Authors: Joe Macdonald
Event: 2016 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Book of Proceedings 2016, conference papers, proceedings papers, keynote paper
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Paper from TheMHS Conference 2016 Book of Proceedings: People. Authenticity Starts in the Heart. The Conference was held in Auckland, New Zealand 23 - 26 August 2016.
In my work as an educator about sex/gender/sexuality and mental health, I aim to depathologise our experiences and identities. This is complex because there is a long history of medical establishments trying to locate the problem inside us, as if “being transgender” or “being gay” is the problem. Depathologising our experiences and identities - whether that is about sex/gender/sexuality or other interrelated parts of our selves - means understanding that we are not inherently broken, and that we want to access care without being told there is something wrong with us. This goes hand in hand with challenging a biomedical model of diagnosis in mental health and moving towards supporting self-determination.
It also requires an understanding of minority stress and the context that creates unwellness for people. For example, what if we took intergenerational trauma more seriously, as effects of colonisation? Historical and contextual information is part of a wider complex picture. This is challenging when we have a medical system that only responds to people as wounded individuals.
However, there are clear values and principles to hold onto in doing this work. For example, respecting a person’s self-determination. This is quite clear, and also quite complex. It means respecting that I know myself better than you do, that I am the expert on my experience.
What would happen if we acknowledged the importance of complexity, and the fact that we are all complex beings? We do not always make sense. We do not have one universal truth. We are particular, we are specific. And we exist in a wider cultural and historical context, which creates structural inequalities and marginalises people who don’t fit the clear dominant narrative. How can we challenge the dominant narratives in mental health to encourage compassion and complexity?