Help Write a Psychiatric Survivor Manifesto

Corinna West
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As part of the planning team for Kansas City’s part of the national mental health discussions, I’ve been able to help revise the biased discussion guide and to add event ideas to include our diverse perspectives and information about medical harm. I’ve also been able to compile this list of what people in the mental health civil rights movement have learned. This includes many local examples of peer programs. It would be ideal if one of our community members in each of the other main discussion cities could copy out this document, then adapt it to their region, then get it to the planning teams in those cities.

My original document was intended for just Kansas City. How do we make this more of a consensus document, a one-pager we can get to all audiences to promote sanity in mental health care? What needs to be added, deleted? What offends you? What is too weak or too strong? You can comment below or use the editable document in the Alternatives Facebook discussion group and change the document yourself. The document we’re creating is the rest of this post but it’s not in block quotes in the interest of readability.

Complete Recovery from Life Adversity with Peer support and links to Personal Power

There are many reasons for extreme emotional states or biocognitive challenges. These often come directly from life situations that overwhelm a person’s social supports. Increased community engagement and mental health prevention can greatly reduce costs, improve human rights, and increase recovery rates. A model that views all emotional distress as a chemical illness which is best chemically treated has scientific limitations. This “disease model” approach, also called the “medical model,” has been shown to help some people, but it harms many others, and it may be increasing the amount of disability in our country. Instead, we want people who have completely recovered from mental health crises to share what was most effective for them. We can help our peers strengthen social supports, find someone who’s been there before, and link people to their personal power. We know how to come through the fire. We’ve done it.

This is a summary compiled by people in the mental health civil rights movement. Some of us call ourselves psychiatric survivors; those who have survived psychiatric treatment, not the “illness.” Many of us have found scientific evidence and our own personal experiences showing that emotional distress is not an illness. We have found recovery using a variety of approaches and methods, but here are several concepts of hope and empowerment repeated in many of our personal stories.

Six ideas for complete mental health recovery compiled from psychiatric survivors.

1) Use prevention services instead of crisis-only services. This avoids a repeat of negative experiences based on coercion and force. Up to 40% of people admitted to a mental hospital have never received any kind of peer support or community care, which would greatly lower treatment costs. Peer support centers like nationally recognized S.I.D.E. in Kansas City, KS, have been able to increasingly carry this first contact burden through recent budget cuts.

2) Focus on recovery and wellness. Over 60% of the early mortality to people with mental health labels is due to preventable physical illness. Focusing on total body health, with choices made by each service recipient, greatly improves outcomes. The mental health center coalition in Kansas City hosted a walking challenge where agencies competed to post the most steps taken,, and many participants got to see their city in a whole new way. Also, use existing community services like sports or hobby or faith based activities. A day of community mental health center treatment is 1/16 the cost of jail treatment, and 1/40the cost of a day in a mental hospital. But finding support and encouragement already in the community, before people are completely overwhelmed and seeking medications and diagnoses, is an even more powerful source of cost savings.

3) Let people know that emotional distress can be temporary and transformative. There are very many valid definitions of recovery, but “all this goes away,” is still the most hopeful and encouraging. Let people meet mental health care graduates and learn their methods. Poetry for Personal Power is a Missouri statewide stigma reduction program where hip hop artists and spoken-word poets share that emotional distress can come from many resolvable sources. These include trauma, lack of social connection, job fit or career goals, grief or loss of hope, spiritual unrest, drug use, nutrition or self-care habits, or brain injury. According to national advocate Duane Sherry, “Psychosis is an event, not a person.”

4) Used nuanced approaches to medication. We ask for fully informed medication use, where all people get honest information about long term efficacy, the risk of worsening a situation, the link between violence and medication use, and the difficulty of medication withdrawal. Without a complete assessment of this data, none of the decisions made in mental health care are very accurate. Wellness Wordworks, a Mind Freedom affiliate in Kansas City, has shared extensive information about safe, supported and meticulously planned medication reduction strategies. Community mental health centers that shared this information and monitored doctors who repeatedly violated good clinical practice could greatly reduce medication costs. If a life situation caused a person’s emotional distress, the solution will likely be a life situation change, not a chemical change.

