07. Advice from Radical Mental Health Professionals

The following section gives tips and advice for navigating the mental health system, receiving the best care for you, and ensuring your voice and your rights are respected by the medical establishment. Although the contributors are based in the UK and the US, we hope the gist of the advice will apply regardless.

1.Therapy for Anarchists, Class Warriors, and the Rest of Us
Dr. Charlotte Cooper

In the UK, therapy has roots in middle class philanthropy, and is often accused of being an individualistic response to social problems. This is off-putting to people who feel that the wider social context is relevant to our lives. But therapists are a mixed bunch. Some of us see our work as part of a bigger project of social change. Some of us are working class too, a few are anarchists, and many bring other identities and experience into the mix.

Having a caring space in which you are listened to; understanding what's going on and why you feel so awful, working on meaningful and feasible ways to alleviate that pain are all crucial steps for developing well-being. I am obviously biased because I am a shrink, but I think that counselling and psychotherapy (I use them fairly interchangeably) are primo routes to resolving long-term depression, anxiety, and stress. But getting your hands on some quality, politically engaged psychotherapy when you're too depressed, afraid, or anxious to move is another question.

The Holy Grail

The holy grail: Very cheap or free open-ended counselling/psychotherapy in a style that is compatible with you, with someone local who is clued-in about social marginalisation, and has at least some politics and connection to the communities with whom they work.

Open-ended means that you decide when you're ready to finish. Having someone clued-in means not having to educate the therapist in the basics of your life, and where they will have a grasp of the social context in which you exist, and hopefully some desire for social change. A therapist who has some connection to community will be less likely to patronise or judge. Ideally the therapist should have qualifications, be registered and shouldn't have to work for nothing in horrible conditions (the holy grail is also about recognising their profession, despite popular clichés, as it can be hard way to make a living).

The Reality

If you don't have the money you can approach the therapist of your choice and ask for a reduced price and try to negotiate something affordable. Not all therapists have cheaper places, there will probably be a wait, and you might find that their version of affordable is still too expensive for you. You might have to try
a few people, and the process of negotiating can be quite intimidating.

For free therapy, you can see your doctor to be put on a waiting list for a service about which you have little say, and which is likely to be time-limited (six sessions is common). It’s also possible you’ll be channelled into an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme. While the service can be helpful for some people, you will be using a service which is still in its early days and has come under a lot of fire for its somewhat sausage factory approach to mental health. Plus you might find yourself being seen by someone who's trained in IAPT, but not as a therapist.

You might also find community counselling agencies, but you might be asked to make a financial contribution, and again there are likely to be waiting lists and restrictions on length of service and types of therapies. In community counselling it's common to be seen by trainees rather than experienced
therapists. It can be hard to shop around for someone you like and the service can be a bit hit and miss.

If you are a student or work for a company that has an Employee Assistance Programme that extends to psychotherapy and counselling, you have a better chance of finding free services, but these will probably fall short of the holy grail for many of the reasons outlined above.

The kinds of services I've mentioned here can be really great, but it's worth knowing their limitations, too. Counselling and psychotherapy are somewhat mystified professions, tainted by the stigma of mental illness, which means it's hard to navigate the system and determine what's best for you. All of this can be really exhausting when all you want is to be in a room with someone who will listen, understand, and help you to feel better. Ask around, try not to be intimidated, ask questions and keep going until you find what you're looking for.

Other Routes

The holy grail of therapy may be out of reach, but there are other things you can do to help shift your depression and anxiety. Here are some suggestions that you can mix up and adapt, in no particular order:

Therapy groups exist, but can be quite hard to find, and may be closed to new members. There are many benefits of doing therapy in a group, not least the sense of collective witnessing and information-sharing. They tend to be cheaper than one-to-one sessions. But you also need a really skilled facilitator
to help a group function well, and bear in mind that class politics and radical ideas might not be at the top of the agenda, or always welcome. A network of radical therapy groups would be a wonderful thing, but does not currently exist in the UK.

