step/ped lightly around these persons as if they were fragile. recovery is possible and quite often it’s the discrimination/exclusion/isolation one faces rather than the illness itself that makes recovery difficult. as people in small communities, genuine support is so necessary and i’m not sure we can afford to be unwelcoming.


  1. people of colour and/or people who don’t fit into dominant norms have more than enough reason to be suspicious of what is considered mental illness within a western biomedical context because:
  • mental health illnesses have in the past been created and/or tailored to control people of colour fighting against/facing racism and injustice. my “favourite” example is drapetomania – the mental health disease that Samuel Cartwritght named that caused enslaved Africans in the US and the Caribbean to think that they were actual human beings and run away (the cure was whipping). another favourite example is the change in the symptoms of schizophrenia during the Civil Rights Era, so it was no longer a white middle class womon’s disease that caused these housewives to be disinterested in their chores and children but a “black problem” that caused black (men) in the US to be violent, aggressive and disobedient and
  • going through the diagnostic and statistics manual (dsm, used in diagnosing many mental health issues around the world), many of these standards don’t make sense for our world. i find it alot more common at home to hear people talk to themselves, to see people expressing anger in what would be considered an aggressive way, to witness people exhibit all these (according to the dsm) “abnormal” behaviours but i feel like we buy into this idea/myth that we can/should be what people consider “sane” when often “sane” doesn’t allow us as Caribbean communities, as individuals in general, to be ourselves.
maybe next time i’ll have the courage to talk about my own experiences with mental health within one of these conversations. maybe i’ll explain why i’m trying to weed “crazy” out of my vocab along with other mentalist language at some times and why i think it might be worth trying to reclaim it especially as a (sometimes) angry black Caribbean womon who might have been deemed “crazy” with or without my monthly therapy sessions, anti-depressants and depression diagnosis. it’s really important to me, so maybe.

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