As we put this year to bed, I am highlighting quotable quotes from the ten podcast episodes which comprise Season One of Heart Forward Conversations of the Heart. These feature “evergreen” topics and I hope these quotes will serve as an amuse bouche to invite you in to savor more of these fascinating interviews. I am grateful to the 11 people who were generous with their time and took a risk to engage with a neophyte podcast producer.
This pandemic pivot proved to be a fruitful detour and I am ever grateful to my friends at Peer Mental Health and particularly my technical partner, Paul Robinson, for making this possible.
Strap on the earbuds, grab the mask hanging at your front door and enjoy a brisk walk while you click in to listen to one of the following:
Episode 1: Housing That Heals Part One. A conversation with Lauren Rettagliata and Teresa Pasquini.
“We know that [housing first] works for some people, and we celebrate that . . . But we talk about there being a system of “homefulness.” There needs to be a continuum of care that includes tiered levels of housing.” (Teresa)
“Everyone said what you need is housing. Get him housing first and then we’ll wrap all the services around him. So, my husband and I were able to purchase an apartment in the area and allow our son to live there in hopes that the supportive services would be given to him. What people don’t realize that when someone is so severely ill, the people who are to bring services to them knock on the door and many of the times — all the time — my son did not answer the door.” (Lauren)
Episode 2: Housing that Heals Part Two
“We wanted to go find places that would welcome our sons and help them get back on their feet and offer them a door for them to walk through — and was accessible — and healing.” (Teresa)
“So this is where we learned the most amazing term that we have to make sure that we explain. [The administrator said] he had to do away with patient porn — and that is all the bad stuff that is in somebody’s record that would make a care facility say ‘No — that person’s not coming to our facility! We can’t take this person. This person will not do well.’” (Lauren)
Episode 3: Mutual Accompaniment and the Creation of the Commons: A Discussion with Author Mary Watkins
“Basaglia was very clear about what needs to happen. He was not concerned that people had graduate degrees but they had to have a certain set of qualities. One was that they could appreciate that every person has . . . a life project. You need to be the kind of person who can be with another person with your ear attuned to what’s that life project? Where does that person come alive? What is it that matters to them? What are their values? Insofar as you can, can you be a bridge to help them gain the resources to help that life project flower?”
Episode 4: The Power and Promise of Community Inclusion: What we can learn from Trieste. A conversation with Dr. Dave Pilon
“The basic services that everything else revolves around is this idea of giving somebody a place where they feel like they belong. I mean, fundamentally, nothing else works. Unless the person says, this is my go-to place where — if I am struggling, if I am having a difficult time — I know that these people care about me and will stick by me regardless of what’s going on in my life . . . Fundamentally it’s about helping people to get a life.”
Episode 5: Our Role as Mental Health Assistants at L.A. County Jail: A rare conversation with Craigen Armstrong and Adrian Berumen.
“When an individual makes bad choices and you have time to just sit here and really think or be put into a situation where you are behind bars, in jail, there are a lot of guys who start to consider — man what did I do wrong? How do I take accountability? So, I think the perfect opportunity to redeem yourself is to give back, to help somebody else who probably doesn’t deserve to be in here — but because they do have some sort of mental defect they are in here, so its an opportunity to redeem yourself.” (Adrian)
“There’s something good going on here. Outside people have these. . .labels about jail and the jail is just bad. So that was a lot of the motivation to share and put it out there: There’s something here that is working and it is helping people and we had a strong desire to put that out there and we thought there was no better way to do that than a book.” (Craigen)
Episode 6: Vocation, Purpose and Bridging the Digital Divide: A Conversation with David Israelian of Peer Mental Health and the Painted Brain
“People ask me, if you could take schizophrenia away, would you? No, why would I?? That’s what makes me me. That’s my lens. Why would you take away what has actually supported my development in becoming who I am? What would you take that from me?”
Episode 7: He Came in With It: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness. A conversation with the author – and my former neighbor – Miriam Feldman.
