By Patrick Hendry, Senior Director, Consumer Advocacy
In my role at Mental Health America (MHA), I have the opportunity to travel around the country and work with a wide variety of advocacy organizations and—particularly—peer run groups. I find myself frequently dismayed to see how many of our state’s behavioral health policies and services have pulled back from some of the innovative and effective gains that had been made in moving towards a more recovery oriented system of care. The partisanship divide in policy decision-making has made advocacy efforts increasingly arduous. It is difficult to even start a dialogue between parties who fundamentally disagree on the concepts of recovery and dignity for people living with psychiatric disorders. Americans are divided by values, language, and politics, and yet we all agree that we would want better care and outcomes for those of us who live day-to-day with these devastating issues. The question is often, “How do we define better”?
We need to re-examine the tools we use in advocacy. We need to seek out ways to open meaningful discussions between these disparate groups and realize that in a socially and fiscally divided nation it is essential that we return to the principles of civil discourse and negotiation and re-think the ideas of right and wrong.
National-level behavioral health advocacy groups, including peer-run organizations, have become very professional in approaching adversarial issues. Hopefully they are laying the groundwork for acceptable compromise in national policy. Smaller state and regional groups can learn a lot from the work being conducted by some of national organizations and begin to join us in a “new age of advocacy”.
Download The New Age of Advocacy: Civil Discourse and Negotiation (PDF). Contents include:
- The Issues Facing Us Today
- Civil Discourse
- Dialectical Thinking and Zen
- Conflict Resolution and Negotiation
Patrick Hendry is the Senior Director of Consumer Advocacy at Mental Health America. Patrick has worked as a mental health advocate for the past eighteen years. His areas of expertise include organizational development, management and sustainability, self-directed care, recovery based trainings and peer run programs. In 1992 he co-founded the first peer-run organization in Florida to contract directly with the State for the provision of services and has, since that time, assisted with the development of numerous peer-run programs. He is a strong supporter of the inclusion of mental health consumers in all aspects of the mental health system.