Co-counselling is a grassroots movement in which people pair up and share the roles of counsellor and client, taking turns to speak and listen. It's free. It has roots in a form of counselling that I think is somewhat cult-ish, but there is no reason that you shouldn't adapt the format to suit yourself. For more information, visit http://www.co-counselling.org.uk.

Bibliotherapy is a fancy term for reading, specifically reading the kinds of books that might help you feel better. Self-help literature has a bad reputation, often deservedly, but you can still dive in, use the bits that you find useful and discard the rubbish. You can use other types of literature too, you don't have to limit yourself to one genre; look for poetry, novels, comics, political tracts, etc., that move you or provide some hope or strategies for surviving and thriving. Write about them and keep reading and sharing what you've found, ask people for recommendations. Use the library, read and share things online, lend and borrow.

There are different methods of journaling that can help with depression and anxiety. Some people keep journals to remind themselves of what they have, you can also use journals to explore particular episodes of your life, or simply to be in the moment and to reflect on your feelings. You can check out 'therapeutic journaling techniques' to find a method you like.

Make stuff, develop public conversations about depression and mental health more generally in the groups and communities you are a part of; try and think about ways in which organisations and activists can be accountable to people's well-being. Get politically active around this stuff, refuse to suffer in isolation and silence, challenge the stigma associated with mental health .

Encourage experimental ways of developing therapy. Alternative means of therapy can be imagined, customised or put into practice. I think that counselling and psychotherapy will remain a remedy for the elite unless we intervene and demand and create services that more readily address our lives and needs and dreams for social transformation.

Finally...

Keep going, make it moment-by-moment if you're really struggling. Tell someone. Muster some hope if you can, and use whatever tools are available. The world needs you. •

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2. Striving and Thriving: Mental Health on the Radical Left
Tina Phillips

I am a person with lived experience with mental illness, diagnosed bipolar since I was fourteen years old, as well as a mental health professional. It is estimated that one half of all people will develop mental illness in their lifetime. Currently 50 million people (1 in 5) have a diagnosed mental illness in America (not to mention all those who are undiagnosed). Despite such prevalence, mental illnesses comes with a lot of stigma. As activists we need to fight such stigma. The best way to do that is to talk about it. As a fellow social worker and shame and resiliency researcher, Brené Brown says, “Shame
needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” As people with mental illness we need to tell people our stories and help normalize it. It takes courage and bravery to put ourselves out there, but it is necessary. We all need to become mental health advocates who combat
social stigma if we want this situation to get better.

Politically, a life-long commitment to social justice can be a serious undertaking and means a literal struggle. It comes with many personal as well as political sacrifices that have both psychological and emotional consequences. Of course there are positive mental and emotional benefits of being an activist, but the commitment to the movement comes with both rewards and challenges. Mental illness is biological, genetic, environmental, and socio-cultural. However, I believe if we lived in a truly socialist society we could see a drastic reduction in mental illness and could even prevent it. Furthermore, we know capitalism creates social alienation and enormous amounts of interpersonal, relational, and social stress on individuals and families. Not only must we work hard, often at jobs with low pay and long hours, we have many other responsibilities on top of it. We have families, partners and children that we need to help take care of. We have to do chores, feed ourselves and others, and run errands. There is so much to do; we often neglect our own health.

All we can do in the immediate is try to manage the stress, by finding coping skills and decompressing activities. The coping skills can include art, exercise, sleep/naps, socializing with friends and family, eating a slow cooked meal, reading a book, yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques, deep breathing, focusing activities, taking a long walk or hike or going swimming, among other things.

It can be very challenging to overcome the pressures of everyday life, let alone those of being part of an activist movement and community. It is important as an activist that one takes care of oneself and that our community supports us. Burnout is common and all too often we feel our hard work brings too little
tangible results. This can lead to disappointment and frustration.

We have to celebrate every victory and recognize people’s efforts. Appreciation of others is so important in creating self-esteem and maintaining long-term commitment. We can also stave off burnout by taking breaks from our activism and supporting each other through hard times.

