[Editor’s note: this author has chosen to publish her story anonymously in order to protect her identity at her new job.]
My now ex-husband was a clinical director of a mental health clinic and monstrously abusive, not just to me but to his clients (he eventually lost his license to practice after harming many lives). The story was buried remarkably well, because stories of crimes that involve discredited victims are easy to bury. Having a mental health diagnosis automatically makes the world around you deaf, particularly if you are the victim of one of the system’s heroes. However, that is a story for another time and place; this one begins with the impacts that settled in on my soul after the divorce.
After years of abuse and gaslighting, I believed (as did everyone in my husband’s considerable sphere of influence) that I was completely broken and irretrievably mentally ill. I was lost and buried alive in an identity far too small for me, a DSM label that was destroying me with its stigma and shame. I went through waves of depression, in a sort of coma emotionally, floating in a haze of psych medications in a life I’d completely given up on.
Living without hope is a tortured existence. I considered myself a garbage person, dumped at the margins of society as a problem no one knew what to do with, including me. It was during this time that I first heard of “recovery,” perhaps the sweetest word I’d ever heard. Patricia Deegan’s work “A Conspiracy of Hope” landed in my hands, and something took root in my spirit. A little spark of hope began to burn.
Around that time I heard about a program called “Consumer to Provider,” based on the premise that mental patients, or what they euphemistically referred to as “consumers,” could be trained to provide mental health services. It was a 6-month program with a 6-month internship and really a good idea. Built on the notion that “consumers” might have something to contribute as a community asset, they captured an invaluable and life-changing truth. We were, in fact, gifted healers: an untapped treasure of passion, creativity and help.
In the world of consumers, those mental health therapists that considered themselves saviors and heroes seemed as a rule untouched by deep trauma and suffering. They weren’t all that credible to anyone that had been coerced into treatment. However, the expertise of those with lived experience was sometimes astonishing. It connected us to a beautiful web of humanity to which we contributed beauty ourselves. I remember that in my class, many of us, on the wings of hope that we could actually have a career in mental health, took up roles as peer counselors and psychiatric techs with deep passion. Having something to live for is enormously healing in and of itself.
What I wasn’t prepared for in this new world of hope was that the mental health centers where many new graduates landed in menial positions were mired in stigmatizing attitudes. I didn’t expect to run a clinic, but I didn’t expect a sheltered workshop either. Many were given token positions where we were pulled out to display a clinic’s progressiveness in hiring “one of them,” but put on the shelf in terms of meaningful function the rest of the time.
I remember one very revealing lunch when my new supervisor introduced me as a student in a work-study college program to a case manager colleague. The colleague went on to regale the lunch table with bigoted jokes about bipolar clients. It was like a comedy routine, and I could tell the table was used to joining in the laughter. She’d just won the agency’s case manager of the year award and was in high spirits, displaying her utter contempt for the clients she considered herself the savior of. My supervisor was sending dagger looks at her, and it appeared even tried to kick her under the table because her friend didn’t realize I was one of the “others.” I thought: if those clients that helped you get voted case manager of the year had any clue what you really thought about them, they’d never come back.
This experience fueled my desire to get a master’s degree and start working to change the internal bigotry of mental health which I saw so frequently. I became a public speaker to inspire both fellow consumers and mental health professionals that recovery was possible and likely, and that hope was a requirement. I used the term “the bigotry of low expectations” to indicate a failure of the therapy system that continuously underestimated our ability to contribute to the world and recover a life that we felt was worth living.
After several years of living as a recovery poster child doing work which I rarely got paid for, or if I did it was token, I began to see how much my hard work advanced the careers of the “therapist saviors” while doing nothing for my career but pigeonholing me. People were still afraid of a mental patient whether we called ourselves a former one or a survivor or a consumer. I saw it in their faces, I felt it in their exclusion and it inspired me to quit speaking publicly about my life as a consumer.
It also inspired me to dig into college as if my life depended on it and graduate with a BA in the top five percent of my class. I also got into graduate school in the management sector with a disability scholarship, having stated in my entrance essay that it was time for people with disabilities to not only sit at the policy table but make the policy about our own lives.
My graduate school liked the idea that diversity included those with mental health disabilities. One of my professors, a very accomplished and respected man, took me aside after class one day and said these life-changing words. Holding his thumb an inch away from his index finger he said, “Someday, I hope you see yourself as this much a person with a disability,” and then he spread his arms wide apart and said, “and that you see yourself as this much a scholar, because that is how I see you.” I thanked him, wandered into the woods near the campus, lay on the ground and wept with heaving sobs. I was born that day; those sobs were the sound of a birth.
I began to see myself as I actually was: a researcher, a scholar, seriously and passionately in love with learning. My mind exploded the day I was born into this new identity — a true identity, not an insurance code by which someone could make money off my label. Yet even then I was still drugged to the gills and laboring under the impacts of a label, disabled in fact by the cure.
Eventually I graduated, and I know that my story changed lives along the way in that journey. But I also learned by reading the cues of the world around me that the less anyone knew about my past, the more seriously I was taken as a legitimate scholar. I began to apply for work, hiding the fact that I had a certificate from a professional program called “Consumer to Provider.” I knew it didn’t matter how capable or smart or ethical or hard-working you were if “consumer” was attached to you — you would get paid less and have very limited career opportunities.
Finally, after years of dreaming and working I got a job in state mental health, the policy arena I had long hoped to get involved with. I had a degree with an emphasis on government structure and policy formation so I knew my way around bill passage and measuring impacts, and I’d done volunteer lobbying work. Consumers so often can least afford to volunteer yet are expected to. I remember being at a county meeting for mental health services when a discussion occurred about the possibility of hiring some consumers — to this, a clinical director with a fat salary replied, “We can’t afford to pay them, they can volunteer.”
Later, I explained to a director of our local Veterans Affairs that the absence of consumers in mental health services and policy tables is like a VA with no veterans. Our absence in meaningful, contributing roles to guide and shape policy just illustrates how deep the bigotry is. Meanwhile, we watch funds get directed toward building programs that any consumer with lived experience could explain are a waste of resources. The people that know aren’t invited to share what they know, and if they were, would most likely be humored and dismissed.
Consumer panels where some policymaker gives token ear with a whiteboard and markers may show how good they are to “listen to the people,” but when push comes to shove they still do whatever they want to do. I remember a Native American friend explaining his own pursuit of a master’s in order to be an advocate at policy levels for the tribe. He said: “We get some white dude running our mental health program. He’s had a savior complex from the beginning, dismissed our local knowledge and our own awareness of what we need, dehumanized us, and run the program excluding us for 30 years. He then gets to retire on money that the tribe needs, and gets a plaque commending his greatness.” We had a keen understanding of each other and the fight for sovereignty from entities that diminished the humanity of those they were supposedly rescuing.
At the pinnacle of my career, my first day at the state job coincided with the staff Christmas party and the day when my predecessor was retiring. By then I’d had experience as a case manager, as a public speaker, in clubhouses and various recovery programs serving the public. She stood up to introduce me as the new staff person. She could have told them I came in with unique experience and a master’s in policy at the top of my class. Instead, she prefaced my introduction thusly: “It has long been a dream of mine to have actual consumers working at mental health, and so today a dream is fulfilled and we have hired a consumer.”
Then she had me stand up, and she informed the entire staff about my mental health history rather than my qualifications as a professional who had earned the right to be there. She knew about my history because she’d heard me speak in a small venue about recovery years before. She didn’t ask me if she could share my past. My heart sank to my feet, my face was red and I was horrified because it was my personal policy to keep my history to myself. After years of experiencing the repercussions of what it means professionally to be the identified consumer in a workplace serving consumers, I wasn’t about to tell because it is career suicide. Thus I began my first day of work under a cloud of despair.
They’d hired another consumer shortly before hiring me, but she was so flagrantly “consumer” that, as she explained it, “I pimped out my diagnoses to get this position.” The only problem with doing that was that she was a token, completely unprepared to understand policy or her place in helping shape it. She had no mentors, and she’d relapsed into substance abuse with such wild mood swings as to become completely disastrous in the workplace. Here I saw the bigotry in its reverse form. They expected that if you hired consumers you were going to get this sort of thing: people melting down, and scandalous, unprofessional workplace behavior that they put up with for years because “she’s a consumer.”
Meanwhile I went to the opposite extreme, being uber responsible and trying to work extra hard to pave the way for other consumer hires, sometimes doing the work of three people. It was lonely trying to prove I was sane enough to work well. I didn’t get invited for shared lunches, people walked past me into their cliques. I was told to not even make eye contact with the director of the Mental Health Division and would walk with head down in fear of his well-known rage attacks.
The good old boys bent over backwards strengthening their power base and making sure that the two consumers were excluded from anything that impacted our lives. Those policy meetings were conducted by people with zero education in policy but with perhaps a master’s in education. They were clueless about long term impacts of their decisions on the lives of people they neither knew or understood, while we had our fingers on the pulse of what the consumer public actually wanted and needed from the state. It was unspeakably frustrating.
The consumer appointed as my supervisor was drunk on having power for the first time in her life. She used her considerable energy to delegitimize me in the workplace because she feared that the recognition I received illustrated the fact that she was not actually doing her job. Sabotage, theatrics and lies were falling like grenades. I was wearied by the tremendous dysfunction, both in those supposedly normal people in that toxic workplace and the other consumer that was creating a workplace hell. I was able to successfully request a change of bosses, but knew I would be labeled a problem child for making waves.
At that point I’d given up any notion of having policy impacts and simply hoped to have a job, but as my health fell apart from the stress of it all, I gave up my job amidst clear evidence of discriminatory policies. EEOC accepted a complaint, but by that juncture I’d landed in a homeless shelter because of my job loss.
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lesson about the negative repercussions of a consumer label well enough until my last job in mental health four years ago. I got hired as a case manager at a drop-in center. I was liked by clients because I really understood them, and I was liked by staff because I was so grateful for my job and a team player. They had no idea about my consumer past, and because of that the young staff were more relaxed about expressing bigotry toward people with mental illness. I remember the 21-year-old psychology graduate explaining to me that I was too trusting of mentally ill homeless people because “they are ALL manipulators.”
