“And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for [our children] and shield them from harm and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing, not just to pursue their own dreams but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.”
-from President Obama’s remarks on gun violence on January 16th, 2013
Note to the Reader: This is in response specifically to the “mental health” components of the Gun Control Plan. A full breakdown of the plan can be found here.
As a child, I was full of life, and lucky enough to grow up in an era of minimal household technology; thus, I learned to find solitude in the outdoors, in books, in puzzles, and in being alone. Videogames were strange to me; I’d much rather find real adventures in the woods with my dog. The thought of a computer in the house, let alone in my hand twenty-four hours a day, never once crossed my mind. I was allowed to watch one television show during the week— ‘Full House’, on Tuesday nights— and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, cartoons; I couldn’t have cared less, really, as I much preferred to lose myself in the pages of a book.
I looked at the future as a path of infinite possibilities, and I felt big feelings, thought big thoughts, and dreamed big dreams. Blessed with an endless imagination, I daydreamed about all that I could be when I grew up— a marine biologist, or an architect, or an orthopedic surgeon, or the first professional female ice hockey player. I was given space to bumble about in my childhood, making mistakes and learning along the way. Even in my most painful moments, later on, when I was desperately uncomfortable in my skin, confused about my identity, and feeling isolated from family and friends, I intuitively knew that I belonged in the world, and to the world. I didn’t know it in my mind— indeed, as I reached puberty, my thoughts often made me feel more alone— but I felt it in my heart, and it emanated from me, driving me forward with clumsy, awkward childhood determination. You see, until the age of fourteen, I had a right to all of these things: to feel my human spirit, to own my body, my emotions, and my mind. To own the right to define myself.
With twenty-twenty hindsight, I see today that I was “safe”, “taken care of”, and “shielded from harm” in those years, even when it didn’t feel that way to me. The pain I felt was the pain I was meant to feel, the pain that all human children feel, the pain of growing up in a confusing, scary, complicated world. Although I didn’t always believe it, I was making my way through, figuring my life out, until suddenly, everything changed.
I was fourteen, and it was decided that my worrisome behavior, intense mood swings, constant door-slamming, screaming, and raging had crossed a line. I don’t blame my parents an ounce for reaching this conclusion; I was troubled, and it scared them. I caused a tremendous amount of distress in my family, and the tension had reached a breaking point. Even the guidance counselor, headmistress, and some of my friends had their concerns, as my problems were spilling outside of the confines of my home. I was a livewire. I was unpredictable. I was hanging out with the “bad” girls, smoking cigarettes, cutting my arm with razors, shutting myself up in my room. I was no longer the ‘old Laura’, no matter how much it seemed like I still had it “together” on the playing field or in my schoolwork. I was spiraling out of control, and it was decided that something had to be done.
Enter my first psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with “Bipolar disorder” and handed me prescriptions for an antipsychotic and an antidepressant at the end of our first fifty minutes together. On the surface, it seemed to everyone else that the session was full of hope—for answers to the questions, for solutions to the problems, and for a path to “safety”, “treatment”, “care”, and “protection.” From where I sit today, sixteen years after I first entered that psychiatrist’s office, I am fully aware of how those few seemingly small decisions— trying out a family therapist, who happened to suggest I get a consultation with a psychiatrist, who happened to be a doctor particularly fond of Depakote and Prozac— sent my life drastically off-course, away from its once safe and secure, albeit painful road, and into something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest nightmares.
My parents did what millions of American parents have been taught to do: they saw how much emotional pain I was in, and they sought “help” for me in the “mental health” system. They had no idea that my entrance into a psychiatrist’s office as a young teenager would end up stripping me of my health, my hope, and my sense of Self. Today, we are able to come together as a family with forgiveness, acceptance, love, and gratitude, to talk about how counterintuitive my journey into a system of proclaimed “healing” ended up being; indeed, as the result of being “shielded from harm” by the “mental health” system, I experienced more harm than I could have ever imagined for myself. I’ll list just a few examples:
- loss of menstrual cycle
- loss of libido
- Lithium-induced hypothyroidism
- hormonal imbalances
- gastrointestinal issues
- weight gain
- chronic headaches
- food allergies
- short-term memory problems
- inability to articulate myself effectively
- inability to retain information while reading
- lack of concentration
- word-recall issues
Emotional and Psychological harm:
- racing thoughts
- suicide attempt
- inability to feel an authentic sense of Self
- constant numbness, detachment from my emotions and the world around me
- loss of creativity
- impulsivity and recklessness
- apathy and listlessness
- inability to feel emotionally bonded to my family, friends, or significant others
- feeling permanently “other”, broken, different, abnormal, diseased
I write these examples— which barely scratch the surface of my experiences— with absolutely no self-pity or self-victimization. I feel no resentment towards any person or institution, nor do I feel any regret for the way my life has unfolded. As I’ve written about here, I instead feel a deep sense of gratitude for my thirteen years of oppression by the “mental health” system, because those years of darkness and disconnect have made me all the more appreciative of and connected to my life and my human spirit.