So what is to be done? Our mental health system is far from perfect, too overburdened and too expensive for most people. That is part of why we work as left radicals to change this system into one that works for all people. Unfortunately, in the meantime we have to deal with how things are now.

One thing I advocate is therapy, but it is often cost prohibitive. If one cannot find low cost/sliding scale/income-based therapy, I always recommend workbooks. They teach people step-by-step about the condition which they may have and offer a variety of techniques such as mindfulness to cope with emotional stress and improve overall quality of life. Most therapists would teach these techniques in therapy but you can learn them on your own for a fraction of the cost. And if one technique or workbook doesn't work for you, try another.

Another thing therapists provide is the time and space devoted solely to you and a time to talk/vent and be listened to. You can't find this in a book. But you can find this in other people—friends, family, co-workers, and comrades alike. Find some trusted individuals who are willing to hear you out, provide
empathy (not just sympathy), and validation (telling you what you are feeling and thinking is real). Just providing a sounding board of unconditional support can make a world of difference.

I always recommend the rule of threes. Find three reliable people you can go to in a crisis or when something happens that brings you down. Tell your story to those three people, three different times. At the end, you will have released and expressed those feelings and thoughts, will most likely feel better, and hopefully have come up with some solutions. Of course there is one thing a therapist can provide others can't—and that is education, training, and experience in treating and healing major trauma and
psychiatric challenges. There really is no substitute for this. So if you need this, try your best to get it. Oftentimes the expense paid to get this is worth the necessary sacrifices.

Another avenue to increase mental health is using medication. There is much debate about the use of psychotropic medication. As someone who has bipolar disorder, I know my medication saves my life, both literally and quality-wise. Every individual has to make their own choice whether to try medication and see if it helps. Not everyone has to take medication long term, but some do. I have to take mine the rest of my life, but I am glad there is something out there that profoundly helps me.

Yes, medications are often over-prescribed and developed by big pharmaceutical companies, which are profit-motivated. Yes, doctors can sometimes be pushers because they are getting kick-backs. That is why finding a good doctor to prescribe the right medication is important. This would often be a psychiatrist, who usually does not come cheap. If you can, try to find a lower cost psychiatrist, but
if you can't, a general practitioner can prescribe many of the same medications. The caution is they are not trained as well in psychiatric conditions and would not be able to monitor you as well as a psychiatrist could.

Another option that could help and is often more affordable, is herbal remedies and Eastern/alternative medicine. There are many helpful remedies out there worth looking into from vitamins, supplements, teas, essential oils, to acupuncture, acupressure, bio-feedback etc. As well as looking at changes in
diet, sleep, and exercise.

Individuals also need social support. If you're in a radical left organization, develop internal systems to provide this support. We need to be able to turn to each other in times of need. This prevents burnout and can be a powerful source of intervention in times of crisis. We need to get more involved in people's
lives, pay more attention, and be willing to have sometimes uncomfortable conversations with people. We need to focus most on compassion, understanding, and empathy.

Another possible strategy radical left organizations can implement is conflict-management, non-violent communication, and peer counseling. If our organizations used these techniques and taught these skills to all of their members they would be better served by doing so. Learning how to communicate
assertively and not passively, passive-aggressively, or aggressively is very important for any individual or organization. Our success is wrapped up in our ability to resolve conflicts and reconcile differences. No one gets through this life on their own—we are all interdependent social beings. So let’s live our radical values in the here and now and transform ourselves and our organizations to serve each other’s needs.

Our organizations can become a model going forward for society and be a source of strength to make
us more effective activists. Indeed this can be a protective factor for those with many risk factors for self-harm, homelessness, and suicide. We can be the difference and we are responsible for implementing these suggestions now. •

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3. Dealing with Mental Health Services:
Advice from an Anarchist Mental Health Worker

Medical professionals can be hit or miss. If you've talked to your personal doctor about mental health difficulties and feel he/she is being dismissive or isn't taking you seriously, you have the right to ask to be referred to specialist mental health services for an assessment. The nature of mental health problems are such that it can seem difficult to assert yourself and it can be easy to feel disempowered. This is especially so when dealing with people who might appear to be in positions of authority, like psychiatrists, social workers, or community based mental health workers.

