Unlearning Spurred On By Undiagnosis

Unlearning is very important to me. The school system I grew up with taught me I couldn’t do anything correctly. Unlearning this education meant I could do things correctly despite all I had been taught to the contrary. One wonders how many lives have been squandered at the alter of learned futility. Unlearning, in this case, was a matter of recognizing the value of utility instead.

Obviously, being taught that you are “incapable” of doing anything worthwhile is going to complicate the project of living one’s life severely. This complication translated, for yours truly, into a “serious mental disorder” diagnosis. Taught by the education system that I was “incapable”, there were all these doctors ready and willing to jump in with a “disease” diagnosis. My “incapacity”, in their eyes, was due to my having a “disease”, specifically, a “disease” of the brain.

If you read the literature on institutionalization, you will find mention of something they call “learned helplessness”. One could say, in a sense, that this diagnosis process merely represented an extension of the business of education. Here was, after all, confirmation that I was “incapable” of producing anything of value. Not only are people taught that they are “incapable”, but the suggestion is made that this “incapacity” is owing to having become “stricken” with “disease” rather than schooling.

If you succeed in failing at being educated, no wonder, for continued if lower education, we’ve got the mental health system. It can help if this unlearning process is accelerated by the shock of the mental health system. Through the mental health system, I learned to undiagnose fictitious disease. or rather because these “diseases” come to you through other people, pretty much the same thing, to unlearn them. The mental health system could be referred to as a form of radical unlearning.

If learning is a diagnosis, continued unlearning must, logically enough, encompass undiagnosis. Anyway, it makes sense to me. If nobody ever told you to be wary, if the mental health system doesn’t unteach you wariness, that wrong place must be the right place for you. Theoretically speaking, of course. There are some evil scoundrels in the world, and some of them are in positions of authority. Cardinal rule: You don’t attain positions of authority through unlearning.

More and more people it seems are discovering unlearning. The textbook may have black print on white paper, but transparent print on a transparent sheet of, say, plastic isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. One has to wonder, in most learning situations, where is the person in the classroom to tell the class to take everything said in front of it with a grain of salt? If there is such a person, it’s usually the person catching hell from the teacher. I would like to suggest that this may be because the teacher has a lot of unlearning to do yet.


Free Tziona Ben Aharon From Northeast Florida State Hospital

MindFreedom International Human Rights Alert

Tziona Ben Aharon was Baker Acted five times by her son, and one of those detentions led to her civil commitment at Northeast Florida State Hospital in Macclenny near Jacksonville. Tziona, a 58 year old Miami resident, has been given a diagnosis of “dementia”. There are affidavits attesting that Tziona has been physically attacked by hospital staff. Tziona is currently malnourished, dehydrated and “asleep” most of the time. On one occasion, her sister, Jaffa Raviv, reports that she was found by hospital staff to be non-responsive, pale, and unconscious. She is under a regimen of six or more drugs, one of which is the powerful neuroleptic Haldol. She is also unable to communicate with the staff at the hospital because she doesn’t speak english, she only speaks Hebrew. There has been evidence of the use of restraints on Tziona by NEFSH, and she is also said to have been subjected to shock treatments.

Recently we staged a protest in support of Tziona in front of Northeast Florida State Hospital. The protest went very well, and was even covered by Channel4 News in Jacksonville. Although this protest went well, it has not lead to Tziona’s release. Neither of Tziona’s sisters, despite a court order, have been allowed by the hospital to visit their sister. Jaffa Raviv is afraid that continued treatment at NEFSH will result in her sister, Tziona’s, death.

Tziona has been put on a feeding tube she cannot swallow or eat on her own, yet the hospital refused to transfer her to VITAS Healthcare, Sunrise FAX: 1-877-848-2702, where she might receive the medical attention that she so desperately needs. The hospital has also refused to transfer her to North Beach Rehabilitation Center FAX: 305-945-8280. Members of her family have also spoken about the possibility of moving her to Israel ASAP.

MindFreedom International has issued a previous alert on Tziona, but her situation at NEFSH has changed little since that alert was issued. We are, therefore, issuing a second human rights alert on behalf of Tziona Ben Aharon. You can help Tziona by calling the following numbers and by asking for Tziona’s immediate release from Northeast Florida State Hospital, and her transfer to the care of her family and, through them, to a real medical facility.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Office Phone: 850-921-8461
Email: http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/

Hayden Mathieson
Florida Mental Health Commissioner
Department of Children and Families
Phone: 850-921-8461
Fax: 850-487-2239
email: hayden_mathieson@dcf.state.fl.us

Disability Rights Florida
800-342-0823 Toll Free
850-488-8640 Fax

You may also want to call any of the numbers listed from our previous alert.

