Kelechi Ubozoh's Offices are Currently Closed and Will Reopen on February 1, 2022. Book Orders Can Still Be Placed and Will Be Fulfilled.

Winter Updates: Free Britney/Safe Space Stories/Black This Whole Time/How to Have A Better Crisis

Free Britney/Advocating to End Expansion of LPS Conservatorships

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind! I’m heading out on an extensive Winter Soulbatical, but I wanted to share some of what I’ve been up to!

Recently, I advocated for voluntary intensive services instead of expanding LPS Conservatorships. Remember the #freebritney movement? Well Britney is free, but the State of California is considering expanding the legislation that would make it easier to conserve folks…. YIKES! I’ve been spending the past month putting together a witness statement to present at the LPS Conservatorship Special Hearing to the Assembly Health Committee and Judiciary Committee.

I shared my personal story of how racist and traumatic involuntary treatment negatively impacted my recovery journey… I think sometimes we want to control people and label them as the ‘problems’ when we feel we can’t control bigger societal issues (i.e. homelessness), but trying to help someone who is living with mental health issues by taking their rights away exacerbates the problem. It undermines the therapeutic relationship between client and therapists, magnifies power differentials and diminishes the sense of personal dignity and self-efficacy that is important to recovery [CAMHPRO]. Also, people can’t even get into voluntary programs easily because there are not enough, and they aren’t funded well.

We can’t say recovery-based voluntary programs don’t work, if we’ve never fully funded them or implemented them.

And if took a mega superstar with a huge fan base, expensive lawyers, and a trending hashtag #freebritney, 13 years to be released from her conservatorship -what is the trajectory for BIack, Indigenous, People of Color? For White folks with no resources?

What are you communicating about people’s ability to heal and recover if you sweep them away and control them? We want our loved ones and our communities to health and to thrive, so why would we medically incarcerate them and think this will be in their best interest? It is not. 

Kelechi Ubozoh, Excerpt from Witness Statement from LPS Conservatorship Special Hearing on 12/15/21

What I asked for instead is moving from an optional peer certification opt-in process to a robust statewide Medi-CAL benefit. Identifying new funding to expand culturally responsive programs like the California Reducing Disparities Project. Investing in more services and staff to offer drop-in medical services and mental health services without coercion. Untangling the mess of red tape that blocks the county’s ability to procure buildings and building more Peer Respites rather than expanding hospital beds. Historically, we know that when laws are inequitable our BIPOC, queer, trans, and folks experiencing homelessness get the brunt of it. Here’s to hoping that we don’t go further backwards…

Safe Space Stories

Two amazing young people, Anouschka and Bela from Safe Space Stories Podcast interviewed me about suicide prevention and how to talk to your friends. Safe Space stories is a podcast run by teens and for teens and something I wish existed as young person. They didn’t shy away from the tough questions and have amazing editing skills… Check out their podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/safespace-stories/id1595738668

Black This Whole Time: Black Lives Matter and the Urgency for Black Liberation in the Mad Pride Movement

Earlier in 2021, I embarked on an ancestral journey with my piece Black This Whole Time (still being reviewed for publication). Black This Whole Time is a qualitative research study that centers on the voices and experiences of Black people who identify as psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, community organizers, coaches, writers, suicide attempt survivors, and historians. My paper references the Mad Movement as an umbrella term to encompass psychiatric survivors, ex-patients, consumers, and peers; experiences differ vastly amongst folks with these identities. My work explores the experiences of Black folks working in and alongside The Mad Movement and/or in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I interviewed ten people who identify as Black, Black Indigenous Muskogee Nation, African American, or Nigerian about: (1) Their experiences or knowledge of The Mad Movement and community organizing; (2) The impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement on their work and life; (3) The disconnect and connection between The Mad Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement; and (4) Recommendations for allies in The Mad Movement. 

I learned so much about how black voices have been erased, oppressed, and silenced in all  movement spaces as well as the recommendations for real change. Listen, they said. I am so excited that I was invited to present my findings from my work February 8, 2022 at the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations (CAMHPRO).

so the stories I can be heard and shared! You can register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/towards-diverse-peer-leaders-statewide-online-forum-day-1-28-12-3pm-tickets-200205298437

How to Have a Better Crisis

Just in case you missed it! During suicide prevention month, I did a multi-county presentation on ‘How to have a Better Crisis’, grounded in insight from crisis workers, clinicians and survivors all with lived experience. A lot of what I learned through the interviews were how to actually slow down and sit with someone in pain. We are seeing our communities, especially our young folks, in serious crisis right now. We all play a part in how we show up for each other in compassionate trauma-informed ways.

People were so busy trying to stop me from killing myself, they forgot to help me.

Member of the Alternatives to Suicide Support Group

This presentation is probably the most real/raw I’ve been about my experience and how difficult it is to disclose when you are struggling because of how people can react to your pain ( e.g. fear, anger, judgment). My hope is that people are able to manage their discomfort so they can hold space for someone. I also share data on why we need crisis alternatives. I’m so grateful for the brilliance and expertise of L.Harris, Morgan McLaughlin, Dr. Stacey Freedenthal, Jess Stohlmann-Rainey, and H. Ameeta Singh, LMFT. Everyone I interview has lived experience and helpful perspectives on how to hold space better, plan for a crisis and respond in a crisis. See full presentation below!

I’m continuing trying to find the balance of work and rest. There is so much I love to do and get so excited about and I want to build space for copious amounts of rest and writing and creative and connection. I’m returning February of 2022 and sending you and yours a lovely holiday season.

You have to be deliberate about your rest.

Octavia Raheem

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