A young man in his 30s sits at the table perusing the latest copy of Time magazine. He is a very good looking man with bright eyes and a ready smile. When he speaks, he is articulate - very well spoken. He is also, by the way, schizophrenic. Let us call him Ron.
Ron and I are sitting in a house funded by Mental Health where a variety of programs are offered for the consumers - all people suffering with Mental Illnesses. Currently, some funding has come their way to make a series of videos on living with a Mental Illness.
One of the staff is trying to get Ron interested in appearing in the video. Another is leaning close to me whispering: "See what you can do to get Ron to be in the movie. He would be perfect!" They already have 5 or 6 *actors* who are very eager to appear. They are not among the highest functioning clients but they have great enthusiasm for this project. Ron is looking uncomfortable and asks me to go for a walk with him.
As we amble down the lane he tells me that every time he goes to this place it is the same story.
He is feeling pressured.
"I don't want to be in a movie. I don't want people labeling me. I am more than my illness. I don't want to be the Poster boy for schizophrenia."
In that moment I realize his assessment is right on the money.
They want a Poster boy; especially one as eye-pleasing and charismatic as Ron is.
They want him so badly that they are forgetting one of their own tenets: to let the client be who they are and allow them to express themselves as they wish.
As I drop Ron off he thanks me and says he does not want to go there anymore.
Later, a volunteer for this Society tells me that most of the high functioning clients do not find a peer within the House. Most of them stop coming after a few visits. The people at the top of the food chain view it as them expressing their recovery.
I view it as another pothole in the Health Care system.
Preaching to the converted.