I’m not sure how it works in other parts of the world, but I do know that here in the US a central message of our culture is to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, toughen up, and stop blaming others for your problems. If you’re poor, it’s your fault. If you’re sad, you’re a baby. If you ask for help, you’re a moocher demanding a handout. Independence, lack of emotion or vulnerability, and material wealth are what most of us are taught to strive for, above and beyond most anything. This is the ideal of mental health. On the other hand, displays of melancholy, pain, fear, or uncertainty are not only spurned, but they often have dire consequences.
Men are told from the youngest of ages to “stop being such a sissy” and “learn to be a man.” They learn to swallow their tears and mask their pain lest they get beaten by their peers or marginalized as being “a girl.” Forget about actually being a girl. When “acting like a girl” is a mortal insult, it becomes quite clear the less-than human nature of femininity and womanhood. And if a woman dares to be more “manly” she is viewed as “butch” or its close cousin, “bitch.” Women who are sexually assaulted are blamed, and if they suffer years later are told they are “playing the victim.” Black people and other minorities are told they are “too sensitive” for demanding the end to systematic racism (as are advocates from many civil rights movements). If someone cannot hide their pain or scream in agony, they are shipped off to be “dealt with” by mental health professionals. There is absolutely no room for empathy or compassion in our modern society, let alone an acknowledgement of grief, sorrow, oppression, and trauma.
The rapidly increased rates of diagnosable mental illness may have been partially driven by greed, corporate interests, prestige, and consequences of drugging the masses with toxic chemicals known to cause many of the problems they purport to assist. Many authors, such as Robert Whitaker, have certainly made cases for all of these factors. Yet, greed and corporate tyranny can only exist when there is demand.
Rarely is there open discussion about the very nature of the dehumanized society that leads people to hide, suppress, and internalize pain; that leads people to isolation and profound loneliness; that results in fear of others’ pain and explosions of rage and violence. We are taught from our nativity to hate ourselves. Lamentably, this suppression, denial, and isolation only lead to amplified pain and loneliness; a never-ending cycle of increasing emotional turmoil that eventually, for many, leads to break-downs and crises. The result? A society that clings to the relief of being diagnosed and drugged. People rejoice when they can finally have someone, especially someone in authority say “Yes, your pain is real and you are not alone.”
Increasingly, people labeled with mental illnesses are coming out publicly to demand they no longer live in shame. Sadly, it seems the only way that individuals can appeal for empathy, understanding, and room to feel their emotional distress is through identification with a diagnostic label. In so doing, of course, it serves to further delegitimize the suffering of many others, it increases “stigma” (i.e., prejudice), it increases the likelihood of chronic problems for many, serves to reinforce the idea that “other” people do harmful things on purpose while those with “real illnesses” are passive victims to some brain disease (even though no evidence has ever existed that such a disease exists, while there are consistent promises it will be found one day). The rhetoric and illusory explanations that provide validation for long-suppressed emotional suffering is like sweet, succulent candy. It is incredibly difficult to resist; food poisoning (i.e., psychiatric traumatization) may be one of the few ways of finding the willpower to do so.
If I cannot sleep at night, hate myself, and fear intimacy because I was beaten and told I was worthless as a child, then I am seen as immature, a crybaby, blaming my parents for my problems, selfish, and unable to deal with life. Yet, when I say “I have PTSD” or “Bipolar Disorder,” suddenly I have a reason to feel this way. Someone finally gets me. There is renewed hope that someone will not only care, but can help me. For the first time in my life I can rejoice that I am not “bad,” just “sick.” And no one can accuse me of doing it all on purpose. As an added bonus, my family and society are off the hook, too, for they have nothing to do with my internal brain disease; they merely triggered its occurrence. The status quo is saved.
Trying to rip away the shred of hope and integrity the mental health system offers is like trying to strip off a waterproof bandage from a gaping wound. Too many people are suffering without recognition, compassion, or connection. Most people have nowhere to go when their mask wears away. If we started to recognize that pain and suffering is universal, and that those who are the angriest, cruelest, “craziest” or most difficult to be around are usually those who are suffering the greatest, how would any of us bear it? The concept of mental illness saves us from questioning the way things are; it provides comfort and an impression of caring; there is always somewhere to go and someone to turn to when one no longer has the strength to fight; it allows for escape from blame (and sometimes from any sense of responsibility for one’s actions at all); it maintains an illusion of fairness and righteousness in the world; and provides hope that our pain can be relieved through treatment. It doesn’t matter that the entire enterprise is built on false promises and an invalid, unscientific “evidence-base” of brain disorders that actually has virtually no evidence base at all.
We have seen what happens when a non-medical, non-judgmental approach is offered for people even in the most extreme states of despair. Soteria, especially during its original insurrection, demonstrated equal to — if not greater — results in helping people get through crises labelled as “schizophrenic,” with little-to-no drugs and a supportive, house-like atmosphere. Open Dialogue, in Finland, is a respectful approach that acknowledges the influence of family dynamics and the importance of inclusion and autonomy, and also uses little to no drugs or formal diagnoses. They have the best outcomes in the world for so-called schizophrenia. Mindfulness, exercise, and companionship are far more effective ways to aide those suffering depressed and hopeless states regain motivation, joy, and opportunity. And, more than anything, trauma-informed approaches to helping people grow and heal are being sought out desperately by people experiencing a range of states of distress, including hearing voices, suicidality, and altered states of reality.
Imagine, though, if we, as a society, started recognizing trauma, pain, grief, fear, the need for connection and understanding, and oppression without defensiveness or denial. What if, hypothetically, we saw the signs in people who were “defiant,” “withdrawn,” “oppositional,” “depressed,” “manic,” or otherwise as desperate pleas to have their needs met, and stopped telling them they were sick for doing so? What would a society that actually encouraged expression of emotion, compassion, and empathy look like? What if we stopped insisting that people keep tugging on those damned boot straps, welcomed “sissies” as powerful figures of conscientiousness, and didn’t insist people “just get over it”? Is that even possible? I don’t know. But, if it is, what might happen then? I sure would like to know; but, then, my idealistic yearnings may just be a reflection of my chronic tendency to “act like a girl.”
* * * * *
Nice article Noel.
It reminds me of an article I just read about the increasing death rate in America relative to other nations:
America is in many ways a profoundly emotionally unhealthy country where the culture discourages dependence, emotional closeness, openness, “weakness”, and vulnerability.
A couple more links:
Charles Hugh Smith’s brilliant analysis of how American society is permeated by harmful myths that our government repeatedly promotes as “simulacrums”, like the candy Noel describes:
And a book I read about how 13-16 year old boys are gradually stripped of their ability to be open and vulnerable by the demands of our culture: http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Secrets-Friendships-Crisis-Connection/dp/0674072421/
Now, responding a little more to the article itself, I could not agree more!
The disgusting notion that one must identify as “having a mental illness” (i.e. an incurable brain disease) in order to “come out” and be accepted is simultaneously pathetic and extremely harmful, in all the ways Noel described.
When I hear people say, “I’m not ashamed of my bipolar” or “I am a proud person living with schizophrenia”, my emotional response is: “You are an ignorant idiot”, although I wouldn’t say that. I have to remind myself how uneducated many of these people are about the (lack of valid) research on psychiatric diagnoses and on causal factors for human distress, and how powerful denial can be.
Noel, enjoyed very much reading this – you have such a powerful clear voice. If things are to change then many, many people must start talking more openly about trauma, oppression, and the elephants that get hidden in the room like child abuse etc, as well as exposing the utter lack of validity and the harms of the disease model. We cannot just hope for things to change but must start actively engaging the relatively small amounts of people – hundreds or maybe even thousands – that we can each individually engage and reach the hearts of each year…. and trust that they will in turn advocate for a more human way of looking at trauma and distress to their networks. The powers that be are certainly not motivated to change the status quo at all; we must be the change.
You kinda did just say it. Seeking to fill a human need does not mean that people are ignorant or idiotic.
From the article:
I mean I don’t say it to their face, uprising. I was in NAMI meetings many years ago when people said these things; that’s why I left.
Seeking to fill human needs does not necessarily mean people are ignorant, but the two can go together. People who are unaware of the lack of validity of psychiatric diagnosis can be more easily harmed by what psychiatry has to offer, in that they seek to fill their needs for an explanation of their suffering, but without being aware of the fallacious nature of the explanations nor the long-term harms they may expose themselves to as a consequence of believing they have a lifelong brain disease and/or taking antipsychotic drugs. It’s not their fault, and they can change their thinking; that’s why it’s important to spread the counter-messages to the viewpoint that extreme suffering is a symptom incurable brain disease requiring “medication”. But many people are very ignorant in this way and it is sad and harmful.
