Psychocracy and Community

Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson
Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson

In response to the widespread tragedy of pathologizing and psychiatrizing people dealing with emotional and mental distress, and in view of the chronic abuse of those in extreme states by our “mental health” system and their powerful allies, I delivered this sermon June 29, 2014 at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver (Canada).

 

Meditation

“What I always needed most of all for my own cure and self-restoration, was the conviction of not being so alone, not seeing so alone—an enchanting suspicion of some kind of kinship and likeness to others in a glance and desire, a moment of relaxation in the assurance of friendship.” (Frederick Nietzsche, 1879)

I want to dedicate these remarks to Paul Boyd and Rio Bond, two young people in this city who died senselessly, needlessly and who deserved far better than what they got from us.

Introduction

We’re all familiar with the terms: democracy, aristocracy, theocracy, patriarchy and the like.  They denote theories and practices of governing: that is to rule, control and influence a state, a populace, a people, and individuals within a particular domain.  These words about governance are compounds of ancient Greek words: for example: democracy comes from demos, or people and cracy, is from the Greek verb kratein, which means to rule; so, democracy basically means “rule or governance by the people.”  Theocracy literally means “the rule of god,” or governance by those who claim to know the mind and will of god and will enforce it.

Those who propose and practice a particular form of governance and control believe it to be better than the alternatives.  Patriarchs claim the right to rule over women and children for their own good based on claims to superiority or special gifts endowed them by virtue of sex and age.  As well, governance depends on getting certain key groups like the judiciary, the police and military, the media, educators and professional guilds to agree to your theory and right to rule, and to further your authority and influence.

Theories and practice of governance rely on distinct theories about human nature, and especially of human beings grouped in societies.  Revolutionary communists see the propertied classes as parasites on the production of the working class and the body politic, and thus subject to elimination.  Margaret Thatcher summed up the consumerist, finance and free market oriented, government-is-the-problem outlook, with these choice words: “there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals.”

And finally, claims to the right and fitness to govern depend upon appeals to mythic, foundational texts that justify the authority of those who govern—texts like holy scriptures, constitutions, codes and by-laws, and the writings of venerated expert thinkers and writers who supposedly figured things out and got them “right.”  However, far from being infallible, these theories and texts are the products of human hands and vested interests, deeply shaped and influenced by times, cultures, and engrained biases about human nature and the fitness of both those who rule on the one hand, and those, on the other hand, who are governed and controlled by elites.

Psychocracy 

By psychocracy, I am referring first, to a theory of human nature, of emotional and mental distress, asserted by the psychiatric community and its powerful enablers — from Big Pharma, to politicians, GPs, so-called consumers groups, the media and educators — that believe the origins and expression of our so-called mental disorders arise principally from a diseased individual brain — a neurological disorder caused, not by psychological or social conditions, but by faulty brain chemistry and flawed genes. The consequences of this view and of its impact have given rise, to an authoritarian, dogmatic and coercive therapeutic regime and infrastructure whose scope and influence seeks to enter and impact nearly everyone in this country and beyond.

I do not exaggerate.  If the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM, used by health professionals, bureaucracies and the insurance industry to classify and diagnose mental disorders, is to be believed, then 1 in 2 persons suffers from “personality avoidance disorder” — what we call shyness — and there’s a drug for that so-called mental illness.  If you grieve excessively, for more than two weeks after a loved one’s death, you can be pathologized as suffering from a major depressive disorder and given drugs for that as well.  Infants and toddlers under two years of age, are now being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and subject to cocktails of powerful psychiatric drugs.  According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, in a given year 1 in 5 people will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness (in the States it’s 1 in 4 people) which means, basically, every four or five years we’d all get diagnosed.

After ten years of personal acquaintance with the BC mental health system and more than three years of study of the global “mental health” landscape including our own Province, and after just being with people — young, middle and old, parents, folks my age — hearing and witnessing their own stories and experiences in the “mental health” world; after all this, I have to share these and the following thoughts with you.  They are findings that directly impact me personally and my work in ministry, embracing and influencing, as it has and must, my pastoral and educational duties and my advocacy for social justice and human rights.

The rest of my remarks will focus on psychocratic theory, practice and their consequences. However, some of what I’m going to say will not apply to every psychiatrist or mental health professional; I need to underline that.  There are a number of you sitting in this room who have, and continue to perform their work guided by a more complex and humanistic vision of human nature and emotional and mental distress.  And I thank you for that.

As well, I’m not going to argue with anyone who says that psychiatric drugs saved their life or helped them cope with their distress.  That said, the thing is, tens of billions of dollars are spent each year by Big Pharma to get that message across—take your meds.  Tens of billions are spent on direct to consumer advertizing, political lobbying, the financing of so-called consumers groups, the media, and the corrupting influence of drug rep visits and lavish gifts to our doctors, medical journal articles ghost written by the drug industry, and rigged, deeply flawed  psychiatric drug trials… the sum of which altogether, and unsurprisingly, exaggerates the positive benefits and minimizes or hides the crippling, disabling short and long term effects of these drugs on millions of people. Skeptical, critical voices have, heretofore, been few and far between,   But that’s beginning to change, and is it ever!