5) Genetic research should have peer input and honest reporting. The vast majority of mental health research funding goes towards a “disease model” perspective. There is limited use in searching for physical causes of emotional distress in complete separation from a person’s life situations. Reports should be honest that a genetic correlation report is meaningless unless both linkage and association studies can be paired. Truman’s Prime Time peer support center instead has participated in research that was presented last week on a national webinar to show how all peer support centers can improve their services to promote recovery.

6) Give people in emotional distress a map out of that distress: 1) know that handling adversity is universal human experience, 2) talk to people who have been there before 3) resolve the overwhelming life situations, and 4) find what gives you Personal Power. The Common Ground program at the Wyandot Mental Health Center shares stories of personal power gathered by Patricia Deegan, a person who completely recovered from schizophrenia.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Corinna,

    Great post.

    In regard to the “nuanced” approach toward medication, I think the starting point is to stop calling them “medications”. This pamphlet from the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry explains.

    IMO, “informed consent” begins with replacing the term “medication” with “drug.” And, as sad as it is, an informed adult should be able to decide to take a drug.

    Duane

  2. Refuse to fill out inventories to grease the slide to diagnosis and medication. If a mental health professional cannot look at you, listen to you, and treat you like a human being who can account for yourself, then they aren’t helping, no matter how convinced they are that they want to help you.

    • For many people, the “I want to help people” thing is not so much about other people as it is fulfilling a need in the helper to feel needed and important. Many people in the “helping professions” do not have any idea that this is the driving force behind their “work” and not knowing this can be a dangerous thing for those on the receiving end of the so-called “help.” And then you have those in the “helping professions” who are there because they have the “Truth” and they’re going to be sure that everyone else gets a good dose of it, for their own good, of course!

  3. I think it should be mentioned somewhere that coercive psychiatric practices should be abolished. I have yet to meet a single psychiatric survivor that justifies coercive psychiatry.

    Maybe I haven’t talked to enough survivors or something, but certainly ignoring the fact that all evils in psychiatry lie in its status as a legally sanctioned coercive force is to ignore the big elephant in the room.

    By “coercion” I don’t mean only the two most obvious issues: civil commitment and forced drugging. I mean that a psychiatrist’s opinion has bearing in legal proceedings both civil (like divorce battles) and criminal.

    There are plenty of non scientific disciplines whose “alleged” efficacy is in the same range as psychiatry’s: astrology, homeopathy, acupuncture or “nutrition based” approaches. Some, like homeopathy, include the use of medications. However, none of those specialties has an organized group of survivors against it. The same is true of other “official branches” of medicine.

    The main differentiator between astrology, oncology, immunology, acupuncture, nutrition or cardiology AND psychiatry is that psychiatry can be legally imposed into innocent victims while none of the other can (regardless of whether they are recognized as scientific-like oncology- or pseudo scientific -like homeopathy).

    Some people might aspire to a better “psychiatry”, whatever that means, but any honest conversation about this matter should begin by acknowledging that everything that is wrong with psychiatry lies in its coercive powers.

  4. Psychiatric Survivor Manifesto, how about this ?

    The 12 Steps Of Anti psychiatry

    RARELY HAVE we seen a person who has thoroughly followed the psychiatric path and recovered. Those who do recover are usually people who have recognized Psychiatry as a dangerous atheist cult, and will not give themselves completely to Psychiatry’s fanatical program. The Psychiatry Cult is constituted primarily of men and women of the APA who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with anyone… including themselves .