If you feel the need to approach mental health services, have asked your doctor for a referral, or in some other way you come to their attention, the following points might help you to get the most out of it. Remember that service providers are human beings like the rest of us. You are their equal, and your time is as valuable as theirs. You should expect to be treated as an equal, with respect and dignity.

Try and be as clear as possible when talking about your problems. You should get the most help and the most benefit if those you are asking for help under stand what's wrong and what sort of help you feel you need. If there are specific things that have helped you in the past (a certain medication, talking therapies, group work etc.), make this known, and try and think about other things that you feel would help.

Also make sure things are explained clearly to you, in a way you understand. If a course of medication is suggested, ask questions about it, and try and make sure that potential negative side effects are explained as well as hoped-for positive effects. If you are given a diagnosis, try and ensure that the
symptoms, characteristics, prognosis and implications are clearly explained.

If you feel that social circumstances (poverty, threat of eviction, isolation, substance use issues, etc.) are contributing to your mental ill-health, make this known. Services have a duty to support you with these problems if your mental health is such that you can't do it yourself. Being given anti-depressants and sent back to the root problems that caused the depression, for example, is not good enough.

Remember that you have the right to complain. If you disagree with any decision, diagnosis, course of action or treatment plan or you feel you're not being listened to or taken seriously, talk to the people involved and let them know, if you feel confident doing so. A trusted friend or family member, or an advocacy worker can help you here, too. If you're still unhappy, you can make a formal complaint, you can ask for a second opinion, or you can request a change of doctor. Health boards have a duty to publish complaints procedures, and copies should be available at local community mental health team
resource centres, and normally online as well.

You should be at the centre of any decision making. Do your best to make sure that your views are taken into account. Taking someone else (again, a friend or family member, or an advocacy worker) who understands your situation along to appointments can help with this.

Remember that nothing can be imposed on you against your will unless you are subject to mental health legislation, and certain steps have been taken allowing decisions to be made by professionals. Even in this situation, you do still have certain legal rights, which should be clearly explained, and you should still be at the centre of decision making as much as this is possible.

If you find yourself subject to mental health legislation (detained in hospital, given medical treatment against your will etc.), make sure, as best you can, that the process is explained clearly in a way that you understand, including what your rights are. Service providers and those responsible for the compulsory
measures have a legal duty to explain this to you. Again, having someone else who is on your side (a friend, family member or advocacy worker) can help. If you are unhappy, you are entitled to free legal advice and representation, and in most cases have the right to appeal.

Remember that mental health service providers are there to help you. Anything they do should benefit you, and should be intended to get the best outcome possible for you. If you are unhappy at any point, you can seek advice and support from friends, family, other service users and independent advocacy
and mental health organisations.

08 : Essays and Organisational Culture and Mental Health

Be Good to Your Comrades: Why Being a Prick is Counterrevolutionary

Is it just me or do anarchists have a tendency to be a bunch of pricks?

Actually, I know it’s not just me. Because I’ve had this conversation, in whispered tones, with a few other anarchists. And they agree.

Let me back up. Anarchists can also be some of the nicest people I know. Many pour their time and energy, sweat and tears, into building revolution— driven by the deep desire to make the world a better place. On the whole they are caring, altruistic, generous, and giving. But my goodness, can they also be harsh, condescending, and sometimes downright bullies.

This hurtful behavior mostly arises in political disagreements. Which means it arises quite regularly. Because anarchists get into a lot of political disagreements. Not least of all with each other.

I have a feeling, dear comrade, that you will be all too familiar with what I’m talking about. You see it in your own organization. You see it on the internet forums. Maybe you’ve seen it in yourself.