1. Joseph A. Infantino – Hospital Administrator (904)259-6211 Ext. 1104
2. Alice Oswald – Assistant Administrators Institutional Superintendent
(904)259-6211 Ext. 1107
3. Doug Shine – Head of Social Workers Administration (904)259-6211 Ext. 1505
4. Dr. Colleen Belle – Head of Psychiatry (904)259-6211 Ext. 1751
5. Dr. Garry Dopson – Head of Medical – Critical Services (904)259-6211 Ext. 1618
6. Dr. Stella Rodriguez Medical Services Tziona’s Doctor Building 3C
(904)259-6211 Ext. 1534
7. Bob Bark – Nurse Psychiatry (904)259-6211 Ext. 1985
8. Brian William Hurd Tziona’s Attorney 1(321)759-6719 CELL
1(321)453-5007 Office
9. Chaplain – Rabbi Mendy Levy (305)342-6665

For additional information call:

10. Yaffa Raviv (305)773-0717

Anti-Psychiatry In The 21st Century

I just finished reading David Cooper’s The Language of Madness (1978), his last book. I’d been been talking to some folks about the views of various psychiatrists who had some issues with their own profession. I don’t think Anti-psychiatry: Quackery Squared (2009) was a very wise maneuver on the part of Thomas Szasz. Szasz, in his book, attacks the psychiatric left wing, anti-psychiatry. This puts Szasz in the very uncomfortable position of providing a defense to the very people he opposes, proponents of forced psychiatry. It also alienates him from potential allies, regarding psychiatry and force, because of political differences. The result of this publication was to provide even more fodder for opponents of abolition of forced treatment, and to weaken the position of proponents of abolition, that is to say, now you’ve got establishment psychiatrists claiming Szasz as one of their own at the very moment they are bashing him.

R.D. Laing and David Cooper I would call anti-establishment psychiatrists. Thomas Szasz was an anti-psychiatric-establishment, considering that the psychiatric establishment is all about force, psychiatrist. Thomas Szasz was not otherwise anti-establishment. He was no friend of the new left, nor of what was then known as the counter-culture, both of which both Laing and Cooper could claim to have a stake in. Laing eventually saw in madness religious experiences. For Cooper madness embodied political action. I would fault Laing, Cooper, and associates (especially Laing) for not going all the way, and clearly opposing coercive psychiatry. I don’t think everybody was necessarily on the same page about this matter. I would have thought that the guru of Kingsley Hall would have “got it”, to a greater degree anyway, but apparently he stopped short. Laing, to a certain extent, is being “rehabilitated”, “resuscitated” perhaps, by the media. David Cooper, unfortunately, in the process becomes more or less a footnote on stories regarding Laing.

I love the clarity found in the thought of Thomas Szasz. David Cooper’s thought is more fuzzy, but there is some, perhaps much, good to be found in it as well. The problem is how do you separate the sense from, if you will pardon the pun, the anti-sense in Cooper. One thing he does is quote Karl Marx, in relation to his followers, saying he was not a Marxist. He then makes a similar claim about anti-psychiatry, that nobody can be one. I might have agreed if he’d said he wasn’t Cooperian or a Cooperist, and especially as that means little more than a footnote anymore. Cooper eventually talks about a non-psychiatry movement as if it were the successor to his anti-psychiatry movement. My conception though of anti-psychiatry is as a promoter of non-psychiatry. He titled the final chapter, The Invention of Non-Psychiatry.

Non-psychiatry is coming into being. Its birth has been a difficult affair. Modern psychiatry, as the pseudo-medical action of detecting faulty ways of living lives and the technique of their categorization and their correction, began in the eighteenth century and developed through the nineteenth to its consummation in the twentieth century.

Etc., etc., etc.

The thing is, you don’t have to invent non-psychiatry as it existed long before psychiatry was ever ‘invented’. It exists, even with what Cooper calls psycho-technology, in the same world that psychiatry exists in. The government control and surveillance aspect of psychiatry may be a big thing, but it certainly isn’t everything. There is also the matter of what we mean when we say psychiatry. Psychiatry wasn’t even a word until the nineteenth century.

I see a lot of good in Cooper. He and Szasz might have even agreed about force. We will never know. Szasz thought of anti-communist as a “good” word. Cooper was laying his cards on world revolution. Cooper was a supporter of worker co-operatives and social experimentation. Szasz thought the only way to go with counseling/therapy was as a contractual matter between professional and client. The issue I have with David Cooper is that if he had looked maybe he could have seen that anti-psychiatry doesn’t have to exist within psychiatry (or the mental health system). I see him talking about anti-psychiatry changing psychiatry from within. I don’t think there is a big likelihood of its doing so. I think there is a much greater potential for anti-psychiatry to overtake psychiatry from outside of psychiatry. When the taxpayer becomes anti-psychiatry, well, there you go. Why would anybody be paying for something they don’t have to pay for, and especially when that something is torture, slavery, physical harm, and imprisonment?

Enough is enough when it comes to the anti-psychiatry of psychiatrists. If we’re going to have an anti-psychiatry movement, let it be dominated by people who aren’t psychiatrists. In other words, a few more survivors, a few more blacks, a few more women, etc. We will even consider a psychologist here or there. As people never tire of saying in the disability rights movement, “Nothing about us without us!” The monopoly by psychiatrists on the development of the theory and practice of anti-psychiatry is something pretty easy to remedy. I think, in fact, we are getting there, if we are not already there. Nobody needs a degree in psychiatry to oppose psychiatry. There is something to be said for non-psychiatrists, in fact, there is something to be said for non-Ivy League professionals, or even non-Wall Street speculators, opposing psychiatry. There is something to be said for people taking charge of their own lives, and with those lives, their bodies, and the health of those bodies.