Not that long ago, emotional and mental distress — from mild to profound — was  largely understood as primarily reactions to traumatic events in the person’s life, of workplace and domestic stress, interpersonal and familial conflict, bullying, physical and sexual abuse, poverty, and substance abuse.   People spoke of nervous breakdowns and resorted to sanatoriums, religious orders, communities and talk therapy for relief. While the origins, expressions and meanings of distress are difficult to identify, the picture was one of complexity and diversity, of psychological, spiritual and social contexts and triggers that gave rise to difficult and trying mental/emotional conditions.  As well, and this is really important, writing in 1975, Samuel Bockoven, observed most “mental illnesses, especially the most severe, are largely self-limiting in nature if the patient is not subjected to a demeaning experience or loss of rights and liberties.”   Professional consensus prior to 1975 on the whole range of conditions was that they were episodic, temporary, and that the prognosis for most people was, in the words of Jonathan Coe of the NIMH, writing in 1964, “eventual recovery with or without treatment.”

There is “no basis to consider that manic depressive psychosis permanently affected those who suffered from it…While some people suffered multiple episodes, each episode was usually only a “few months in duration” and “in a significant number of patients, only one episode of illness occurs.” Once patients recovered, they usually had “no difficulty resuming their usual occupations.”

--George Winokur, Washington University, 1969; (see Rethinking Psychiatric Care: History, Science, and the Long-Term Effect of Psychiatric Drugs)

 

That more nuanced, humanistic picture, with its understanding of the role played by social and psychological context and its hopeful message of short-term distress and of recovery for most people changed dramatically in the 60s and 70s.  The change took place primarily due to a number of factors which, together, created a perfect storm for the rise of our psychocracy.  First, reports of appalling conditions in some mental health hospitals led to a movement of de-institutionalization of patients predicated on the promise by governments, and this was crucial, on the promise that there would be widespread and well-funded community supports to help people successfully re-integrate into society—supports like housing, job training, individualized therapy, etc.  In an age of government cutbacks, austerity and free market solutions, those promises were never fulfilled.

Second, psychiatry itself was in crisis.  If emotional and mental distress were products primarily of psychological and social contexts to which therapists and social workers could perhaps more adequately respond; if hospitals were disgorging mental patients into the community; if lobotomies and electroshock treatments came to be seen as torture — what role was left for a medically trained psychiatrist?  What to do?  Two things: first, reinterpret and expand the definitions of psychological distress in order to stay relevant. And that’s exactly what happened.  The DSM started out in 1952, as a response to soldiers delaying or not following orders in combat and then to housewives proscrastinating in their domestic duties.  It was a slim manual listing 106 disorders described as reactions to psychological, social and biological factors. All that changed with the second edition of the DSM in 1968, when with a stroke of the pen, the words “reactions to” were struck out.  Instead of a “paranoid reaction to” particular episodes or events that happened in a person’s life, she was reclassified as “paranoid,” period. Psychological and social context disappeared; they had no relevance to your condition.  Instead, you had an individual, bio-chemical illness, not a behaviour in response to traumatic or stressful situations.

Subsequent editions of the DSM have ballooned to the 947 page 5th edition that lists and describes over 350 mental disorders from types of schizophrenia to oppositional defiance, dependent personality, relational, and compulsive buying disorders.  From mad to sad to shy to grief, from young to old, from kids who can’t sit still for hours at a desk being drilled to take a test, to young people burdened by the crushing weight of student loans, compounding interest and poor job and housing prospects, to a couple whose relationship is on the rocks, to the 70% of us that hate our work, to spouses grieving over the death of their life partners, to helpless seniors cast adrift and alone in nursing homes, and those of us who just can’t stop shopping—we’re all there; it’s written in the book, the “Bible” of mental health, wherein human behaviour and feelings, normal reactions to trauma and stress, have been turned into mental illnesses, to chemical imbalances and faulty genes.

And guess who has a remedy to treat us all?  A trillion-dollar-a-year Big Pharma industry which relentlessly markets one pill, one generation of psyche drugs after another to deaden the pain, to lift the mood, to control our behaviour, to stifle the voices, to relieve the guilt; to convince us, as it has the BC Schizophrenia Society, that “mental illness is nobody’s fault.  It’s not the result of bad parenting,” poverty, trauma, abuse, residential schools, slavery, intrusive surveillance, (turns out all those paranoid types were right after all!), homelessness, loneliness, war . . .  Our feelings, our distress, aren’t normal human reactions to any of these things; it’s an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin; it's messed-up DNA, says Big Pharma and its willing allies.

Rather than heeding Martin Luther King’s call to be creatively maladjusted to injustice, poverty and violence — because, remember, it’s nobody’s fault — we’re supposed to accept our diagnosis, take our pills — not get angry, not act up, and not wig out.

And if there are any newcomers here today, in case you’re wondering, no — I am not a Scientologist — that would be about the last cult I would join.  I am a spouse, a father, and a Unitarian minister.  I have eyes and ears and years of experience of living with family members and friends, and you and others.  And I’m speaking my truth today.

