The central themes of the day were: What makes self-advocacy unique among the various forms of advocacy? Why choice is crucial to self-advocacy? What skills and knowledge are useful for self-advocates?
The day started with my presentation on self-advocacy. Much of the learnings came from the experiences participants gathered on Day 1. Communication and negotiation skills were illustrated through role play exercises.
The afternoon role play session illustrated why self-advocacy is unique and why choice is crucial to self-advocacy. The scripts for the role play were:
User choice for opening an account in a bank
You are a user of mental health services. You are not fully employed and have had a difficult time in finding suitable full time employment. You live in a shared apartment with three other users. You have a disability certificate from the local authority. With this, and photographs of identity, you present yourself for the meeting to a senior bank officer with a request for the opening of a bank account.
You are a senior officer in a bank. You have the responsibility of investigating all applications for new accounts according to the new “Know your customer” bank policies. A person with mental problems has also applied for a new account and is now standing before you, waiting for your response. The person has a disability certificate which says “schizophrenia”. You have to make a response to the applicant.
Group house on rent for users
You and your friends from your user support group have decided to rent a house and live independently. You have found a place that you can rent and which you can afford together. The locality is also good and it is close to everybody’s place of work. You are not employed yet, but are hopeful. You take the responsibility of talking to the land lord about renting the flat for a year. You have a meeting with the landlord today. You have to prepare your strategies for clinching the deal and meet him.
You have a small flat in a good locality. You are looking for people to rent it out to for a year. Some young people have approached you with a reference from a nearby NGO. The NGO works with mentally ill people. You have promised to talk to them at least, saying that you will keep an open mind. You can give them only 10 minutes, though, because you have a very important meeting after that. You have to decide what to tell the young people and meet them.
Psychiatrist and medications
You have been on medication with a diagnosis of manic depression for over 2 years. You are having many uncomfortable side effects, including putting on lots of weight. The doctor listens to all that you say patiently but gives you the same hand full of drugs. You don’t know most of the drugs, excepting for one anti depressant. You are fed up of taking all these unknown drugs which is keeping you dazed. You want to talk to him about the medications today.
You are a psychiatrist and you have to see at least 25 patients in the evening today. A young person is sitting before you telling you how she is now. She is manic depressive and you have been treating her for the last 2 years. You listen patiently but you think that she is over talkative and manic. She is also not willing to accept her illness and she needs these medicines. You psychoeducate her and give her the same prescription as before.
Within the family for inviting user to marriage / festival or other celebrations
You live with your family after you received a psychiatric diagnosis. There is soon to be a marriage in the family. Your sister is getting married. Last time there was an important function they sent you to the friendly mental health center close by for a few days. You could not even call up your family during your stay there. You don’t want them to do that this time. You want to attend the wedding. After all, she is your sister and you care.
Your adult child has been living with you and your family after he received a psychiatric diagnosis. There is soon to be a marriage in the family. Your daughter is getting married. Last time there was an important function we sent him to the friendly mental health center close by for a few days. It was a sad thing to do, but we did not have a choice. We missed not even being able to contact him. This time too we will send him there. After all, she is the only daughter we have and we want nothing to go wrong.