Would we say, “I’m a proud monster!” or “I’m not ashamed of being genetic garbage”?
People view “the mentally ill” as monsters and genetics gone awry, so that’s essentially what folks at NAMI and DBSA meetings are saying when they own up to their phony diagnoses.
I pity, rather than get angry at them though. I used to be one of them.
It is ulimately what is most human in us that is the driving force behind the most terrible things.
We are absolutly starved for recognition.
I sometimes see people on social media, and they spread their suffering in all directions. They scream it out. See Snead Oconor’s posts for example.
Are they ridden of the suffering through this practice?
It doesn’t seem so to me. What they seek is in reality not the uni-directional scream, but an actual real conversion involving their whole self and so the other’s whole self.
But starvation leads to eating binges, and dire lack of recognition leads to these acts, which in turn preserve the need itself.
I see it a most vicious circle.
Here’s the picture I have imagined. “Empathic Civilization in an Age of Trauma”: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-relating-existing/201111/empathic-civilization-in-age-trauma
Your article, Robert, somewhat synopsized my spiritual journey / “mental illness.” I was initially drugged for innately knowing 9.11.2001 was desperately wrong, and by psych practitioners who like to profiteer off of covering up child abuse for my ex-religion. The drugs made me ungodly sick, via anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning, but I was eventually weaned off of them. Although, I went through a couple drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic “psychoses” / awakenings to my dreams, before I was able to totally become drug free.
During these awakenings I learned of the theorized collective unconscious. And there were many within it who were on my side, many who made up an “empathetic civilization,” or what was called the ‘mutual respect society’ within my “psychosis” / awakening. They essentially battled the “evil” within, reminding me my doctor was wrong when he claimed I was “irrelevant to reality.” Reminding me of all the wonderful people I’d met in my life. Reminding me that the majority within the collective, too, did not care for the current status quo, the ongoing terrorization of America since 9.11.
During this time of trying to heal, unfortunately my husband had been brainwashed by my former doctors into believing I had a “lifelong, incurable, genetic mental illness,” so he behaved badly. He took insider information from his brother who worked in the banking industry, resulting in my husband taking all my money out of our home via a predatory loan. Long story short, while in the psychologically unstable position of trying to heal from the anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings, I dealt with tons of familial and corporate thievery. If I recall correctly, I ended up being party to about 18 class action lawsuits, due to corporate shenanigans during that time. My husband also unexpectedly died during this chaotic time, leaving me to help my young children cope with his untimely death, and clean up the financial mess he had created. But trust me, I know all about the crimes of the bankers that resulted in the financial crisis.
Thereafter, however, I was able to find a respite, which allowed me to heal more. And I’ve noticed as time has gone by there are more and more people who share my distaste for the current status quo, a world controlled by what Thomas Jefferson forewarned us about, the “central banks and corporations that will grow up around them” that are behaving as psychopaths and destroying this planet. Google “The Corporation” for a good documentary pointing out part of the problem.
And absolutely, the problem is a “mentally ill” society. It is highly unwise for us to allow “psychopaths” to rule our world, be they human psychopaths or corporations. Truly, the answer is to break up these large corporations and industries, and bring about actual competitive markets worldwide, which is our governments’ job. Although, sadly, our government is owned by the current monied powers that be, google federal reserve conspiracy to learn more about how that happened. And these monied powers want the opposite, since they believe “competition is a sin.” What to do?
We need to evolve past the materialistic only, greed only mentality being propagandized by the current monied powers that be, and move towards an understanding that we are all connected, thus mutual respect is imperative. We need to stop competing, and learn to cooperate with one another. I agree with you, Noel. We are currently living in a society in which paternalism has run amok, and respect of women is near nonexistent, being a girl is “an insult.” My male doctor actually declared me to be “w/o work, content, and talent” prior to seeing my work. And after seeing my work, he conceded it was “work of smart female,” and he even conceded that I was “insightful.” What kind of inane paternalism does it take, to judge a person prior to seeing that person’s work?
What the “materialistic” need to understand is that the left brain, which deals with the materialistic, “does not know what it does not know.” But the right brain, which deals with the intuitive, understands the importance of the analytic and materialistic world, but sees the bigger picture, too. At least more and more people are “awakening,” thanks to the internet.
I do agree, Robert, that Bush and Obama have functioned as false prophets or puppets, of sorts. But, since I’m a Christian, I don’t necessarily agree with your philosophy that a “resurrective grandiosity,” or in other words a hope in a savior, is always necessarily a bad thing. But I do believe such hope would necessitate the “empathetic” within civilization work with God to bring about a better world. Thus I do agree, “If we can help one another bear the darkness rather than evade it, perhaps one day we will be able to see the light.”
And this is what the decent within the collective unconscious seemingly did to help me heal, they helped me awaken to who my subconscious self is. But I’m still just a “Sister Christian motorin'” along on my spiritual journey in search of “the light.” But I’m also doing what I am able in the meantime, in the hopes of helping to bring about a better world for all of us. And we all need to work towards the betterment of all within humanity. We need a mutually respectful society in real life. And this is 100% the opposite of today’s psychiatric theology of defame, tranquilize, and torture anyone we can get our hands on, for profit.
Thank you, Noel, for speaking with intuitive wisdom, as always.
The trouble I find is that many trauma advocates want to preach about ACES scores and neurobiology. However campaigns to preach biogenetic trauma explanations and the ACE study outcomes are likely harmful. For exactly the reasons that campaigns to preach “mental illness” neurobiology is harmful. Because people see the trauma changes as permanent.
A thin veneer of resilience info on top of a pile of neurobiology isn’t likely to make the problem with biogenetic attibution go away. I am struggling to explain this to the trauma advocates.
Corinna, I agree – when certain trauma advocates start talking about neurobiology, I see it as just another way to call it all a “brain disease,” and I completely reject that approach. I’m tired of hearing people ask psychiatrists about what drugs are best for trauma.
I agree completely and similarly have found this to be frustrating. It’s like no matter what you say or what evidence you put forth, people will continue to hear “illness” and “brain disease”. The link I put in above under “brain disorders” (http://psychintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/White-Paper-Brain-Scan-Research.pdf) was a paper I wrote with a colleague that covers a lot of this (but, it’s also really long and boring).
I was wondering what you think of psychotherapeutic interventions based on neurological theories like EMDR for trauma specifically. Do you support them or are you skeptical?
In general related to therapy, I think that emotional distress is a universal human experience. So, expecting that everyone who has emotional distress, should work it out one on with a person who has seven years of student loans to pay off? That sounds unsustainable. We need other capacity building options.
In specific related to EMDR, I dunno, I haven’t done the research. I know Scott Moore at KU has shown that 85% of the benefit of therapy comes from the relationship. And you can build therapeutic relationships for $4 an hour, like Big Brothers and Big Sisters does. Or for free like your local football coach and Scout Leader does.
Hi Corinna, I’d like to discuss this issue more with you. In general, I’m wary of anything that gets labeled as a brain disease. Increasingly, this is happening with drug and alcohol use. I teach service providers about trauma and do include material about ACES and the lasting impact trauma can have on the brain. I think that this helps people recognize that many behaviors we see in people who have experienced trauma are caused by changes to their body and brain–not intentional choices they are making to be “difficult”. Many of those “difficult” traumatic responses or symptoms are attempts to cope and get needs met. These are behaviors that are learned over time and despite causing some problems may have value/function at different points. For instance, being slow to trust new people can have benefit. But, not being able to trust anyone results in isolation and disconnection.
So, how do you think I can balance being able to take about the impact that traumatic events have on the body and brain while making it clear that it is not permanent? My main thought is, as traumatic responses are learned behaviors, new behaviors can also be learned. Trauma is experiential. People need to experience safety, control and connection before they can know those things are still possible in their world. I’d love to hear your thoughts or Noel.
Noel, great article by the way. I too often wonder about how different our society would be if we all just understood trauma and its lasting impact on individuals and communities.
Thanks, Nicole, for this important piece!
I’m sorry, mistyped your name, Noel!
Thanks, Darby! And, I’m so used to people calling me “Nicole” that I stopped even noticing long ago. You are in good company 🙂
Trauma is, absolutely, one of the major causes of alleged “mental disorders.” As a psychotherapist, I can dig into a person’s history just for a few minutes and nearly always arrive at an explanation for why they ended up “depressed,” or “anxious,” etc.
But it does not doom a person to a lifelong diagnosis and I clearly communicate this to my clients. Many are helped tremendously when their experience is normalized and explained as NOT due to brain malfunctioning, but to life experiences. This gives them hope, as it should.
