For everyone who goes on psychiatric drugs, the reason comes back to power imbalances in their personal life. Women who’s husbands “make all of the money” and have an unequal share of the power, kids who’s parents have power over them—frequently people who have less money and security, therefore less platform for authority than those around them. Mental illness is not in fact an illness but an unequal division of power and sense of security in a social group.
Almost everyone I speak to who has been labeled also just happens to be the one in their family with the least amount of money and resources. So are mental health diagnoses a form of class warfare and income discrimination? I’ve never met someone labeled mentally ill who was without abundant offerings and gifts, only those whose contributions hadn’t been recognized. Not recognizing a certain individuals’ place in the world is a sign of a blind spot we have as a society, unless we believe some people are “extras,” born into the world without a reason.
Would mental illness be able to survive without the food of capitalism? If everyone was guaranteed basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and their choice of health care, where would mental illness fit in? Is it possible we can squeeze mental illness out by creating a cooperative society that includes everyone, determined to draw out the offerings of every individual, unwilling to discard anyone?
In the past couple of months I’ve been looking for new housing at the same time as starting a new business and living with a room mate I don’t enjoy. I’ve thought many times of how having a home and a certain amount of money in my bank account and certain daily routines, including ample time alone, are necessary for my sense of stability (and sanity?). I don’t think a lot about sanity since I’m not sure what it is, but I do know that my ability to be calm, clear and centered feels fragile sometimes. Sometimes it feels so dependent on the right balance of so many different factors that my belief in a Higher Power is affirmed when it occurs at all! Fragile and sensitive as I feel much of the time, when I leave my hermitage and go out into the denser world, amongst people who don’t seem to need daily meditation, hours of quiet solitude and writing each day, organic whole foods, clean air, non-toxic medicine etc. etc. I can feel like a fish out of water. Still the sturdier, “less fragile” seeming people I see rarely strike me as sane—in fact I often feel insane around them. And when we call someone insane isn’t it because we feel insane around them? Whether this is a reflection of me or them may be debatable, but there is a different vibration, one that is out of touch with sensitivity and seems to be going from one addiction to the next. Is this the mental health we are striving for? Normalcy? No.
First of all, if you are in America, a good number of the people you see everyday and think are normal are probably on psychiatric drugs since over 49 million of us (and counting) are on them. Second, most people who seem normal or even well, have their own misery underneath. The mental illness model encourages a lot of belly button gazing where people feel there is something inherently wrong with or different about them. Yet happy, balanced people are the anomaly—in fact I’m not sure if I’ve met any in years. In a society that rejects such a high percentage of the population as mentally ill, it is hard for anyone to be balanced. We have lost a good percentage of the social resources available to us!
When I see first hand the intensity of our suffering due to the dominant paradigm of class oppression, and see how widespread this condition is, I know we need safer spaces for people going through transformation. How can one heal in the throes of being controlled by those with more socio-economic power? The number of people suffering at the hand of psychiatric drugs is enough to make many depressed just thinking about it. Yet, it is a reflection of the larger power imbalances in our culture, including gender, class, race, and age and the many power manipulating nuances that go along with each of these. Addressing injustices in the mental health system MUST go hand in hand with the other power imbalances we are struggling with as they are the root cause of psychiatric evils.