Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at

For reasons that will become evident, two postings especially got my attention this year. The first questioned “What do you bring to this Platform?” by Prateeksha Saba. Life has a funny way of getting in the way of “life”. Three years ago when I first started getting involved in speaking out against DSM-5, I had a great deal of energy and drive. I wrote letters, worked on petitions, and organized a public position paper for the American Family Therapy Academy against DSM-5. When I joined this group I planned to be very active, to bring energy to organize. On October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy badly damaged my home. It is fourteen months later and while I am close to being finished in house restoration and repairs…I am changed. I only want to work on things where others are working hard starting community organizing to reach the public. This statement relates to my perception that we are being academics and we are talking not doing. So it is difficult for me to be doing more talking.

The second posting was “Lead, Follow, or get out of the Way!” by Richard Lawhern.  He spoke eloquently of thoughts I had had on the lack of direction and action. We as a group, weekly share many interesting ideas and viewpoints, But, we do not have an audience other than ourselves.

Here is my proposal:

We need to focus and create a small work group. We need to establish three things.

1. Mental Health is never a popular cause. I spent eleven years working with the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers. We were fighting to protect mental health benefits against managed care. Every other health group got further faster with less effort, we got nowhere. Even now with all the school shootings…nowhere. So we have a very uphill battle.

2. Who are our allies? Who else cares about these problems with DSM-5? Who will work with us? Who is our audience, who will want to pay attention to our work? Can we build a useful network?

3. What is our first goal? Can we create one simple goal to organize around? Many successful community organizers emphasize that complicated goals are unlikely to be successful. Whereas simple goals can get support when people feel they will be empowered by this simple change.

These are basic community organizing ideas. Far removed from the very important concepts Richard Lawhern raised…but essential if there is ever to be space and time to look at his suggestions. And if we are to accomplish anything we must begin getting organized.

I propose that six to eight people begin to hold monthly phone meetings to frame out a beginning organization. Hopefully these people will have some experience with community organizing and/or a willingness to get some help. I would hope some are younger, this takes energy. I am willing to host and/or moderate the initial calls while we see if we can get anywhere. I am of course open to any and all friendly amendments.

This is the holiday season, so if anyone wishes to join in the week of January 6th, contact me at:

Patricia Dowds

About Patricia Dowds

Dr. Patricia Dowds is the Co-Director of The Family Therapy Institute of Suffolk. She is the previous Director of The Minuchin Center for the Family. She has been involved in developing family focused juvenile justice programs, family focused programs for high conflict divorces, and family focused treatment programs for substance abusing and/or behaviorally disturbed youth. As a health care advocate she has worked on the Boards of NCMHP&C, Inc, UHCAN, and her professional organizations.