By Carla Rabinowitz, Advocacy Coordinator, Community Access
It was an amazing day. Hundreds of mental health recipients and their supporters arrived in Washington, DC on August 24, 2015 for the first ever Destination Dignity march and rally. Destination Dignity is a collaborative project for change and public engagement around mental health in America. The Destination Dignity march as its focus brings people from around the world and nation together, with people affected by mental health conditions in the lead, to create energy and solidarity for a more supportive nation.
Tents were set up on the National Mall where we listened to speeches on mental health pride and recovery. Some of us spoke on our own recovery and how important choice is to mental health. The emphasis of the speeches was on how we, as mental health recipients, must maintain our dignity and our ability to choose our fates. We do not want to be told that we must take medication, or that we should strive for lesser lives: The choice of how to conduct our lives in every aspect is ours.
Many tourists also stopped by, attracted to the spirit of the event!
The march around DC was historic as, for the first time, we had people from all over the United States gathered to proclaim that choice in treatment is ours.
People baked in the hot sun, all to speak with one voice. Many of us met leading advocates who we only knew by name. It was an historic day of empowerment and the first of many marches to follow in years ahead.
Why Do We March?
Dignity and rights for people affected by mental health conditions are the counterpoint to a legacy of stigma, shame and discrimination that has caused social isolation, chronic underfunding of services, unnecessary levels of disability and unemployment, and the unacceptable levels of premature death, including by suicide, of people affected by symptoms of mental illness. Public awareness for these issues must be led by people who have experienced these impacts personally, along with their supporters, allies and related professionals, in order to both realize change and engage the previously silent majority of Americans affected by these issues.