If only the drugs worked. We’d be living in a brave new world.  But they don’t and we’re not.  Dr. Christian Fibiger of the Department of Psychiatry at UBC, one of the strongest advocates of the bio-chemical explanation for mental disorders, said this two years ago: “Psychopharmacology is in crisis.  The drug and genetic data are in, and it is clear that a massive . . . 30 year . . . experiment has failed.”  “We have hunted,” wrote Dr Kenneth Kendler, “for . . . neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them.” And in 2011, Dr Ronald Pies said “in truth, the chemical imbalance notion was always a kind of urban legend, never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.”  That is, the chemical imbalance theory is false; it’s not true and doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Disability data are coming in from around the world, and what they show is an astonishing rise in disability claims due to mental disorders, an enormous increase that has risen in lock step with the astronomical rise in the use of psyche drugs in the past 40 years. If the drugs worked, you would think that health and recovery outcomes would improve and that people, in the aggregate, would be getting better.  The opposite is the case. Studies from Canada, the US and the Netherlands are showing that anti-psychotics, for example, do not reduce psychotic symptoms.  In fact, they increase the likelihood that such symptoms will persist and get worse over the long term.  Over the long-term, these drugs induce changes in the brain opposite of what was intended and increase the risk that a person will become chronically ill.  Epidemiologists are now reporting brain mass loss, catastrophic organ failure and premature deaths of up to twenty-five years in those taking psychiatric drugs after decades of prescribed use.  It is common for these early deaths to be blamed on the victims of forced drugging that the rapid weight gain and tobacco use are the fault of the diagnosed, not the effects of the treatment on metabolism and nerves.  The victims are blamed, not the drugs and their massive, indiscriminate use.

“To err is human,” said the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca, “to persist is diabolical.”  The practices of psychocracy are deeply entrenched in our country and in this Province. Just a handful of examples:

  • A ten-fold increase in prescribing stimulants, antidepressants and antipsychotics to children and adolescents in BC between 1997-2007, in spite of data showing adverse long-term side effects (such as stunted growth, functional impairment, elevated blood pressure, mood swings, sexual dysfunction, involuntary muscle spasms, massive weight gain, sedation, etc . . . )
  • A Health Ministry study in Ontario found half of Ontario nursing home residents are being routinely given powerful antipsychotics an outcome of which is increased falls, bone loss, sedation, and heart attacks; in some homes ¾ of residents are on these drugs, something a leading drug expert called “horrifying” and “madness.”  In BC the statistics are even higher.
  • A recent report by Canada’s Correctional Investigator found that more than 60% of female inmates across the country are receiving psychiatric drugs; at the Fraser Valley Institution the rate is 75% (where the principal drug being used is seroquel whose side effects include diabetes, hyperglysemia, bowel obstruction, blood clots and abnormal, involuntary body movement.  Kim Pate of the Elizabeth Fry Society said the drugs are used to “dull down women’s emotions.  You end up with a situation where the chemical restraints keep them from being a challenge.”)
  • 75% of Canadian media coverage dealing with mental illness focuses on violent acts of people suffering from mental disorders—these stories most often appear at the beginning of newscasts and on the front page.  By contrast, a Vancouver Police Dept’s September 2013 report states that “VPD data shows that persons dealing with mental illness are 23 times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the general public.”  Only 4% of stories on mental health are about recovery; and 5% include first person accounts, or report the perspective of people who have been labeled as mentally ill.
  • Unlike all other patients in our health care system, in BC if you are an involuntary psychiatric patient you have no right to designate a representative decision maker if you should become incompetent; you have no right to the presumption of competency or appeal to the competency process, no right to have your advanced directives recognized, and neither you nor a family member have a right to have complaints dealt with by the Health Authority’s Complaint Office
  • And in spite of outcomes reporting failures in Great Britain and New York City where Assertive Community Treatment teams have been active in enforcing Community Treatment and Extended Leave orders—something we presented to the Mayor’s Office and Vancouver Coastal Health Officials—they’re going ahead with it anyway at a cost of millions of dollars and the trauma forced entry and forced drug treatment cause to people while under the BC Mental Health Act.

Several Vignettes, and Some Closing Statements About What We Could Do

This is what psychocracy looks like close up: a young woman who’s working on her PhD was assaulted late one night by several people at the King George Millennium Line Station in Surrey.  She tried to defend herself by brandishing a ballpoint pen. RCMP officers came on the scene and took her into custody when they looked on a database that showed that she had been treated in the past as a mental patient; that is, they had immediate access to her private health records.  Based on that, her attackers were set free, and she was handcuffed, thrown into the police cruiser, driven to Surrey Memorial Hospital where in short order she was confined in the psychiatric unit and forcibly injected with powerful, zombifying, anti-psychotic drugs.

This is what psychocracy looks like close up: a middle aged man trying to live peacefully in our community while on an extended leave order is so terrified at the threat of an Assertive Community Treatment team forcing their way into his apartment and forcibly injecting him with psychiatric drugs —something they can do, by the way, without notice or a warrant—he’s so traumatized by this that he wept openly in front of me and confessed that he was afraid to go home.

Late one night, a young man, in the throes of hideously painful withdrawal and agitation from an anti-psychotic drug that a psychiatrist abruptly took him off due to toxic reactions in his blood, was picked up by the police and taken to a hectic VGH Emergency Department.  There, disoriented and in pain, he was put in restraints and left unattended without food, water, comfort or information for five hours.  When he asked for some water, it was refused.  When he asked why, he was told “we want you to be in the same state you were in when you arrived so that the required second assessment will agree with the first doctor’s opinion, and then you can be admitted to the psyche ward.”  That young man was my son.

One more choice story: a social worker from Kenya, proud of his professional training, who worked for Vancouver Coastal Health, told me about a phenomenon taking place in Vancouver.  Refugee families who’ve fled from the trauma of war and violence in Somalia and Ethiopia have become distressingly alarmed at the effects of psyche drugs on their parents, children, grandparents who have come under treatment in our mental health system.  The effects of these drugs include heavy sedation, rapid weight gain, incontinence, uncontrollable muscle ticks, insomnia, organ failure, sexual dysfunctions, claims that they feel like zombies and so on—that is, effects from psychiatric drugging attested to widely by people of all races and economic classes who are diagnosed with a mental disorder and then nuked with drugs.  These refugee families are so distressed by these alarming changes in their loved ones, that fundraising has been taking place in refugee communities in our city to buy plane tickets in order to send their effected family member back to Somalia and Ethiopia, in the belief that they will be safer and healthier there than in our fair, progressive and enlightened city with its top-of-the-line mental health system.