When we look at trauma, we must consider attachment trauma, a major factor in explaining human behavior in significant ways. I also educate on how that person’s experience as a child can lead to low self-worth, feelings of shame, and emotional over-reaction or under-reaction when shamed or rejected. Parental lack of emotional nurturing and warmth — perhaps worsened by addictions, their own emotional problems, or their own lack of secure attachment — can directly cause poor social and emotional functioning in the child and, later, adult. The need for close emotional connection to others is essential for us as social animals.
I also educate on the effect of natural, normal human responses, such as the threat/fear response (“fight-or-flight”), the need for social acceptance, and the effect of shame when rejected, even if due to insecure attachment.
All of these ideas are included in Self-Acceptance Psychology, which is a simple, but powerful new paradigm to describe and understand human behavior. It challenges the traditional ways of defining “mental disorders,” yet is based on well-accepted and well-researched psychological concepts. Self-Acceptance Psychology reframes emotional and behavioral problems as adaptive and self-protective responses to fear, trauma, shame, and lack of secure attachment. This conceptual framework has many benefits and can lead to long-term, permanent change. http://www.SelfAcceptancePsychology.com
Thank you for adding a very important piece to the topic. “Trauma” definitely includes attachment disruptions, and really can simply be defined as anything that overwhelms one’s ability to cope. This means something very different to a 1-year-old toddler than it does to a 40-year-old. Sounds like you’re doing some great work!
Thank you for pointing this out. I get the feeling that, for some reason, there are people who do not want to accept the fact that trauma causes huge issues for people. I believe that Noel hit the nail smack dab on its head with this article.
Thanks for this.
…because it is the ideal of capitalism and of patriarchy.
One of the biggest sources of trauma? Psychiatry, and its psychiatric drugging (CAUSING ‘imbalances'”, psychosis, homicidal and suicidal ideation (or action), depression, akathisia, etc), its labelling, and its traumatizing electroshocking of the already traumatized. ECT for that poor girl with anorexia or the child with autism ? Is that enforcing one trauma on others pre-existing?
As an off the topic comment, once someone has been “made” psychotic or “schizophrenic”, through drugging are they deemed to have a biological illness? And WHAT, once brain chemistry HAS been changed or chemical/physiological changes have resulted, is going to “help” to “heal” this patient once they have a now biological-physical problem?
Talk therapy isn’t going to do much for a “chemically created” “brain problem”, is it?
Great article, Noel! I’m pleasantly surprised to see mental health professionals who feel the way you do. I’m a Hispanic, clinically labeled physician (depression,ADHD) who fits the description you provide to the “T”. It is frustrating for my personally and professionally how closed minded the American society is. Of course, this is essential to the proper functioning of the economic model. Without “sheep”, how can the mega corporations become richer? If people were to be allowed to think critically, they would spend valuable work time questioning the irrational ideas that they are force fed from birth. I better stop now or this comment will turn into a doctoral dissertation of my own.
So the other day I read where Swiss voters decided to reject a proposal to guarantee all citizens a minimal monthly income, and there was a quote, the jist of which was that people will just be lazy and do nothing if they did not have to worry about earning enough money to live, if it was just provided. And I thought the exact opposite: without the worry of having enough money for a decent living, what amazing endeavors would people be able to achieve?
Okay, let’s get real radical and expand that: What if every person was provided all the essentials for a fully-realized, healthy, robust life, just because they exist? Just because they are part of humanity? What if there was a universal acknowledgement of the capacity of the human spirit, and the wisdom to invest in it, as a society? What if there was no need to dull the existential pain, because there was plenty of opportunity to experience the full range of emotions- plenty of joy, contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction to look forward to during the darker moments? What if each person’s “job” was to plunge into their passion and bring forth their inherent talents and gifts. We could all share in each other’s because with everyone enjoying full support, there would be no need for stinginess.
I want to live in that world.
This is lovely, thank you for sharing
I proposed centers for folks experiencing stress that would be a place for daily group meditation and connections to alternative arts and exercise . I deliberately used the word stress because that is a more acceptable word for most folks I based it on a agency that uses a similar model for folks with cancer
Individuals were supportive but not the powers that be
And there are agencies that say they are trauma informed but not really
Neurobiology is interesting for me but certainly is not the end all or be all
It takes time and everyone is different
If only we could begin to hear stories of survivors who eventually have bee able to thrive
And yes our country is deep into denial of all trauma that happens on a daily ongoing basis in many people’s lives
Some much much more than others
National Catholic Reporter has another article worth reading on trauma
Interesting and salient. Good for a dialogue because the author brings up hard issue that are difficult but need to be discussed and someday resolved
My life has been overflowing with trauma up to this very day
I go back and forth many times without a tether
There doesn’t seem a good place for me to have refuge from past scary lockedysych unit trauma and seclusion to the trauma of silent triggers I live with almost every day
Sometimes sinking down to the depths of psych world is almost an option so that I could be zombified for life
Bring on the Nursing Home placement since death is so hard for people in my world to contemplate for me
When one feels there is no refuge or sanctuary where all options have been tried with closed doors or locked Windows or fear reigns so that other possible options fail life becomes an open wound and salt is poured by people who try to help but just are totally unable to get it
The movie Spotlight did it go into thespecifics of how the church or in other whistleblower cases targets the voices of truth
It needs to be made known
So even if one calls out the trauma there are a hosts of ramifications similar to those who tried in Germany during WW2
To break the circle we need to break the power and control tools
Some tools are breaking but not fast and hard enough
At least your voice is strong and elequenI am so ready for change
A very good article. It looks like you have discovered the Self-Reliance Ethic. It is a doctrine invented to make children, and everyone else too, submit. It is predicated on the fallacious presumption of laziness, a variation on Original Sin.
But as it is, Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family force people to submit. Any who escape this are likely to end up being further abused by Psychotherapists and Psychiatrists. And sometimes this goes as far as chemical assaults on consciousness.
So the answer is not therapy, recovery, and religion. It is political consciousness raising and political action. Those of us who have survived the middle-class family are oppressed because our lives and our biographies do not look like those who have learned to use The Family for their own advancement.
So we must organize and act.
Join my forum, connect and exchange email’s by PM’s, organize, and act
“…those who are the angriest, cruelest, “craziest” or most difficult to be around are usually those who are suffering the greatest…”
I disagree. I think those trying to make a relationship work with people acting out their trauma via anger, cruelty, or craziness are those who are suffering the most.
I’m the wife of someone who uses his “past suffering” as his excuse to remain sick all his life – sick meaning “mentally.” In other words, when life gets “too much,” he goes psychotic. How much of that is a conscious decision I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s there.
Why are others sometimes so intolerant of the “mentally ill” (and I don’t for a moment believe there is such a thing)? Because of the suffering they impose on others when they decide that they aren’t managing, so someone else will have to step up to the plate and accept more than their fair share of hardship, in compensation.
I don’t believe that stoicism is the answer either. But there is more to the picture than just the trauma. I could become depressed and stay in bed all day and just think, “Whatever happens with my kids, happens – I can’t cope anymore.” But I don’t, because I take responsibility. Sometimes that means a stiff upper lip, and sometimes it means looking for a good therapist. Sometimes it could even mean medication (though I don’t see myself ever taking that route), because a mother on valium is still better than no mother at all.
Suffering trauma does not absolve an adult of responsibility.
And of course the psychiatric labeling just makes this issue worse.
I’m sorry to hear of the difficult situation with your husband. Perhaps it’s best if I had not qualified or asserted in any way that someone’s suffering may be greater than anothers’. It kind of does go against the entire premise of what I was trying to get across. Suffering is human, universal, and too many of us are invalidated and ignored for the pain we carry. Some cannot let go of the past because they never were heard and so cannot hear others in the present. Suffering certainly begets suffering. And, I agree that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions regardless of what has happened to us or how we may suffer.
Maybe, somehow, one day, we all might find a way not only to have compassion for others, but to have compassion for ourselves. For some, that can be an even greater task.
I wish you all the best and hope that things improve for you soon.
I am glad that you validated the suffering of “a Jew in Israel” but she is refusing to validate her husband’s suffering; her husband is a human too.
I hear you. I’ve experienced both sides of that equation, I feel.
My mother has an extensive and horrific trauma history, starting from infancy. And I’ve witnessed many instances of her bearing up under way more than most anyone could handle; I’ve witnessed several instances of her breaking and unable to cope, and get by as best she can– and in those times, her best looks atrocious. I’ve also witnessed several instances where my mother “turned on the crazy” willfully, in order to manipulate. The differences between these states of hers became unmistakable to me, though others often got snowed. So I get that feeling that your spouse uses past trauma as a tool; my mother certainly did.
