By Nichole Colquitt

Recently AU and Toivo attended Alternatives 2019 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I administratively assisted the talented, Torry Bernard as well as Latosha Taylor and Cooper Davis during their presentations. While I was there I was lucky enough to witness some of Corrine Taylor’s Workshop and two incredible key note addresses.

Alternatives is a conference created 36 years ago that is entirely planned, organized, and hosted by people with lived experience of mental health/and or substance abuse. Each year, we come to the Alternatives Conference, standing together as a community, bringing a variety of lived experiences and ways of defining and maintaining wellness from different areas from all over the world! We come together to celebrate the skills, talents, and wisdom we each contribute toward making our communities more inclusive and vibrant. We come together collectively to offer our voices to influence policy, programming, and support.

Torry Bernard presented, Power of Connection with Young Adults in Recovery. She shared insight into the value of camaraderie in supportive relationships with young adults. Discussions ranged from finding value in celebrating success and failure, encouraging youth to integrate recover with their passions, and the power of using a “gentle approach.”

Latosha Taylor and Cooper Davis presented, Support without Labels: Discovering Shared Human Identity within Peer Relationships. The workshop was an interactive workshop, full of rich dialogue, where we learned about the dynamics of peer support as it occurs between individuals who identify primarily with addiction histories and supporting individuals who identify primarily with psychiatric histories, and vice versa. This workshop focused on the ways people with categorically divergent manifestations of emotional struggle are able to find commonalities and provide meaningful, authentic support to one another. The presentation identified obstacles of connection within these relationships, and offered suggestions for overcoming these kinds of roadblocks in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Corrine Taylor who works in Advocacy Education and Outreach at AU, presented her workshop Beyond the Story: Letting Go Judgment of Others and Getting to Know Thyself, at Alternatives Conference 2019. The focus of the workshop is on learning and sharing with others what she didn’t know at twenty-three years old when she was experiencing hardship and accepted mental health services. Sharing information is the Why behind doing the work in advocacy and education for her. She says, “With knowledge I get to make inform choices for my overall best human experience, we are all capable of learning and moving forward. If I am not informed, or make myself flexible to continued learning, about the subject by getting education on all sides of the matter and resources available, then I’m not really making a choice or have a voice on what I need.”

Our friend at Western RLC, Caroline Rivkah Mazel-Carlton delivered a powerful keynote. Click here to watch.

John Herald provided his perspective, Unhinged: My Relationship with the Concept of “Mental Illness” – A Few of the Most Useful Ideas in My Escape from the Big Lie(s) Click here to watch.

“The Alternatives conference is life changing on so many levels! You have the opportunity to connect, learn, and grow together with people that have similar values and visions. You walk away with a sense of belonging and understanding of a bigger collective picture that can actually make systems changes. I personally have walked away with opportunities and friendships that have altered the trajectory of my life in many good ways. If it weren’t for Alternatives, I honestly would not be where I am today.” – Latosha Taylor, National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery Board Member