Entering the “mental health” system as a kid stripped me of the right to grow up as just another human being— to learn how to trust my gut; feel my feelings and move through them; connect with others in meaningful, unmediated ways; have confidence in myself; and strive for my dreams. I was separated out of society under an oppressive force disguised as “care”, classified as “other”, and physically, psychologically, and emotionally altered by psychotropic drugs. The systems of my body— particularly my endocrine, lymphatic, immune, reproductive, and nervous systems— were prevented from developing naturally, as was my mind-body-spirit connection. I came to believe that I would never be like everyone around me because of my “condition”, and that I’d need to “accept my limitations” and “set realistic goals for myself.” I spent hour after hour in therapy, growing increasingly more self-absorbed from talking only about myself and my problems, and I lost the ability or desire to be of service to the greater good. How can sending children to this fate be seen as “shielding them from harm”? How can increasing “mental health” treatment in schools, which will inevitably lead to higher rates of psychopharmaceutical drug prescribing, produce any of the goals President Obama is encouraging us to strive for?
Imagine my experience replicated millions of times, and you’ve just awoken to our ever-expanding American reality. I was first labeled “Bipolar” in 1997, right as the boom of the adolescent “Bipolar disorder” epidemic was just taking off [for more on this, see Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic]. The rate of “mental illness” diagnoses in children and adolescents hasn’t slowed down since, and it is now growing exponentially faster in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy. Never before have I sensed such danger percolating around me; the pressure is palpable, and rapidly intensifying. Indeed, last month’s massacre has unquestionably become American society’s tipping point; just what, exactly, we are now accelerating— or freefalling— into is hard to believe. Just as I felt compelled to write a response to the viral blog post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, I feel the same sense of urgency as I write these words.
I ache with sadness and fear for post-Newtown America, but unlike the collective fire of emotion that’s been stoked by our government and media, the fear I feel is not in response to the American obsession with guns, or to the blank stares of Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Jared Loughner, who have come to symbolize “untreated mental illness”, which is undoubtedly one of America’s greatest mass delusions. No, I am not afraid of violence in the name of harm— the kind that’s been driven throughout human history by hate, intolerance, fear, greed, arrogance, and jealousy. That violence is reprehensible, tragic, and painful to think about, but it doesn’t paralyze me with fear in the same way a different violence does.
The violence I fear most is of an insidious nature, hidden under the guise of “First, do no harm,” and perpetrated by a system spewing false promises to “care”, “treat”, and “heal.” When I let my mind wander to the places usually associated with the darkest parts of American history or science fiction— surveillance, mass social control, torture, and eugenics— it’s hard to accept that pinching myself does nothing. Science fiction and the most shameful parts of our past have become today’s undeniable reality: legislation is currently being pushed to pass “mental health” registries that strip those labeled “mentally ill” from the right to bear arms; to encourage, or even require, providers to report to authorities any mention of harm to self or other by their “clients”; to strengthen “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” laws or bring them to states that currently don’t have them; to ramp up funding for “mental health” screenings in schools so that “problem” children can be filtered out and given the “treatment” they need. Indeed, Big Brother is watching us.
President Obama claims that we will be judged by how well we shield our children from harm, and how supportive we are in helping our children to follow their dreams and build this country. He tells us that we must ensure our children’s safety, and listen to their voices. I urge him, and every legislator across our nation, to also listen to the voices of those of us who are lucky enough to have escaped the “mental health” system. Countless psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers tried to “shield” me from harm and in doing so, took me further and further from all those things that President Obama wants for our children today. For all their best intentions, they removed the tools I was accumulating to build a life for myself; they extinguished the spark that got me excited to grow up; they led me to believe I needed them in order to get through my day, and that I needed bottles of pills in order to be an acceptable teenager.
