Why inclusion is required

Imagine the government organizes a new committee to study “Issues Facing Black Women in Contemporary America.” The goal of the group will be to study the issues, define problems facing black women today and come up with possible solutions.

Now imagine a meeting room, a large round table of talking heads and vigorous discussion. This new committee is entirely comprised of white men.

Outrageous, right? Inconceivable that anyone in his/her right mind would create a committee to study such issues and not include black women, is it not? Imagine the outcry from black women if such a group were formed. Rightfully so.

Why then, is it acceptable to have committees left and right, studying mental health issues, supposedly with one of the goals being helping persons with mental illness and not including any patients? It’s not acceptable, but it’s common.

Mental health committees are often made up of “experts” only. Anyone with a title, psychiatrist, psychologist, MSW, RN, professor, and so on. Missing are the patients (and family members, who also often have a large stake in the issues).

There is such a large gap between what the experts think they know, and the realities of living life as a person with mental illness. That’s why inclusion in every committee, every group, and every meeting is required. Nothing about us without us.

That non-inclusion continues on such a large basis reinforces the view that mental patients are less than.