After months of sadly watching young case managers on ego trips in a culture where making fun of clients was part of the ethos, clients began to seek me out more than other staff. A client asked me why I seemed to “get them” so well, and I said “I’ve been there.” Word that “she’s one of us” got around to clients, and then to staff, which made me “one of them” to the wanna-be therapists in that drop-in center. Two weeks later I was invited to my manager’s office, where two weeks previous he’d told me I was an exemplary employee. I suspected nothing, but as I opened his door and saw the director of HR sitting pensively by his desk I got nervous.
He said, “You can go get your things, you don’t fit here with us.” I asked “What did I do?” to which HR replied, “We are an at-will employer which means we can dismiss you at will without explanation.” I pressed for an explanation. I was just supposed to buy “you don’t fit in” when before I was the identified consumer, I did fit in? Staff was told that my dismissal was all highly confidential and instructed not to speak to me. I was effectively banished and became a pariah.
I spent some time seriously depressed about what happened at that workplace, and it was some solace that the program later shut down (apparently, when you treat the people you are supposed to serve like they are subhuman a program doesn’t fly). I remained devastated and impoverished nonetheless. I’m wiser now about how ruinous it is to be a “consumer” in a consumer-serving agency, whether they talk the talk about recovery or not. But I also decided I never wanted to work in, around, or in the neighborhood of anything that had to do with mental health ever again.
After years of growing desperation in unemployed destitution I landed a job. My new job has absolutely nothing to do with mental health. My relief about this is enormous.
No one at work will ever know that I am or was ever called a “consumer.” They will never know of my sojourn in the system, my brokenness there, my years as the poster child that left my career in ruins. My new work pays around minimum wage for my area, but I don’t care, I’m so grateful to have work at all. It’s customer service and I don’t try to change the world, or innovate, or think or work harder than others or put in overtime. I show up, do my best and I leave. Hopefully I’ve been kind to people and professional.
Recently, an old program director of the Consumer to Provider program posted on my Facebook that he was thinking fondly of me and the program. I wrote him back and tried to explain that I have a new life now and no one knows about my consumer history. Then I realized that I can’t explain this. Those heroes of the recovery movement who had nothing to lose by exposing our history profited from our willingness to spill our guts and be vulnerable to a world that was afraid of us.
As I look back at the programs I was the dog and pony show for, the “inspiring story of courage and hope” because of their program, I think about what I sacrificed to make them look good. My privacy was given up, the most shameful things in my life were paraded for public consumption and I was patted on the back for my courage while they collected the dough to fund their jobs at my expense.
This is the problem with being a consumer — we get consumed. I use the illustration of the chicken and the pig when I talk to other consumers about the value of our stories. A chicken wants a picnic and says to the pig she is traveling with, “Let us have a picnic; I’ll contribute the eggs, you contribute the bacon.” The pig replies, “That is an offering for you, it’s a sacrifice for me.”
I’ve been the bacon at far too many mental health picnics. Someone’s salary gets paid, someone’s program gets funded, someone’s career gets enhanced, someone gets accolades for being so altruistic and such a great savior — and me, what do I get? Exposed, laid bare, and isolated. People are still scared to be friends with consumers, no matter how compelling your story about recovery. If they go to coffee with you they are slumming, but real friendship isn’t going to happen when you so solidly establish that you are the other.
The joy of being normal at a workplace where I’m just one of the minimum wage clerks putting in my time and enjoying camaraderie is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. If there is another consumer in hiding there, I wouldn’t out them because it would change the work dynamic. I wouldn’t out myself either in the name of eliminating stigma. I’ve beaten that horse to death.
As for my former mentor who outed me on Facebook, I unfriended him. I did this because if he doesn’t understand the impacts of being identified as a so-called “consumer,” he didn’t learn much from the sacrifices of identity and career that so many of us made to make his program get funds and recognition. He has retired well — I’m still living in poverty despite my hard-earned education. I will work until my dying day paying for my education at minimum wage, and be grateful to do so as long as no one ever calls me a consumer again. I remain grateful for a job far, far away from mental health where I have found my real identity as a human being.
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.
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Thank you for this. It resonates on many levels and is wonderfully written! boy, I’d love to sit down to a coffee with you one day. You say you’ve given up on innovation and changing the world, but your ability to express your experience and touch others as you surely have here defies this. Though you have found, perhaps, what is right for you, I also hope that you never give up. You are not alone.
Thank you so much for your support, it is appreciated. I’ve been touched reading your posts and thought them well written and important
The suffering I am experiencing and have experienced in the mental health system has been repeatedly traumatic.
Where I live they are forcing therapy and forcing support in people they define as mentally ill. This is occurring in non therapeutic venues and it has happened if one has a history in the mental heath system that people know about. I feel as if I’m living in some sort of Big Brother is Watching You environment that is essentially treating people as criminals or psychologically maladjusted individuals who are “misbehaving”. To make it even more frightening they are invading personal and intellectual integrity by “observing” people in work and academic settings, treating people diagnostically and essentially using public shaming or reminding them if there is any known history of that history and using that to control behavior. It is beyond horrendous. I’m a senior female who used to have an anxiety disorder that was observable which is mostly gone. Public therapy has forced me to “get better”. This disrupted my relationship with my wonderful therapist and invaded and somewhat aborted my personal process of thinking about my issues. I will be relocating as if I were a criminal on the run. I do have other reasons to leave this city but I feel as if my life as been poisoned and I’m being treated in the same manner as sex offenders are. Which is insane. I’m a retired worker in an educational venue who in the far past had problem with depression and tremors and similar anxiety problems. This was in the past but when I had some other temporal issues that included surgery recovery I was forcibly reminded in Academic and a Painting class of my “past”. I feel like the APA has invented Hell. When I’m out of town I engage in workshops I’d other kinds, I have friends here and in other cities that are normal and travel a fair amount and have non of these problems outside of where I live. I think we have parallel stories.
Your story is not only extremely inspiring and courageous, you have also perfectly captured the “mental health world” culture, as I experienced it as well, as, both, a client and an empathic clinical professional, one who has “been there.” Even as a graduate student in counseling psychology, I was privy to these kinds of dialogues and attitudes. It was disheartening, but I did my own thing, not really into these conversations, I was very focused on my training, very dedicated. At that time, I was not really getting the impact of all this on clients.
Then, I discovered how it felt to be a client on the other side of this attitude, and it was more crazy-making than I can describe. I was unprepared to be treated this way, and it was not just me, it was all of us. It was an awakening to me, of the underbelly of our society–stemming from the professional side of the system.
I found it over-the-top appalling, and it inspired me, as well, to look for a way to correct this, to influence change at that social dynamic level. Of course it led to all sorts of troubles for me, calling this out and challenging the system like this, but it also led to desirable change in my life, so as a result, I found my path, so it was all worthwhile, without a doubt.
Still, it is thicker than tar and leads to a lot of needless pain and suffering for people, and it is precisely systemic gaslighting. All illusion, no integrity whatsoever. This is not truth or anything even close to resembling honesty and compassion; however, it is a travesty of deceit, pretense and duplicity. And who are you going to complain to? Another cog in that same corrupt wheel of stigma, discrimination, and utter lack of discretion? Guess what makes people feel insane, more than anything? That is some serious oppression leading to powerlessness. There is no safety here.
This, especially, is vivid and rings true–
“I remember one very revealing lunch when my new supervisor introduced me as a student in a work-study college program to a case manager colleague. The colleague went on to regale the lunch table with bigoted jokes about bipolar clients. It was like a comedy routine, and I could tell the table was used to joining in the laughter. She’d just won the agency’s case manager of the year award and was in high spirits, displaying her utter contempt for the clients she considered herself the savior of.”
To me, this is the core of insidious mental abuse, because these authentic feelings of mockery do translate to the client, on at least an unconscious level. Although most can read it quite easily, these are not great actors, they don’t need to be, other than for their colleagues. Lack of client credibility due to stigma is easy fodder for two-faced hypocrites who gaslight by second nature. So calling them on it only makes it worse. It is a treacherous situation, insanity creating more insanity.
“But I also decided I never wanted to work in, around, or in the neighborhood of anything that had to do with mental health ever again.”
I don’t blame you one bit, that is self-respect in action.
Peace and best wishes on your continued journey. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It speaks volumes with great wisdom and clarity.
Alex, thank you for reading this piece and for “getting it” Your words were very encouraging. Yes, the client senses the mockery there is a diminishing impact. But I think as well those mockers are diminished as humans too. Systemic gaslighting, yes…. and yes, it is a treacherous system. HR is owned and powerless to stop a narcissistic system built on the premise “your brain is broken, mine is not, I will save you with my superior mind” I appreciate your support very much!
Wonderfully written piece.
The way to “mental health” is not arrived at through “consuming”. Duh. “Consumption” is “consumption” of “mental health treatment”. “Mental health treatment” is based on presumption of illness. “Misbehavior” is not illness. Psychiatry sells disease labels and their treatment, basically, drugs and bureaucrats. I’d say that it is a good thing that they cured you of your infatuation with the “mental illness” industry. The question is, how do we cure other “professionals”, “providers” so-called, with no taint of “consuming”, of contributing to this morass? “Mental illness” industry propaganda now claims 1 in 5 people have a “mental illness”. Reading a book from the 1970s, the figure 1 in 7 people was thrown up. The numbers apparently have grown. Present propaganda talks about the dangers of “untreated mental illness”. It is my belief that the dangers accruing to treatment far outweigh the dangers of any and all “untreated mental illness”. I’m glad that it is an industry you are no longer working in. It is my hope that someday soon the foundation is going to collapse under the “mental illness” industry. If it does, we will all be a little healthier as a result.
The deep grief I experienced in this system was watching people with talent and heart and intact souls buy the label, build a distorted identity off it, become a professional patient and thereby lose the beautiful contribution they could have made to their world. Unfortunately many are too harmed by the prescribed treatment to remember why they are on the planet. There is something insidiously dark in a place that is supposed to heal but actually harms and limits life. I’m sad so many people believe a billing code describes them. Selling sickness is big money, if in doubt check out how much Medicaid pays for psych drugs with questionable benefit to anyone but their profit margin
You both are speaking powerful truth! Thank you Katie for sharing your experiences so well. After 15 years of working in the system as a peer supporting the development recovery oriented care and system change I was so depleted I was physically ill. Like you I found healing and great relief to work in a field that had nothing to do with the mental health system. Overtime I completely healed physically and emotionally using holistic/mind body/energy medicine!!! And am now a healer myself and writing a memoir about my healing journey. One day soon I hope to post on this blog about it :)) untilriseagain.com Thank you again Katie!! Blessings to everyone, maybe we all rise above, heal, and find love and ease.
