Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I need your advice!

Hi, folks. With this post, I am going to ask you a favor. I would really like some feedback from you, particularly from any one of you who has read more than a couple of my posts here.

Next week, after I get back from a convention I am going to, I will be speaking in front of a large group of local police officers as part of NAMI and the Crisis Intervention Training program here in my county. I have never done much public speaking, and have never done any that involved talking about my mental illness, so it's safe to say that I am sufficiently nervous! I look forward to doing this speaking, because by educating police officers about mental illness I can help others and make some small difference in the world.

So, here is where you all come in! I need some input on what I should point out with my twenty minutes of speaking. I have written down what I plan on saying, but I am making adjustments to it, because some of what I wrote was superfluous and I only have twenty minutes to say everything I want to say. The first time I practiced this, I took 45 minutes to read everything I wrote. After that, I got it down to twenty minutes, but I want to fine tune it a bit, and make sure I'm not leaving out anything important.

If you were me, what would be the main things you would like people to know about mental illness and your experiences with it? What would be the points that you would definitely focus on, or emphasize the most?

And if you have read much here, I would appreciate your response about what I could say that might have the most impact as far as getting people to understand mental illness.

Thank you so much in advance for any advice you can offer. Also, thank you to everyone who has ever left comments here. I read them and appreciate them all a great deal.


  1. Hello Jennifer,

    If I were presenting a speech on mental illness I would share my story of how it affects me and how I cope with it (i.e., support groups, etc.), I would tell people the basics of mental illness- what sort of illnesses classify as serious mental illness, get them to understand that it can and does affect all ethnic groups usually in the prime of adulthood; and most importantly that there is treatment and people can and do recover. Also, I would tell them about my support group and blog in order for them to learn more about mental illness.

    I hope my suggestions were beneficial to you, have fun with your presentation!


  2. hi Jennifer
    I'm sure you'll do a great job.

    For me, i think the most important thing that I want people to know, particularly when it comes to police is that it always helps more when they TALK to me instead of trying to physically restrain or order me around. When I am very frightened and plagued with voices, I won't necessarily trust the police, so it's important they don't enter my space - it's important they keep a distance and try to talk to down rather than approach me and try to restrain me.

    Good luck. Can't wait to hear hjow it goes.

  3. I am posting this for Rebecca, who is having trouble logging on here to post her comments.


    Jennifer, I have written some thoughts as a response to your blog. Unfortunately, I cannot get my comments to "save" on the blog. Please feel free to post my comments on your blog if you can. Here's what I wrote, but could not save:

    Valash and Polar Bear have both made good points. I especially like what Polar Bear said about talking rather than barking orders and getting physical. Talk in calm, simple sentences, not because a mentally ill person is stupid but because he or she may be hearing lots of competing things in her head!

    I think the most important thing all people need to understand is that mental illness is just illness. It is not a choice, or a punishment for some bad habits or bad behavior, or something that can be put on and taken off like an old's an illness. And it can affect anyone.

    People with mental illnesses are not less worthy or less important or less smart than others. Mentally ill people are often some of the best and brightest! Coping would be impossible without some pretty terrific attributes.

    Be careful not to label people. Labels stop any effective communication, and we are all so much more complex than we might seem to be on the surface.

    To summarize, the key things, to me, are: respect, communication, understanding and acceptance, no labels...

  4. Hi Jen,

    Sorry I haven't posted sooner, I was offline for several days.

    I haven't had a lot of experience with police officers. The one time I did, they behaved gently and left soon, but then I was pretty passive at that point. Perhaps police officers should try to imagine the mentally ill person in question as if he or she were a sister or brother or parent or child and not as if he or she were a deranged criminal. Humanize the situation. Be gentle and respectful and compassionate. Use force only as a last resort. Be practical. Ask questions such as--Is there a history of mental illness in your family? and Do you have access to anti-psychotic medications? Be informed about the various psychotic illnesses. Perhaps visit a psych ward and talk to the patients there. Get as much feedback as possible. Know that mental illness is an illness of isolation. Try to imagine what isolation from one's community would feel like. Using one's imagination is a good way to develop a sense of compassion for anyone suffering from mental illness. Understand that most mentally ill people are not violent and are most often victims of other people's violence. Tell the police officers that they are sometimes the bridge needed to get someone into treatment. Emphasize that police officers are called peace keepers for a reason. Say that peaceful ways are more effective than violent ways.

    By the way--I am so proud of you. Get passed the initial nervousness and you will do great. I know it.

    Kate : )

  5. Hello! I am fairly new to your blog and I have been checking back to see how the speech went. I think it is awesome that you are doing that. I am very interested to see how it went! Hope GREAT!


I welcome comments from all readers and encourage you to leave them! Please do. However, due to spam, I review each comment before it can be posted, so it may take 24-48 hours before your comment appears on the blog. Please be patient. I post comments that are not spam.Note: my definition of "spam" includes ALL links to sites claiming to cure or provide "the solution" for incurable diseases such as Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia. Vulnerable people come to my blog, and I will not let them be preyed upon, but people who post snake oil remedies on the internets. Take your garbage and peddle it elsewhere. Since Blogger doesn't weed all that garbage out, I've been doing it myself for years.