psychiatric survivor

Psychiatric Oppression Versus Human Rights

I had rather die with my “rights on” than live with my “rights off”. I think Nathaniel Hale put it best when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Put another way, slavery is not the sort of institution that I feel needs reestablishing.

This is why I am dismayed to find people in the mental health system so brain washed as to be opposed to their own civil liberties and human rights. It is one thing to have another person argue for your subhuman status, it is quite another thing when you are the person arguing for your own subhuman status and maltreatment.

Even given these arguments, you are not going to find me arguing for inequality under the law. I don’t have to put words into your mouth when I can use my own. I am not a person to argue for treating human beings in such a dreadful manner.

The problem is that the opportunist, the careerist, who will do anything to hold onto his or her job, and his or her status, would do anything to keep that job, including joining in chorus with the person who argues for his or her subhuman status. These two birds have much in common, not rocking the boat, and upholding the status quo, as long as it serves their purposes, monetarily or security wise.

Arguing against the human rights of human beings is always going to be a threat to liberty. Should you sway your audience, a certain percentage of them could end up being treated as if they were less than human. The question then becomes, as was the situation before the 1860s, what group of people should embody that percentage.

Although the mental patients, oops, consumer movement may have overtaken the mental patients liberation movement, I still consider myself a part of the latter movement. I don’t think employment as a mental health patient or a mental health worker is the way to go. Out of both of these roles, what do you get? You get an expanding mental health system and an epidemic of “mental illness” labeling.

You can plead for your own abduction, torture, imprisonment, impoverishment, death, ignominy, etc. as much as you please. Don’t expect me to follow suit. The mental health system, based as it is upon fraud and oppression, is ultimately a form of parasitism, and all of us could live much better (and longer I dare say) without it.

I continue to count myself among the few who are completely opposed to the kind of fraud and imposture that the mental health system represents. Provide a use for your throw away people, a use beyond working the loony bins themselves, even the community loon bins, and you have, more or less, solved a big part of the problem. The system is a blood sucker, and it is the kind of a blood sucker about which you could say, when the problem has finally been dealt with, without the slightest remorse, good riddance!


Doctor Thomas Szasz: Antiquated Relic Or Continuing Influence


Not that long ago, Michael Fontaine, an Associate Professor in Classics at Cornell University, published a post on the Mad In America website, On Religious and Psychiatric Atheism: The Success of Epicurus, the Failure of Thomas Szasz. In this piece he compared the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus with the recently deceased libertarian psychiatrist, Thomas S. Szasz. The piece itself evolved out of a presentation he gave at the American Psychiatric Association convention in New York City. Far be it from me to suggest that any APA meeting would have a grand reception for the ideas of Szasz. The idea of burying him, and with him them, on the other hand, now that might go over pretty well indeed there.

I happen to disagree with what seems to be the major premise of the post Michael Fontaine submitted, and that is that Thomas Szasz was somehow a failure because there is no school of psychiatry operating today that could be said to be Szaszian. As Thomas Szasz himself put it, the type of psychiatry he advanced could not be practiced in the USA today because it would be such an exception to what passes for standard practice that litigation would not permit it. I think Thomas Szasz did have an enormous influence on one group of people, and so big an influence that a Szaszian school could be said to exist today.

Recently, just last year, there was held at Wagner College in New York City a symposium on R.D. Laing. On the internet The Society for Laingian Studies has a website. R. D. Laing, by no means an atheist, when it served him, equated madness with religious experience. R. D. Laing had a large following, and despite losing his license to practice medicine late in life, he continues to have such a following. Laing with Szasz have been associated with the term “anti-psychiatry”, a term both of them came to disavow. “Anti-psychiatry” was coined by a colleague of Laing’s David Cooper. David Cooper’s “anti-psychiatry”, at the time, was essentially meant to be a movement of people supporting approaches to psychiatry that weren’t heavily biologically biased.

During the 1970’s the mental patients liberation movement, a movement that came to be described as the psychiatric survivor movement, and later still the mad, or mad pride, movement was developing. The initial “anti-psychiatrists”, if by “anti-psychiatrists” you mean associates of R. D. Laing, stopped short of supporting the abolition of coercive psychiatric practices. Thomas Szasz, on the other hand, did see forced psychiatry for the social control mechanism that it was, and he sought to see it abolished. It is my contention that, as far as this movement was concerned, at least initially, Szasz had more of an influence than Laing.

There were two missions of this movement in the beginning. One was to provide for people victimized by psychiatry, in a way that the state did not, that is, to create alternatives to forced treatment for people at risk for it, and abused by it. The other was to see the end of coercive mental health treatment, or what in actual fact was state sanctioned abduction, torture, assault, imprisonment, and poisoning. This second aim has not vanished. People are still being oppressed, abused, tortured, and even killed by the psychiatric system in the name of “treating” diseases that can’t, in fact, be proven to exist…not in any physical sense anyway.