Best of luck to you! I earned my MFA in creative writing and have written about ten books. I took my two published books off the market because I found out that publishing is a sham. Should you choose to publish it may work IF you can find buyers prior to book launch who swear up and down they WILL buy your book, and guarantee 200 sales or so. This means 200 friends, or 200 sales via someone rich. I’d say advertise like hell, get the sales, or hire someone who likes sales if you dislike being a salesperson.
This is what happened to me. Due to social othering at the time the book came out, my fake friends flat out refused to buy the book. They wouldn’t even open the cover. And there it sat, gathering virtual dust. I took it off the market in disgust. I hated shoving it in their fake friend faces.
So now i offer it for free. Because I believe it is more important to get the word out than to “sell” anything. I only want to communicate. This is vital to me. Writing is sacred. I do it because to me it is so important to tell this story and get people to hear what we have to say.
My master’s thesis is not a book about abuse and never was. It was the culmination of a LOT OF WORK. It was so sad that it only sold, in lifetime sales, about four copies, about one copy per year. You’d at least expect my classmates to be supportive. Not. My heart was broken over that.
so overall if anyone out there plans to write a book, remember you have to sell the damn thing, too. And if you don’t like to be a salesperson, just don’t bother. Why make a publisher rich? Even self-publishing makes the self-publishing venue rich. Do the joyful thing I am doing now. Give it away. Make people happy, and get the message across to everyone.
My opinion based on my education and experience.
Thank you, I look forward to reading your story
Thank you…this is a beautifully told story that reflects my own experience when my “consumer” status has, by either myself or someone else, been revealed.
The fact is, it leads to massive abuse both in the form of ostracism and in the form of discounting, dismissing, condescension, blaming, gaslighting and contempt. I found that if I raised any issues whatsoever about my own or others’ treatment or concerns, or if I was in any way not totally harmonious and “normal” ALL the time, it was blamed on my being “mentally ill”. Normal moods and feelings are viewed as “symptoms”, as are views that differ from those of others.
Outing yourself or being outed, even with people you have come to know quite well, inevitably seems to lead to scapegoating, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, so I too no longer “fess up” to my former consumer status. Not to doctors, friends, acquaintances. I no longer extend my arms to have them tied into their straight jacket.
In society’s eyes there can be no recovery from a “mental illness”….not ever….perhaps because the chemical imbalance lie was (and is) so wholeheartedly promoted by psychiatry. It certainly serves to maintain psychiatry’s customer base, as people who are blamed, ostracized, marginalized etc ARE bound to be unhappy and unwell and hence seek “help” which inflicts further harm.
You said this so well. When I moved to a new area I do not bring any psych history with me and found as a result I received far better medical care. People with a diagnoses die an average of 25 years ealier than non-labeled people I believe there are 2 reasons for this, first the meds themselves have organ damaging side effects, and secondly, if you present for any physical complaint and have a psych history the assumption will be made your physical complaint means you aren’t taking enough psych drugs. Becoming completely illegitimate serious illness get ignored until they are fatal. I like your analogy about not extending your arms for a straight jacket. Thanks for reading this and for finding commonalities
This story makes me madder than a hornet. As a family member of a consumer/survivor I count on mental workers to treat my daughter fairly. Clearly, most mental health workers are in it for the money and have nothing but disdain for their clients. The few mental health workers who have any integrity get fired, quit mid-career or retire.
I cannot trust the community of mental health system in our community with the soulful responsibility of caring for and supporting my daughter. These professionals co-opt the rhetoric of the recovery movement but show disdain for people like my daughter. We need a full scale revolution
Yes, a revolution is needed and the people to lead it or those with lived experience. My 15 years in the system was extremely destructive but long after I left it, the life destroying impacts are still present. Asking people themselves “what do you think will help you get your life back” and learning from people that did find their way to some sense of wholeness is the place to begin. A relative that is a therapist learned a lot about recovery talk from me. She became a sought after recovery spokesman but confided to me “at the end of the day no matter what you say about recovery a schizophrenic is still a schizophrenic and cannot be expected to work or “recover”.
She’d been trained in the therapy world to look at people as a label which suited her inclination towards narcissism and the great savior complex. There are ways and places to find a life you like for a lot of us its not what the mental health system is selling even on their best day
madmom, from my experience — including 25 years of receiving mental health services (20 hospitalizations! 4 suicide attempts) and 15 years working in it as a peer/consumer leader AND finally healing myself from extreme emotional distress (or what the system called about 6 different labels) the best thing you can do for your daughter is to look for mind/body practices and other helpers (spiritual healers, shamans, mind body and/or energy medicine practitioners), not affiliated with the mental health system. The only exception is therapists/social workers/psychologists who understand and work with the mind body connection, a category of folks that is fortunately growing. Also sometimes talk therapy can be helpful but less so on its own. One year of daily yoga did more for my depression than 25 years of medication and talk therapy. I am not exaggerating. I will be writing about it in my book, untiliriseagain.com a memoir which someday will be published. 🙂 I wish you and your daughter great health, freedom and happiness.
So glad to hear you write that seeking out alternative healers is often/always/usually? the way to go. This reinforces my own experience helping my son recover from his ‘schizophrenia.’ My memoir (from a mother’s perspective), The Scenic Route, will be published later this year. I’m signing up to get your updates and look forward to reading your memoir.
Best regards, Rossa
wow that is great Rossa, I am looking forward to reading your book! You add an extra S in the above address btw but I found your site 🙂
Eek – this is full of horror stories of bad employment practice, poor workers rights and an economy based on debt designed to discipline the working class and enrich the 1%.
“……a clinical director of a mental health clinic and monstrously abusive …….. to his clients.”
“The director of the Mental Health Division…. fear of his well-known rage attacks.”
“We are an at-will employer which means we can dismiss you at will without explanation.”
“I’m still living in poverty despite my hard-earned education. I will work until my dying day paying for my education at minimum wage”
Lets just take a few seconds to remember that poverty is one of the biggest causes of mental distress (which then gets labelled as mental illness).
Lets then remember that Trump wants to cut, “Red Tape,” and regulation, and that will include workers rights.
Lets remember that inequality goes along with high rates of, “mental illness.”
Lets remember that inequality goes with low union membership which is pretty obvious as when you weaken the power of the working class the rich will just make sure they get even richer at everybody else expense.
Maybe it’s time to get a little angry?
The shame attached with poverty, perpetrated by those with the good luck of not experiencing it, is something I’ve seen its victims carry. I know of stories of other “consumers” in work places that had abysmal experiences with management and coworkers. They were so grateful to have a job and had so internalized shame that they didn’t know the level of outrage being perpetrated on them. The diminishing of unions in this country right now will only hurt workers
This is spot on. God bless you, Katie. People who would never pick up a Bible feel free to wield the DSM like it come from the mouth of God. The elitism is there, too. I worked in a variety of settings as a counselor and it was the same everywhere.
It is remarkable to me that the DSM has such power. Thank you!
ALL of the so-called “mental illnesses” in the DSM were INVENTED, not discovered. The DSM is a catalog of billing codes. That’s ALL it is…. So-called “mental illnesses” are exactly as real as presents from Santa Claus, but not more real.
Years ago, the local “Community Mental Health center” began using that “consumer” gobbledygook. Going back to basic Economics 101, the job of the “consumer” is to consume as much “product” as the producer can produce. Any “production” on the part of the producer, in excess of that which the consumer can consume, is wasted by the producer. So the producer will do anything and everything to force the consumer to consume more product. Thus, the number of so-called “mentally ill consumers” grows and grows, as the producer continues to increase production. We have the number of “consumers” we do, to match the bloated size of the “producers”.
The DSM is a catalog of billing codes, used as excuses to force consumers to consume DRUGS. You nailed it, Katie! My Iatrogenic Neurolepsis precludes me from any further participation in the mental illness system. I DO mean what I’m saying here. Thank-you. 🙂
Immensely powerful and profoundly moving -(breath taking).
Exquisitely written and constructed.
Compelling in precision of insight.
Every word, sentence and paragraph capturing horrific reality and explaining the true hypocrisy of “mental health” and the contempt of drug-dependent-psychiatry for its victims.
Katie, – THANK YOU so much.
It is self-evident that you remain destined to influence policy.
To add empowerment to the global gathering storm of demand for exposure of the current, egregious, propaganda driven, corrupt perceptions of care.
Similarly destined to contribute leadership by inspiration for desperately needed change and exposure of a morally, intellectually and ethically bankrupt system that perpetuates both failure-to-care, and extensive, inexorable abuse of power.
Such courage and fortitude is both uplifting and inspirational.
Please write more. TRM 123. Retired Physician.
Thank you so much TRM 123, for this profound encouragement. I had no intention of reading comments because I was afraid, but when I read such comments as yours it brings a redemptive meaning to the pain I survived. Living to tell about it and capture the real misery of people in a system that is supposed to help but is instead so terribly destructive is perhaps why I survived. The “why” means much to me. I survived to speak for those who can’t speak about the very real misery of working in a system that sells out its “patients” to a drug industry, and to a set of lies about what their lives mean. There is much about mental health as it is currently practiced that is identity theft of a group of people that were meant to shine in their own unique way.
Just like we should not be identifying as ‘mentally ill’, we should not be self-identifying as consumers or users of mental health services, or as having any ‘neurological differences’. Instead we should be organizing and fighting to shut down the mental health and recovery system, and to obtain justice on behalf of its victims.
Move from talk to action, please join:
Thank you Katie for this. It describes so well the dilemma we as psych survivors or folks now in various levels of the system on various sides of the system have to face.
When I was in as a professional there was a lot of gossip about folks who were professionals who had come out about their history. Many times it wasn’t mean but there was a definite change of vocal tone and general sense of unease at best. Worst was the mocking.
For awhile I followed NAMI and that was the worst choice of my life. Telling usually doesn’t help since we are never given passes.We are always watched and beholden to others.
The sad fact is I think that many folks are taking meds and they don’t share that. That makes everything so much worse!
Glad you have your space. I still open to find it someday.
Yes, about NAMI, I could write a book about things heard and seen there it is no friend of people with a diagnoses. A former friend that was president of a local NAMI would reply to my comments about some of the abuses I”d seen in the system “that didn’t happen’ “that could not happen” . She wondered why her labeled adult son kept having disastrous experiences and blamed him for the system fails. When I tried to explain, I’d seen thus and such in the system she put her head in the sand and tuned it out. No, he has a broken brain that is why he resists…. There is nothing you can say to that lack of logic.