Why is this type of behavior so common? Is it because anarchists are used to having our ideas attacked so it’s put us in the habit of lashing out defensively? Is it because many anarchists are thick skinned (a helpful asset when you base much of your life on an unpopular view) and so we don’t realize that words and tones which wouldn’t phase us will hurt our thinner skinned comrades? Is it because we’re so full of bitterness about the current state of the world that we take it out on others? For some of us, maybe it’s that we have such distaste for hippies that we strive to be as unlike them as we can, including by disregarding all concern with (gag) “feelings”?

Whatever the reason, it’s got to stop. It hurts people. It can wound and even scar people. I know two anarchists who are seriously depressed in large part due to the pattern of interpersonal brutality in their organization. One frequently considers quitting because of it. I know of two others who refuse to join the organization because of bullying they either experienced or witnessed.

And so it is that interpersonal meanness by anarchists can, should, and must be recognized for what it is: counterrevolutionary. Why? Because it sabotages our efforts to create revolution.

When anarchists act like pricks they drive others away from revolutionary organizing. Nobody likes being around people who make them feel like crap. For those not driven away, this subtle bullying can beat us into a pit of depression and injured self-confidence, and it’s damn hard to meet the responsibilities of revolutionary activity when you’re depressed, or share your ideas in meetings or volunteer for challenging tasks if your self-confidence is in the toilet.

Meanness causes our numbers to be fewer and our comrades to be less effective.

Successful revolution requires that the vast majority of the working class embrace anarchism. This won’t happen if the extremely tiny minority who currently have anarchist politics push everyone else away because we don’t know how to have a political disagreement without resorting to humiliation or intimidation, or because we ridicule and ostracize those with political views we (rightly or wrongly) look down on.

This doesn’t mean we should not express criticism or disagreements. This is the only way to change minds. But always be friendly and respectful even— no, especially—during debate.

One way to deal with this problem is the anarchist principle of collective responsibility. If members of an organization see that someone is beginning to speak or act in a disrespectful way, it should be an obligation to intervene by pointing this out.

This need not have any purpose except to bring it to everyone’s attention. But formal consequences can be used if desired. Perhaps the second time someone is called-out they should be required to stop speaking and be bumped down a spot on the speaker’s list (giving them a chance to calm down and reflect before finishing whatever point they were making). A third warning could require being bumped down two spots, and so on—although at some point, if it isn’t letting up, perhaps they should be asked to leave the meeting.

If consequences are used, there might be a risk that calling-out the disrespectfulness of others be used dishonestly just to interrupt what someone was saying. In that case, a rule can be made that at least one other person must agree that disrespect is present.

It helps if someone is assigned the prime responsibility of being watchful of the respect level during a meeting. (This person should be someone other than the chair, because chairs have other things they need to pay attention to.) But anyone in the meeting should call-out disrespect as soon as they see it. And, like any role of importance, the role of respect-watcher should be rotated.

Things become more difficult outside of meetings during informal hang-outs, especially if they involve alcohol. With the respect-watcher off duty, the collective responsibility of the group to make sure interactions are friendly and respectful must be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

If someone has a pattern of intimidating or humiliating others and it doesn’t show signs of going away even after ongoing intervention, this person should be expelled from the organization or at least suspended. Whatever assets they bring to the organization, it does more harm than good to keep a bully around.

This collection of articles is meant, in part, to help guide us in how we, as anarchists, can support our comrades who might be depressed or otherwise dealing with mental health issues. I believe the number one thing we can do is simply be good to each other. Let’s stop giving our comrades yet another
reason to be depressed.

A Proposal for Collective Accommodation

I am one of many class struggle anarchists with mental illness. I am a member of an anarchist political organization and have been for the past five years. In recent months, we have begun discussing developing a 'code of conduct' around member behaviour. Because my particular mental illness involves some pretty disruptive and inappropriate behaviour at times, I would like to explore some ideas on how organizations can accommodate people like me, while also maintaining the functioning of the organization. In my experience, this is generally not done well. So, for this piece, I would first like to lay out some of the pitfalls I have noticed organizations have come up against in addressing this. I would then like to make a proposal for 'collective accommodation' and explain why it might offer a better structure for support.

