Yesterday, I went to the "Have a Heart, Save a Mind Rally & Press Conference" at the GA capitol and unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. Did we get in the news? No. Did anyone really pay attention? No. We were a quiet, small gathering on the steps of the capitol-a nice speech was given, as were some awards, and that was about it. We had some small, cute signs in the shape of hearts that read, "Have a heart, Save a mind!" I don't think it worked.
The reasons why were staring us right in the face, as across the street a group, who did not even have an official permit, promoting the rights of poor people were able to earn a spot on the nightly news. They were enthusiastic. They were loud. They had signs that clearly stated their purpose. "Have a heart, save a mind" is cute and catchy, but if no one besides a select few know what it means, then it is useless, whereas a sign reading "Human rights for ALL" is easily understood by anyone who can read.
Next year, I expect something different! I expect more involvement from consumers and more creativity! Spend some time on awards, but spend more time being heard, please. What if there had been big signs with quotes from the recent articles about how America, and GA specifically, is failing its constituents who have mental illness? What if our slogan had not been cute, but shocking? Perhaps, "Obama, Don't Forget Us!" I mean, that's the sentiment that I was hearing from the people in the crowd! What if we ended with a skit or spoken word by consumers? Look for those things next year, because I am now a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and I am full of creative ideas that need to be implemented!
Yesterday, there was an article in the Atlanta Journal Cconstitution about a woman who was tragically released from a mental hospital too soon. Her parents begged the hospital to keep her in, but they refused. This woman, who was by no means stable enough to be let out, was released anyway and ended up killing her mother. Now she is in jail. This could have been avoided and it should be the hospital director in jail, not the woman, for if the hospital had done their job, then she would not have killed her mother.
When it comes to advocacy and mental illness, the time for cute signs is over.