Yes to the denial. That it didn’t happen. Not possible. Must be some exception. Which is flat out denial, almost delusional on the part of these true believers. However, I think they’re forced into psychosis themselves, even (and especially) the providers, since their premise of our being hopelessly diseased, and nothing but burdens to society is contradictory and false.
Damn, this was an eye-opener. It’s been one of my life’s dreams to infiltrate the psychiatric system, and then join my fellow Madfolk in the joyful labor of burning it down. But, now I’m having second thoughts. Or, at the very least, I’m rethinking how I’ll plan for that goal. The way psychiatry treated you – as a “patient”, then as a “consumer”, and, finally, as a “prosumer” – was disgusting. But, one of the “problems” seemed to be that you weren’t given sufficient information and resources to pick ANY of the locks of psychiatry’s labyrinthine gatekeeping jungle. I’m sure it means very little now, but psychiatry might not have “consumed” you, if you A) had not been alone as a “prosumer”, save for a few “prosumers” that were hired SOLELY to burnout and, thus, promote future policies of job discrimination B) had access to an income outside of the psychiatric system or C) had a mentor who advised you not to “come out” as Mad until AFTER you’ve toppled enough quacks. This was a true story of EPIC institutional discrimination, in the very industry that holds a LITERAL death-grip on the power to “help” Mad people. I hope it’s widely read and taken VERY seriously as a compelling example of why we need to de-guild or abolish psychiatry. Obviously, there are high-level, seasoned clinicians who would NEVER have mistreated Katie or any other Mad people. But, there clearly aren’t enough of them to stop psychiatry’s wide-scale destruction of “prosumer’s” personal and professional lives. Perhaps both Mad *and* able-normative clinicians would thrive and produce in a psychiatric system that was stripped of ALL its guild-perks.
What a great story with such insight – thank you.
I also recovered from being in the mental health system, and now work in two great jobs completely divorced from the mental health field. I have recently made a decision to never try to work in mental health – a hope I once had – and I am relieved to have chosen to stay away from mental health.
I believe that in America the field is so fundamentally corrupted by the biogenetic model and by misconceptions about the nature of suffering, and about the fundamental differences between “normals” and people given labels, that there is no point to such an endeavor. To me, the predominant US approach to the seriously mentally ill resembles a covertly-run slave-plantation (where patients produce funds for the drug companies, with the psychiatrists doing the go-between work). Another good metaphor for this system is T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland:
I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.
The dead man’s alley is that metaphorical place where the unforgiving rats have chewed and gnawed away the bones of a person’s few remaining internalized good relationships, leaving no hope for rapprochement or redemption. That’s what happens when you tell someone they have an incurable brain disease and have to be on drugs, far too often. And when there is not sufficient community or loving support to help a person believe they can become well – something far too infrequently available to those labeled “borderline”, “bipolar”, or “schizophrenic”, making the gap between how they actually do and how they could do (with skilled psychosocial support) a massive chasm.
Fortunately, they are some glimmerings of hope in more recovery-oriented work, but I want no part of such a system… given how much work would have to be done to bring about significant change, and how unrewarding it would likely be along the way. Narratives like yours simply reinforce my conviction.
You also reinforce my conviction that this field is not safe for those that hope redemption is a true thing in life. Yes the hope of redemption is gnawed away by those diagnoses and prognosis that you are irretrievably broken and must be medicated your entire life to make you socially acceptable. And even then, you are other and always will be. So glad you found good work outside the soul crushing morass of work in mental health
Is “do good secretly” the moral of the story?
That is actually the opposite of the moral of this story if there is one. If you mean that a program requiring funding rolls out a dog and pony show using “consumers’ to attract that funding without regard to impacts on the consumer than I’d suggest that the consumers are objectified for the sake of getting money.
This brings up the whole idea of what it means to “do good” to, or for people, I think often when something truly good happens there is something mutual and human that happened, not one person being the savior of the other. An exception to this might be a doctor saving your life but when that happened in my case the doctor was so authentic and valued me that the interchange of humanity blessed us both. We became real friends, not something that could happen in mental health.
Good is what happens when transparent authentic human beings see each other for the beautiful contribution to the world that they are. Goodness arises out of an equality of value and the interaction between equal gifts If, I am “doing good” for someone I”m most likely harming them if I’m doing good by presuming I am good and they need my goodness and I’m going to bestow that on them. That is paternalism and not goodness, goodness is in my opinion unconscious of itself and happens spontaneously.
Additionally, I cringe when I hear statements such as “I just want to empower people” There is an assumption in that statement that I have the power, they do not and good me is going to give them some power. Because I’m good… I believe this affirms the unhelpful idea that the location of control is outside that person, So many paternalistic and diminishing attitudes are inherent in the mental health profession that I don’t have the stomach to deal with it anymore. Its insidious and hard to explain unless you’ve been “other” while someone was being “good” to you
If I could do anything it would be to remove the savior complex from mental health and make room for people that received services to run those services. By make room I mean provide money for education and opportunities in non-bigoted work places. It isn’t “doing good” to do that its just being wise with resources and identifying the assets that are already present in so called consumers. We need diversity in work places it enhances the work place, but not the kind of diversity in which a class system develops
Katie, I think the truths you are speaking here are the Gordian Knots of the mental health system. I believe you have pegged exactly why “chronic illness” is the mythical order of the day within the system. This is energy draining for all concerned. As you so rightly say in your response to my above comment, everyone is diminished in these situations.
Personally, I fear commonly disingenuous and extremely narcissistic staff more than the psych drugs. I believe the people we’re talking about here are more dangerous than the drugs, and the post traumatic stress from gaslighting can be very tricky to heal. After all, the drugging starts by people who choose to do the drugging, it is that very attitude that leads to the entire psych drugs debacle. There is such a cognitive disconnect here, it is so obvious.
I healed after withdrawing from 9 psych drugs after 20 years of taking one thing or another, and it was very rough for me, of course, but with diligence and perseverance, I finally made it to the other side after a few years of intensive and creative holistic healing. But without a doubt, it took me a lot longer and the deepest healing imaginable to me, to heal from the utterly toxic relationship dynamics perpetuated in the mh system. I’m not even sure that is totally healed, the confusion from this can still pop up from time to time. Meditation serves me well in this regard, to get clarity and trust my gut instinct.
I hope this article is widely read. To me, it is the bottom line truth of the matter, when it comes to wondering why the system is such a failure. Systems are made up of people with a common focus. Single mindedness is required, and in this case, it’s to keep people at least *believing* that something is inherently “wrong” with them, which, in turn, keeps clinicians/staff believing and acting as if they are the ones who are sane, stable, and, therefore, superior and the ones who are “accurate” in their assessment of “reality.” It is the essence of duality, discrimination, and marginalization, all systemic abuse.
And to think, this is supposed to be about helping people who are seeking support due to trauma, and in so many cases, toxic family dynamics. It is an impossible situation, as long as staffers refuse to take responsibility for their own shadowy perception of “others.” That’s a huge leap in consciousness, so I don’t see it happening any time soon.
But articles such as yours here, calling it out so clearly and reasonably, sure do move us in the right direction, so thank you again for this, very much. It is extremely validating, and obviously, from the comments on this blog, for so many of us.
Healing from the cure is a miracle and proof of resiliency and courage and the beauty of the human soul. This statement so perfectly sums up my own experience. (and by the way I imagine lots of survivors come from narcissistic families in which they played the scapegoat while their siblings became the golden child therapists) Hence family or origin is powerfully replicated in this sick system. This quote of yours a resounding YES ” But without a doubt, it took me a lot longer and the deepest healing imaginable to me, to heal from the utterly toxic relationship dynamics perpetuated in the mh system. I’m not even sure that is totally healed, the confusion from this can still pop up from time to time. Meditation serves me well in this regard, to get clarity and trust my gut instinct. “
“I imagine lots of survivors come from narcissistic families in which they played the scapegoat while their siblings became the golden child therapists”
That describes my family dynamic, except that my sibling became an elitist academic, he’s the dept head at a prestigious university. Although the way I handled that part of my story of healing was to speak my truth about it, directly. My family story, and how I surpassed it, is in a film I made, where 6 of us speak very publically about our journeys through the system.
I’ve been challenging my family system for a long time, with fascinating results. While rugged and unpredictable, overall, it’s been working in my favor and causing all sorts of shifts to occur, along with releasing their burdens I inadvertently took on.
If you’re interested in seeing this film about healing through truth-speaking, here’s the YouTube link. It is feature length, 96 minutes, our stories interwoven throughout.
This was made in 2011, and our stories have evolved from this point in time. I’ve learned a great deal and have refined my perspective since then. But at the time, this is how I was driving my healing, by speaking my truth. That was revelatory to me, the enormously powerful impact of this, and have been doing it ever since.
In addition, I filed a complaint with EEOC against a voc rehab agency exactly because of all this we’re discussing, and I won, although it did get me professionally blacklisted (not the worst thing that could have happened, but of course it tested me financially, as is so common from all this).
Although, years later, after distributing this film throughout the system, this agency lost its funding and closed, so I guess they got what they had coming. They could have made changes, but, instead, they chose to insist on their discriminating ways, despite the slap on the wrist they got, and it caught up with them. Perhaps they know no other way?
All of this led me to alternative healing, and then training, and also to theater, filmmaking, and music, where I found my true calling. I keep experiencing that when one door closes, others open, and new parts of me emerge to meet what life puts before me. Life is a path unfolding unpredictably, teaching us our true nature through the process of evolution…
Not all of us who years ago went to therapists for advice had “narcissistic families” (whatever the heck that means). My own family was fine and I hate what MH (especially the therapists) did to us. The therapists were bigoted, they stereotyped my family, they were antisemitic, they didn’t understand, they tried to fit us into a cookie cutter when surely my parents were a cut above the rest, to be honest. They took us into the mountains, took us hiking and taught us appreciation for nature when the other parents plopped their kids in front of the TV and ignored them all day. My parents were not abusive, nor manipulative, nor addicted to anything, nor emotionally unstable. They wanted the best for us kids, and no way do I see what happened as “scapegoating” as I voluntarily took myself to therapy in the first place. It was my choice, in fact I insisted on it in an act of defiance. I thought it was the right thing to do and told my folks they were “old fashioned.” The accusations of those therapists tore my family apart, turned my brothers against me. I am heartbroken over what happened. Of course, what is the norm in malpractice? People do not like to hear that a DOCTOR or THERAPIST could do harm. OH NO! It’s so much easier to blame the victim. “It must have been an underlying family condition.” Listen real hard to this, listen to just how typical it is to excuse these therapists. Underlying condition, eh….. No, I myself was not scapegoated by my own family, though I was certainly scapegoated in other circles. Speaking for myself only.
