This morning I read Brigid Delaney's Guardian article 'Evil forces': How Covid-19 paranoia united the wellness industry and rightwing conspiracy theorists, and was grateful for her articulation of something I have been seeing, feeling, and sadly knowing for a few months now. This is my response as a mental health advocate and educator with lived experience of both mental health diagnoses, and of watching my professional circles become infected and infiltrated in this manner.
I have seen it, blocked folks that I considered peers and colleagues, and I am rethinking some affiliations and collaborations in this period. For a variety of reasons, I have stepped back from my usual online work-related social media posts. This is one of those reasons.
I want to work with progressive people who want to transform mental health and wellbeing, however, some who work under that label are now doing more harm than good as a result of perspectives mentioned in this article.
My stepping back is a personal and professional exercise in boundaries and self-care at a time when some who are increasing their online presence are going snake oil and tinfoil hats and in allegiance with oppressors. I worry that my absence gives them more space, but I must model my own beliefs and teachings, which means engagement online just to occupy space is not what best serves me, or those that I serve. I am still here for them and they know where I am.
We are in a pandemic crucible right now.
Each of us is doing their own thing to manage. For me, it is a place of reflection and growth that includes reflection on the field I work in and navigating the changing landscape where I see progress, alongside parallel threats to that progress in the guise of being on the vanguard when the reality is that these perspectives are grounded in fear and increased hegemonic oppression.
People are being played and playing themselves and that is never good for mental health, individually or collectively.
All I ask of anyone who doing this work, or seeking out help with this work, is be wary of anyone (or being the one) with a simple explanation, magic wand, or claims that they have "information that BIG X" is keeping from you.
I don't naively believe that the system and key entities are all good players, nor that we go through life without challenging and transforming the system, my punk rock roots still run too deep for that. I do believe that when someone offers something too neat and tidy and seems to be too good to be true it probably is and that we must strategically pick our battles with sources of misinformation and oppression. Both are battles with folks who seek to conquer us by burning us out due to our sense of justice. Think of every debate you've had online with someone who never intended to change their mind, just waste your time and energy. You can't make real change if they are keeping you busy explaining things to them that they aren't really listening to anyway.
I do believe in changing minds and perspectives on mental health for those who want to change and grow. I believe in the work I do and the unique systems and programs have developed for educating, empowering, and ending stigma are powerful tools that are transformative and progressive.
I promise a framework for greater understanding and growth. I don't promise magic or cures. I ground myself and my programs in the basic premise that mental health and neurodiversity issues are inherently messy, personal, and influx circumstances. There are no magic wands, just toolkits, allies, and ways to work daily on our self-knowledge, self-compassion, and self-management. While I may see the value of my programs for everyone, I know they are not for everyone.
I do not pretend to have all the answers, just evidence-based insight, research, and tools that I humbly offer to those I serve and who see that my work is for them and those they share it with. I am grateful to those who share my vision and whom I walk with on their journey.
Be well, be safe, be prudent, and be wary of false prophets - as there seems to be a parallel viral outbreak of them these days and they will do as much damage to our psyche as COVID-19 is doing to our bodies.