Mental Health Resources (Sorted Alphabetically)
For the month of February, I offer you a selection of websites/blogs that have been extremely helpful to me to learn about the ways in which oppression & mental health come together. In order not to be too overwhelming, I have chosen five different writers/pages, but of course there are many, many more! Take them as great places to start, but by no means the only places to look.
Lydia X. Z. Brown – Autistic Hoya (hyperlink: http://www.autistichoya.com/)
Lydia Brown about themselves: “I’m a writer, dreamer, activist/organizer, and speaker/educator. Some of the many marginal identities/experiences I hold are that I’m autistic and multiply otherwise neurodivergent and disabled, queer, asexual-spectrum, genderqueer/non-binary and sometimes read as feminine, and transracially and transnationally adopted east asian person of color from China (into a white adoptive family). I’m also working to examine and challenge the privilege and power I hold as someone raised with middle and upper-middle class money privilege, a U.S. citizen and native English speaker, fairly light-skinned and mostly able-bodied (as hearing, sighted, and walking), raised in a deeply religious and engaged Christian community, educated in a private college and now in law school.” (source: http://www.autistichoya.com/p/about.html)
Lydia Brown offers very insightful and astute commentary on current events, political/legal decisions, and cultural conversations around disability, mental health, and race, but I especially value Lydia’s page for the Definitions (hyperlink: http://www.autistichoya.com/p/definitions.html) that are so concise and yet easy to understand and especially helpful when people first start familiarizing themselves with language around mental health and disability. As somebody who identifies as autistic, Lydia offers a great FAQ section on Autism (hyperlink: http://www.autistichoya.com/p/introduction-to-autism-faqs-of-autism.html), as well as a really helpful page to assist people in rethinking ableist language. Ableist language is language that uses physical, developmental, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities as slurs. Lydia even compiled a whole list of other words you can use that will not reinforce stigma against people with disabilities! Check it out here (hyperlink: http://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html).
Mia Mingus – Leaving Evidence (hyperlink: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/)
Mia Mingus about herself: “Mia Mingus is a writer, educator and community organizer for disability justice and transformative justice. She is a queer physically disabled korean woman transracial and transnational adoptee from the Caribbean. She works for community, interdependency and home for all of us, not just some of us, and longs for a world where disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love. As her work for liberation evolves and deepens, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence.” (source: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/about-2/)
Mia Mingus has a very accessible and personable writing style, and she can explain really complex systems of oppression in relatable ways. Every time I read her blog posts I learn something new, and her newest project, Living Bridges (hyperlink: http://livingbridgesproject.com/), that collects oral histories of child sexual abuse survivors, is so powerful. I especially like how in these stories people share their strategies of working through and thriving despite the abuse they had to endure. And the project makes sure to keep all of the stories accessible, so you can both listen to them or read them!
Race Reflections – Service User Voices (hyperlink: https://racereflections.co.uk/category/service-user-voices/)
“The site aims to provide an online space and some material to encourage reflections and conversations on various experiences of marginalisation, difference and ‘Otherness’ drawing from social, political and historical perspectives. Much of its content aims to highlight the impact of social injustice, inequality and their various manifestations on our mental health and psychological worlds. Oppression and particularly racism, will thus be central themes even though at times, they may only be peripheral to the material presented.” (source: https://racereflections.co.uk/about/)
This site was suggested to me by a friend after I took a poll on Facebook (other great suggestions: Eli Clare, Alice Wong, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha), and I fell in love with the Service User Voices section. Guilaine Kinouani, who runs the website, has created on online space for storytelling and community building much like MITA aims to do, and her site gives voice to those who are oftentimes kept from sharing their stories with larger audiences because they are people of color, they are dispossessed, they are incarcerated, or simply silenced because their experiences and thoughts might be difficult to face. Next to these stories you can read Guilaine Kinouani’s reflections on race, mental health, and the psychiatric profession – especially for those of us who work in some sort of way in a professional field that engages with ideas about mental health and illness, her thoughts can be especially critical to challenge us to think in much more nuance, to think intersectionally, about these issues.
“A Collective of Black Deaf & Black Disabled organizers, community builders, activists, dreamers, lovers striving for radical inclusion and collective liberation.”
The Harriet Tubman Collective offers a radical vision for social justice work that includes people with all types of disabilities and especially addresses how mental health and illness are informed by white supremacy, by racial formations, and by everyday experiences and structures that encourage racism and xenophobia. Instead of a traditional blog or website, like the other pages that I have highlighted here, they channel their work through Tumblr and Facebook. Of course you can follow the other people/pages that I have highlighted here on Facebook as well, but I wanted to give a special shout out to this group and the ways in which they work through social media. They do an impressive job curating online videos, posts, and memes that can help folx struggling to find representations of their own experiences, and it is easy to share their multimedia items with your own networks. And since social media can oftentimes feel very overwhelming in its daily onslaught, this page is great because they post about every other week. But what they post you definitely want to read!