I can relate to this. After making the mistake of marrying a “psychologist” I became the target of a smear campaign, just as her first ex husband was also target. In my case, a DSM4 label was generated, inserted into a “Data bank” and then distributed, widely, by US mail. Notwithstanding the fact each publication was a felony under section 1177 of HIPAA, the law was ignored.
Now guess what happened once the DSM4 code was published?
The way that I was treated after this was horrifying. And the knee jerk reaction was universal. So I learned how a black man felt in 1929 Alabama. I learned how a Jew felt in 1939 Nazi Germany. I was tossed into a garbage can and became a piece of garbage.
And the really remarkable thing is nobody cares. The EEOC, who is supposed to protect us, does nothing. There is no place to go to enforce anti discrimination laws. The courts are also joke. You can file lawsuits that get dismissed on a motion to dismiss. The only way you have a chance is if the court assigns you a lawyer with the following qualifications:
1. He must work for free
2. He must be familiar with the ADA
3. He must be capable and experienced at successfully arguing cases before the us Supreme Court.
4. He must not be condescending, patronizing, for example telling you “all we need to do is send you to Dr x, he will do some tests, he will give you a clean bill of health and we can put him on the witness stand.” In other words, he needs to treat you like a human being who does not require “tests”
5. He needs to be skeptical of the dsm4 and psychiatry
6. He needs to be your advocate.
Regarding representing yourself in court, it won’t work because everyone in the courtroom will look down their nose at you and they will make up their minds before you even speak.
But good luck finding a lawyer who meets the 6 criteria above.
Once they put you out of business, you become unemployable. That is, unless you can find some way to lie about what they did to you.
The movie Trumbo captures what it’s like to be blacklisted. Although his was for “communism” the story is the same. Trumbo could work under an assumed name. In modern times, that is not impossible.
The EEOC should take these complaints seriously, but they don’t.
I’m sorry this happened to you. Because of a lack of transparency in the mental health system, because labeled people have no legitimacy, because assumptions are made about the altruism of a therapist, their victims are erased. Your story is painful and you are not alone in it. I know several spouses of powerful yet narcissistic leaders in the mental health system that barely survived the hellish lives their psychologist spouse inflicted on them. It isn’t just a dark side of the profession, the profession begins with so many faulty ideas about people they label. The power to label or name a thing and create its destiny helps create that god complex that is so dangerous
Oh wow this is so, so good. You’ve summed up the tokenism so brilliantly. The damned attitude. Yeah, that’s exactly it. The way we’re treated as soon as they know we’re diagnosees. I want to share this widely but I fear, in a way, blowing your confidentiality. I have a saying that I’ve been using lately….
IF NO ONE SEES YOU AS A NUT, YOU AREN’T A NUT.
I, too, used the “relocation” method and it worked fantastically. There’s a huge difference between revealing to people who are complete strangers online and revealing in person. Also, there’s a difference between people who are clinicians or mandatory reporters and those who aren’t. Those working in the field are ten times more bigoted. Even those who claim to be “different.” They rarely are, especially if they’re duplicating the System and refusing to admit it.
I have rarely had trouble since relocating. I know all it would take would be one slip and I’d be forced to relocate again. Once I met a guy for a “date” and after that I figured he was “cool” so I revealed in an offhand way. After that he told me he never wanted to associate with me again since he feared an “untreated mentally ill person.” To be safe, I changed my phone number, but I am not at all worried. All other times I have mentioned it there have been no problems. I have actually gotten the “I left the System too,” response. BTW, I’d suggest not using Facebook at all, but I’d say by all means you were extremely wise to get that guy out of your life!
More power to you! Wow this was so, so damn good. I always knew we were all much smarter than the people seated across from us in those offices. Keep it up.
Thank you for reading this and for your support. When I worked in the field I remembered a client telling me she desperately wanted to go away and start her life over as her real self and not as the caricature she’d become. I’d been at those “team meetings” where they dissected her like a bug, and in a gossipy and maligning way ascribed all sorts of nasty mental health jargon “malingering, manipulate,” The psychiatrist, a well to do, young woman utterly contemptuous of the woman called the woman a delusional liar. As if she knew in the 5 minutes she’d met her.
But I saw the soul behind those labels not because I’m good or better but because I was still just another human responding to a person in pain that wanted to flee her therapy and get her life back By then her whole life was a court ordered mandated treatment nightmare that she couldn’t escape. A part of me wanted to tell her “change your name, flee the country, start over and don’t ever darken the door of a mental health agency again. She had no resources to do these things.
Yes, relocation… and remembering who you really are… It feels very much like a bird flying out of a cage when you can leave the past behind Safe travels friend,
Unfortunately, many birds who are let out of their cages are frightened, and, seeing how wide the walls of the world are, run back into their cages.
The seductive world of MH is always calling. Leaving an abusive relationship is like leaving a burning house. To go back means to die. But it was your home and inside are things you owned, many memories, and even comfort. Many are drawn back and are sucked right back in, choke on the smoke or burn in the fire. The analogy is not mine, but one I heard in a talk on domestic violence years ago.
Sometimes I see working in the profession as taking a sneak peek back into that world because it was your life, and yes, it’s darned hard to leave that fake world behind. Even though it was cruel, it was the world we knew for many years. This is why many of us yearn to become nurses or social workers, wanting to help other people because being helpers was so highly valued. We want to be like those we admired, those god-like people we worshiped for so long and held in such esteem.
Some indeed are suited to it, many are not. I learned the very hard way that my originally chosen field, the creative arts, is where I belonged to begin with. I also know I work best by myself, independently, boss-free, which means the traditional helping fields are most likely not the best match for me. Needless to say, a person can feel fulfilled and know they are helping other people without directly interacting with them. Doing art can fill other people’s lives with joy and wonder. (If anyone says doing creative art isn’t giving to society, and that the only legitimate work means a paycheck, or volunteering in a soup kitchen or stuffing envelopes for a charity, they can go screw. Where are people’s values? And frankly, I don’t care anymore.)
Yes, beautifully expressed truth about trying to leave and going back and finding out once again, it was a fake life. The fear of flying free when you are convinced your brain is broken your mind not to be trusted from those that gained from that exploitation is no small amount of courage. And sometimes it involves steps forward, steps backwards. Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey” inspired me
one day you knew what you had to do….
Very well said.
I agree with you, Kate, and others who responded to your powerfully truthful article. I have given up on trying to change the system from inside. I too found many of those who work in the system to be arrogant, judgmental and quite cruel to those they were supposed to serve and show respect and kindness. What I noticed with supervising a team of clinicians and peer specialists was often fear and envy by the clinicians who thought they would be replaced. Many of the staff completely dismissed the peer specialists or worse were patronizing. I loved the peer specialists I worked with but saw them getting beat up often by the professionals. Questioning the established system was not welcome and was quite dangerous in terms of shaming and discrediting. Keep forging ahead, Kate, you have a lot to offer. Peace and wellness to you.
Yes to the supposed “dangerousness” of those of us who tell the truth. Because we’re a threat to those who can’t, or won’t, hear the whole story. Because they’re afraid that knowledge will set them free, which might be scary and painful after all. Maybe living in a slave society is easier.
Knowledge is power, I love that! It is heartbreaking when you can see what is really happening, and the hopes and dreams of a “peer” provider are going to get run over by the steam roller of those whose privilege rocked them to sleep. Those peers can feel it. No matter how good or smart or hard working, that undercurrent “not one of us” permeates the air. They straddle two worlds and are residents of neither. Neither the old life but not welcomed to the new. Being a peer professional doesn’t allow you to grow, not professionally nor personally because as a peer there is always suspicion by those that are not. It is a shame that anyone hired couldn’t just be a “professional” mental health tech. Peer counselor is the only job in an agency in which a worker’s health history is disclosed in their job title. And its not a good place to have that history disclosed. I’ve said before its like being the identified sinner in an evangelist convention
I have come back to this blog several times today wondering if I would comment? Knowing firsthand how a psychiatric diagnosis can lead to no one in the medical field believing anything you say is horrific. Yes it is a knee-jerk reaction. When I went to a new primary care doctor for follow up care after I’ve been hospitalized with acute pancreatitis I was stunned at the way she talked to me less than 5 minutes into the initial first visit. It didn’t make any sense because I had never met her before? I requested a my medical file later and she had underlined my psychiatric diagnosis three times in red ink. To her I was a psychiatric diagnosis. It led me to find out that when my psychiatrist had visited me in the hospital he had written my psychiatric diagnosis in my chart for the whole hospital staff to see. Any doctor I saw in this hospital system would see my psychiatric diagnosis.
I have not told any new friends about my psychiatric history because all it would take was one comment on “how stupid were you” to hurt me to the core. I had dinner at an old friend’s house tonight and was telling her about this article to which she said there’s no reason for you to tell anyone and she’s right. My friend knew me pre psychiatric drugs, drugged senseless and psychiatric drug free. She has seen what the drugs had done to me and she has seen me rise above what I went through drug free. That’s my validation. Not some psychiatrist I saw for a quickie medcheck who was so oblivious to what he was doing.
Your article was powerful. It’s hard to live your life when you feel like there’s a shadow nearby. Some years ago I hand delivered altered medical records that had no reference to psychiatry or psychiatric drugs to the new physicians I saw that were independent of the hospital system. No one needs to go through life branded with a psychiatric diagnosis that makes you lose your credibility. I wish you the very best on your journey and I thank you so much for your bravery telling your story.
Thank you for your bravery in sharing your experience too. A friend’s mother died in the hospital parking lot of a heart attack after being turned away in the ER. My friend was able to prove that it was a bigotry toward her mother’s diagnoses that lead the nursing staff to assume it wasn’t a medical emergency. She won a lawsuit, but I wonder how many people fail to get adequate medical treatment because in their chart, underlined in red, is a mental diagnoses?