In forty years’ time, today’s psychiatrically labeled children will be dying twenty-five years early because of long-term psychotropic drug use. Disability rates due to “mental illness”, which have already skyrocketed in both under-eighteen and over-eighteen populations, will be at exponentially high and entirely unsustainable levels. I hope it doesn’t take this avoidable, completely self-inflicted mass catastrophe for us to acknowledge the grave harm being inflicted upon our brothers, sisters, and children deemed “abnormal” and thus unworthy of full citizenship and amendment rights. With American society’s readiness to embrace these proposed governmental measures to grow the “mental health” industry, one can only imagine that the pharmaceutical empire will become an even mightier beast than it already is, holding the government, the media, the education system, and the health care industry under its thumb, spellbound by the false belief that “mental illness” is a biochemical condition requiring psychotropic drugs [for more on the myth of the “chemical imbalance”, see this blog post by Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse].
There are many of us who’ve come out the other side of long-term psychiatric “treatment” and lived to tell the tale, and our stories contain more fact than any Pharma-funded research trial, academic journal article, or television ad. We are not Scientologists, we are not conspiracy theorists, and we are not quacks. We are the evidence, and we speak the Truth because we’ve been through it ourselves. Please listen.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thank you Laura. We are the evidence & we need to get this evidence into the media. Our voices are almost entirely absent. Why aren’t any of the mainstream media picking up on what is written here on the MIA blogs? I know you can’t answer that, only expressing my own anguish of the day.
And while I’m here I’ll put in a plug for the Day of Action I’ve been organizing to Stop Psychiatric Profiling, people are invited to do an action big or small in their own communities to protest the Obama/Biden proposals and also in NYS to protest the “NY SAFE Act”. Please see https://www.facebook.com/events/413065465440858/
*To protest the scapegoating of people labeled with mental illness by politicians, media, gun control advocates and the pro-gun lobby
:In particular to protest the “NY SAFE Act” pushed through NY’s legislature and signed by Gov Cuomo, which expands state and federal criminal databases of people labeled as mentally ill, unconnected to any actual crime or act of violence, and expanded outpatient commitment (forced drugging in the community)
:To protest any discriminatory proposals coming out of Vice President Biden’s Task Force
*To invoke our connection to Martin Luther King Jr. and the values and traditions of nonviolence:
:We are a nonviolent community
:Many of us have been traumatized by violence and do all we can to stop it
:We are being labeled and profiled wrongly as violent, because of the actions of a few individuals
:Forced psychiatry is violent
:The new laws being enacted – in NY and likely at the federal level and in other states – will further restrict our civil liberties and constitutional rights
:We are protesting nonviolently for our civil and human rights
*To affirm and celebrate our “creative maladjustment” to a society that pits neighbor against neighbor with a duty to report thoughtcrimes and eccentricities to the state
(“Creative Maladjustment” comes from several of King’s speeches, including a 1967 speech of King to the American Psychological Association where he called for an International Association to Advance Creative Maladjustment, see http://www.psychologytoday.com/print/53556. David Oaks and MindFreedom International have taken up this call as part of the Mad Pride movement, http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/mental-health-global/iaacm. We honor David and wish him well in his recovery from serious injuries and surgery.)
On Martin Luther King Day, January 21, 2013, people everywhere are invited to hold demonstrations, vigils and any other nonviolent acts of expression and protest, to inform the public about our point of view and gather in solidarity.
Please take photos and post them.
You can use hashtags #OccupyPsychiatry #StopMHProfiling and #CreativeMaladjustment
“To protest the scapegoating of people labeled with mental illness by politicians, media, gun control advocates and the pro-gun lobby”
Thank you Ms Minkowitz.
Both sides of this counterproductive 2nd Amendment tug of war are indeed scapegoating people who’ve been run over by Psychiatry.
And in so doing only further eroding, as Harry Truman put it, every American’s Guarantee of Freedom: The Bill of Rights.
Calls for increased mental health services of course only mean yet more of the same, and as Judge Joseph L. Tauro for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts correctly observed in In Rogers v. Okin, 478 F. Supp. 1342 (D.Mass. 1979)
“whatever powers the Constitution has granted our government, involuntary mind control is not one of them.”
Now, VP Biden has told the NRA that the Federal Government doesn’t have time to enforce the already existing gun laws. (So we should pass even More of them?)
The writing’s on the wall. Neither will we find time to enforce the Existing laws already prohibiting the Illegal Druggings,
and violations of existing Federal Civil Rights Statutes currently being perpetrated against the ‘Mentally Il’ whoever They are as redefined day in and day out through the whims of next Tuesday’s Political Agendas.
Thank you also Ms Delano for your very well articulated piece, and Ms Dundas and Mr Sherry for your comments.
thanks for the comment, and for the reference to the 1979 MA case. i’ll be looking that one up to see what that great quote is in reference to!