I’ve experienced powerlessness with Mormon Church hierarchs when I was excommunicated by a bishop’s court.  But psychocratic power is far worse than that; the former can only throw you out of a church and, as some believe, put your soul into peril; the latter has the power to snatch you off the street and pull you out of the sanctity of your home, take away your liberty, and assault your mind and body with impunity in 2014 and in this city.

Madness and the extraordinary range and depth of human emotions are a mystery that cannot be reduced to a one-size-fits-all theory of causes, manifestations, duration, and outcomes.

But a couple of things do seem clear to me now: the chemical imbalance theory has been thoroughly discredited.  Don’t try to use it to explain mental disorders.  People in extreme states, do have insight into their so-called condition and they have rights to information, representatives, appeals and consent about treatment options.  And though this may be hard to hear:  forced psychiatric drug treatment and electro-shock, the use of restraints and solitary confinement in psyche wards are torture.  Though these practices happen every day in our city and across this Province and our country, they are condemned as torture by the UN Convention Against Torture and the Convention Rights of People with Disabilities.  These practices are torture and deeply traumatizing, and it’s shameful that they’re going on in a country that is a signatory to both of these UN Conventions.

And so I’ve come almost to the end.  What to do with this wild story?  First, let’s educate ourselves; we’re good at that.  And I’ll be glad to help steer you toward good sources: articles, books, websites and podcasts.

Second, if a loved one or someone in the street  is freaking out or in distress, try not to panic and try really hard not to call 911 if you can help it.  Chances are it will only escalate a difficult situation into one far worse.  If it’s a family member or friend who’s in distress, contact trusted people that won’t freak out and that your loved one trusts and bring them together for support.  If I’m one of those people, add my number to the list.  You don’t have to do this alone.

Third, advocate for change. For example, Canada’s got to live up to its signature on the Conventions on Torture and on the Rights of People with Disabilities.  Stay tuned—programming at UCV in October is coming our way.

In every memorial service I’ve conducted, I’m struck by the brevity and preciousness of the span of life given to us to find some truth, meaning and love. And so in closing: May we go from here more intent on living fully and well; with greater hope, steadfast love and appreciation of the time and space given us to live our lives with compassion, and kindness.  May we do this so that the spirit of life will move freely and abundantly within us; that it will dwell and flourish because of us, so that we, in our turn, will be a blessing to those we love and cherish.

* * * * *

(To listen to the sermon go to “Listen to sermons & special services 2014
and click on “June 29, 2014 Psychocracy and Community”)

* * * * *

Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson

Recent News

Recent Blogs

Around The Web

Related Posts

Psychocracy and Community Comments RSS

30 thoughts on “Psychocracy and Community

  1. Yes, thank you for presenting this excellent piece to your congregation and also for sharing it here. I believe that the more decent people who understand the horrors the psychocracy perpetrates, the more likely they are to keep their loved ones well AWAY from such torture.

    Being a psychiatric survivor, I honestly believe the worst decision I ever made in my life was to seek medical help for my understandable human distress. The more people who are alerted to the very real dangers psychocrats represent, the healthier and more just society will be.

    • “Being a psychiatric survivor, I honestly believe the worst decision I ever made in my life was to seek medical help for my understandable human distress.”
      Same for me. I’ll never under no circumstances advice anyone to do that or call police/ambulance on them and I’ve informed everyone in my family that should something happen to me I wish not to be “treated”.

  2. A wonderful article Rev.

    What stqnds out for me most is the advice you give about enflaming a situation when someone is in distress.

    I would rather have had my wife call a vet to come and put me down, than her choice to call mental health services because i was loosing sleep and not eating properly.

    Certainly where I live the vet would be punished more for abusing an animal, than a mental health worker would be for abusing a patient.

    It is an absolute disgrace what is occuring when it comes to involunatry detentions. I hope your words are spread far and wide. Lives will be saved as a result.

    Kind regards
    Boans

  3. An amazing piece Steven. Thank you so much for posting it here. As a Unitarian who was profoundly disappointed that my Portland church has distanced itself from this movement, I am deeply grateful that there are other congregations and ministers who truly understand the need for sweeping change.

  4. Thank you, Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson, for writing this powerful piece and for the work you do for others over in Vancouver. It is reassuring for me to know that someone with your awareness lives so close by and is doing the work that you do. I would like to connect with you if that is possible – I’m just over on Vancouver Island and I am seeing the issues you have spoken of. Thanks again for bringing these truths to light.

