When I started working for Vinfen, I was excited to learn how shared experience could change people’s belief systems. I was able to be open and share the story of my journey with others. I felt privileged to watch people transform into their own true beings and grow in their recovery. My favorite saying for recovery is “never be afraid to be you.”
I accepted one of two positions for Directors of Recovery Services at Vinfen in July 2018. My colleague, Adam Whitney, accepted the other position. Not only have we been given the opportunity to see people grow, we are able to support the idea that peer work is essential for the new ACCS to succeed. Breaking down barriers of discrimination and prejudice for people we support is an important way for all to have equal rights and respect in the community. This is important in any setting, but particularly in the areas of medical and psychiatric health.
For example, I had some personal physical challenges that caused me to seek the care of a rheumatologist over the past year. This physician did not know me and had only looked at the documentation sent by my primary care physician. As this stranger looked at me from across his desk, he asked me why I was taking a certain medication. I described that I was on this medication for a thought disorder. He nodded, casually sat back in his chair and suggested an antidepressant might be what I was looking for. Astounded at what he was suggesting, I felt the need to defend myself and stated emphatically that I had been in recovery for a long time and that my present symptoms were something different. Without responding at all to me, he turned to my partner and asked if my mood had changed recently. I interrupted him, stating that if he was not going to assess my current symptoms, we were done. I then sought out another physician’s services, and this doctor was able to address my medical symptoms, rather than assuming that my physical symptoms stemmed from my mental health condition. This is a very common experience for those with long-term mental health conditions, and it needs to change.
As workers in psychiatric rehabilitation, part of our jobs must include working to break down the walls of prejudice and discrimination through education and empowerment. Equal rights are for all, despite the labels placed on people by certain elements of our society.