But I also know how it feels to be accused of slacking when it takes every ounce of everything you are just to be okay enough to get yourself fed once today, and maybe cleaned since it’s been almost a week since you were last able to get yourself into the shower. I also know how humiliating it feels to be told by your spouse that he’s “not doing you any good enabling your depression” (according to the family therapist) so the dishes are gonna stack there in the sink until you do them because it’s your turn to do that chore. No energy to be pissed about that, you just crumple into a bit tighter ball to hold yourself together at the seams and hate yourself a little harder for not being even close to good enough. Vicious, the words you use to describe yourself in this condition, and maybe you can be stern enough to slap yourself out of this pit you tell yourself is self-pity, because if it is, maybe you can drill-sergeant yourself out of it. So much pain, so much harm in the blame of it, the shame of it.
I feel much compassion for you; I feel much compassion for your spouse too, and hope each of you can find the healthiest way for your family to weather all the emotions inherent in these situations of trauma aftermath. I truly do. Deep hugs to you.
Good writing. Some not-rocket-science comments:
Rarely is there open discussion about the very nature of the dehumanized society that leads people to hide, suppress, and internalize pain; that leads people to isolation and profound loneliness; that results in fear of others’ pain and explosions of rage and violence. We are taught from our nativity to hate ourselves.
Dealing with all this stuff takes away from the bottom line business as usual upon which this capitalist system depends for its continued expansion. And of course exploiting and nurturing self-hate is one of the most effective ways of getting people to suppress themselves.
As for “stigma,” this is inherent to the demeaning victim-blaming “metal illness” label. When the label is rejected the stigma disappears.
It doesn’t matter that the entire enterprise is built on false promises and an invalid, unscientific “evidence-base” of brain disorders that actually has virtually no evidence base at all.
Well, it matters to the extent that they’ll spend endless time and money to keep people from making connections such as this that could be spent on human needs.
I like the way your thinking about this topic. You start with the words;
“I’m not sure how it works in other parts of the world”
here in Australia we have also taken the path of mass drugging via coercion and force for chemical imbalances of the brain. The breakdown of the social contract as a result of the exploitation of trust for profit seems to be resulting in a society where we are suspicious of each other, and the reaction is swift and brutal. We need to report suspicioUS Activity to authorities no matter how minor.
There are other places though where significant traumatising of populations has not resulted in this breakdown of social contract, where people recognise their responsibility to one another, and despite being exposed to exploitation, nurture the emotion of trust. It is after all what helps us on our way in life.
Visit Vietnam for instance and whilst it may be difficult to put into words what is observed, and that they don’t have a lot of ‘stuff’ there is a collective sense of duty to one another. This despite the trauma suffered as a result of war.
best wishes and thanks for getting me thinking about such an important topic.
There is no way to profit from this type of society where people express their emotions, society is based on happiness being derived from working to make money in capitalism.
If you’re expressing your emotions and it affects the ability for you to profit off of others by not working, or others to profit off of you by not providing you with psychiatric medications and electrical stimulation, then you are not properly fitting into this society.
This is the way the world might be – but is it likely to change?
There IS an option of Full Recovery from Extreme Diagnoses but – only outside of the Disease Approach (I can substantiate this). The best way ‘to recover’ that I know of, is through mutual peer support groups (- with maybe a reference to Psychology).
Peer support groups would also cost very very little (or nothing to the public purse).
“If you’re expressing your emotions and it affects the ability for you to profit off of others by not working, or others to profit off of you by not providing you with psychiatric medications and electrical stimulation, then you are not properly fitting into this society.”
This does seem to be how it’s working within our current capitalistic society. To the extent that if you can afford to be, and choose to be a stay at home mom, artist working on her portfolio in the hopes of long run profits, and active volunteer (30 hours/ week). Thus you are not providing immediate short run profits to the powers that be. Such independently working and volunteering people, according to psychiatry today, are declared “irrelevant to reality,” “unemployed,” and “w/o work, content, and talent,” thus the psychiatrists believe such people must be massively poisoned with psychiatric drugs.
I’m not quite certain when the historic role of woman became “irrelevant to reality,” “unemployed,” etc. I missed the announcement that properly raising children was no longer considered “work.” But that is today’s psychiatric theology, according to my medical records. And, no doubt, such a belief system has been bringing in, and will continue to bring in future profits for the “mentally ill” society that results from such a moronic and staggeringly paternalistic, to the point of misogynistic, theology.
A lot of “work” is not real work anyway, it’s the opposite. The creation of false illness and false treatment is one example.
(In terms of “Capitalism”, globally the technology exists to easily produce enough and to preserve the environment at the same time – it’s not like the 1970s).
I think the capital system in place at the moment is not providing the answers -as technology is replacing people and most of the benefits are going to
smaller groups. So the world is getting poorer as it gets richer.
Thank you for this article. I love your questions regarding what a trauma informed community would be like. Your essay shows how far we have to go to create such an alternative. Speaking from firsthand experience, these approaches work.
However, I worry that we are creating growing numbers of traumatized individuals in our corporately controlled world where human life is disregarded. The presidential election in the US highlights the level to which our so-called democracy has been bought and sold, including the ongoing damage done by the mental health industry and Big Pharma. My hope is that we will consider the overlap between big money, oligarchy and trauma. We need leaders who represent us, not corporate interests which create wars (trauma), poverty (trauma), iatrogenic illnesses (trauma), mental health conditions (trauma), climate change caused by fossil fuels and coal (trauma) and for profit jails (trauma), among many other traumas.
Noel, trauma is related to most forms of human suffering. I hope we work to heal existing trauma and stop creating new ones.
“I’m not sure how it works in other parts of the world, but I do know that here in the US a central message of our culture is to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, toughen up, and stop blaming others for your problems.”
“If you’re poor, it’s your fault. If you’re sad, you’re a baby. If you ask for help, you’re a moocher demanding a handout. Independence, lack of emotion or vulnerability, and material wealth are what most of us are taught to strive for, above and beyond most anything.”
I don’t see how these sentences don’t necessary follow, seems like a jump to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to take responsibility for themselves and, at some point in their process, to “pull themselves up.” Relying on support is certainly also reasonable and necessary at times, but I don’t see “independence” as a bad goal to have whatsoever. In fact, that would seem highly desirable, to my mind. Even if it seems far-fetched, working with that intention in mind is empowering.
And at some point, it’s sound to stop blaming others, even if it is their fault. Regardless, we can take the wheel of our own life at any time and take back our power. When we blame others, we give them our power and stay stuck in past time. Power and well-being are found in present time, not hanging on to the past. Life does move forward, with or without us.
We may feel justified in blaming even society, but in the end, when we blame, we give away our power to make change. Chronic blame keeps us stuck because we give our power to others.
Still, calling someone “a baby” for being sad or telling someone suffering in poverty that it is their “fault” is actually cruel, cold, and completely devoid of empathy, to my mind. It is dehumanizing. I believe there is a middle ground between the first two statements.
“On the other hand, displays of melancholy, pain, fear, or uncertainty are not only spurned, but they often have dire consequences.”
This is true–being authentic in our emotions can lead to diagnoses, stigma, discrimination, judgment, shame, etc., which, in turn, can lead to all sorts of social ills and marginalization that can destroy lives–that is, systemic bullying. Being human is a high risk endeavor in our toxic society. I don’t know anyone who has not been traumatized by life, it seems to be inevitable with all the mixed messages, double-binds, and illusions which we face along the way.
Healing from trauma is transformative in that it can create healing and change not just for an individual, but also for an entire community. Perhaps it can also transform the world into one that is safe and enjoyable. That would be seriously radical change.
Correction, first line of where my comment begins–should be, “I don’t see how these statements necessarily follow…”
No one is arguing against independence and I am not sure how you could conclude otherwise.
Of course, people need to move forward but when assistance is not available in spite of their best efforts, it is kind of insulting to tell someone to pull themselves up by their boot. One of my favorite disability activist many years ago refused to use herself as a role model because her standard response was that she realized people didn’t have the advantages she had growing up in overcoming her issues. Don’t get me wrong, she still was a great person for brainstorming things but the fact that she recognized that everyone’s situation was different spoke well for her.
“No one is arguing against independence and I am not sure how you could conclude otherwise.”
When I read this sentence, “Independence, lack of emotion or vulnerability, and material wealth are what most of us are taught to strive for, above and beyond most anything,” what I immediately thought of is how some people can get kind of attached to being dependent, from learned helplessness. I don’t blame nor judge the person in any way, but I do feel it is a real phenomenon and worthy of being addressed, for all concerned. That can lead to newfound empowerment for that individual. That’s my personal perspective and experience.