  5. I hope your most brilliant piece gets into the hands of every human being who cares about the travesties of emotional injustice. The saddest realization for me almost 30 months after the death, by suicide of my 25 y/o son, is his death, absolutely, was linked to the tainted, broken ” system” of MH treatment in America. My deepest regret on the night, Oct’09, his mind slipped into an altered reality which we, his parents, desperately believed the psych hosp was the place he needed since he confessed he had been using cannabis. Not only did the MH paradigm of care ignore, refute my son’s toxicology report which confirmed THC was AND is causing devastating psych disorders ( the data published last week by Public Health England) confirms 7 X rate of psychotic ‘episodes’ for those using ” skunk” ( the high potency strains of cannabis) now commonly used, my son was branded with a lifelong MI label. Just as you’ve written, people who were dx with manic-depression ( now the ubiquitous ” bipolar” label) had usually just one ‘episode’, and even others who had several ‘episodes’ recovered and still led functional lives. The difference b/t the dx writing in 1969 to 2009 and on- a twisted, morbid slant on the psyche of the human mind. Make an ‘ episode’ or two of psychosis, triggered by a mind-altering drug (in some people), convince them recreational drug use was irrelevant as a trigger, stigmatize with a permanent, progressive, deteriorating MI..and hopelessness permeates…and some, like my son, exit this psychiatric wasteland. I profoundly regret leading my son into this system, had I only known of alternatives, in CA, that night where my son should have been able to receive compassionate support, identify stressors in his young life, education what triggers psychosis and above all infuse- HOPE- how he would recover fully. We must, together, in unity, spread the word and bring about change. Thank you Rev. Epperson.

  6. Thank you so much for your well written article. I stumbled into psychiatry after a traumatic car accident (couldn’t sleep from pain) and began a nightmare ride of changing diagnoses and heavy drugging.

    My wish is the branding of people with the term mentally ill will not cause further harm when needing employment, housing or medical help. So many of us are psych drug free after being wrongly diagnosed, doing well but still afraid an old psychiatric diagnosis will pop up when we seek medical attention. It’s real fear.

  7. Re: “People spoke of nervous breakdowns”

    When I was in the hospital there was a handout on how to talk to your doctor and it used “Don’t say nervous breakdown, say depression” as an example. This was the abusive place I ended up after attempting to treat my nervous breakdown with alcohol and going to the ER voluntarily by myself for detoxification. I had already done the medication dependency thing years before for anxiety and got nothing but worse and finally escaped it and was doing well until I decided to go another round with alcohol.

    I refused the bipolar label and heavy zombification that goes with it so I was threatened with a forced injection ‘needle rape’ and a trip to the state hospital, I had another nervous breakdown due to the needle rape threat made to me in a place you can’t just leave and they of course used it as proof I needed more “treatment”. No, I needed to rest and not drink and get back to my life. No rest in this place only rude wakeups at 6am by the bouncers or correction officer types to stand online for blood pressure.

    If I just took the “meds” to get out faster like most do I would have had to endure the withdrawal reactions from their so called “non addictive” zombie drugs, like horrible anxiety insomnia, again.

    What’s the latest from these so called “experts” in mental health ? NO SMOKING , no smoke breaks behind psychiatric locked doors. That’s right, lets add nicotine withdrawal and call it “helping” people in crisis. The one thing patients look forward to they are taking away and no doubt peoples charts are being filled with tales of “episodes” of mental illness when they are having the exact same reaction a “sane” smoker would have if you took his or her freedom and ability to smoke. I haven’t seen the results of this no smoking policy but I saw plenty of violence when distressed people were admitted after the last smoke break and were told they had to wait till morning by these people who were “helping” them.

    I guess nothing beats their treatment for people suffering paranoia, I think they get the worst of it, locking them in a place where every inch is covered by big ugly surveillance cameras, I am not sure if they have plans for a room full of spiders for treating arachnophobia yet.

    • Yeah, great time to quit smoking by force, right after an emotional crisis leading to involuntary hospitalization and possibly restraint and/or enforced drugging. I always found that policy bizarre! Wonder if they even bother with a patch or anything to help them out.

      You’re so right, if you weren’t paranoid and depressed before you got in there, you would be pretty soon after the door locked behind you!

      —- Steve

    • “I am not sure if they have plans for a room full of spiders for treating arachnophobia yet.”
      A brilliant comment. How stupid, insensitive and crazy is the system which cannot understand simple basics about human behaviour and emotions?

  8. A contrasting anecdote: When I was in a locked ward I decided to stop smoking, and I went cold turkey from the Kools (gag) I had been chain-smoking since I got there. While doing this successfully, I was pulled aside by an aide and told that, given the stress level of the environment I was in, my (successful) effort to detox from cigarettes was not the best place I could be putting my energy. Fortunately I didn’t start up again (not then anyway).

  9. Rev. – One of the things I am sure you have hoped to apprehend in small ways is the possiblity for explaining the psychological unpleasance attending the dawning realization of the nature of their imminent destination and probable future life beyond the least welcome of plastic bracelets. The whole Winesburg, Ohio of your inner life scans rather insubstantially in comparison to what you think of four walls you haven’t seen in a psych ward. For those who, let’s say, begin to decide that in some sense they are prodromal or unable to believe they’re not intoxicated since things are shaping up like they are, while no manner of its happening was evident, etc.– this may be their first time to consider what they actually believed about facing Lock-up for Your Mind, in a state of reflection, however subtly compromised, in which sympathy’s role in self-preservation gave them their fairest vantage on that. The point to me is that no labor is put into explaining what there is to feel good about this pretend safe haven, really. The preaching is directed to how to maintain versions of belief in mental illness as a difference-making few statements beyond what supposedly conditions the reactions and changes the needs of someone suffering incapacitation, mentally and emotionally somehow. These are laced with platitudes about how such people just need special psychiatric attention and must never forget it, that it’s unkind to let them, dangerous or self-destructive to think of themselves as normal. So everyone helps with this. The person who felt compelled to think of the need for a breather, perhaps, someone to help talk her down, with some remaining measure of confidence in her- or himself, has had suddenly to get shocked out of their reservations only emergency comfort zone and start deciding how best to present themselves, since it most obviously matters more than hospitals care to suspect , would ever admit, or will care until forced to, for proving how the difference between naive expectations and what experience painfully teaches is going to affect everything about the idea for assigning your permanent label. Meet the terminal need for sociological understanding of how psychiatry parades its treats and favors, and insists that no such things like recalls need happen to its sorry tries. You don’t lose confidence in your own cognizance or powers of reasoning against a background of freedom and hope at all, because it’s off with you to a house of cards and shame.