You are wise to get the branding off of you. My medical treatment improved substantially when I unloaded the branding. On occasion I ask to read my medical chart, so far, no mention of a label and I breathe a sigh of relief
Katie, that happened to an acquaintance, same thing, she was turned away prior to a heart attack. She lived.
I also witnessed a wrongful death. The guy was sent to the psych unit when he was on the verge of a heart attack, instead of having his impending heart attack tended to. He literally collapsed during his intake interview!!! How stupid can they be? I saw the whole thing. I was not in the room at the time but I saw enough. I knew what had happened because I had been in the System, as compliant, three decades. Compliant, well, not much longer I must say! They told us he was a “regular.” Uh huh, that’s why he got profiled. Since I no longer live in the area (safe from retaliation) I have been trying to publicize this one as “witness” hoping that if there has been a lawsuit I can at least chime in, but probably the statute of limitations has passed.
What a perfectly accurate reflection. I find so much social science theory woven through the threads and it’s how I remind myself and others that it’s all a set-up. It’s all an illusion and if people are to prosper, the current system must be eliminated. At this juncture, there is no way around that as mental health has it’s tendrils in every aspect of society from the delivery room to the funeral home. It has been built up and worshiped as some type of God that will save us all and nothing could be further from the truth. Only we can save us and it will require lots of work, sweat and tears.
“Consumer” conjures up thoughts of instant gratification which is part of the problem. We want to believe there is a way over, under or around social and personal demons and there isn’t. And those who “help” have no interest in teaching the truth. It cuts into profit margins and threatens the pedestal from which they issue their demands, or as they call it, “treatment”.
Thanks for reaffirming what so many of us already know about the system. I stay away from the word courageous as those in the field employ that often now in a belittling manner. I thank you instead for sharing your hard won knowledge that we may benefit from it. Take good care.
The sickening part of this whole thing is, a lot of the people who fall into these mental health institution traps end up wanting to do careers in the same institutions to “change them”.
These people, before they ended up in these largely useless institutions, may have wanted to be engineers, doctors, programmers and what not. Instead those desires and dreams, which are the desires of ordinary everyday people, get replaced by hopeless desires to change garbage. If you, who were a subject of the system, end up trying to be reformer of the system, you will always be consumed by the system and what happened to you in there.
I don’t want to see that anymore. Instead, I want to see people achieve the dreams they had before all this junk took place. I don’t want to see them reform the system. I want to see them get rich as hell and if anything, perhaps take vengeance. All the vengeance that money can buy from outside the system.
The existence of friends who grew up with you before you went through the whole psychiatry garbage is a very good thing. They (at least some of them) see you for who you are. Not the crap you became or were labelled with later in life.
If you confront most people in the MH field about what it does to people, all you get is denial, defensiveness and dismissiveness. They simply change the topic or insist that they wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t help people. Sure it helps some people in specific situations. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t harm people. And psychiatry and everything that comes along with it harms people in very insidious ways. It doesn’t matter that the intentions of some in the MH field are good. Intentions mean nothing. Actions and their consequences actualise intentions.
Katie writes: “The deep grief I experienced in this system was watching people with talent and heart and intact souls buy the label, build a distorted identity off it, become a professional patient and thereby lose the beautiful contribution they could have made to their world.”
I did this to myself for many years. I saw me, only through the prism of labels. I forgot what I was like before the whole fiasco.
“These people, before they ended up in these largely useless institutions, may have wanted to be engineers, doctors, programmers and what not. Instead those desires and dreams, which are the desires of ordinary everyday people, get replaced by hopeless desires to change garbage. If you, who were a subject of the system, end up trying to be reformer of the system, you will always be consumed by the system and what happened to you in there. I don’t want to see that anymore. Instead, I want to see people achieve the dreams they had before all this junk took place. I don’t want to see them reform the system. I want to see them get rich as hell…”
Amen. I’d call this shifting the poles. That is where true and real change will occur.
I agree with this absolutely. No one in the system trying to be a change agent thought as a child “when I grow up I want to be a stigmatized outsider, scapegoat of systemic evil, in which I am labeled mentally ill.” I find in the work world outside the fantasy land of mental health that there may be dysfunction and toxic workplaces but rarely is it ever the level of toxicity that organized mental health is. Rarely does one group in a work place become suspect and discounted and voiceless because they have a label of “defective” attached to them.
There may be covert racism,ageism or sexism which is painful and awful but the difference in those places created to supposedly serve a “consumer” the “consumer” being served is marginalized both as a recipient of services and trying to work in the system that serves other consumers.
My career advice to anyone that wants a rewarding career do something creative and engaging that doesn’t depend on the creation of a class system in order to generate an income. We erased natural helpers in communities, those people sought out for their wisdom and comfort that happened organically, by professionalizing a so called “helping” profession. That profession requires the absorption of the DSM to classify people and slowly erode their humanity while elevating those with the power to label. The system by which we classify a so called illness actually creates a class system of which the therapists become the elite class.
What the author describes is a new form of racism. The “system” has devolved into a two class society. Us vs. them. A first class citizen and a persona non gratis. It’s not based on skin color. It’s based upon psychiatric labels and DSM4/5 codes.
You do not even need to have a “disorder.” All it takes is for a person in power to believe it. Under the ADA it is called “regarded as.”
There is a person who commented about her encounter with the doctor where she sensed something was up based on how she was treated. It raised her antennae enough to ask to see her chart. On the chart was a DSM4 code underlined in red ink. Three times.
And when she saw that red ink it confirmed what she detected when her antenna went up. She was being discriminated against. And she knew it. She could tell by the tone of voice. The words. The facial expression. She knew that look. The disregard. The condescension.
And when you think about it, the look the doctor gave the patient that day was a look of contempt. For those of us similarly situated, we all know the look. We know whats coming next. The words of dismissal. The words of contempt. The sarcastic uppity comments. We all know that moment. When you know you are about to be pigeonholed into a category based on a DSM4 code. You may as well have the code tattooed on your forehead underlined 3 times in red ink. That would save time from having to read our medical records.
Imagine if a black man was talked to like that by a white doctor. And then imagine the man asked to see his medical record and the doctor had underlined or circled the word “black” or “African American” in the record.
Hi lighting race as grounds to treat someone like dirt is racism. To highlight a DSM4 code in a medical record and then to treat them in a condescending manner is the same thing. It is disparate treatment based on disability. And under the law, its a violation of civil rights.
Under the ada, the author cites numerous violations of the law that are serious enough as to be actionable via lawsuits. To be identified as a “consumer” is actually an invasion of medical privacy. And it is this outing as a consumer that is causing discrimination in the workplace. And the discrimination is not inconsequential. It is serious because it has affected her employment. It caused her to leave jobs either because she was compelled to quit a hostile work environment, or she was let go as an overt act of discrimination.
These are civil rights violations. And we need to start standing up against them. The EEOC needs to start doing their job. They are all over the case when there is no wheelchair ramp to get into a restaurant. There were marches when Rosa parks was told to sit on the back of the bus. Yet the author of this article is relegated to status of second class citizen who must take a minimum wage job and hide the fact she was once a “consumer.” Rosa parks was denied a bus ride. The author has been denied a good paying job where she can use her education. One injury is orders of magnitude more significant.
And yet the EEOC has dropped the ball. Its time they divert some attention from wheelchair ramps and acknowledge the elephant in the room. Its employment. Its health care. Its discrimination. And the victims need help. They need legal representation and they need to be able to work in jobs they want without being harassed and pigeonholed. If Rosa Parks can sit on the front of the bus, we should also be allowed to work in jobs we train for. And if we are being forced to hide and take minimum wage jobs, then something is not right.
Thank you for this wonderful and insightful comment. The burden of proving the discrimination is nearly impossible. EEOC had enough evidence in my case to bring it to mediation but I was not in a situation due to the impacts of workplace discrimination (homelessness) to fight hard. The mediator violated her mediation rules as she explained to me “I’m not supposed to take a side here or comment but I want you to know they are, even now, treating you in a demeaning and disgusting way. You might refuse their offer (and it was paltry and insulting she said for the level of harm done. I refused the offer but never had the wherewithal to hire an attorney and then I decided to move on with my life
I’d once been in a position in which the psychiatrist broke confidentiality laws in a way that harmed me. The lawyers said we know he broke the law, we know you have evidence the most that will result in his case is a misdemeanor in an unwinnable case. It is unwinnable because “who do you think they’d believe, the prominent doctor that comes from a prominent family in this area or the mentally ill woman.: It reinforced the hopelessness of fighting this system
Clearly social justice wasn’t on their radar or something worth fighting for. I consider it a stacked deck and yet those of us that are harmed by the stacked deck are ashamed as if we deserved this The entire system is narcissistic, the scapegoats being the victims they supposedly serve
Yes, these examples abound. Psychiatrists can and do get away with appalling behaviour towards their “patients” .
They just use the trump card – “mentally ill liar”. If that doesn’t work, they use the joker – “potentially dangerous”. They don’t need proof to use the “potentially dangerous” joker, because the dangerousness is only POTENTIAL, and hence it is impossible to disprove. Additionally, the law sees psychiatrist status as unquestionable evidence of god-like infallibility. You can have a totally clean record (not so much as a parking fine), be a responsible member of society, educated, a mother, and be over 60 and not very big, but if the shrink says you are “potentially dangerous” you can be totally stripped of all human rights. I couldn’t get my records transferred from the shrink who labelled me that way to my new treating shrink, because the old one said that if my new shrink saw my records, I would become dangerous!!! I tried to convince the human rights commission that I really was not able to read my new shrink’s mind, but they wouldn’t believe me.
The ACT Human Rights Commission sided with the first shrink and called me a liar. Wouldn’t let me know why they were calling me a liar (maybe they truly believed I COULD read my new shrink’s mind), wouldn’t tell me what evidence, if any, the first shrink had presented, as he would not give them his permission. He said my seeing the evidence against me could also make me dangerous, apparently.
It was traumatic in the extreme, really, knowing that even the body charged with protecting my human rights could be used by a psychiatrist who hadn’t seen me for years to further demean and continue his abuse of me.
However, there is a bright side – the whole sick and abusive charade gave me the angry impetus I needed to walk away from psychiatry and all “mental health” services forever.