I do realize that some situations are far more complex and challenging than others. Still, we are, indeed, like you say, all on different paths and so any kind of comparison I find to be irrelevant. We are to our experience as others are to theirs, we cannot compare them otherwise, it would be a false comparison because no one fully knows another’s path. We are individual beings, comparisons between people have no real and true foundation, and is, in and of itself, dehumanizing and dismissive, to my mind.
“Of course, people need to move forward but when assistance is not available in spite of their best efforts, it is kind of insulting to tell someone to pull themselves up by their boot.”
First of all, so when assistance is not available, what would you suggest someone do? NOT pull themselves up? Stay in chronic lament mode that no one will help them? I’d suggest finding inspiration to take some kind of action that would fill that void. Not only would that help them, but then new ground would be broken, and that’s exactly what we need for change to occur. Someone’s gotta take that first step.
Perhaps you and some would say that this is not possible for everyone. So then you have a person with no assistance and without the capability of being inspired into some kind of action to remedy their own situation. That feels pretty hopeless to me, and I have a really hard time going there. To me, that is what would really and truly be insulting, to not have faith in a person’s ability to move themselves forward when no one else is around, which sometimes is the case, that’s just a fact at this time. And yes, we’re wanting to change that, but in the end, people simply cannot be controlled and we must take control, ourselves.
We are stronger than we think, and if a person cannot believe that about themselves, then ok, that’s not my business. I would not argue, but I’d have a hard time with any kind of conversation with that person, I’d imagine.
Second, not everyone finds this insulting, some people find it be appropriately challenging. A perceptive person would know the difference in the moment, based on what the facts and energy of the present time situation.
When I post on here, I speak generally about healing, not for specific audiences, because there are people at all sorts of levels of their journey here. So if it does not apply, it’s fine to ignore. For some, it may apply, so I give my perspective. I don’t see anything insulting about this. That would be in the interpretation of the beholder, because it is not universal.
Although I’m aware that in this community, that is challenging, for whatever reasons. Still, I know it is not at all across the boards in the world, and that many people respond well when they realize it is up to them to take the next step, no one can do it for them. When we make that intention, we discover power and inner strength we had no idea we had. At some point, that is true for everyone. If it’s not your time, it’s not your time. That is every individual person’s decision to make for themselves. No one can do it for them.
And yes, I’ve had a lot of advantages in life. When I went through the “disability system,” I saw the effects of chronic social trauma, poverty, and homelessness on the face of my peers. I’d never seen such grit and courage, I was extremely humbled and moved. It would have been very cruel and stupid of me to preach gratitude and forgiveness to them. Instead, we shared in the details of our traumas, with mutual compassion.
Whereas I had for a long time resented this entire experience for what it once had led me to believe about myself and the social trauma that came with that, I really cherish it now, in retrospect. This was after graduate school, which did not even begin to approach the multiple educations and level support I received from others in my plight at that time. Peer support does have its value, if not for the political implication at present.
There was a time when it meant just that, peers who support each other, because they are peers–in whatever station in life.
I think the comment about “independence” was more targeted at the idea that no one should need anything from someone else or the society at large, and if they do, it suggests some failing on their part. Independence is a fine goal, but being told that TOTAL independence is the ONLY worthy goal and that ANY kind of dependence or need is a sign of pathology is quite sick. This is particularly true for children, the elderly, or disabled people in our society, who clearly can’t function without support. We do, indeed, live in a pretty cold and heartless culture when it comes to supporting those who are dependent by definition. And a lot of the childhood attachment trauma we’ve talked about results from parents who were forced to be “independent” way too early and who continue to pass on this expectation to their infants or toddlers.
I think talking about helping adults develop a sense of autonomy and agency is a very different point than what Noel is trying to get at in that sentence.
That’s fine, I get that. I think there are a variety of things to consider here, mostly that life is a process and that we all have times when partnering with others for support or healing is beneficial and available and times when it is not. I don’t think it’s an all or nothing life-long proposition.
So what to do when we feel we can’t go further without assistance and the assistance we need is not available? That’s too often the case, as we discuss in here all the time. Working for change is one action on a meta-level, and at the same time, we can have immediate needs that no one is available to fulfill. What then? I think that’s a void where people often fall into because they do not know their own power and do not trust their own process.
I’m speaking of adults here, children are a different matter. People with disabilities is a controversial issue on many levels. There is a lot to explore here that is not easy for anyone. Even Mr. Whitaker’s work centers around the dramatic rise in people labeled as “disabled,” and we are exploring the various reasons for this. I believe there are quite a few reasons for this.
We die. Every day we die. And our easily preventable deaths are blamed on our own shortcomings as individuals, instead of on the barbarous system that denies us the means to survive. We die. We fucking die. That’s what happens.
That’s actually called “the dark night of the soul,” and everyone has one to take. There is a middle path, rather than to blame or self-blame. We discover it as we walk through our core fears, self-soothing best we can along the way, eventually coming to a new clarity. That is the healing path, and like I always say, it is a choice whether or not we embrace it. No one can force it on another, that’s impossible.
Regardless of anything, we make choices–to act or not to act, to resist or allow, to be resentful or accepting, what to think and believe, and how to perceive ourselves and our experience. All choices we are free to make from moment to moment.
And there’s all the difference in “it’s your fault” and “you have the power to change your situation.” The first is blaming, the second is showing faith in another, it’s empowering.
The whole idea of “social change,” to my mind, would mean “get inspired, somehow, to create that which the system does not supply.” Necessity is the mother of invention. Creativity is of great value here, over resentment. Although indignation over injustice has been the catalyst for great change.
Again, there’s a functional difference between resentment vs. indignation. I think it’s best to focus on what we want, not what we lack, or what we’ve been denied, that’s only self-defeating. At least, that’s been my experience.
The so called normal people are living a luxurious life because of their political clout,trade unions which support them.Without such supports they too would end up disbled in a different category.The entire establishment reflects and understands their needs and concern but not that of psychiatry.For reasons unknown to me,psychiatry has not been able to integrate with these establishments;not even inside the medical industry.A psychiatry patient compared to any other patient is not useful.He or she is considered to be a burden to the nations economy,public life,social events,peer group get togethers.He will not find employement,will not find accomodation,wont be able to vote,cannot travel or walk peacefully outside,cannot marry,won’t be able to enter any establishment with peace.Because he is an outsider and the moment the insiders recognizes it,they become stiff lipped,morose,counter-attacking,non-cooperative and will find himself being virtually thrown out.Every services that are needed by him are expensive given his purchasing powers.Medicines are far too costly.The worst medicines are cheap.Whenever a price control for medicines are on the anvil,psychiatric drugs are almost always ignored.Eventually he looses his fundamental right as the citizen of his country.He lives like a shadow.I have asked my country to extend subsidies to psychiatry in every area of life.
Great blog, as usual.
You ask “what would a trauma-informed society look like?”
Such a society would (by my definition) be a one that understands the many systemic and institutional sources of trauma (such as class divisions and patriarchy) and would have made substantial efforts to eliminate the material conditions for the existence of this fertile ground.
By this definition it would require the absolute elimination (over time) of the profit motive as a guiding economic principle and its related social organization.
Therefore, I am making the observation that “capitalism and trauma-formed” is an oxymoron.
Capitalism guarantees trauma when it strangles people’s abilities to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and ignores their emotional need to feel connected to the work they do (other than as a source of income). Of course the rulers are “informed” about this, as it represents a potential threat to production, hence the need to discourage the workers from taking time off to address their needs for rest, recreation and healing. It’s just that they don’t particularly care other than in terms of profits. If Marx were alive today he would likely include psychiatry with religion as one of the “opiates of the masses.”
I agree. And he would have included psychiatrists with the hangman and the priest.
communists in our country i.e,India have never supported psychiatry nor those affected by it.That is why the mortality and morbidity rate is so high here.In Erawadi,26 patients chained inside a dargah were barbecued to death and it was considered as an accident.In insurance companies term,god’s act.I myself have spent some time inside a rehab center.It is a gutter,or call it a ghetto.The media is not reporting on mental health issues.File a public interest litigation in the court,no one bothers to look at it.Go and meet the ministers,write to the judge who is in charge of the special bench for psychiatry,no response.Such judges are supposed to be watch dogs for psychiatry,but they do not not even bark at our assailants,leave alone biting.I think countries who do not protect their psychiatry or neuropsychiatry patients should not be given any role to play in the international community.They should be isolated.At least it can be done with India.Thank u.
There is a much deeper paradox, or complexcity, at works here. A traumatic event is by definition a breaking of a narrative. If the collective subconscious is risen to the level of the known, then what could possibly count as a broken narrative?