    • I couldn’t follow all of your thoughts on first reading but this shines with truthfulness and insight. Keep shining travailler-vous and I will keep trying to understand!

    • “These are laced with platitudes about how such people just need special psychiatric attention and must never forget it, that it’s unkind to let them, dangerous or self-destructive to think of themselves as normal. So everyone helps with this. The person who felt compelled to think of the need for a breather, perhaps, someone to help talk her down, with some remaining measure of confidence in her- or himself, has had suddenly to get shocked out of their reservations only emergency comfort zone and start deciding how best to present themselves” really speaks to me and so does ‘future life beyond…..plastic bracelets.’

    • “Difference making….statements” speaks to me to. I cannot speak from the perspective of someone who has been on the receiving end of a forced injection or locked in a room or put in five point restraints. I can only imagine the horror of those experiences and the courage it must takes to pursue a better life in light of this abuse.

      But I have spent countless hours wondering how I could have prevented a crisis from escalating into a trip to the ER resulting in another dreadful round of forced medication and institutionalization of a loved one. I have agonized over what I said or failed to say, what I did of failed to day that may have triggered my loved one or unnecessarily delayed her recovery.

      I am reminded that families who want to provide a life line to a loved one, need to be remember that the loved one is already in the process of creating a unique life line unique to his/her life’s narrative. It is critical for that each family member be allowed to experience hope in a different way, while striving to respect the hope of everyone involved. To allow a loved one to experience the joy of discovery on his/her own is the ultimate boundary even though it is tempting for a parent to try to take charge of a loved one’s medical advocacy when a child (who is a young adult) has been horribly abused in the psychiatric system and a parent has developed severe anxiety and stress related to this abuse. It is important for a parent not to replace the state as an authority figure, something that should be taught in every NAMI but is not.

      The only thing that saves me from going mad is to accept the intermittent hospitalizations, as awful as it feels to have a loved one involuntarily committed AGAIN AND AGAIN, and quit viewing them as death dealing but perhaps as the pile of ashes from which the phoenix springs. To bring a contrary message to a loved one into a hospital psych ward where every message about recovery is from NAMI ‘take your meds for life’ is downright seditious because if one questions the biological framework of a loved one’s mental illness, even the loved one may become agitated. A parent may inadvertantly bring the right message at the wrong time, when a loved one has her hands full trying to ‘mimic’ saneness just to survive a hospitalization, which requires the absolute acceptance of the authorities involved in discharge and housing.

      The away times have become an awful opportunity to be introspective, gain insight, build community in a new paradigm, then nibble around the edges of developing a new ‘covert’ language when trying to provide comfort or consolation and explore mutual hopes. If a love one is experiencing a reality that is not what we consider consensual reality, and this reality is causing them great grief, terror, anxiety or rage, (the emotions that so-called professional treatment providers and first responders get the most spooked by) we need to first become grounded in the knowledge of our sameness, i.e. the reality of our own rage, terror, anxiety, and grief and how the same emotions can be triggered and provoked in us.

      Consensual reality is the basis for most conversations, small talk, etc. Parents who start freaking out are the first ones to declare a crisis when a loved one may be feeling perfectly content to perceive reality the way they do. In addition to creating a new vocabulary of ‘sameness’ or ‘likeness’ in the presence of unpleasant emotions, or voices from another reality, such as an astral plane, it is important to remember words that bind, grace, and communicate a person’s preciousness are the Holy Grail of the Healing Conversation. Words may have to be completely dissembled, language itself may become useless and irrelevant when navigating another realm with an individual. I sometimes say to myself, let me listen with my heart and see with my love.

      I agree it is important to avoid platitudes. Better to be a stone than chatter away incessantly like a jay bird. As someone with a long history of wasting words, learning the art of verbal economy is a great skill to have when someone is in an altered state.

      One must also be alert for voices that tell a loved one that they are not loved and respected. These voices can come from many corners. Voices in one’s head are as real as voices from a cranky nurse, or a domineering family member. I do not yet know how to ‘take on’ the negative voices in my daughter’s head but I try and accept them as valid as her pleasant ones. I certainly consider them with merit when they disgorge an unpleasant truth.

      No matter how they choose to present themselves in the world. It’s also important for a loved one to be able to own their experience, not suppress them in a quest to be accepted.

      we need to talk about creating a sacred space for families to help a loved one unwind. Parents can be a part of the solution if they are grounded, reflective, and not over reactionary, but most of all, we too, need a sacred place to unwind and unlearn everything we were taught about mental health and reality.

      • Correction: ‘No matter how they choose’ should be instead by expressed as ‘No matter how individuals choose to present themselves’ See how easy it is to slip into the language of ‘difference making?’ Sanism is held up with ‘us’ and ‘them’ as code words for ‘normal’ and ‘insane’ Another problem with the language is how to remove the difference making words while we are trying to promote standards for recovery which itself is based on common experiences of what constitutes success. Maybe there will never be a single standard definition of recovery, only the creation of safe places for people to live their lives without fear of labeling and forced treatment.

