Pretty much everyone in the mental health community agrees that something needs to be done to address our nation's broken mental health care system. Unfortunately, the debate about what that solution should look like has taken an ugly turn, filled with the kind of vitriolic personal attacks that are usually reserved for midterm elections. Here's a novel approach to the conflict: what if you sat eight passionate, opinionated, defiant mental health advocates down around a table and shared a meal together?
I was honored to be one if those advocates. Did we reach a consensus about the Murphy bill? No (spoiler alert: I'm a supporter). But did we hear each other's stories and come to respect each other as honest, sincere, thoughtful people who want positive change? Speaking for myself, I think we did. Too often when things become political, we lose sight of the personal. I would challenge my fellow advocates on all sides of the assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) debate to listen--really listen--to each other's stories. We all might learn something.
I left our meeting feeling uplifted, enlightened, and best of all, hopeful. I hope that Representative Barber and Representative Murphy can have the same kind of candid, heartfelt, personal conversations that I was honored to share with my new friends. Our hope that things will be better depends on our leaders' ability to set partisan politics aside, and to make difficult decisions that can save lives while preserving rights. I'm reminded of the words of Robert Frost:
- But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite:
My avocation and my vocation,
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only when love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done,
For heaven and the future's sakes.
That's what the Defiant 8, who dared to come together and break bread, are fighting for.
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Liza Long, aka the Anarchist Soccer Mom, is a writer, educator, mental health advocate, and mother of four children. She loves her Steinway, her kids,and her day job, not necessarily in that order. Her book "The Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective on Mental Illness" is now available in bookstores.