Letter To New York Daily News
I wanted to thank the Daily News for covering the Deborah Danner shooting in a way that bears witness to experiences of stigma, oppression, and extreme isolation that Ms. Danner went through.
As a licensed mental health practitioner who has been exceedingly lucky to be able to provide services to extraordinary individuals like Ms. Danner over the past decade plus, I am am privy to many silenced stories that fit her profile. I find myself surprised and grateful that in this era of turmoil that the perspective in her essay makes its way to the public.
Eight years ago, frustrated by the limits of standard treatment, I started to run groups that sought to access experiences of oppression triggered by supernatural experiences such as Ms. Danner’s premonition about her future victimization by cop.
In order to illicit and gain access to such silenced stories, I had to start talking about my own experiences. I found that with a leader who related their own experiences gave Ms. Danners’ of the world the opportunity to talk. Therefore, I talked about my experience in a State Hospital and the resulting homelessness, poverty, abuse, alienation and underemployment that resulted. As I detailed my experience I found that as others detailed theirs, my own grasp on reality strengthened.
While my experiences in these groups parallels an international social movement that started in Europe, the Hearing Voices Network, I have found that my professional successes have resulted in some of the most extraordinary isolation.
As a culture in our inner-city environments, we message receivers in America are so divided by issues of not only prestige, race, class, gender, and sexual orientation; we are also divided by an institution of diagnostic divides that helps pit one against another. My groups help message receivers gain cultural skills that help us use each other as resources, but outside the safety of the group, even within the consumer survivor work groups I have participated in, social and diagnostic divides have left me bruised and so alone.
After I was incarcerated in a State Hospital by police, the experience of having badges flashed at me, having a barely decorated apartment trashed after a twelve hour work day, and having all mail associated with employment opened before arrival did not help me recover. Then, when I finally managed to afford a car, I found myself followed by cherry tops on several occasions. While I was able endure in spite of all harassment and family support that, in my case, could be controlling and, at times, aligned against my expressed needs, it pains me to no end that Ms. Danner, who seems to have had similar circumstances in spite all of her efforts did not. I fear for my own future and persist.
I thank you to bringing voice to her suffering. I thank you for acknowledging that we “schizophrenic” people exist in spite of what they say.