First of all, I would like to be very clear that I in no way wish to reinforce any stereotypes around people with a mental illness being disruptive or having behaviour that is problematic to others. For many, many people, this is not the case. For me, however, I am diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Briefly, BPD involves very extreme emotions, which tend to last very short periods of time. Due to painful and intense emotions, and often a tendency toward impulsiveness, many people with BPD struggle with issues such as self-injury, suicide ideation, drug/alcohol abuse, etc. For me, many of the issues and conflicts that come with being in an organization can be very difficult, and at times I have used these types of negative behaviours as ways of coping, with detrimental effects on others. So again, I would like to be clear that the ideas I'm proposing are in no way relevant to everyone who deals with mental health issues—but are to me, and potentially to other situations in various activist groups.

In my experience, anarchist/activist groups generally do a pretty poor job of dealing with disruptive behaviour, particularly when some aspect of mental health is involved. Generally, the trajectory I have seen is that groups tend to start out without any formal standards around behaviour, but more of an implied norm that everyone is expected to follow. When issues do emerge, groups tend to go one of two ways. One is to create some sort of 'code of conduct' setting out expectations around behaviour. Often, these conversations are presented as general, but are really in reference to a few members who are seen to demonstrate some sort of behavioural issue disruptive to the group. When a mental health issue is raised, little real support or understanding seems to be available.

Another way is to "accommodate" members who have disruptive behaviour by allowing them to remain in the group. Often, this accommodation looks like tolerating someone without truly including them (politically and/or in the social life of the group) or listening to their ideas. At times, it takes a very negative direction, when individuals who act in aggressive, demeaning ways toward others are allowed to continue to so, simply because these behaviours are attributed to a mental health issue. In the worst cases, I have seen individuals attempt to excuse oppressive (sexist, racist, etc) behaviour as a mental health issue, and get a pass—while alienating and oppressing others in the group.

In my view, both these approaches are flawed. Rather than addressing the complex balance of group and individual needs, they take an all or nothing approach—either the entire responsibility is on the individual to meet the standard or it is on the group to accommodate. They ignore the complexity of interactions—that the group itself may be a stressor, or that individuals may have other complex things going on in their lives. While different, both these approaches tend to have the same result of failing to offer real support and accountability.

I propose that, as anarchists, we can do better. Although it can be difficult at times, I think that 'letting the politics lead' with regards to what initially appear like personal topics—such as mental health—can be useful. In this case, I would draw on mutual aid and collective responsibility to propose a form of 'collective accommodation'. The model I propose would balance personal and collective responsibility to support members who struggle with selfregulation to meet standards that are realistic for them. It would also take into account that the organization itself and other members may act as stressors, and that a person's behaviour is not all on them. Finally, I believe it offers an ultimately positive view of people who struggle with mental illness, as it is both compassionate to their struggles and respectful of their strengths.

So, rather than a code of conduct approach—or perhaps, written in with it— the group would also allow individuals to take leadership in defining and getting support for their own participation. This would allow members to set realistic goals that don't expect perfect behaviour and accept and work with complex factors such as mental health. Some examples of issues that could be included might be:

1) Understanding: How does the individual understand their own behaviour and situation? What is important for other members to know? I think explaining what is behind certain behaviours might help other members be more sensitive to potential triggers, as well as understand generally what is at play.

2) Meeting strategies: Meetings can often be difficult. What are our expectations around conduct in meetings? What can the group put in place to better accommodate members who might be more easily overwhelmed? For example, changing meeting structures to allow for breaks during stressful topics. It is important here to talk about responsibility—is the individual responsible for deciding what they can or can't deal with? What role do other group members have?

3) Expectations around conflict: Conflict can be very triggering for many people. What can be put in place to make sure we are addressing the real political/strategic issues, without creating an unhealthy or unsafe situation for members? What responsibilities do different members take on in ensuring conflict is handled in productive ways?

4) Expectations around political work: Sometimes those with real barriers to participation, such as mental health concerns, are perceived as 'flaking out' when they don't complete tasks. At the same time, having to pick up extra responsibilities or dealing with the repercussions of important work not getting done can be stressful for other members. How do we manage this? What channels are available if we need to shift things around? How do we make sure everyone isn't stretched to their limit, so there is someone extra to take things on if it is too much?

