It’s not a secret to those who tolerate my rantings that I’m often critical of “The Media.” With regularity, I feel journalists accentuate scandalous human behavior in the name of entertainment. Strong statement? Let me explain from the peer perspective.

At DBSA Albuquerque, we have several new educational programs designed to let folks know what it’s like to deal with the symptoms of a mental illness, what it’s like to live with uneducated stigmatization, and what initiatives we can take as a community to further understanding and debunk stigmas when it comes to mental health peers.

These educational programs are being well-received. Turquoise Lodge Hospital was pleased with Laugh It Off, and we’ve been invited to present Milestones In My Recovery Journey to CNM’s psychology department. You Can’t Always See It will be included in Department of the Interior training this fall. And APD has included DBSA Albuquerque on the by line of the presentations we helped develop for their CIT training.

DBSA Albuquerque is expanding peer support to more areas of the Greater Albuquerque Metropolitan Area, with a new Westside peer support group starting on August 19. This will bring peer support to an area of Albuquerque that has never had readily available local access to peer support like what DBSA Albuquerque provides.

Today, several DBSA Albuquerque members attended the NM Solutions open house announcing their taking on the continued services of Agave, assuring that much needed peer services are still offered to Albuquerque’s mental health peers. It was fun seeing old friends and meeting new faces.

Also today, DBSA Albuquerque was invited to take part in Kirtland AFB’s Wellness Expo in July. This will give our chapter a chance to talk to peers who serve in our military, and hopefully address many of the stigmas associated with mental health in the our armed services.

And just this past weekend, DBSA Albuquerque was invited to have an informational table at the Railyards Market where we were able to connect with the “general public” who were there for yoga and an organic turnip. We had three new members at our Monday support group, including an honored veteran.

Okay, there’s some stuff that’s going on with mental health peers in just one chapter in just one city with The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). This is all great human interest journalism potential, yes? When was the last time you saw a positive portrayal of mental health peers and the positive impact peers have on our community in the press? Compare that to the last time you heard about a violent killer with mental illness in the news. Extrapolate over the last year. The last two years. The last three years. Seeing a pattern?

So, from the perspective of a dude managing the fun o’ fun symptoms of bipolar, there is a very apparent bias as to what type of story “The Media” prefers to report on. And considering how much volunteer time I dedicate to educating the public, the police, and anyone who will tolerate my rantings, there is a natural irritation and disappointment I have with “The Media” because of all the positive, life-affirming happenings I am firsthand involved in. Fair and balanced? You decide.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had an ongoing conversation with Jeff Proctor of New Mexico In Depth. Reading many of Jeff’s articles available online, my opinion is he is very dedicated to holding APD accountable for their actions and decisions. It is a noble cause, and it’s not all that dissimilar to my peer advocacy priority of educating law enforcement on what it’s like to live with a mental illness, and how peers and police can work together for mutual understanding and safety, ensuring positive and productive encounters between police and peers. It’s my involvement on MHRAC and with APD CIT training where I get to flex those particular muscles. It’s in the pages of New Mexico In Depth where Jeff flexes his.

My first article that crossed paths with Jeff’s was a comparative opinion piece that called for journalistic accountability in the use of “forced treatment.” Jeff was kind enough to reach out to me, and while I’ll still be scrutinizing his articles with a critical eye, it’s only fair for me to give props where props are due.

At my invitation, Jeff attended our past MHRAC meeting where one agenda item was a discussion of the “reverse sting” operation that was the topic of Jeff’s article, which was the article I keyed in on where I called for journalistic accountability of misusing “forced treatment”… you get the idea, yes? Because I’m losing the plot.

I was pretty harsh in my critique of Jeff’s NMID article, using words like “intellectually dishonest.” That sentiment was true at the time of my writing, and while I stand by that in principle, perhaps a better phrasing if revising my article would be “temporarily ignorant.” That doesn’t sound much better, does it? Trust me, it is. I say this because Jeff and I talked for the better part of two hours one Sunday afternoon, and he asked me to explain my take on the term “forced treatment.” The first of the props: Jeff listened and and asked excellent follow up questions that I’m not usually accustomed to answering. Ignorance is only temporary, and I was impressed by Jeff and our conversation.

Props v.1. Jeff was willing, eager, and open to understanding the peer perspective.

Now here’s the next batch of props. Jeff did attend the MHRAC meeting, and he wrote a follow up article on the “reverse sting” operation for NMID. Read it here:

Changes coming to controversial APD drug stings — or not?

Initially, I wanted to write this article to highlight my impressions of Jeff’s most recent article, and my feelings on his journalistic integrity after his willingness to attend MHRAC. Instead, I just got lazy and wrote him an email. Because I am thankful for Jeff accepting my invitation, and because I am impressed by how he reported the MHRAC conversation on the “reverse sting”, what I’ll do is share my email I sent to Jeff. It’ll be so much easier than re-writing the same narrative, and the email sounds so much more genuine because the sentiments I shared with Jeff are real.

Props to Jeff Proctor of New Mexico In Depth. Let’s keep this ball rolling.

Hi Jeff,

I read your recent article that shares your short phone conversation with David Ley, and I feel it is even, fair, and mostly accurate. Your article details one aspect of the ongoing evolution of our community’s relationship with APD, and I believe you reported honestly on the MHRAC conversation concerning the reverse sting operations. Well done.

What I hope is that you’ll continue to come to MHRAC meetings. Personally, I feel your presence and reporting will help our community keep the focus on the points that matter most to peers, because without individuals like me who have mental health issues that sometimes require APD contact, there would be no reason for any of us to be at the table for MHRAC. Far too often, it’s easy for boards like MHRAC to get off-track with bureaucratic minutiae or debates that impede necessary progress for the needs of peers.

There is also the benefit of you being involved with the most direct link between community stakeholders and APD. Many of the questions you may have while writing your articles can be answered firsthand. That is a very privileged opportunity not every community has available to journalists.

I am very pleased that you reported on APD’s open response to MHRAC concerns. It’s noteworthy that Nancy provided the quote she did. Nancy’s praise is well-founded, and she has no issue voicing dissatisfaction within MHRAC if necessary.

From my perspective as a peer, APD’s responsiveness and willingness to learn and to understand the needs of peers has grown stronger with each passing day. It was uncomfortable for some (not only law enforcement) to have peers involved in these sorts of meetings and committees when I first started my peer advocacy. Being told “You are so articulate for a consumer” was a common “compliment” I was afforded. In the early days of the formation of MHRAC, before there was a committee construct or even a name for the committee, Robert and I were the only two peers in the room when community stakeholders were jockeying for a seat at the table. Two peers out of 47 people in the room the first day. MHRAC marks the very first time peers were involved in this caliber of a committee from the very start, and with equal representation in the number of seats dedicated to peers. It was hard work, it was me being a pest, and it turned out to the benefit of APD to have “articulate” peer advice readily available in an accountable way.

I want you to know this so you understand how important MHRAC is to me and to peers and why it holds this magnitude of importance. This is a first, to have peer involvement beyond the traditional “token peer.”

For me, it’s good to get your take on things because I already know what I think, and for the reasons I just shared I’m already a strong supporter of the purpose and potential of MHRAC, so it’s the critical eye of others that helps guide my contribution to the committee.

Thanks for what you’re doing for our community. Keep it up.