Continuously, i would argue, there can be no trauma-informed society, but there can be a more caring, more compassionate society.
hOW CAN SOMEONE BE NOT INFORMED ABOUT A PERSON’S TRAUMA and be compassionate as well.Those who are leading a healthy and productive life can take care of their needs for compassion and help.The entire system and industry is made by them and for them.They run the show and manipulate it as and when it suits their convenience.Psychiatry is powerless.Which Government,politician,trade unions or celebrity stands up for them?None.Usually the compassion flows towards those who need it.Those who are traumatised and victims of the system.But today we are seeing that the care givers are marginalising psychiatry,which includes the govt and private sector and the NGO’s as well.If the entire society becomes compassionate then it cannot exclude those who have suffered psychological trauma and their experiences will remain informed in the minds of those who extend compassion.Every patient,every victim in our society is deserving of compassion,care,understanding,help etc,except psychiatry because they think they are problem makers,lazy,pretending to be sick and so should be ignored.
Brilliant, as usual.
Beautifully expressed, highlighting so much of what is wrong and missing from the current approaches to this thing that is called “mental illness”, so much of which can very reasonably be re-named as totally reasonable and understandable responses to distressing and traumatic life experiences when a person did not have sufficient loving and empathic support to manage to cope.
The point that many of these experiences can be traced back to what are known as “attachment disruptions” is important – we usually do not ‘remember’ what happened to us and how we felt as infants and very young children but, experiences at these times of life can be defining in how we are or are not able to ‘manage’ circumstances in later life. Of course – what is ‘traumatic’ for an infant is extremely different than what is traumatic for an adult who has words to describe their experience and who most likely will not die if left alone for too long without a carer to provide for their most basic needs.
I am not quite so sceptical of developments in knowledge in neurobiological fields as others commenting here however – the primary caveat on this field is that the brain is plastic so, anything that has been ‘learned’ (neurons that fire together wire together in relationships with those around us), can also be re-learned in different relationships with different people around us.
Your lead question: “What would a trauma informed society look like” really highlights the extent to which the current profit-motivated society we have is trauma-inducing, rather than trauma mitigating, and just how fundamental the changes to achieve a trauma-informed society would need to be.
Several years ago I have written an article (in my mother tongue, Hebrew) titled “Not Brain Damaged”. It was a response to a widely popular article written by Rilli Willow, herself a rather famous “out of the closet” “mentally ill with manic-depression” (using her own words). The name of her article was “Not a Coper” – Coper, as in someone of is coping with a something major in his or her life, it the hebrew equibivilant of the english Ex-Patient.
Anyway, to get to the point on my comment, my argument there was similar to yours here. In our desperate need for recognition, we hang on to every piece of it we can probably get. But this comes back to bite us in the behind. We suddenly require “special care”, and because we are now labeled as a “special community”, the global and social ideas we try to spread, are inherently silenced. Instead of being a vessel of communication for these social ills (sexual assault or childhood trauma), we are simply marginalized and being fed a false sense of progression.
Its quite a grim thing.
Anyways this is a faboulas article and deserves all the shares it allready got.
(excuse all my grammer and spelling mistakes. i hardly ever use my english nowadays.)
who does not belong to a special group,dear Itay? Children,women.old men,patients from different specialities,LGBT,politicians,leaders,workers,teachers,students etc,etc.They all have their own groups and unions.Do the psychiatry patients have a special group,a leader,a politician in the ministry?Call it special or otherwise,just highlight our problems and ask of them to rectify them.Its about getting united and getting our rights.The outsiders are only exploiting us.If you were a patient who is on a sedative drug and if you do not get a seat in a bus and you see other healthy and fat h#gs enjoying a ride u would like to do what I did.Asked in a forum to have seats reserved in public transport for us.If I had the time I would have met the transport minister also.I have done this before,but out here its a waste of time.This is India.A relic of the past.
Well, I know what I would been like if my education and mental health care were trauma informed. I wouldn’t have been a totally shut down person in high school if able to see a counselor about my mother’s alcoholism and suicide attempts, I would have been able to focus in college and not have dropped out to go into the Marines and Vietnam.
I would have been able to sit across from a mental health professional who understood trauma from both family and war, unlike the damn VA shrinks who diagnosed me with schizophrenia, whatever that is, and sent me to Norwich State Hospital in CT to undergo absolute hell./
The list goes on, but I am absolutely convinced my dysfunctional life would have been vastly different with trauma informed care, and that care would have started with helping my elders, mostly my mother.
Hugh Massengill, Eugene
The idea of a trauma-informed society is what we all want.But what is happening in America is no different here in India.We have just 3500 psychiatrists approximatley, for a population of over 2.5 billion.And out of these 3500 majority of them are working abroad.Its expenditure that I read some time back was just 0.06% of its Gross Domestic Production.There is just one psychiatrist for more than 3 lac population and 7% of Indians suffer from some or the other kind of Psychiatric disturbance.But still they will shift the blame on the patients.All the govt spending goes as salary for the staff.Where is the money then to create an awareness about psychiatry without which we cannot communicate the needs and helplessness of psychiatry?And without which a trauma-informed society in psychiatry won’t come into vogue.Our society is quite informed about stroke,kidney faiure,heart attacks and many other disorders.That is because the society and their leaders have taken an initiative to inform them and are spending heavily on it.But come October 10 or March 26,we do not find anybody running or walking for mental health or epilepsy.But our people are all the time,otherwise aping Americans in their dresses,jargons,body language,fashion etc.They do not have such a forum like MIA or other forums that are available on the net.
But our country wants to join hands and wants to become a member in every venture that the international communities are into.They want to go to mars and become diggers to get water,but they won’t do it here.They want to supply nuclear materials and have a voice in controlling non-proliferation,they want to go to moon.Why do they want to go to moon and mars?Why can’t they first and foremost take care of the last minority,i.e the psychiatry here on earth?.They treated my epilepsy with anti-psychotics without even taking an EEG.They will prepare their rocket for the moon-mission and end up inside saturn.The capitalist and communists here are no different.They are all anti-psychiatry.Epilepsy or mental health issues means the same to them.I dont understand why India’s spiritualism is not living upto its reputation.Has it been over glorified?I think so,because our Ayurveda describes mental health issues and treatment under the chapter of demoniac science.
That is why mental health patients and epileptics are often beaten or burnt to death,in their attempt to drive away the demons from the patients body.These people are living in the stone age with a calcified cerebrum and a calcified heart that they have invented such superb technology for psychiatry and epilepsy.They will speak freely about their piles and prolapsed rectum but would find it very offensive to share issues in psychiatry.Its considered to be bad manners to speak about psychiatry.Even doctors are just as ill informed about psychiatry as are lay persons.On October 10th,world mental health day,I put up a poster on my window enumerating the DSM 4 TR criterias.The next day I found someone had written a comment in red ink which read as follows;” SO U R MAD,AREN’T YOU”.It was written in English.So this is how literate but uneducated people behave.Only an educated society can create a better living conditions for psychiatry.Being informed need not always translate into a supportive action.Information can be manipulated also and used against us.But information is necessary but it should be in proper and understanding hands as well.Our country had at one point of time even deleted psychiatry from our syllabus.I think I read it somewhere.Even today the psychiatry teaching at an undergraduate level is just about 2-weeks.And it is not considered very important.They are bad cases with poor prognosis,so why spend time on such a subject.Turn around the pages of Davidson’s and Harrison’s textbook of medicine,you will find that very few pages are devoted for psychiatry.Just a fraction of the total pages.That shows the apathy of our Medical schools towards psychaitry.And these people would be the on call recepients when a psychiatry patient shows up in the ED.
A psychiatrist or a psychologist can be seen as a prototype of professionals who are very well informed of psychological traumas.But what have they been doing or not is well known to everyone.They are just thrusting more pills down your throat.If an entire society were to become as well informed as a psychiatrist,what good is it going to do?Are these psychiatrists championing for our rights?Sensitizing the people to our needs and handicap?They are doing nothing of these.tHE SOCIETY ALSO CANNOT BE RELIED UPON because the psychiatrist is just one amongst them.An agent and an alienator.These psychiatrists will only lead us to hell.What we need is a leader from patients who have survived the ordeal and still have the strength to lead others.Leaders from other section of the society are not going to do anything.Since we are not able to influence our place in their world,we don’t want any help from their side since its only going to be harmful.Only the survivors should lead us and guide us in every matters that concern us.Only they shall represent us in the govt.or any other places.The womens right,men’s right,blind man’s right,are all lead by an individual amongst them.A women’s right movement is not led by a man.A US president is elected from one of its own citizen and not from any other country.Or the psychiatry movement should be led by someone who has been a caregiver;sincere caregiver and compassionate.Or anybody who is genuinely trustworthy.We need a strong voice in every country.Not one,but many who will be there inside every establishment to ensure that no one is abused for being psychologically different.The politicians and trade unions of the non-psychiatry world are our enemies,because they will not accept psychiatry but as a nonsense to their by-laws and their ideology that their founder fathers had laid down in their charter of demands which will never have the word psychiatry mentioned in any unambiguous way.Their aim would be always to corner all the resources and rights for them and their kind of people.To keep us deprived of everything,because according to them we are not deserving of anything that they consider it as austerities.They will eat tonnes of salt and sugar and then eat away the insurance sector by falling sick.They will thus also become chronic absenteeism workers but these are all adjusted by their leaders.They will get a flu for one week and enjoy a leave for one whole month.They will manipulate the economy,budget,just about everything and it is this corruption of theirs,their by-laws which is denying us what is or was due fully ours.They will over spend and ignore or crush our genuine demands.The mental health policy budget year marked in our country goes to paying the salaries,perks,bonuses,festival purchases,amusements,foreign trips,spend thrifting etc for the staff working in the mental health sector.Nothing for the patients.The hospitals too are worthy of demolition and the laws governing them draconian.