The Icarus Project (hyperlink: http://theicarusproject.net/)
“The Icarus Project is a support network and education project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness. We advance social justice by fostering mutual aid practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation. We transform ourselves through transforming the world around us.
The Icarus Project seeks to overcome the limitations of a world determined to label, categorize, and sort human behavior. We envision a new culture that allows the space and freedom for exploring different states of being, and recognizes that breakdown can be the entrance to breakthrough. We aim to create a language that is so vast and rich that it expresses the infinite diversity of human experiences. We demand more options in understanding and navigating emotional distress and we want everyone to have access to these options, regardless of status, ability, or identity.
The Icarus Project helps us overcome alienation and tap into the true potential that lies between brilliance and madness. We are members of a group that has been misunderstood and persecuted throughout history, but has also been responsible for some of the world’s most extraordinary creations. Sensitivities, visions, and inspirations are not necessarily symptoms of illness, they are gifts needing cultivation and care. When honored and nurtured, these gifts can lay the foundation for a wiser and more compassionate society. As a mutual aid community, we intertwine threads of madness and creativity to inspire hope and transformation in an oppressive and damaged world.” (source: http://theicarusproject.net/mission-vision-principles/)
I cited the Icarus Project’s mission statement in full because it shows so well what they are all about – imagining a better future while helping people find their way in the now. They have created a number of really amazing and helpful resource guides – for example, if you tend to have suicidal thoughts, they have made a “How to Deal with Crisis” handout for your support network so they know how to respond (without calling 911). They have created many such handouts, worksheets, and booklets, and most of them are completely for free! Whether you need help coming off psychiatric medication, establishing a supportive daily schedule, or want to learn more about harm reduction, they have you covered with handouts (hyperlink: http://theicarusproject.net/resources/publications/handouts/) and other publications (hyperlink: http://theicarusproject.net/resources/publications/). They also offer an online support community (hyperlink: http://theicarusproject.net/resources/online-support/) that can be really useful for folx who cannot find or attend an in-person one in their local community.
I struggled for many months about how to best fill this space – how to decide what was the most important thing I wanted to share, how I could represent the experiences I have had, and who would most benefit from my writing.
In the end, I decided to dedicate this space to all of the folx who have helped me think in more nuanced ways about mental health. This post happens to coincide with Black History Month, and it is important to acknowledge that, just as it is important to acknowledge that our group in Buffalo occupies spaces that belong to the Haudenosaunee people. Race and indigeneity inform people’s mental health – oppression causes mental health issues, both for those who are oppressed and for those who do the oppressing, in very unequal ways, but it is important to acknowledge that these unequal power structures affect all of us. Our group talks a lot about the overlap of gender and mental health, and that is certainly one axis that informs everybody’s experience. But so is race. So is ethnicity. So is your gender expression. So is your age. If you are a parent, or a caregiver, or physically disabled, or a veteran, or from another country, or you are poor, alone, or undocumented, your experience of the mental health system and your lived experience of mental states will be very different. The writers that I have highlighted above speak to these various experiences from many different angles. I hope that these resources can help others find ways of coping with the world and the many ways in which it creates pain, trauma, and systems of pernicious neglect while at the same time offering us possibilities to come together in mutual support, loving dedication, and furious resistance.
And please remember: Most of these folx need support – so if their writing helps you in some way, pay them for it! All of them have donation systems set up on their pages so that you can give back for all the hard work they have put into creating these online spaces, resources, and their writings!
Tanja Aho is a PhD candidate in American Studies & Global Gender Studies at the University at Buffalo, where she teaches and serves as the President of the Graduate Student Association. Her (academic) work has always been interested in unequal power structures and the ways in which they shape people’s lives, especially as it comes to questions of mental health and wellness. Tanja tries to serve different communities by volunteering in groups such as MITA, the LGBTQ Oral History Project, Queers for Racial Justice, and the UB Society of Feminists. As somebody who has both studied and experienced the mental health system from various angles, Tanja shares the group’s passion for raising awareness about the many ways in which we currently under-serve those who need mental health support, especially as their experiences intersect with racism, settler colonialism, hetero- and cissexism, nationalism, and ablesanism in all its various forms. Tanja is especially interested in exploring different ways of supporting people whose mental states are currently pathologized and over- or under-medicalized, which in turn leads to incarceration, to unnecessary suffering, and persistently to people dying.