Human Rights Or Patient Rights?

The government co-opted the mental patients’ liberation movement by buying it out. Now it’s primarily a mental patients’ movement.

If the mental patients’ liberation movement, also called the psychiatric survivor movement, was once a movement to liberate people from the mental patient role, and by virtue of that fact, from the mental health system itself, government funding has transformed that movement into a movement to promote the mental patient role, and to expand the mental health system. .

The mental patients’ liberation movement has been called anti-medical or anti-psychiatry. It was a movement of what might be called anti-patients, people who wanted out of the mental patient role, people who didn’t think a lifetime of so-called “mental illness” was in their best interests, nor really, in the end, entirely worthwhile. People who, in a nutshell, felt violated and abused by what passed for “mental health treatment”.

The chief difference between then and now can be found in the Brief History and Accomplishments of the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-patient (C/S/X) Movement powerpoint of Sally Zinman and Gayle Bluebird. They have slides for processes then (1970s) and now (1985 onward).

Processes (1970s)

• Autonomous groups; belief in local control
• No money from mental health system
• Separatist
• No major outreach

Processes (1985 onward)

• Mainstreaming
• Centralizing
• Money from mental health system
• Collaborations/beginning reentry

The first category may have been smaller, but it was also not incorporated into the “mental health system” itself. It was also, in theory if not in fact, not a hierarchical movement directed by a leadership elite. The revolutionary Processes have, in other words, been replaced by counterrevolutionary Processes. This change is illustrated most tellingly in the language, in jargon, once it was a mental patients’ liberation movement, now it’s a movement for consumers’ (and/or survivors’), plus some say former patients’, of mental health services.

Let’s not mince words, ‘mental health consumer’ is just another way of saying mental patient. Survivors of psychiatric oppression, by aligning themselves with ‘consumers’ of psychiatric oppression, are doing themselves no great service, or rather, they are doing themselves a great disservice. Liberation is, as it should be, at cross purposes with the marketing of subjugation, and its complementary number, oppression.

The “mental illness” rate has been growing for centuries, this is the way the mental health system expands. The “mental illness” industry is a growth industry. For this rate to decline, you’d have to be getting people out of the mental health system, and not putting more people into the mental health system. This isn’t happening because it doesn’t pay. There is much money, on top of whole careers, in the “mental illness” industry. There is no “mental health” industry. Getting people out of the mental health system, and not putting more people into it, would be more “mentally healthy”, but it doesn’t pay.

The system centers on “mental illness”, not because “mental health” is the objective, but because “mental health treatment” is the objective. “Mental health”, on a mass scale, would throw many, many mental health professionals out of work, and that’s not something a mental health professional would be keen to support.

Zinman and Bluebird also have slides on the difference in Principles between the movement in the 1970s and the movement after the government co-optation and buy out. Then is a little bit fuzzier, to them, and for obvious reasons, than since.

Principles (1970s)

All within the context of a liberation movement for people diagnosed with mental illness, the following examples were some of the principles these groups developed:
• Against forced treatment
• Against inhumane treatment—medications, lobotomy, seclusion and restraints, and ECT
• Sanism
• Anti-medical model, usually described as anti-psychiatry
• Emerging concept of consumer/survivor-run alternatives to mental health system
• Involvement in every aspect of mental health system

I’m imagining that for sanism, the mental health equivalent of racism or sexism, they actually mean opposing sanism. Involvement in every aspect of the mental health system is also somewhat problematic. If there was no forced treatment, for instance, what passes for alternative treatments today would be the rule. Also, a person’s right to reject treatment, and assume a non-compliant or anti-patient status, would be universally recognized as a civil and human right. What you’ve got are out-patient facilities with lists of rights on the wall that include Right To Treatment but absolutely no Right To Refuse Treatment. This is not choice, this is absence of choice, and thus deprivation of liberty.

Principles (1985 onward)

The same principles as the earlier days are expressed in positive rather than negative ways:
• Self determination and choice
• Rights protections
• Stigma and discrimination reduction
• Holistic services
• Self-help/peer-support programs
• Involvement in every aspect of mental health system — “Nothing About Us Without Us”
• Concept of recovery (encompassing all of the above)

The basic problem here is that if you aren’t explicitly against forced and inhumane treatment, you are for it. We could be friendly with despotic governments, too, however that doesn’t make such a positive position the kind of position one should adopt. Rejecting the “mental illness” industry, and with it the “mental illness” pandemic it has engendered, makes much more sense than promoting it. The very reasoning of these so-called advocates indicates the kind of corrupt practices that they personally have become intimately engaged in. Switching sides, from critic to consultant, doesn’t make you a better person. In fact, it can result in the reverse.

A larger and larger mental patient population doesn’t make for a healthier nation. Duh. The “mental illness” industry is its own critique. Were people thrust into the mental patient role, to reject that role, and to opt for a more anti-patient stance instead, we would be making progress. Embracing the mental patient role, on the other hand, and with it, government subsidies, is a way of producing career mental patients. A career mental patient is a person said to have a “chronic mental illness”. Such a career choice may be good for the “mental illness” industry, perhaps, but it is bad for the world as a whole. Certainly there is better work to be found in the world than that of career mental patient. Ditto, career mental patient manufacturer.


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