    We are not at fault; WE were screwed the second we sat on the leather couch and then took those first pills. We were systematically indoctrinated into believing that we have a biologically based brain defect with no test or procedure to prove this. Psychiatrists should be held accountable for the behavior that has ruined so many lives. Many APA members suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders. The psychiatric program requires that they believe emotional problems are biological brain defects that people can never recover from and they must take dangerous pills for the rest of there lives. Most of the people who quit Psychiatry have recovered in large part, due to their self-determination and ability to think and act rationally. Our stories disclose in a general way what We used to be like, what happened, and what We are like now.

    If You have decided You want to leave Psychiatry and are willing to go to any lengths to do it – then You are ready to take certain steps.

    At some of these We were delighted. We were sure that We had found a more sound and reasonable way. With all of the earnestness at our command, We encourage You to be resolute and confident from the very start. Some of Us have tried to hold on to Our old Psychiatric ideas and the result was nil until We let go absolutely. Remember that WE deal with Psychiatry – cunning, baffling, dishonest! Continuing the mental masturbation was too much for Us.

    May You trust and believe in Yourself now! Belief in psychiatric nonsense availed Us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We learned to protect and care for Ourselves with complete Self-acceptance. Here are the steps We took which are encouraged as a course of action to escape the Psychiatric mind trap…

    1. We decided We were not “biologically defective” – that Our lives had become dominated by Psychiatry.

    2. Came to understand that we never had a biological brain defect as psychiatric fundamentalists had led us to believe.

    3. Made a decision to turn and walk away from Psychiatry forever.

    4. Made a scorching and fearless indictment against Psychiatry as an organization.

    5. Admitted to Ourselves and another Human Being that we had been ambushed into joining an atheist cult called psychiatry .

    6. Were entirely ready to relieve ourselves of the self-defeating bullsh^t and lies we were taught by Psychiatry.

    7. Familiarized Ourselves with cult indoctrination tactics in order that we may never fall into a similar trap again.

    8. Made a list of all mental health workers who had harmed us, and became willing to confront them all.

    9. Called such people on their bullsh^t whenever possible, except when to do so would physically injure them or others real bad.

    10. Continued to indict Psychiatry and when we were wronged promptly expressed our disapproval of it.

    11. Sought scientific empirical evidence that could help us to defeat there bullsh^t and lies; focusing on truth as the Power to carry that out.

    12. Having been awakened from the Psychiatric nightmare as a result of these steps, We tried to carry this message to other victims of Psychiatry, so that everyone might know the truth about the Psychiatric cult and big pharma’s lies.

    • In the same vein, these ideas are the prime reason that I believe that a legal strategy against psychiatry based on the violation of the Establishment Clause ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Establishment_Clause ) of the first amendment should have a very high change of making it to the US Supreme Court, especially in the aftermath of the Insel initiated crisis.

      Since psychiatry is basically an unscientific belief system, its adoption by government is, without a doubt, a violation of the first amendment even in cases of non coercive psychiatry. With psychiatry, our government is affirming the veracity of a particular religion and promoting it.

  5. Although I appreciate what I have found here at MIA, all or nothing doesn’t work for me. I have had wonderful (not drugged) support over many years to help navigate life as I perceive it. It came from the mental health profession. In fact, in the 70s, my psychiatrist helped me find the tools among my personal resources to ride the waves. When I took drugs, it was temporary. Actually, I chose a lot more recreational drugs than I have ever been expected to take.

    My therapist has gone where I go without challenging my thinking or perceptions.

    My mother did what you recommended, then took her own life.

    I was in the women’s movement when some women were considered sell-outs for shaving their legs or wearing make-up and nail polish. They liked those things and chose to do them. Any civil rights movement, IMO, is only as strong as it is embracing of individual choice. That includes working with supportive mental health professionals who don’t give me “the Look” (scrutiny, questioning, evaluation) and trust what I’m saying is true.

    Yes, I have been placed in a coercive setting, several times. I have experienced what is evil about it. I believe in a better model that includes choices and avoids all or nothing since that is the problem with the current system.