There may be many others, depending on the particular individuals and situations involved. Generally, however, the principles would be to be realistic and not expect perfection; to try to understand and accommodate individuals; and to talk about sharing responsibility—accommodation doesn't mean making excuses, and having a mental illness doesn't mean that people are incapable. It may just mean we need support to participate. Implementing this model would also mean having difficult discussions around our limitations—potentially suggesting people seek professional support if needed, as well as looking at what behaviours—such as those that are overtly oppressive to others—we really can't tolerate, regardless of factors involved, and would require us to ask people to leave.

In most cases, however, the goal would be to offer support so that members not only remain in political organizations, but thrive in them. Despite some unique challenges that come as an anarchists who deal with mental illness, we also bring a whole lot of resilience, insight, sensitivity, dedication, and bravery from our life experiences to our groups and our political work. And all anarchists have a lot we can learn from creatively supporting and accommodating each other, lessons that will hopefully carry over into broader struggles.

09: Tips and Discussion Topics for Groups and Organisations

Dealing with mental health issues should be a matter of basic solidarity. It’s something we can do to help each other and it’s good for us a movement, too: combating burnout and creating a healthy culture of discussion, openness, and support. The following list is far from exhaustive and is, in fact, more a series of suggestions that groups might consider in formulating a policy and practice of addressing mental health issues and supporting members dealing with depression, anxiety, and overall emotional stress.

While there are probably no definitive answers for how to build such a culture, having discussions and creating structures are necessary first steps. With that in mind, here’s a list of potential discussion points which relate to political activity, organisation, and mental health:

1) Are our groups open about mental health issues? Do members feel comfortable discussing their emotional health or taking a short mental health break? If not, why not? Do we casually use words that are derived expressions which denigrate the mentally ill?

Do we have networks/structures in place to support those who need it? Would a sort of buddy system be beneficial? Should there be a named person or people whose role it is to ensure mental health issues are addressed by the wider organisation?

Of course in all of this, there’s a fine line to be walked. The reality is that there’s a stigma associated with mental illness. This means that not everyone will feel comfortable talking about such things, even in what’s hopefully a sympathetic situation. That’s to be expected, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for us not creating a culture of openness and support when it comes to issues of mental (as well as physical) health.

2) Are our meeting places and social activities conducive to those who may be dealing with emotional stress? Far too often, the bar/pub is the default place for our meetings. This is not going to helpful to those who’ve suffered from addiction in the past or who may want to avoid crowds for hatever reason. If we’re going to be an open movement, it’s imperative wehave open, accountable meeting spaces.

Organisationally, are we cliquish? Do we use a lot of alienating jargon? Are new members consciously integrated into the internal life of the organisation?

As a movement what can we do to alleviate the stress of our members who have more on their plate than just politics? Is childcare available at meetings? Do meeting spaces have disability access? Are our meetings short, concise, and structured or do they drag on interminably?

Similarly, do all our social functions revolve around alcohol or a particular musical subculture? A variety of social activities will attract a variety of participants. Regardless of whether someone is suffering from depression or not, it’s going to be really helpful if there’s a choice of social activities on offer. It will help people open up and feel like they’re part of the larger group, creating the bonds that allow us to tackle issues like mental health.

3) Do we proactively undertake activities which are good for the mental health of everyone? This can be simple things like incorporating physical activity into the social life of organisations. We can have regular sporting events or offer self-defense classes. Or we can encourage members to use their creativity to benefit the movement. Everything from poetry, art, music, and theatre can be therapeutic and there’s no reason such activities can’t be a part of what we do. They are not only good for those of us suffering mental illness, but for all of us, not least because they remind us of the good, shared human things for which we are all fighting.

Credits: About Our Contributors...