I just wanted to thank all the folks who have commented for really digging into the issues and demonstrating the difficulties involved, particularly when one’s pain has the perception of negating another’s. Thank you for your support, but, more importantly, for so many of you (and it seems new faces) for sharing your stories. Once upon a time, that is how we were educated: stories.
“Once upon a time, that is how we were educated: stories.”
I agree, I believe that sharing our own voices of experience to tell our own stories is, by far, the most valuable education and the road to social change–
I find this article well written. The comments below wildly leaping from what seems like experimental treatments, neurobiology, EMDR, neurofeedback that are cost prohibitive without serious studies to show effectiveness; to rants on capitalism.
I am the daughter of a diagnosed paranoid disorganized schizophrenic. Trauma induced. At a very young age I watched her beg God to release her from her disease. Fight for her right not to be medicated, institutionalized, insulin treated, shock treated and have her medical and financial decisions taken away from her. Maybe I was too young to witness so much. Maybe all young children should see such depth of pain.
The experts were trying to help. It was the best they could do in those times. Yet they tortured my mother. Plain and simple. No anesthesia. It was cruelty.
She still lives alone. She still refuses to take medications. She has her moments. But my mom is my hero. Your mom may have been mother of the year, but mine survived 14 shock treatments and countless insulin treatments. She fought for her rights and as much sanity as she could hold on to. She’s a complete rock star!
Noel great post! Ramesh, dude! Keeping you in my prayers!!
To the author,Noel.The issue that is voiced in this news letter is no different here except for the fact that we do not have a social media that discusses psychiatry.Even the print media ignores psychiatry.psychiatric hospitals,rehab centers are all suspected centers which probably do not meet the recognition criteria and the fine imposed upon them is very nominal.That makes practicing psychiatry in a sub-standard fashion risk free.It will not attract de-recognition or demolition from the law of the land.Re-application procedure is very simple.They have to pay just a few rupees without taking any corrective measures.
There are risks involved in a trauma informed society.I don’t know how to put it.But the techies will come up with new technologies which will re-create psychiatric symptoms in those who don’t have it,or target someone repeatedly,or try to force it on just on anybody to increase the volume of sales of the drugs.They have already created different types of Apps models for different psychiatric conditions,which seems over simplified and coming right out of the psychiatrists manual or provided by the pharma companies.If the model of psychiatry is not acceptable to us and if we find it unscientific and invalid,then what is the point in having these Apps around us.The networking capacity of the non-psychiatry people are getting more stronger and cohesive which isolates the psychiatry people who are not inside the network amongst themselves.They do not have any defense system against their networking which is getting smarter with each passing day.
My sister committed suicide.She had a bone tumor also called as multiple osteochondroma.She lost her job,she was harassed by the bus conductors,bus passengers and some relatives before committing suicide.Most importantly we had relocated our residence to a state that is endemic to psychiatric suicide.One century back our saint who had visited a religious convention in California called swami Vivekananda had termed this state as a MENTAL ASSYLUM OF INDIA.People do not understand psychiatry and unless somebody took the initiative to teach them through awareness classes,poster campaigns,special events,television advertisements, the suggested information will not reach out to the people.I guess its happening in the west,but our people are aping the bad side of western culture and ignoring their good qualities.If I type epilepsy and psychiatry support groups in India in a search engine box,I will get zero response.Maybe one or two,very recently that too defunct.There is no active discussion going on and u cannot expect anything from them.
The staff inside the psychiatric hospitals are probably the most insensitive to the needs of the patients.Is it because of lack of information on psychiatry?Out here,no.Its because they do not have the money to take care of institutionalised patients and so they just knock them off by giving a joule shock or a high dose drug.Now in this condition,the patient won’t ask for anything and the staff won’t feel irritated and won’t have to attend upon them.But to do this they need an indication on record.An indication to give a joule shock or a heavy dose of a drug or to transfer him to a criminals cell.They do it by constantly harming and irritating him till he can tolerate it no more and expresses his dissent in an outburst or get violent.This is the modus-operandi as I have come to know.Very recently a law student was murdered by a govt mental health male nurses and other patients.His head was banged against the wall,till he died.Now reports says he got violent and in the scuffle he died.He had come to our place for spiritual solace and they sent him directly to the source of spiritualism so that he does not have to depend on any human entity for his spiritual aspirations.
After getting into a rehab center,they messed up with my previous medication and prescribed a drug contraindicated for my condition.It caused a drop in my testosterone level and now I have to take the injection regularly.These are iatrogenic disorders which psychiatrists create.They just replace a drug to show off their superiority over another psychiatrists prescription.For my Petit mal condition carbamazepine is contraindicated.Valproate is the right one.But it has side effects that is a problem but not as bad as CBZ.Lamotrigine can be very good but as expensive as gold.I kept losing my job because the employers would not allow time for the drug to take its effect.Before that there would be some problem mongers who would kick me out.A physically handicapped won’t have to face such problems.Advocating for such conditions is a better job,but it has no takers here.I am on the look for it.But it requires some formal training which I don’t have.
Standard operating procedure in the West Ramesh
With the use of the corrupt practice of ‘verballing’ (write down whatever is required to act against a person ie “in possession of a knife”) and the use of ‘baiting’ the public has zero protections from any public officer (police, mental health, child protection etc).
Should anyone contest the ‘verbal’ the response is usually “they wouldn’t do that” and if the documents show that they did do that, then these documents are “edited” until they didn’t do that.
The protections written into our laws are worth absolutely nothing, and not a chance that any public officer would act against another. This is not something unique to your country Ramesh. The consequences of enabling this sort of corruption is plain for all to see, we just make sure that it can’t be proven.
I have been sexually abused in the buses,people indulging in frotteurism.No use complaining.Nudging,elbowing,whistling into my ears,no servicing being done in my room,no protection form hostile people while on duty from the employers.The world is run by a majority,belonging to non-psychiatry people and they want more funds allocated to them.More hospitals,cheap drugs,more research,more incentives,no complications,more leave.Their greed knows no limit.
no govt officer would act against another.Even if the patient is hanged by another criminal,the final report would be that it was a suicide.People are only too willing to forget it,because most often even the family members desert such patients inside such hospitals and never turn back due to the economic burden that the society has posited upon them.No serious investigations are carried out.I think people are still living in the age of dinosaurs.
But atleast in the west,the people take to streets and protest.They are active online
and spreading the message of the false propaganda that is prevalent in psychiatry.
Great article – thanks Noel- really like what you said– was just thinking though- if we contend current practices- what can we actually tell people to do, when for instance, their son/daughter, comes home in a psychosis- drug or otherwise- what should we tell them to do for help- help, they might think theyre gioing to need, because its all alien to them because they might feel theyre not going to manage, or cope- who- what type- where- what foods- herbs vitamins-advice- if they want to try themselves- can they- any ideas.
I don’t equate trauma theory with Soteria House and Open Dialogue, although you can certainly find it there if you look for it. When you ask, “What would a trauma-informed society look like?” I would have to say it would probably look pretty much like the society we’ve got. I think trauma theory is just another way of selling “mental illness” labels, and the treatment that goes along with those labels.
Basically the idea that psychological trauma is behind all sorts of psychiatric conditions goes back to Jean-Martin Charcot. Repackage it, and you’ve got talk of Adverse Childhood Experience. My sense is that anyone who wants to cop a “mental illness” plea for the sake of living off taxpayer dollars now has trauma-informed care to help them. Trauma theory is there to explain why people aren’t resilient. Teach them resilience instead, and there would be much less need for your Trauma-Informed Care.
