#WhatWENeed Campaign

In 2018, TCI Asia Pacific ran a campaign advocating for the full implementation of the UNCRPD for persons with psychosocial disabilities. The campaign ran for two months from October to December with special efforts to reclaim the International Mental Health Week (October 3rd to 10th). The campaign also coincided with the Ministerial Global Mental Health Summit 2018 and was a platform to express concern and submit an Open Letter to oppose the lack of participation especially in decision making processes in the organisation of the Summit along with other user/survivor groups globally.

The idea for the campaign was conceptualised at the TCI Asia Pacific Bali Plenary in August 2018 when news of the Global Mental Health Summit had been circulated and proved to be of concern to users / survivors and persons with psychosocial disabilities (PPSD) especially in the Asia Pacific region. TCI Asia Pacific then decided to organise and run a social media campaign to give a platform for PPSDs everywhere to say what they need and have those photographs on our social media pages. The name for the campaign was based on a suggestion from Alberto Vasquez from Peru. Persons with psychosocial disabilities everywhere were encouraged to use the #WhatWENeed and write what they need and send TCI the photographs. The photo campaign had active participation from 10 countries and several organisations. There was diversity in the groups from children, women, culturally diverse groups contributing their voices to collectively gather what persons with psychosocial disabilities need.

Along with the photo campaign, TCI also ran a blog for two months. There were forty blog posts in two months with people contributing from several countries. The blog was a space open to critiques on the Movement for Global Mental Health and the Summit, alternative approaches to psychiatry, country reports and interviews of various leaders in psychosocial disability in the Asia Pacific region. The blog space also regularly shared reports on coercion and it’s alternatives.

The campaign was conceived with the notion to reclaim personal and political narratives as experienced by persons with disabilities themselves. It thus centered and focused on providing a platform for voices that had been historically lost, forgotten and sidelined. There was a global need felt to reclaim the International Mental Health Week by saying what one needs to not only live a symptom free life but also to enjoy the other rights such as living in the community and to secure a future free of violence and involuntary institutionalisation. It was felt that for too long, patient needs articulated within the mental health system had resulted in navigating a system designed to benefit the powerful in this system and that there was now a more urgent need to be free from authoritarian regimes that are oppressive to those with psychosocial disabilities. The campaign thus also voiced the need for the psychosocial movement to shift it’s ground from the mental health movement to the disability movement.

The work being carried out by various leaders from TCI Asia Pacific was also given coverage in the campaign through interviews, participation in the photo campaign and opportunities for TCI fellows to implement inclusive advocacy. The post-colonial regimes that govern so many countries especially the Commonwealth countries were also looked into and space to begin dialogues on the very particular list of issues like large scale colonial institutions were explored in several blogs and photos. The Global South post-colonial phenomenon of being post-colonial but still entrenched in imperialism were explored that are usually left out in Global North studies. This campaign gave space for issues of post-colonial psychiatry of which draconian colonial laws and large scale institutions were one of the theoretical areas that the campaign attempted to begin dialogues with.