On August 15, 2014, McGill-Queens University Press published Psychiatry Disrupted: Theorizing Resistance and Crafting the (R)evolution. The work is a collection of papers by various authors, edited by Bonnie Burstow, Brenda A. LeFrançois, and Shaindl Diamond. There is a Foreword by Paula Caplan, and a Preface by Kate Millett.
It is no secret that there is growing opposition to psychiatry. No longer marginalized and ignored, as in former decades, anti-psychiatry writers are proclaiming psychiatry’s spurious and destructive nature in a wide range of venues. Even the mainstream media is taking tentative steps in our direction.
But there is also a growing awareness within our movement that speaking out against psychiatry’s abuses is not enough. Increasingly, we are hearing the question: what can we do about it? And in this respect, Psychiatry Disrupted is timely and welcome. This book does indeed criticize psychiatry, but it goes beyond criticism, and addresses the crucially important question: what can we do to stop it?
Here are the titles and authors of the fourteen chapters, with a quote from each one:
1. Impassioned Praxis: An Introduction to Theorizing Resistance to Psychiatry, by Bonnie Burstow and Brenda LeFrançois
“Children are being massively over-drugged as a result of the complex relationships between pharmaceutical companies vested capitalist interests and child psychiatry’s subsequently entwined influence over parents, carers, and other professionals working with children (such as within social work, nursing, and education).”
2. Becoming Perpetrator: How I came to Accept Restraining and Confining Disabled Aboriginal Children, by Chris Chapman
“And what held all the violence, care, and rationalization at the treatment centre together as sensible, but which has no secure foundation, is the myth of achieving an enduring state of normalcy, free from emotional discomfort, even in the face of violence and oppression. The children and staff were both disciplined toward this imaginary state, parallel to one another, but distinctly. Following restraints, we ‘debrief’ new staff to help them feel at peace with perpetrating these forms of violence; and then we ‘processed’ with the child who had just been restrained, requiring them to accept ‘full responsibility’ for having individually caused the entire situation (see Jenkins 1990).”
3. The Withering Away of Psychiatry: An Attrition Model for Antipsychiatry, by Bonnie Burstow
“The power of psychiatry, its continual growth, its ever more tenacious entrenchment in the state is a brutal reality and not one for which we bear responsibility. I would like to suggest, however, that antipsychiatry is also floundering because it has no model or models to guide its action.”
4. Psychology Politics Resistance: Theoretical Practice in Manchester, by Ian Parker
“Women are expected to be as busy ministering to the needs of others in their workplace as they are at home, and the ’emotional labour’ they undertake leads to deeper and more draining forms of alienation. Women, and the men who learn from them how to behave nicely to customers and clients at work, are thus expected to engage more fully in their work and the stage is set for more pressure and more personal breakdowns for those who are eventually unable to cope.”
5. From Subservience to Resistance: Nursing versus Psychiatry, by Simon Adam
“Why is it that despite the obvious ethical violations psychiatry commits, nurses remain silent? What are the institutional conditions under which this silence comes to be?”
6. Developing Partnerships to Resist Psychiatry within Academia, by Peter Beresford and Robert Menzies
“When it comes to psychiatry and mental ‘health,’ the vision advanced by the champions of biogenetic psychiatry and new realist mental health is abidingly neoliberal. The new discourse constructs a psychiatric subject who stands in contrast to the robust, autonomous, trustworthy, self-governing citizen of the liberal dream. This psychiatrically outcast subject is an alien, an object of sympathy, and/or derision (or simply an object), a victim of a ‘broken brain’ (Andreasen 1985), a being to be spoken and written about (but who cannot take part in the dialogue herself), and above all else, ‘a problem’ (DuBois 2005) to be risk-monitored and rehabilitated through the application of law, science, and technology.”
7. “We Do Not Want to Be Split Up From Our Family”: Group Home Tenants Amidst Land Use Conflict, by Chava Finkler
“Language that emphasizes dependence as a prominent psychiatric survivor trait reflects an outlook based on the privilege of able-bodiedness and wealth.”
8. Disability Divisions, Definitions, and Disablism: When Resisting Psychiatry is Oppressive, by A. J. Withers
“Another reason that psychiatrized people resist inclusion within the disability label is the view that disability is permanent.”
9. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Liberation from Psychiatric Oppression, by Tina Minkowitz
“The recognition of forced and non-consensual psychiatric interventions as torture represents in itself a step towards reparation of the harm done by these acts of violence.”
10. Deeply Engaged Relationships: Alliance between Mental Health Workers and Psychiatric Survivors in the UK, by Mick McKeown, Mark Cresswell, and Helen Spandler
“After all, the survivor movement has a noble history of its own in providing a persuasive, reasoned, and moral critique of bio-psychiatry and an equally compelling vision for change. These kinds of discussions, debates, and alliances are happening in various contexts internationally.”
11. Trans Jeopardy/Trans Resistance: Shaindl Diamond Interviews Ambrose Kirby, by Ambrose Kirby
“But the point is that people are still being directed to go through the hoops of psychiatrists to get access to medical transition. And it’s clear that psychiatry is holding onto the right to classify and determine the best course of action for us.”
12. Taking it Public: Use Art to Make Healing a Public Narrative, by Rosemary Barnes and Susan Schellenberg
“Equating emotional pain to mental illness functions to suppress other possibilities, other meanings, and other stories for naming and responding to such pain.”
13. Feminist Resistance against the Medicalization of Humanity: Integrating Knowledge about Psychiatric Oppression and Marginalized People, by Shaindl Diamond
“As institutional psychiatry grows in power, more and more people are coming into contact with the psychiatric system and are being labeled and subjected to different types of psychiatric intervention.”
14. Sly Normality: Between Quiescence and Revolt, by China Mills
“Pretending to be normal – mimicking – seems to emerge in the stories of those who have survived the psychiatric system as a tactic, a strategy of deception that enables some freedoms, at a cost.”
Psychiatry Disrupted is a compelling, thought-provoking volume for anyone interested in this field. Please read and pass on.
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This article first appeared on Philip Hickey’s website,
Behaviorism and Mental Health
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.