What would have called itself “anti-psychiatry” at one time, now describes itself as “critical psychiatry”. “Anti-psychiatry” has grown to take such a bad rap in the mental health professions, and in the corporate media, that any professional using the term could find him or herself at risk of a major career change. Of course, this is not the case with patients and ex-patients, and many of them have gone on to embrace the idea of an anti-psychiatry movement. Psychiatry itself as a profession grew out of the coercive mistreatment of certain individuals by medical specialists, and so, we have no problem implicating the entire profession in the mess it has had a major hand in making.

Over time, and as would be expected, alternatives to conventional psychiatry create their own conventions. Some of these alternatives lose sight of their origins, and begin to resemble the very thing they arose to counter. For this reason, the abolition of coercive psychiatry need not be contingent upon the development of alternatives, even if one supports such as options. The mental health movement, in which alternatives often play a substantial part, is all about mental illness industry expansion. The anti-psychiatry movement, on the other hand, is opposed to this mental illness industry expansion. Mental illness industry expansion means more and more people bearing psychiatric labels and, as such, coercively mistreated

I don’t think the religion of psycho-babble any more palatable than that of rational analysis in the long run. Nor do I think the Laing-Epicurean Szaszian-extinction comparison, and divide, really follows. As I see it Szasz has had a great deal of influence on a lot of people, and that influence is not going to fade into obscurity anytime soon. I would hope that out of this discussion more people discover the works of Dr. Szasz, and that they come to see, as many of us have, the need to abolish coercive mistreatment. As far as it goes, with a great many psychiatric survivors, Szasz still represents a major influence, one might say school of thought, and by no means does his legacy come close to approaching the dismal failure that some of his detractors might be hoping for.

Recovery The Buzz Babble

Psychiatrist and former mental patient, Dr. Daniel Fisher, director of the National Empowerment Center, made mention of a “peer recovery movement” recently. This “peer recovery movement” unfortunately may bear a direct relationship to the “mental health movement”. The “mental health movement” is that bunch of people who are always campaigning the government to spend more on “mental health”. What we get out of this movement, ultimately, is an increased “mental illness” rate, and the added economic burden that comes with such.

Actually, although it’s one thing to call the people who make up a jury “peers”, it’s quite another to call everyone who have been treated for an illusory illness a “peer”. I prefer the word “pee-ers”. I just see it as more honest. Some of us, after all, remain peerless. You have, in this situation, a very heterogeneous group of people. I see no reason to lump them all together into what becomes a motley collection of stereotypes. Doing so provides another instance for missing the basic humanity of humanity. Out of this oversight, you could say we have found something less than human there.

When the recovery movement is actually, in the main, a non-recovery movement–there’s no doubt about it–there the recovery movement is arm in arm with the “mental health” movement. This mental health movement, coming on the heels of the great asylum building reform movement of the nineteenth century, would extend the asylum hospital into the community. This has become a matter of the large state hospitals being replaced by mini-hospitals, transitional residences of a sort. The ultimate result is the hospital without walls, or the mental health ghetto, if you will.

The fact that so many “pee-ers” I have spoken with see themselves as “in recovery” until death kind of throws a monkey wrench into the works of this recovery movement. Whatever “in recovery” until death might be, one thing that it is not, is fully recovered. This paints us a rather ugly picture over all, doesn’t it? The government should be paying for an expanding system that manufactures more and more people characterizing themselves as psychiatrically disabled. The only check on such a system would have to be inevitable and impending periodic economic collapse.

I see myself as a member of the psychiatric survivor movement. I wouldn’t peddle mental health treatment as a “consumer product”. I just say let setbacks be setbacks, and not lifestyles, if you get my drift. I don’t encourage people to invest in “mental illness/mental health” because health, both physical and mental, resides outside of that “health” delivery system. What’s more, it’s a killing system. Where people don’t make these important connections, you get chronic mental patients. Oops, did I say chronic mental patients? Excuse me. I must have meant permanent and contented “consumers”.

Yes, mindless consumption can be a problem, especially where what you consume purports to be a form of medical treatment. Medical treatment presumes illness, or ill health, and the object of treatment is vitality, or good health. Should treatment not result in good health, it is not effective treatment, in medicine anyway. The problem with mental health treatment is that conventional treatment, standard practice, usually involves damaging the patient. When what the “consumer” then, “consumes”, is the “ill health” that comes of injury…. Well, I think you can see where this line of inquiry is leading.