Most of the editors & writers participating in this project have chosen to remain anonymous, but please visit & support the websites of the many other writers & artists/illustrators who’ve volunteered their work:

Evangelos Artemou (pages 17, 20). See more of his fine illustrations and block prints at http://b14onlineportfolio.wordpress.com

Baggelboy (aka Alan Rogerson) is our excellent cover artist. Check out more of his great work at baggelboy.com or facebook.com/thebaggelboy

Kelly Bastow (pages 6, 10, 26) is the illustrator behind Moosekleenex. Check out more of her beautiful prints, illos & comics at moosekleenex.tumblr.com, kellybastow.com, or etsy.com/shop/Moosekleenex

Dr. Charlotte Cooper (page 42) is a psychotherapist/counsellor based in East London. See her website at http://charlottecooper.net

Carolyn Hiler (pages 5, 19, 39) is an artist living in the mountains outside Los Angeles. When not drawing, painting, or hiking with her two adorable mutts, she works in private practice as a psychotherapist in Claremont, CA. Carolyn posts cartoons almost everyday at azilliondollarscomics.com, and she sells funny things on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/AZillionDollars

Stephanie McMillan (pages 9, 14, 23, 29, 35, 40, 54, 57) is an award-wining U.S. illustrator, well known in the environmental & social justice movement for her Minimum Security & Code Green comics. See more of her work and order her many books, including the brand-new Capitalism Must Die! at stephaniemcmillan.org

b Patrick (page 37) is the talent behind Akimbo Comics. See more of his great work at akimbocomics.com, akimbocomics.blogspot.ca or on facebook

Tina Phillips (page 46) is a social worker with a master’s degree in the field.

Lauren Purje’s adorable illustrations (pages 2, 44, 48, 61), often skewering the elite art world, can be seen every Monday on the excellent online artmagazine Hyperallergic.com and on her own website at laurenpurje.com

Lyn X (aka Espa Idlenomore Love), designer/production editor of this zine, is a founding director of Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA), a long-disgruntled member of the arts-precariat (who insisted we include artist/writer credits to anyone that wants them), an intersectional activist, and a resourceful single mom who firmly believes the arts to be vital tools for positive social change. She thanks Evangelos Artemou & Andrew Stewart for their consultations, Tom & Louise for their great direction and patience, and humbly apologizes to the entire editorial/production team for taking so long to complete this zine. smile

Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA) is a registered, non-profit independent media & activist-arts society with a socially-conscious mandate, and has been an active participant in Edmonton's community arts, social justice & environmental communities since 1998. ESPA maintains a growing Small Press Library & Archive; operates a local Infoshop/Distro; presents thought-provoking and award-winning art exhibits, film screenings & special guest speakers; and also undertakes other special projects, such as community Murals and small publishing projects as time permits. ESPA is currently manifesting our new ESPA ArtHaus in downtown Edmonton which will eventually include a small Artist-Run Gallery and allow us to host community events. ESPA is recipient of the Edmonton Social Planning Council's 2010 "Award of Merit for Advocacy of Social Justice"; a 2011 "Award of Excellence" by the Edmonton Urban Design Awards; and a Medal in the 2012 National Urban Design Awards (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada). ESPA is 100% volunteer-operated and does not receive any government or corporate operational funding. ESPA gratefully accepts small press & activist-art donations from around the world, including zines, political graphics & poster art, mail art, art/documentary DVDs, and more; if you’d like to donate to our library/archive, please mail hard-copies to the address listed on page 2. Find & join ESPA on facebook at facebook.com/groups/EdmontonSmallPress

The Editors of Class Struggle & Mental Health: Live to Fight Another Day would like to thank Libcom.org for their instrumental role in bringing this pamphlet together. It began life off the back of a series of discussions on the Libcom forums and we look forward to Libcom hosting the finished project in their impressive library. Libcom.org is a huge online resource comprising a library, forums, and blogs. It exists both to promote the ideas of libertarian communism and to give pissed-off workers a space to come together and support each other in the fight for a better world. Readers can also find & join Libcom on [url= facebook.com/libcom.org.]facebook [/url]at facebook.com/libcom.org.

Thank You for reading and supporting independent media & activist-arts.