Unfortunately, the truth of Judge Tauro’s observation has been overridden by subsequent decisions.
The case decision to visit – which Must be revisited and overturned – is Alabama vs Garrett regarding the ADA and our Supreme Court’s evisceration of Real protections when the Court turned the 11th Amendment into just another excuse to protect Government from the Citizens:
In Alabama v Garrett the Court cited the 11th Amendment prohibiting the use of Federal Courts by Citizens of State A to sue State B (meaning State B’s Government) as justification for prohibiting Citizens of State A from suing their own State Government of State A.
The Eleventh Amendment provides:
“The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”
Although by its terms the Amendment applies only to suits against a State by citizens of another State, our cases have extended the Amendment’s applicability to suits by citizens against their own States. See Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U. S. 62, 72-73 (2000); College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd., 527 U. S. 666, 669-670 (1999); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U. S. 44, 54 (1996); Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U. S. 1, 15 (1890). The ultimate guarantee of the Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting States may not be sued by private individuals in federal court. See Kimel, supra, at 73.
We have recognized, however, that Congress may abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity when it both unequivocally intends to do so and “act[s] pursuant to a valid grant of constitutional authority.”
“The ultimate guarantee of the Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting States may not be sued by private individuals in federal court.”
If the State already refuses its consent to be held accountable to a Citizen it has wronged through its own State Courts, Where can that Citizen sue the State into becoming accountable but in a Federal Court? You are not Completely SOL, but reduced to filing for Civil Damages under USC 42 Sec 1983 and having the Court sort out just how much Qualified Immunity from prosecution State actors are granted.
I haven’t finished digesting the entire Justia page, but it appears that the Supremes attacked the Constitution itself rather than take the political heat they’d have received for returning the ADA to Congress as they should have done.
In essence, they gutted the 11th Amendment and vested their excuse in Sec 5 of the 14th Amendment which provides:
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.:
In order to shift the responsibility for ensuring the 14th Amendment’s Sec 1 Equal Protection and Due process of Law: (which are absent in Psychiatry): are afforded everyone, into the hands of Congress and the individual State Legislatures, through Congress.
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. :
I’ve read Law Review articles correctly castigating this decision as a shifty method of protecting State Treasuries over Individual Rights by Allowing the State Governments themselves to make the final call on how much Equal Protection and Due Process they wish to magnanimously ‘Gift’ to the Citizens paying for all of their tax and waste graft.
That doesn’t cut it. The correct way to have done this would have required another Amendment through Article V either Modifying or Repealing the 11th.
And actually Amending the Constitution would have set off Media Alarm Bells on Everyone’s nightly TV news. They’d never have gotten away with it.
There have been some great articles posted on MIA…
from some very gifted and talented people; some brilliant writers.
This one, IMO is the *best* one thus far.
But of course, you’ll likely one-up this one with another one in the not-so-distant future. That’s just what you do…
Thank you, Laura!
thanks as always, duane, for your support and contributions!
I agree with Tina. This needs to be seen by millions. A perfect piece of writing, Laura!
On with the revolution,
Re: “Now is the time” plan
“Make sure students with signs of mental illness get referred to treatment: Project AWARE also includes $40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement”
My eyes read that as: under gun point (law enforcement), you will be enrolled in psychiatric custody whether you like it or not. Honestly.
It would be nice to see an expert review of the (dysfunctional) relationship between hyper-security and endangerment.
yes, and it’s always perplexed me that “MH providers” see “violence” as stemming from inside the “mentally ill” individual. never do they think about the fact that being forcibly injected, or locked up, or completely ignored, or disrespected and invalidated consistently, year after year, might impact the way a person interacts with their environment. not to mention the role that psychiatric drugs play in altering a person’s mind-body-spirit.
With all my years in psychiatry there is not a single bullet point of physical, cognitive, and psychological harm that I have not personally experienced (and the list is not short at 29 items).
The most reprehensible of all is the last one:
•feeling permanently “other”, broken, different, abnormal, diseased
It may sound plausible and understandable that President Obama– and those who recommend more mental health services for schoolage children (which inevitably means more diagnoses and drugs at younger and younger ages) in the wake of the Newtown tragedy want safety and health for Americans.
Yet look at the gaping chasm of the found consequences of a life spent in psychiatry: believing oneself (contrary to the scientific findings on the utter lack of an organic nature to mental illness) to be permanently other and broken.
Doesn’t the government care more about the ideology of a nation virtuously rid of violent massacres rather than what actually happens to the health, safety, and well-being of American children who are put on the track of lifelong psychiatric disability?
