Since attending the Understanding Our Sensitivity workshop in Toronto facilitated by Elisabeth Svanholmer and Rufus May I have been struck with a profound realization. As I listened to people’s stories and engaged in some really fun activities it hit me that many of my fellow participants had a mental health diagnosis. I have several labels and have worked in mental health for over 20 years. I go to a lot of these learning events and always look for ways of using the information in my work.
I knew some of the participants through my work so I was privy to their inner-most struggles and their psychiatric labels. But here’s the rub on ‘Understanding Our Sensitivity’ – not once did I hear the facilitators use words like “mental illness” “psychiatric disorder” or any other clinical references.
This added to my list of many life healing, life affirming epiphanies. I now understood clearly that the lens of ‘sensitivities’ versus ‘mental illness’ is not only common sense, but levels the common ground for everyone – the diagnosed and undiagnosed. Unfortunately the medical model oozes pathology, never ending stigma and harm.
I’ve known this all along but like many people who are sensitive and experience the mental health system, it took me many years to come full circle. I now embrace ‘sensitivity’ as a lens both personally and professionally. When working with families and their loved ones who are struggling, I now seize the opportunity to frame their experiences in the positive perspective of ‘understanding our sensitivity’. While people may initially be jolted by this concept, they find it a whole lot more palpable than viewing their loved ones as ‘sick’.
The lens of sensitivity is topped off with a massive dose of common sense, creative strategies and dignity.