“This is the bone I won’t let go of . . . every time I give a talk. The whole system of mental health is predicated on this “mitigation of danger” doctrine. And I am offended by that on human level. I am offended by that as a mother . . . and as a civilized person. The idea that we take a group of people who are afflicted with a physical disease — brain chemistry — and we throw away their lives. We say that all we need to do is create a situation where these people don’t hurt themselves or others . . . we don’t care if they have a life of any value. Its just that we don’t want them to hurt themselves or others and so we medicate them to the point that they are drooling zombies and shut the book and call that a success and send them home to sit in their dark apartments for the rest of their lives.”
Episode 8: Fountain House and the Promise of the Clubhouse Movement as a Place of Hospitality and Purpose: A conversation with Dr. Ashwin Vasan.
“At the end of the day – just as you need, just as I need – we need a place to wake up every day to go. With intention, by choice, where we are needed and where we know our absence will be felt.“
“People need to not only aspire to their ceilings; people need help with lifting their floors.”
Episode 9: The U.S. Mental Health System seen through an international lens: A conversation with Dr. Roberto Mezzina (Trieste) and Dr. S.R. Sashidharan (Glasgow)
“In recent years, we [Trieste] were . . . used as a possible demonstration of a human rights- based approach because we don’t use seclusion, we don’t use restraint . . . We have no locked doors anywhere, including the general hospital . . . Everywhere is the open door which is also a symbol of open access. The possibility of getting out is the symbol of freedom. The famous sentence was la libertà è terapeutica — freedom is therapeutic. Today we are . . . saying that we need freedom as a first premise . . . because freedom is a fundamental human right.” (Roberto)
“Now I have been to different countries. I have been to some very poor countries . . . but nothing had prepared me for what I saw in Skid Row. There were people with active untreated mental illness — severe forms of mental illness — wandering around with nothing. No food No shelter. No one to look after them. What struck me . . . was the realization that this was happening in one of richest countries in the world.” (Sashi)
Episode 10: Family Relationships, law enforcement, human rights and mental health in the time of coronavirus. Part Two of a conversation with Dr. Roberto Mezzina and Dr. S.R. Sashidharan.
“One of the critical things that I’ve learned from Trieste — and I would not have learned it anywhere else — is the art of negotiation; what some people describe as the relentless negotiation . . . especially in crisis situations where things are conflict-laden. The negotiation can always be enhanced . . . by bringing in other people who know that individual much better than I do as a stranger, no matter how well-meaning I am as a psychiatrist. Bringing in the mother, or the family or a family member into that not only will equalize the dynamics a bit more but will bring in information that both parties can use in taking the negotiation forward.” (Sashi)
“Human rights are. . . wider because they cover, for instance, the problem with receiving inhumane treatment, receiving suffering from torture or different forms of mistreatment, and this is very significant in mental health because human rights violations are particularly done on the bodies of people suffering from mental health issues. So you have to recognize this basic dignity of this person as a whole person with this body which is not just a citizen . . . not just an ‘administrative definition.’ This is a full person in front of you . . . ” (Roberto)
Peeking into 2021
There will be a Season Two and Three of the Heart Forward podcast in 2021. This has proved to be an excellent medium to share the guiding principles of the Trieste system to a wider audience and to use these new connections to build new partnerships to push for change. But I will need a little help from my friends.
I welcome your support and it comes in two ways. First, I appreciate feedback about the subject matter tackled and ideas you might have for topics and/or interviewees in the new year. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, this podcast does require financial support to keep going! Though my time is donated, I have equipment, licensing and hosting costs and a very talented technical collaborator who has dedicated hundreds of hours so far to the editing process that results in such a polished finished product. Please use this portal to donate any amount to support the podcast – donations have ranged from $75 to $2,000.
Be safe over this new year holiday. Though this December 31 may feel strange as we celebrate at home, we have reason to hope that next year at this time we could be all gathered with our friends and family again.