The nation is caught up in an exercise of knee-jerk positions to look and feel good in aftermath of a tragedy without showing much interest to the known consequences of the existing evidence with regards to the outcomes of children on psychiatric drugs.
“Please listen.” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m listening Laura and I always learn very much from you.
One of the challenges we face is that unless a person has been through the oppression of a psychiatric label and everything that follows, it’s very hard to wrap one’s mind around what that experience is like. Of course, many other people have been oppressed in the name of race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc., but the mainstream belief continues to see “care” and “treatment” and “help” instead of force, violence, invasion, coercion, imprisonment, etc. Those of us who write about these experiences are making a start, but at the end of the day, until folks in positions of power connect at the heart-level with all the harm that comes from being “helped” by the “mental health” system, things will continue on just as they are.
Gotta say, I LOVE the idea of you playing professional ice hockey! You definitely exhibit a mean verbal hip check!
Haha I definitely laughed when I read this! Well, I can say that from the age of five until the age of twelve, I was completely obsessed with ice hockey (and, particularly, the New York Rangers and Mark Messier). My claim to fame was getting to play against a NJ team when I was about ten or twelve at Madison Square Garden before the Rangers took ice. I vividly remember Jeff Beukeboom and Luc Robitaille coming into our locker room in their long underwear before we went out to play and giving us a pep talk. One of the highlights of my young life!
Insightful and articulate; thanks again for caring and for interpreting “the handwriting on the wall” with such eloquence!
Best wishes, Steve
I really liked this article. I wish it could have been included with the NYT discussions on guns and mental health. Please check out the discussion. Again, my concern is not the stories but on doing proactive work. The MLK Day idea is fabulous. How do get MIA voices in mainstream media? Massive letter writing campaigns. This maybe a very uncomfortable time for us but it does give us an opening to express and advocate for a different approach.
We definitely do need to get our voices into the mainstream media; I too see it as being vitally important (however unrealistic it may be, given that the pharmaceutical industry funds so much of the media). I did take a look at the ‘Room for Debate’ page on NYT online and it is totally one-sided: TAC, forced “treatment”, the myth of “mental illness”, the myth that “mental health treatment” heals and supports people with “mental health challenges”, etc. etc. It would be great if an alternative perspective could join that conversation, although I don’t see it as likely happening!
Its another wonderful essay Laura full of intelligence and sound reason, sadly I fear your call for reason from the media will fall on deaf ears. Is this because the moral majority need a scapegoat for their “unreason?”
This is my comment on your essay, posted in various facebook groups;
“MENTAL ILLNESS & YOUNG WOMAN’S RIGHT OF PASSAGE?
Is the onset of “mental illness,” an unconsciously stimulated need for more reality testing? Rights of passge were once a routine part of growing up, as elders thought adolescents how to leave the world of vivid immagination behind and face the harsher realities of life. Does Laura Delano’s story reflect a trail of maturing for those of us with an over-sensitive constitution?
Does the American public scapegoat “mental illness,” as part of the “unreason” of the gun lobby and right to bear arms? And like “rights of passage do humans have a long history of needing to scapegoat? Consider; “As leprosy vanished, in part because of segregation, a void was created and the moral values attached to the leper had to find another scapegoat.
Mental illness and unreason attracted that stigma to themselves, but even this was neither complete, simple, nor immediate. Renaissance men developed a delightful, yet horrible way of dealing with their mad denizens: they were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners because folly, water, and sea, as everyone then “knew,” had an affinity for each other. Thus, “Ships of Fools” crisscrossed the seas and canals of Europe with their comic and pathetic cargo of souls.”
Excerpt from “Madness & Civilization” by M Foucault.
Perhaps the good ship Earth could be seen as a ship of fools?
Do we really understand a fearful societal need to turn away from a sense of otherness it does not understand and use its fear of madness to scapgoat those deemed mentally ill?
Good luck with all your efforts.
Your words ring painfully true. One hopeful thought I had while reading it is that there is a strength people gain through oppression and opposition. You have mentioned that you do not regret what you have gone through, now that you have escaped the system. I, too, feel that way . . . well, sort of (I still work in the system, even though I am able to promote some change within it). My question is this: Is there any other way to gain strength without such horrific treatment? It’s sort of a philosophical question. I certainly do not wish for one more person to be medicated against their will or without appropriate understanding. I most certainly cringe every time I hear my supervisor suggest medication as an intervention when therapy seems ineffective after six-eight weeks. I certainly want to be a part of changing the system to be in line with Obama’s ideals for our country’s children. There has to be a better way than numbing and killing off our future. Thank you so much for your courage.