        • Hi madmom – I just read through your expressions of worry and hope, and haven’t seen how to respond beyond suggesting that your self-correction doesn’t have to stay final and perfect, and what you wanted it to replace hasn’t got to demand persistent attention. It’s the attitude that supports the interest taken and shown to someone about how they are and want things to be. One thing that it looks like we can count on Christian for is understanding that “mentally-ill” persons want to have a routine manner of satisfying their basic needs in convenient ways, then some opportunity to increase their satisfactions if they can. It’s only natural that if you suffer from incapacitation that involves your feelings and judgments and sense of how to relate them that you would mostly tend to try exercise your self-sufficiency back into working order. But people end up in boxes on the street or bouncing off their apartment walls and to me this proves that the biggest factors are sociolinguistic in measuring the differences between individual modes of experience and the explanation of conduct. I’ll check into now, anyway.
          As far as how tired I get of having learned more than I can say, you have no idea! You would not have trouble getting facts out of me and beliefs uncomplicated by too much input and not enough action for seeing how the knowledge pays. For instance, I only meant to create impressions, and just wanted other people to have pictures of their own. I hope your daughter starts getting her say, and that you can find alternative ways to extend her freedom from incarceration and intense medication. Good wishes in that.

          • Hi madmom – I just read through your expressions of worry and hope, and haven’t seen how to respond beyond suggesting that your self-correction doesn’t have to stay final and perfect, and what you wanted it to replace hasn’t got to demand persistent attention. It’s the attitude that supports the interest taken and shown to someone about how they are and want things to be. One thing that it looks like we can count on Christian for is understanding that “mentally-ill” persons want to have a routine manner of satisfying their basic needs in convenient ways, then some opportunity to increase their satisfactions if they can. It’s only natural that if you suffer from incapacitation that involves your feelings and judgments and sense of how to relate them that you would mostly tend to try exercise your self-sufficiency back into working order. But people end up in boxes on the street or bouncing off their apartment walls and to me this proves that the biggest factors are sociolinguistic in measuring the differences between individual modes of experience and the explanation of conduct. I’ll check into now, anyway.
            As far as how tired I get of having learned more than I can say, you have no idea! You would not have trouble getting facts out of me and beliefs uncomplicated by too much input and not enough action for seeing how the knowledge pays. For instance, I only meant to create impressions, and just wanted other people to have pictures of their own. I hope your daughter starts getting her say, and that you can find alternative ways to extend her freedom from incarceration and intense medication. Good wishes in that.

            Rev. and madmom, sorry for two mistakes (at least)- I didn’t say “that count” to complete a sentence. Also, I forgot where I was and mentioned this new Salon reporter who just had his first article here this week. the Reverend I thought would grasp the indefiniteness of looking back to find the pure evidence relevant to explaining the inevitable stigma that makes facing mental and emotional problems impossibly unhandy. The mainstream psychological professions are likewise mainly Non-patient Advocates. No wonder they never step up with advice like How to Work Your Label for Fun and Profit. They also endorse them in their personality tests. I believe that simply everyone who gets diagnosed should try to persist in self-help or procuring talk therapy help for the working through of traumas conceived in any plausible way at all. Then, with the idea that you don’t have to fear symptoms, just report them, and with lots of familiarity with feelings and self-acceptance, you really leave the medication in question for all time, and not the other way around, with yourself in question for what your worth and can do.

          • madmom (& Reverend Steve), sorry for two mistakes (at least)- I didn’t say “that count” to complete a sentence. Also, I forgot where I was and mentioned this new Salon reporter who just had his first article here this week associating him with this article and thread. I also, however, believe this author sees that idea of persons as persons, no doubt. The Reverend I thought would in particular grasp the indefiniteness of looking back to find the pure evidence relevant to explaining the inevitable stigma that makes facing mental and emotional problems impossibly unhandy.

            As an afterthought, I recall that mainstream psychological professionals are likewise mainly Non-patient Advocates. No wonder they never step up with advice like How to Work Your Label for Fun and Profit. They also endorse labels and psychiatry in their personality tests limitations of types of clients and conditions they will engage with. I believe that simply everyone who gets diagnosed should try to persist in self-help or procuring talk therapy help for the working through of traumas conceived in any plausible way at all. Then, with the idea that you don’t have to fear symptoms, just report them, and with lots of familiarity with feelings and self-acceptance, you really leave the medication in question for all time, and not the other way around, with yourself in question for what your worth and can do.

          • travailler-vous,

            Thank you for the comment. Please keep posting.

            Could you elaborate on “But people end up in boxes on the street or bouncing off their apartment walls and to me this proves that the biggest factors are sociolinguistic in measuring the differences between individual modes of experience and the explanation of conduct.”

            I had to look up sociolinguistic on Wikepedia and I found that one concept of sociolinguistics is ‘speech communities’ described thus:

            “Speech communities can be members of a profession with a specialized jargon, distinct social groups like high school students or hip hop fans, or even tight-knit groups like families and friends. Members of speech communities will often develop slang or jargon to serve the group’s special purposes and priorities.”

            From my own experience, I understand this concept. When I engage with this community (MIA) I find the language used on this site to be comforting and hopeful. When I engage (rarely) with NAMI members or big Pharma funded sites, I find the language chilling, clinical, and depressing.

            I spend a lot of time talking to family members who are meat-heads and I watch TV so I am fluent in the language of meat-heads. I also am comfortable talking with work associates about projects, but I feel most comfortable with the language of idealists, activists, therapists, and friends who share my spiritual values.

