top of page

Speech by Lauren Hersch, Rayo Fall Friendraiser, 10/22/23

Since October the 7, more than 5000 people have died in Israel and Palestine. As the carnage continues, so too do the protests, millions taking to the street to call for an end to the violence. It is at times like these when I feel simultaneously, hopeful, uplifted by the sight of so many people united in their call for a kinder world, and despairing, their calls a mere whisper amidst the roar of those in power. This is how hierarchical systems work- two people voice their opinion: one carries the weight of gold, the other no more than a feather.

I think about hierarchy often. Mostly, how much I hate it, but also what it is— what distinguishes it from leadership, which I like and find necessary, or responsibility, also necessary. But hierarchy, does not connote leadership or responsibility, not necessarily. It is simpler than that, more base. Hierarchy is nothing more or less than the assignment of power: one person over another. The designation of less and more. A legitimized, codified human valuation system. And it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because when we endorse hierarchy we deny context— the context that carries individuals into positions of power; the context that takes people away from it. By this I mean the opportunities wrought through privilege; and the opportunities stolen by trauma, by bigotry, by racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ablism, incarceration, and more. I cannot think about current events, I cannot grieve the present moment without consideration of how hierarchical systems brought us here. How hierarchic structures normalize oppression and legitimize violence. I just can’t.

In any case, this is all to say two tings: first, I grieve the present moment - as the Jewish daughter of an Israeli, as the Jewish granddaughter of a Holocaust surviver, as a sibling, as a child, as a friend, as a person who is so tired of violence over collaboration, conversation, and community. Second, that at this time we are reminded of the dangers of hierarchy: the subjugations it is predicated upon, and the violences necessary to sustain it. Which is why it is so important to create pockets of society that demonstrate a different way. A lateral way.

When asked why traditional psychoanalytic theory centered the hierarchical parent-child relationship, over the lateral, sibling one, psychoanalyst and clinical social worker, Johanna Dobrich, replied: “sociopolitical forces constrained our imagination out of loyalty, which is what happens in hierarchies with power…it’s not a plot it’s a happenstance, an outcome of what power does, it’s discursive, it limits our imagination.” She then goes on to ask: “What happens in communities where power is shared instead of held over? What gets developed?" This is what we intend to find out. At Rayo we are building a community mental health center, a community, comprised of lateral relationships, people equidistant to each other. Our staff will be responsible for different elements of organizational life, with no one person more powerful than another. And in regards to our relationships to clients, we view ourselves not as experts but as guides, our clients as autonomous individuals with the right to choose their own way forward.

We are building a community mental health center that recognizes healing as an outgrowth of relationship, belonging, purpose finding, and acknowledgement of each individual’s full personhood; “Where people are allowed to be, and discover their mutual roads to understanding and recovery."* We firmly believe this will bring out the best in our staff, and the best opportunities for recovery and growth in our clients. And in doing so we hope to demonstrate a different way forward.

*van Bilsen HP. Lessons to be learned from the oldest community psychiatric service in the world: Geel in Belgium. BJPsych Bull. 2016 Aug;40(4):207-11. doi: 10.1192/pb.bp.115.051631. PMID: 27512591; PMCID: PMC4967781.

Recent Posts

See All

"What shall we build on the ashes of a nightmare?"

Speech by Andrew Hodge, Rayo Fall Fundraiser, 10/22/2023 I’m so thankful for everybody who has come today to take part in the building of community, one that is not new, but exceedingly rare. A commun

Redefining Community Mental Health

Speech by Ellie Dumerauf, Rayo Fall Friendraiser, 10/22/23 Part of the vision behind Rayo is to redefine what it means to be a Community Mental Health Center. We currently have two separate systems of


bottom of page