“If even one apple fell up, wouldn’t we have to at least begin to question the laws of physics?”
– Dr. Daniel Dorman, Psychiatrist and author of Dante’s Cure
A New Film
I am writing this post primarily to share a trailer for the new film, Beyond the Medical Model. This film has been developed as a part of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (RLC), where I have worked since 2007. The Western Mass RLC is a growing community of people who have survived a diversity of experiences and who strive to change the world.
Love It or Hate It
Beyond the Medical Model is a product of our community in many ways. It grows collaboratively out of our hurts, our anger, our passion, our discoveries and our insistence that we be heard. Our collective wisdom and exploration drives its very purpose. It would be hollow without our stories.
However, if I am to be completely honest, if you love it or hate it, I’m primarily to blame. I selected people to be interviewed, wrote most of the interview questions and script, and collected the quotes. I spent many days pouring through the over 16 hours of footage to unearth the segments that would ultimately be compiled to create the story now offered in the completed film. Although early drafts were offered up for screenings and feedback to those who were featured in it, only some chose to see it and not all feedback was able to be integrated. So, yes folks, if you don’t like it, send your hate mail addressed to me!
Not an Action Film
Beyond the Medical Model is not an action film. But, truth be told, I love it. It is made up of a series of interviews with a variety of people sharing what they’ve learned through life in one way or another. It tells a story I haven’t seen before on film, and that needs to be told to students, providers, people diagnosed, friends, family and more. It paints a picture of a solitary model adopted into our culture and regarded as somehow so sacred that those who challenge it are essentially seen as having committed a strange brand of blasphemy.
The message is that people have been hurt by this medicalized system we have been asked to so blindly accept.
The message is that there is both research and stories to demonstrate the success of other paths.
The message is that no one model should ever reign so supreme above all others.
The message is that offering alternatives for healing is only the SECOND half of the story, and the first half – the one where we each discover our own meaning and understanding of our distress – also must be told.
The Message is Not Anti-Medical Model
The biggest criticism of this film will inevitably be that it is anti-medical model. However, the people that say that aren’t fully paying attention. In my experience, people are quick to play the “you’re anti-psychiatry” or “anti-medication” or “anti-medical model” card. It gives them permission to stop listening and allows them to stay stuck where it feels safe and familiar. It allows them to go about business as usual, and not go through the discomfort of contemplating change.
Accepting the true message of the film would mean having to admit we don’t have all the answers. It would mean acknowledging that we’ve given or received incomplete or flatly incorrect information for a long time. It would mean that some well-intentioned people who are highly educated have done harm when they thought they were helping.
It would mean a loss of income for pharmaceutical companies who thrive on the message that virtually everyone can benefit from some sort of pill. It would mean we don’t have easy explanations for why some really scary things happen. It would mean we have to say “I don’t know why,” a hell of a lot more. And sadly, it would mean that some of us will find ourselves asking, “You’re telling me I didn’t have to live like this for all these years?”
No, the message of the film is not anti-medical model. But the film does call for recognition of the pain the medical model has caused. That pain has been caused not so much by its existence but because of the force and dishonesty with which it has been applied. Were there more transparency about the medical model being just one of many options, about the lack of definitive scientific proof for its claims, about the true benefits and risks of psychiatric drugs… Well, then, it would just be another tool in the tool box that we could try or not try, use or discard.
The Message is…
The film’s message is one of freedom. It is one of the right to tell your own story and choose your own path (including the medical model), or to meander about across many paths as works for you. In order to create equal access to all the paths, we do need to recognize the oppressive ways that the medical model has been and continues to be applied and the legal, financial and other system structures that have become dependent upon it. We need to cut it down to size, so to speak, but we needn’t erase it altogether.
I will not claim that the medical model has not been helpful to some, at least at certain points in their lives. It has. There are too many supporting stories. For me to argue otherwise would be just as arrogant as any other wholly black-and-white approach. But I will say that even some of those stories exist as they do for lack of other options being made known and yet others claim “help” based on watered down dreams realigned with the assumption of chronic illness.
However, if we peel those away, still more remain saying the medical model and many of its accouterments did help. Then there are the many stories of those who have had to fight hard for their right to reach the other perspectives that once seemed virtually invisible behind a giant named biopsychiatry. Those people are the revolutionaries that will lead us to the truth of not knowing and the freedom of choice.
Those people are the apples that fell up or who are on their way in that direction.
And the Trailer Says…
Although I bear no illusion that this film will change the world, I hope it will be a part of the tapestry that does. Please share this trailer with others and look for the film for sale on the Western Mass RLC website coming soon.
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.