Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ *Jammie Farish ~
It was an out of body experience for this Oregon mom, advocate and systems change agent today while I sat in a chair, inside of room 441 in the House of Representatives. Not because I’m new to all of this, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I crossed my legs, folded my hands and began to briefly dive into relevant parts of my personal journey with my son, I could hear the echoes of voices all around me, voices of the children, youth and families I carry with me from the past. This sacred journey of storytelling and carrying forward our stories, our pain and agony. My ears remembered the words from my son just a few days ago telling me he was done with life and wanted to die. My eyes could still feel the tears that had fallen and see the holes in my walls. My gut is twisted with regret, angst and despair at my inability to get him the help he needs. Somehow each day I find myself hoping he is alive and I can remain sane through it all. But inside my heart you will also find the light of hope and my idealist brain forges ahead to make a difference in the lives of those who are touched by mental illness and addictions in their lives.
In a half circle we sat, with varying perspectives seen through the goggles of job descriptions and degrees and for some lived experience. Most nodded, held eye contact, asked questions. Some closed their eyes longer and my mind briefly wandered as I wished I could just close my eyes and find peace there. Everyone relevant, passionate, caring and unique. This bill and all of its potential to fall for good or evil has united fires everywhere. Our values have been challenged! Our belief systems around what works and doesn’t is rocked. Conversations on the news, shootings in the schools and war torn families hidden behind the walls they live in. What is this all about? Why do we all care so much? How can we call each other names or draw lines as if enemies? A dad lost his son, I may lose mine in the end and many others have their own stories to share of loss.
As a mother I am desperate to help my son, but I have been here before many times. My son needs to be in a safe place where he can get the right treatment at the right time. I can see what he needs, his pain is my pain. I am also an advocate and believe strongly in civil rights which in this case would be my son’s right to choose to take medication or enter treatment. I have a destroyed house, stolen property and family members with bruises. Trips to the ER end with my son be turned right back out onto the street again within 24 – 48 hours and we all know how the story goes.
What I know after 14 years of systems change work and advocacy is this - we can’t do it alone and we can’t give up! We must continue to come together across the lines to share and find common ground. We must tirelessly come together to listen to one another’s pain, to learn more and eventually move ever so slowly toward reform, hope and resiliency. HR 3717 is just that – an opportunity to begin to shrink the dividing lines between the people and the systems and figure this all out. It has lit a fire under and issue that has needed solving for a very long time. But most of all it’s a reminder of a dad and his son and today this mom and her son and tomorrow more of the same.
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Jammie Farish, Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) Oregon – Jammie Farish is the Training and Development Director for Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon. In 2009, Jammie worked with Martin Rafferty and Lisa Moody to found Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon and establish it as an independent, youth-driven organization that has had a sizeable impact at both the local and state levels. Motivated by her journey in the mental health system with her son, Jammie left the world of Special Education with the school district to pursue work in the field of peer services and advocacy. This experience led to her professional pursuits as a Family and Youth Advocate dedicated to system of care reform, community-based wraparound services, and peer delivered services, advocacy, and more. For her work, she has been awarded Oregon Mental Health Award of Excellence and the Children’s Mental Health Advocate of the Year (Oregon Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).