In this video, I explain what all consumer educators for Eastern Washington University’s Occupational Therapy Program do to help educate their students and destigmatize mental illness for their students.
Hi everyone, my name is Myra St. Clair Baldwin and I’m a Consumer Educator for Eastern Washington University’s Occupational Therapy Program.
The E.W.U. Occupational Therapy program put together a panel and Q&A session as part of an eight-session program in which eight people in recovery from mental illness, including myself, will be working with students in the program.
When I arrived at the orientation classroom, the instructor’s assistant gave us some paperwork to fill out and sign, which I completed. Then we learned more about what we’d be doing. The sessions last about two to three hours each. The next two sessions after the panel discussion, three students who I’ll be working with the rest of the quarter will be practicing doing an assessment on me, which should be interesting. So long as I don’t have brain fog from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, then I believe I’ll ace any cognitive tests they give me. I’ll let you know later how I did. The panel discussion and Q&A itself was in front of an audience of about 30 or 40 students. The two sessions following the assessments are in the Spokane community, at the locations of our choosing. I plan to show the students I’m working with the Huntington Park, down by the Spokane River, behind the city hall for one session. For another session, I plan to show them a subsect of downtown, starting with the apartment building above Boo Radley’s novelty shop and Atticus Coffeehouse, where I thought I was spied on. I will also be showing them the bus plaza and the construction for the new downtown library, letting them know what amazing features the new library is going to have, which will include a video recording studio, a music recording studio, and a broadcasting studio, all of which will be available to be checked out by the public. I may get to do this job again in future years and might book a tour with the students of the new downtown library after it reopens, as that would be exciting! There’s a couple more sessions after that, including a session about completing a discharge plan and ending with a presentation the students give that we’re invited to. I plan to wear my t-shirt for mine & my partners’ blog “The Deep End Northwest” to one of the assessments as well as to the student presentations, in the hopes that the students will decide to take a peek at our blog out of curiosity.
After the orientation, we were escorted to the classroom where the students were. It was a small classroom, but the class was jam-packed. There wasn’t one empty desk. I went first, so I could get it done and over with, as I was anxious. This ended up being a good idea, because it freed me to listen more intently to the other panelists, whose stories were powerful. Although I knew most of them, I wasn’t familiar with their stories. Even though I was nervous, I think I did all right. Not perfect, but I don’t have a lot of experience yet on stage, so my talk wasn’t bad, considering. I ended up having to catch my breath a few times during the speech, but I wasn’t as anxious as I had expected.
After we each spoke, there was a Q&A. I managed to make the students laugh a couple of times, which reminded me that I sometimes have a sense of humor, which is what helped me survive the alleged privacy invasion that I endured. After the questions, the instructor said we were free to do a meet & greet with the students, but I was dying to go pee, and blurted out “I…I gotta take a leak!” That made the students laugh. There’s a backstory to why I now say “I gotta take a leak” rather than “I need to use the bathroom” or “I gotta go pee.” I’ll save that story for another day.
It’s really cutting edge what the instructor is doing, having some of us in mental health recovery work with the students. It helps humanize mental illness for the students. It’s an invaluable and cost-effective way for the students to “get it.” We each get paid $300 for the full contract. It was the instructor’s idea back in 2007, and there’s only a few universities now doing it. She’s presented at conferences and tried to sell others on how cost-effective it is and how it helps destigmatize mental illness for the students but hasn’t gotten a lot of buy-in yet. Perhaps in time, more universities will implement similar programs.