…and if I come across another struggling human being, what I accord them is respect, and my honest presence IF (and only IF), they want it.
mlk, here’s a suggestion. Being over 60, unfortunately, means the chances run high of seeking assistance from medical professionals unfortunately. We tend to accumulate miscellaneous issues by the time we’re 50 or so that may require the dreaded office visit. Given you have a “record,” here’s what I would suggest.
End all association with psychiatrists and any mental health professionals. End all association with any medical professionals who are aware that you ever saw a mental health professional or are aware of your MH history. Now, you need to learn to be an excellent liar and an excellent actress. Never admit it to any future medical professional again. Never admit you ever saw one, nor ever say, “I was wrongly prescribed x,” because sadly, they NEVER buy that one and defer to the prescriber. Never admit you were ever in therapy. Never admit to depression, feeling blue, having insomnia, any mental history in your family, or any social problems, being addicted or having alcoholism in the family, or ever being fired or ever being sad. Or at all “disabled,” ever. Don’t let them raise eyebrows. Flat out lie. Get what you need (such as emergency help for a bee sting or poison ivy or a cast on your arm or eyeglasses) and then, get the hell out of there and breathe a sigh of relief that they did not capture you and keep you like you’re a dangerous criminal! Then, once you’re out of their clutches, laugh your butt off.
Precisely what I am doing/have done, Julie.
I sold up my house etc and moved interstate, breaking all ties with “mental health” services. No-one here will ever be aware of my past, and, thankfully, as I make new friends and reach into my creative and artistic skills, I find I am being treated with respect and that I have value as a human being.
This is something that was stripped bare by the “mental health” industry and the human rights commission. To those in it I was sick, flawed, valueless, dangerous – a scapegoat for all their projections.
Now I am regaining the status of human being, each week I am feeling slightly less down and fractured, and sometimes happiness appears – I thought I might never feel hope or satisfaction or joy again, but it is returning, albeit sporadically, as I tentatively re-establish human connectedness.
What I say to anyone unfortunate to be captured by the “mental health” industry is RUN AWAY! They are committed to keeping you sick as that protects them from having to face their own human fragility.
Yes, and don’t be tempted to go back!! Be careful, too! Anything that looks like a shrink called by another name IS a shrink. Even coaches, faith healers, even some that call themselves alternative, beware! Do not trust! I wish it were otherwise, but sadly, it ain’t. Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Recently (for reasons I truly wonder now) I contacted a “coach.” I actually was figuring “career advice” but wow, I wish i had not. Right away she asked me if I had ever consulted anyone else and asked over and over about “prior diagnosis.” I happen to know that if she had a real coaching license her coach ethics would demand that she did not use DSM diagnoses. Apparently she either disregarded this or didn’t care. BEWARE!!! Of course, I used a throwaway telephone number when I contacted her, gave her no physical address, and a fake IP, just to be sure. I ended the phone conversation as soon as felt uncomfortable with her questioning, and told her I had no interest in pursuing “services.” I am reminded….Do not go back, do not be tempted. I could kick myself, even though I was playing it safe.
But you had a shot with the shysters, if you could get one for the price of a piece of the action if you won. You’ve the danger of some cheesy settlement if your lawyer has pressing debts, but he still has to so something to maximize his piece of the pie. The EEOC is your evidence, so you’re (to lawyer) not so crazy if you can point this out, so there is material for a case. You may want to see several of them predetermine local greed levels prior to employment.
I wanted to thank the author and all the commenters for what you have written. Unless you have gone through this yourself it’s almost impossible for anyone to relate to it. Many of us were in a vulnerable situation when we first went to see a psychiatrist. Reading the vignettes about what each you went through is empowering for me because you have gone beyond it.
What we must do, if we can, is to tell these stories in a way that is understood universally. This is not as difficult as it may seem. When we think about it, we can explain this in more universal terms by explaining how it felt and leaving out the qualifying judgment, since that can be extracted by the listener or reader. Of course very few have ever been in restraints, but many can relate to being misunderstood. While most have not been locked up, many can relate to feeling disempowered or trapped in a situation or knowing there’s no way out. One life story is a metaphor, which is why our stories can be so powerful, speaking to many. This is why anecdotal evidence should not be dismissed the way it often is by providers. Of course it’s just another way they love to discredit us and assert themselves as gods.
I am grateful too for these comments they affirm my belief that far too many of us experience the mental health system as life limiting and destructive. Every comment has given me encouragement and food for thought
Katie, Thank you for your well written, soulful sharing. I worked for 30 years in the system as a psychiatrist who disclosed I had recovered from schizophrenia(whatever that is). Probably because I entered high in the food chain I was not directly attacked but I experienced many of the micro aggressions of mentalism you chronicle. At my retirement the truer attitudes emerged when the company newsletter referred to me as a”peer psychiatrist.” I give talks and write to counter the avalanche of negativity and prejudice we face. But I agree it is a thankless task. I totally understand your wanting to work outside the field. I now focus my attention on Emotional CPR for everyone and getting out my book, “heartbeats of hope.” My best to you.
I appreciate your comments and reading this. I remember hearing you at a conference and being deeply inspired and grateful. Your were grounds for hope and my own desire to be a change agent. However, is true that because of your MD and possibly the social strata and connections you had from your life outside that diagnoses you didn’t experience the same level of persecution and shame. Additionally the power to diagnose, prescribe and control those labels somewhat puts those at clinician levels in a less authoritative position.
I’m glad to hear you’ve written a book about emotional CPR, I could have used it when staff applied Emotional First-aid to me which was the new fad in my state mental health government position.
My dearest friend, worked as a consumer in the county was missing. I’d called her boss and was told the police were trying to find her. I was waiting for the call and when I got the call I heard that she’d committed suicide. As I sat at my cubicle in a state of stunned shock, I soon noticed about 5 or 6 people headed toward my desk. My friend’s boss told them they better check on me, after all, “she’s a consumer” And so these fellow employees newly trained as trainers in mental health first aid converged.
We’d just joined another division, I sat nearby the other employees that had no idea I was the token consumer. To my shame and angst one of the first aid responders said “we heard about your friends death and because of your consumer history we want to check on you” He said this loudly, to me it felt like he had a bullhorn I was outed very publically at the moment of the deepest sorrow of my life.
They blocked the exit and asked me “what are you going to do” At that moment my sense of panic and danger was acute because these people all had the power and authority to commit me if they didn’t like my answer. One said “are you going to kill yourself” (I suppose the direct question is part of the first aid approach)
I replied, I’m going to go to a church to pray to which another of the inquisitors said “what if God is dead” (My thought at that time was lady that is your issue not mine) By now I’m blocked on all sides from getting out the door because I needed to escape them and get some fresh air and go to the ocean But I was searching for the “right answer”. So I said, I’m going to go see my therapist friend. (right answer but not my actual plan)
At that point the entire building is watching this shame infused and for me absolutely degrading “mental health first aid” by a bunch of former mental health therapists now bureaucrats that wanted to try out their new method and display what good therapists they are. I have PTSD from the psychiatric system, the only thing they accomplished was further entrench that I was less than human to them.
The same people that never invited me to lunch now were going to rescue me without regard to the most basic principle that some of us like privacy in our grief. And don’t block exits for someone in deep pain
I left that job where I’d planned on being a change agent not long after this event understanding that no one in the building was allowed to see me as a fellow professional. I left knowing I’d probably not survive another 6 months and because of my commitment to live I left to save myself
Sounds like that facility was VERY aware that it was responsible for your coworker’s suicide. And they knew nobody else would care about that woman except you. I guess they were trying to bump you off too, so that all the evidence of their lethal abusiveness would be buried. You did everything society tells disabled people to do: you got married, you sought the care of “medical professionals”, you went to school, you worked, you obeyed the law. Those duties took far more out of you than they take out of the less-burdened majority of people. Yet, you did them anyway. In return, you WERE entitled to live in total dignity. Thank God you’re finally MUCH closer to that now. Bless you, Katie.
Katie, I am very sorry to hear about your coworker and the MHFA treatment you received. Actually I joke that the only good thing about MHFA is that made me and a group of people with lived experience so mad we decided to create an alternative to it, eCPR. I have been asked to do an “environmental scan of peer support, the challenges and opportunities. I would like to use your story to describe the challenges, without your name, OK ? It is for SAMHSA not the public.
Thank you. Stories like yours are part of why I don’t think reform of psychiatry is possible — despite the many thoughtful professionals who write here on “our side”, I don’t believe the profession will ever voluntarily give up its harmful and stigmatizing authority.
The only real answer is anti-psychiatry. Burn the profession to the ground and replace it with non-stigmatizing, non-labeling, non-hierarchical forms of peer support and caring. May we see a day when being a psychiatrist is more shameful than any label.
I tend to agree with you, but I wouldn’t even call it peer support. I’d call it human support, or competent support. What if we gave the following titles to service providers “therapist–(the rapist) ” and “competent support” and let people chose which one gets to charge a fee for services based on actual help? In the hierarchy the therapist would be at the bottom of the pecking order and the competent help would supervise them based on their ability to understand impacts of systemic stigma. Therapists would only get hired if the competent help deemed them appropriate after they identified structures of oppression, classism and racism in their classic therapist training.
Having spent 40 years trying to use the power of the label psychiatrist to undo the system, at great hardship, I would agree with Bean. The systemic change needed must come from outside the system. Media? Perhaps as we are doing here, social media; gatherings also in the form of teachins as we did to counter the Vietnam war; I also have confidence that Emotional CPR can restore the natural healing capacity which is inside of each of us.
Having spent 40 years trying to use the power of the label psychiatrist to undo the system, at great hardship, I would agree with Bean. The systemic change needed must come from outside the system.
This is good to hear you say, i.e. coming from a “professional.”
I wanted to comment on this comment:
“. The lawyers said we know he broke the law, we know you have evidence the most that will result in his case is a misdemeanor in an unwinnable case. It is unwinnable because “who do you think they’d believe, the prominent doctor that comes from a prominent family in this area or the mentally ill woman.: ”
It is responses like this from “lawyers” that irk me to no end. A lawyer should never, ever say something like this. What the lawyer is doing here is telling the victim of discrimination “nobody is going to believe you because you’re “mentally ill”” and implying that “people who are mentally ill” (or more accurately burdened with a DSM4 code) are unworthy of consideration.
Imagine if a lawyer told Rosa Parks “nobody is going to believe you because you’re black.” Would that be ok?