The problem I have with trauma theory goes back to the idea of “psychological healing”. You have somebody who hasn’t been injured, literally, and you’ve got all these professional ‘healers” to “heal” them of this, in actuality, non-injury. I can’t help but think that there must be many, many better ways to kill time if that is what the objective of doing this is. Okay, let me backtrack. When I said non-injury, I didn’t mean that nobody had been insulted, or treated harshly, I did mean non-organic, non-physical injury is not literal injury. You can maximize (exaggerate) or you can minimize (depreciate) a matter. I’m just saying that often it is better to minimize.
why do we then,sir have accident related and heart attack help line numbers?They can very well drive safely,eat a good diet exercise and keep away from accidents and heart attacks.Eat less sugar and salt and prevent metabolic syndromes and thereby a host of target organ damage.These people are also beggars of the medical industry asking for labels that are albeit decent,but they are the real and magnificient examples of people who are eating into the tax payers money and contributing very little to it.The cardiac,nephro,neuro,gastro industry is worth billions and billions.If somebody keeps insulting you day in and out,you will know what literal and poetic injury is all about.The so called patients are the most corrupt in our society.They make money by creating scams for their tomorrow.Why cant these people lead a healthy life,after all most of the diseases are life style based.Change your life style and ease the tax payers money.
We are increasingly getting information based society.In the international classification of diseases on mental health,there are more than 400 psychiatric diagnosis.Hair splitting diagnoses.But on the other hand we have only a handful of drugs for all these conditions.And they will try it using a trial and error basis.So we have stigmas of all these diagnoses and then medicines with serious side effects,except for the lucky few.
If the psychology theories are of no use in the practical sense,then we must not allow the techies to market such apps.It is certainly going to harm us unless it is in the hands of people with compassion.Others will use it and make guinea pigs of us.Anybody and everybody.
I don’t think,for eg.the technique of flooding and re-experiencing are good,unless it is done inside a counsellor’s office.But its dirty when used through an App,which is highly technical,without any human face to it.This can only amount to something like carrying out a psychological counselling in a public place.
What is desirable is to stick as many posters in public creating awareness about psychiatry.Small banners,big one’s,bill boards.They will remain static and the people wont be able to ignore it,because it will be staring at them.On a television screen or in papers and net,one can easily ignore it.
If the psychiatry theories are invalid,then these Apps are also invalid and should be banned.No Apps which makes the treatment painful,resenting,hurting,insulting should be allowed.They should not become proxy-psychiatrist or psychologists in the hands of toms-dicks and harry’s.Are they going to practice psychiatry?Is this how psychiatry is going to be practised?Information tech cannot replace anything and everything.People are having an utopian dreams about this tech,that it will become a panacea for everything.They are deluding themselves in believing so.
So why not opt for a drug based diagnoses.Since few drugs are managing so many hundreds of conditions that the DSM has pulled out of their hat.So-and-so drug responsive psychiatric condition.One drug can be used for multiple conditions,hence this argument.
Nature, probably the best medicine, is not a drug. We’ve got “drug based diagnoses”, for all the good it does. Give a person this drug over an extended period, for a “psychiatric condition”, and it will destroy his or her physical health. Don’t give them the drug, and their physical health is not going to “deteriorate” while their “mental condition” may clear up. Clear thinking, after all, sometimes follows the emotional storms that come with cloudy thinking.
Great topic and good writing. Really liked your observations.
* I’m a guy thats proud to have a mental illness. *
“Mental illness” pride? That’s a good one.
I’m a person without a “mental illness”. Lost mine. However, that said, I’m mad as a hatter, and I will be bound by no laws including the laws of physics.
I’m glad we got that out of the way.
“Mental illness” is medical model through and through. A doctor determines, etc., and a “soul” doctor at that (i.e. a quack). Put the garbage where it belongs, and you won’t have a “mental illness” either. What’s more, you will be as mad as I am.
I operate under the premise that the majority of people are fully capable of putting the garbage where it belongs but, hey, there is a margin for error, and I could be wrong.
What stands out most to me in Noel’s piece is the feeling that with a psychiatric diagnosis that one can feel that “my family and society are off the hook, too, for they have nothing to do with my internal brain disease……The status quo is saved.”
In my experience of thirty years of the “depression” label, I see the exoneration of responsibility of parents and society as the primary forces of pathologizing me, even more than Big Pharma and mental health professionals profiting from my “disease”. My parents were affluent, my father a white collar professional; so when I got “depressed” in college and had to come home and started seeing a psychiatrist (another affluent white collar professional), I think he was really working for my parents rather than me (like he was trying to “get me in line”). A few years later when I saw PhD psychologists who were more enlightened about emotional pain than a psychiatrist, I think they still had a lot more in common with my parents and the values I was trying to escape than they did with me.
I didn’t learn that I had been abused as a child from shrinks or psychologists, I learned it in a 12 Step program, which was virtually free, no one profiting from my pain there! I don’t see where else in an unempathetic society I would’ve learned that I was abused: I had gone to Christian churches in my early 20’s and also in my middle age, and most Christians seem loathe to point fingers at parents. But after all Christianity is a paternalistic religion: God is the Father. There is a commandment to “honor thy mother and father” but no commandment to “honor thy children”.
Reading Bruce Levine PhD’s book “Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic” also highlighted for me how many mental health sufferers feel America’s consumer culture is oppressive, and he talks about our culture’s “unhappiness taboo” and “unproductivity taboo”.
I stopped taking psychiatric medications over a year ago, and what is the primary change since then for me? Greatly expanded expression and creativity through writing! I never would have been making this post while I was on medication. Even though I have always had a talent for writing, in my first fifty years I’d only had one article published, and since going off psych meds I have had three articles published, all about depression and psychiatric medication.
I’m gonna go home and cry now because people on mad in America don’t want me to say I’m proud to have a mental illness.
What…are you my dad Frank?
As far as I know I’m not your dad.
You can be proud as punch to have a “mental illness” if you want to be, however, that is, in my book, kind of like saying I’m the proud owner of a unicorn. Often I think when people say “mental illness”, or even when they mention particular diagnostic labels, they are using a euphemism for something else. I know some doctors claim that “mental illness” is “brain disease”. Proving that brains, or for that matter, minds, are diseased, is another matter. It is much easier to prove diseases of the body, and if the organ is the brain, well, it is a complex enough organ to throw anyone off.
Let say a person makes a mess. This mess could be seen as the outcome of “disease”, or it could even be seen as “art”. The numbers of messes that are imaginable is immense indeed. I think were one to say that “disease” is at the root of any mess, one would be applying fallacious reasoning, and substituting a falsehood for the truth.
Hi Frank, Have you ever read some explanation applied to inferences and structured arguments, so that you ran across the term “this explains too much at once”…? This is pretty much the crosshairs of your various forays into cause and effect, proof and disproof, iconoclasm, etc.
I am sort of getting affected by everyone’s separate disposition in equal measure. Did enjoy your caveats and “medicine show” run through of how bad notions are infectious, again.
You might say that. There are certainly explanations that are too easy to make, and based more upon speculations than evidence. That was not entirely where I was coming from though.
In the 1990s a Mad Pride Movement was launched that is still with us today. I wouldn’t call Mad Pride “mental illness” pride. From the 1970s onward mental patients’ liberation has been an issue. Mental health “consumerism”, the “peer” movement, could be said to be a “mental patients’ movement” instead, that is, a non-liberation movement. If there is any “mental illness” pride, it must go along with the mental patient role. I would imagine that mental patient as a career option is its own critique, and sometimes a little humility is called for. My point and my opinion on the subject goes like this, the mental patient role is not something that need engage anybody for an entire lifetime, current theory aside. The idea of encouraging people to assume the mental patient role for entire lifetimes though does throw up some serious moral red-flags, at least, for me.
You guys go have fun being shamans. yeah, I’m a shaman man. I’ll sit right here and enjoy livin.
What would a trauma informed society look like? It would include emotional wellness in it’s educational forums. It would encourage individuals to understand and explore their unique personality styles and gifts. It would cherish and value children, knowing that a nurtured and well loved child becomes a healthy, productive adult. It would offer community support for the hard times in life – unemployment, death and loss, disability, etc… It would be a society where people understood a shared responsibility to one another’s well being. It would encourage people to eat well and stay active. To have times of peace and stillness.
This was an excellent article Noel, summing up many of my thoughts in this area, especially about mental health and “brain disease.” I’ll be sharing this with my clients. I recently did a radio show on Myths about Mental Illness in the Church. If anyone is interested, it’s Episode 4 at http://www.4hisglory.us/Christ-life-radio.
Ramesh and any others in India may want to check out YourDOST – https://yourdost.com/