            When I talk to my daughter, I lose what you might call my ‘social linguistic’ orientation. I sense that her milieu is the artistic, intellectual, and philosophical community. To me, her language is intriguing, mysterious, and poetic, abstract and often unapproachable.

            Since I am not accustomed to conversing with artists and philosophers it is difficult to navigate this language. Sometimes she lapses into speaking French (out of frustration perhaps?) and my French is so terrible that I can only make out a few verbs and pronouns here and there.

            I thought about brushing up on my French so we could converse in private without mental health staff snooping in our conversation but I haven’t found the time. I can’t even remember how to conjugate common verbs.

            Rather than bash my head against the wall of non understanding, I am trying to study the spaces in between the words and look for value and meaning in silence. I also cherish the past break-throughs.

            One of the most triumphant conversations with my daughter was when she was supposedly ‘catatonic’ and locked up with other unfortunate members of our community. We found a way to communicate without words over the public phone. To preserve her dignity she used a tapping code to answer all my yes and no questions without the knowledge of the staff. I was so proud of her for devising a code that was so simply even the mental health professionals with all their education could not grasp

            This was the language of protest through non violent non cooperation. I was so proud of her. Instead of a hunger strike, she had actually gone on a ‘word strike’ Even though it was pathologized and used as further proof of her madness, it gave me such hope and joy to know that, as I had suspected, there was method in her madness.

            Speed forward to today. I am receding more and more into the background of my 24 year old’s life, yet my love and faith are unshakable. Meanwhile. she is conversing more with mental health workers who are paid to babysit her more than she speaks to me and her father; we have come to secretly despise the mental health system but we do not dare utter a complaint out of fear that they will turn the screws even tighter.

            Will they brain wash her? Will she start identifying with having a ‘disease’ and make her diagnosis into a career? Will she be cowed into compliance until she becomes a stranger to us and a mere shadow of her former or potential self? Will she come to worship in the almighty pill, the chemical quick fix for anything that is painful or unpleasant to feel?

            This is a great mystery to me. The lack of knowing and the potential loss of her smile, companionship, and spirit threaten to overwhelm me at times. I take comfort in an experience we shared.

            Once, when my daughter was twelve years old, we walked the Camino together, a 500 mile trek across Northern Spain starting in the Pyranees. I let her walk separately a couple of times, once, when I left her in the company of a group of jovial British college students. Unbenownst to me she parted company with those kids in the middle of the day and followed a fork in the trail to locate a spring of water near an ancient monastery. Apparently, she had a map or someone had tipped her off.

            In the heat of the afternoon, I stumbled, wearily and alone, out of the dusty Meseta (high desert plain) and descended into a cool valley occupied by a small village. I quickly reserved two beds with a shower, some of the last few available. I waited for her but she did not arrive. I started to panic and left the village to climb back up into the high desert. I forgot my weariness and found energy and quickened my pace. The heat was so hot, the ground and horizon shimmered. A thousand scenarios went through my mind. My daughter was lost in the desert. In the distance a shimmering black figure appeared on a bike. It was an American trekker, the only English speaker I had spoken to all day. She confirmed that someone who fit my daughter’s description was about two miles East headed in our direction and she was in good shape. The trekker was hesitant to leave someone so young all by herself but my daughter had done a good job convincing this tourist that all was well. She had water, sun screen, was orientated, and in good spirits. Waves of relief washed over me. I continued to walk due East, until I heard my daughter (before I saw her) She was singing in a clear voice, a Gaelic song she had learned from another pilgrim. I was overcome with joy and relief.

            To me, this true story is the epitome of the journey of madness and recovery. It is about being lost then found, separated, then reunited.

  10. “It’s not the result of bad parenting,” poverty, trauma, abuse, residential schools, slavery, intrusive surveillance, (turns out all those paranoid types were right after all!), homelessness, loneliness, war . . . ”
    This is the biggest fault and crime of psychiatry – ignore the reasons for behaviour and don’t fix the problem with society, don’t punish the abusers but suppress and re-victimise the victim. It’s appalling.

  11. I agree, B, psychiatry defaming and tranquilizing victims of abuse, so they may keep the child molesters on the streets raping more children, because this is profitable for the psychiatric industry, is a deplorable crime. But I have proof in my family’s medical records this is what psychiatry is doing.

    And the massive defaming and drugging of foster children, rather than actually assisting these children in recovery from the abuse they were subjected to, is more evidence that the psychiatric industry is stigmatizing and torturing children with psychotropic drugs, so they may cover up abuse of children, rather than stop the child abuse.

    Reverend Epperson, thank you for this well thought out and written article, and I’m very sorry your child was harmed by psychiatrists (I, too, was denied drinking water by psychiatric practitioners). I have been trying for a couple years now to convince my ex-religion that their advocacy of the psychiatric industry is improper (although, the psychiatrists defame, tranquilize, and poison people to cover up pastoral abuse of children for that religion), so I have had no luck in convincing them that today’s psychiatric system is flawed. I am glad that at least some of the Unitarian ministers are not so blind. Thank you for your story.

  12. Rev.Dr.
    Magnificent Article that everyone on the planet should see because to not organize to over throw this Psychocracy is unthinkable. I thought there was supposed to be separation of church and state. This merging of State the mental death profession plus the Z clon B , poison chemicals companies revived and reinvented and presented to the people as medicine makers pharma if not traced to the source and revolted against and over thrown will be like you know what on steroids.

  13. Sometimes, we parents can do nothing more for our children than keep the front porch light on. We can also start boycotting those support groups for parents funded by big PHARMA

Leave a Reply