If a lawyer ever says something like this to you, write that comment down on a sheet of paper, allow the lawyer to verify he said that, then report him to the bar. A comment like that that the case is “unwinnable” because “you’re mentally ill” is a violation of the code of ethics. Such a reaction from a lawyer should result in an investigation and at minimum, a reprimand. A lawyer who makes such a comment is discriminating based on disability. He can’t tell a client “nobody is going to believe you because you’re mentally ill.” He needs to treat you the same way he treats any other client.
A lawyer who refers to a client as “mentally ill” is as guilty of malpractice as one who calls a client “guilty as charged.”
it cannot be said enough times how brilliant this article is. above all for its differentiated and accurate analysis of core issues involved in the construction of peer- workforce as a great new psychiatric brand. i totally understand that you never again want to be a ‘consumer’ in this way but dare saying that there must be other ways beyond the scenarios that you describe to at least document your knowledge and your perspectives. i am based in germany where peer-workers epidemics has started much later but is about to successfully erase any collective user/survivor voice that there ever was in this country. the experience and the analysis that you present in this piece are very much needed and i wish that you will find a way to continue contributing your thoughts outside the roles that system designates for us. keep up the good work, katie and also thanks to everybody who commented on this thread. if i haven’t just survived editing a book last year i would invite everybody to jointly create an international anthology to expose peer-support and other ways we get inserted into existing systems of psychiatric ‘care’ provision (and research!). it’s about time to speak our truth and suggest different ways forward.
It’s great to see people starting to see through the “peer” and “consumer” traps.
We are not consumers. We are the consumed.
The collaboration of opportunistic “survivors” with the “mental health” behemoths of the APA and NIMH in the mid-80’s to destroy the true anti-psychiatry/”mental patients liberation” movement and replace it with the so-called “consumer movement” was an act of treachery which has not yet been fully recognized.
Yes it was a co-option of a grass roots movement whose power was our own voice calling the emperor naked. We became pawns as an uprising was silenced and made “socially acceptable” into “peer” professionals. And some of us marched (or crawled) into those places as peers and had hell to pay for doing so. Nothing changed but the labels. The so called or labeled consumer was consumed the minute they accepted the label.
I just wanted to be considered a human being with something to give
It is 1.30 in the morning just wanted to read a blog before sleeping and read yours! Wow. What can I say you write so spot on what I see happening all around me. I just had to write THANK YOU for writing this enormously important piece.
Psychiatry has introduced this new ‘career’ called consumers as peer workers which is… as you have just described it for so many. Unfortunately it has not only trapped so many people in poverty, tokenism and continued shame but it has sadly in my opinion been successful in disarming the survivor movement to a large extent. It is a process to extract oneself from psychiatry not just physically but also mentally. Now there is a new psychiatric trap the ‘peer’ trap and that one is just as difficult to escape from as the patient trap.
Actually even the term “survivor” seems to have had its genesis at least around the same time as all the “consumer” terminology; before that we called ourselves “former psychiatric inmates.” The only difference now is that fewer of the psychiatrized have gone the full inmate route as opposed to “community mental health,” which snags more people now. I still prefer “psychiatric inmate” (and “outmate”).
Katie W: thank you so much for writing this and sharing of yourself. I just earned my BA in Psych and am taking a grad level addictions class and agree that this mentality by non-consumer grad students is real. Had you not written this piece, I up to this time was feeling not part of, questioning my suitability for the program and really questioning my capabilities because I am also a Consumer. I’m conditioned to find the fault within me and gaslighting was indeed the reason I left my previous career.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for this incredibly well written and horrific story. It is my story also, except with one big distinction. I knew who I truly was both before and after my diagnosis, at least in terms of being an intelligent and valuable person. That knowledge kept me from self-destructing, although it didn’t bring me health, wealth or happiness. First, though, I have to say that I HATE that word “consumer” as applied to my search for understanding of my cognitive dissonance. That is truly what “mental illness” is: attempting to live in a world that tells you what is when you know it isn’t. I have never considered myself as a “consumer”, a “patient” or any of the other euphemisms applied, only as a searcher for understanding.
I am now nearly 63 and retired on disability after trying for over 40 years to have a career as a neuroscientist and veterinarian. I was one of those very promising young scientists in the 70s, before my “diagnosis”. My disability now has nothing to do with my own intelligence, talent, and skill as a scientist with a great deal of experience and insight into my chosen field. It only has to do with my inability to be employed because of the repeated and calculated disclosures of my personal medical information by those who had something to gain by those disclosures.
At my last place of employment, I found out about the disclosure only after the person died. I contacted 12 attorneys in my attempt to involve the legal system in what was clearly an illegal action. I finally found 1 attorney who agreed to help me. There was a great deal of evidence supporting my claim of serious damage, and yet I only got a meager settlement because I couldn’t afford to pay the attorney up front in a prolonged battle against a University with unlimited legal funds. That was only the most recent experience of career-destroying disclosure. I have many stories…
In addition, I can relate many stories of discriminatory and cruel treatment by medical “professionals” who learn of my “diagnosis”. The advent of electronic medical records makes it nearly impossible to find medical care uncontaminated by my diagnostic label. The effect is disastrous. I suspect I will eventually die because of a lack of needed medical care due to stigma and discrimination within the healthcare system. I don’t really care at this point–the world is clearly crazier than I ever was, and my cognitive dissonance has only grown greater and greater over time. There is a very good chance that I will take my own life, and that’s ok, too. I have no illusions and don’t fear death.
I don’t know what the answer is. All these calls for the destruction of the field of psychiatry and the whole mental health “care” system don’t make sense to me. If the current system is dismantled, something equally dysfunctional and abusive will spring up. It isn’t the system that’s at fault; it is the inability of homo sapiens to evolve psychically. The latest turn of events in this country, the USA, is a clear indication of that. We are so close, and yet so far, from making that leap. We are so in love with our technological superiority, we fail to see how impoverished we are psychically.
I hope you continue to find some peace in your life. It sounds like you now know much more about who you are, and it isn’t the label. Keep dismissing the labels, especially the ones you put on yourself. They’re meaningless and only keep you from understanding your true self.
maradel writes: “I am now nearly 63 and retired on disability after trying for over 40 years to have a career as a neuroscientist and veterinarian”
You tried for 40 years?! Did you achieve anything in those fields? I am not asking this disrespectfully. I am asking this to know if there is any silver lining to this story.
Did they fire you from jobs simply for having these silly labels?
Also, to live on disability where you are given a disability amount on the basis of those same labels that screwed you over, is the most cruel turn of events possible.
Of course, I achieved many things, mostly the personal satisfaction of knowing that I contributed some interesting ideas and helped other young scientists have a different perspective than they might otherwise have had in my absence. And yes, I lost jobs specifically because of the label being disclosed. I was also prevented from being promoted and many other career-related things specifically as a result of disclosure of the label.
“Silver linings” is a dangerous thing to look for. It implies that the only value to my experiences would have been career success as I attempted define it over the years. There is “value”, although I’m still struggling to understand it. It has to do with a more complete sense of my self, as more than just as the “scientist”.
The world can be an incredibly cruel place, no doubt about that…
Yes, I have heard very sad stories about people who have been subject to cruelties who have worked in the sciences. It is indeed money-driven and power-driven. Ah, who has published papers, who has been favorited, who works for which prestigious companies and who gets the grant money and holds that precious tenure? Yes it’s a cruel world and I have heard stories told to me by those on the top who have it easy and are clueless about those who have it rough, and those kicked into the gutter who are wondering why so few “get it” and why so few can conceive of a non-career that slaps you in the face over and over.
Source: Stories I heard from others.
Thank you for sharing your own experience of discrimination and the inferior medical care a labeled person receives. I have health issues absolutely tied into the years I was “compliant” and took medications that did not help me, that created more symptoms than I had in the first place. Compliance was one of the most harmful things to my physical health I ever participated in. It took years to withdraw from the heart and kidney damaging medications I was on and I am left with physical injury severe enough to qualify for disability.
Your story of shared experience gives me hope that we lived to tell the truth and that the truth is powerful and must be said out loud. The hope for me in all of this was that I learned to take power over my own life and understand I was my own bust counselor. I can now appreciate the growth that emerged out of very real and profound suffering from the “cure”.
“It only has to do with my inability to be employed because of the repeated and calculated disclosures of my personal medical information by those who had something to gain by those disclosures.” How did you know this info was disclosed to potential employers? What did you sign that includes this in a background check? I was gaslighted and court ordered to a mental health facility but never given a bs diagnosis. Dissonance? You should feel at odds because it’s ironic how psychotic those are who are so fixated by labeling people. Blessings to all who speak here to better someone else’s life.
I was told by several coworkers that my deceased boss had been telling people my diagnosis for years, not just at my last place of employment. You need to understand how academia works to know how gossip spreads faster than the speed of light within one’s field. I’ve left out a lot of details…
Thank you Katie, your account is excellant. It reminds me a bit of Animal Farm (for some reason). I think there’s still more lead in your pencil, though.
73 comments thus far. Each comment describes a form of blackballing derived from DSM4/5 codes. The blackballing is usually in employment, a major life activity as defined in the ADA. Each adverse employment action is thus illegal under federal law. Nobody should suffer adverse employment action based on DSM4 codes.
What has happened here is the APA has created, in essence, a book of crimes. These crimes are being used to justify a form of harassment manifested primarily by rendering a person unemployable.
The APA should not have the power to create a book of law. They are not a legislative body.
The APA should not have the power to create an employment handbook that is used in hiring and firing decisions. Yet this is how it is used when you think about it.
The stories of people who feel compelled to go underground is really quite similar to what happened in the McCarthy era.
The stories are also not unlike the runaway slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad.
It is really disturbing that in 2017 that human beings feel compelled to go underground like this. Why does the APA get to do this? Who are they? Their book is nothing more than a collection of fake made up disorders. Why are they being given power over our lives?
The APA is now serving the same role as the House Committee on Unamerican Activities. Employers endeavor to find out who is on the list. Although the blacklist may be an abstract concept, if you are identified as a “consumer” then consider yourself outed.
Consider the soldier who returns from war. He applies for job after job and is not offered any. He senses he is being discriminated against but cannot figure out why. Suppose the unemployment rate of soldiers was 50%. Is that ok? Or should it be investigated?
The simple fact that people feel compelled to go underground suggests a very serious problem. The 73 comments illustrate the magnitude of this problem. The ADA obviously did nothing to solve this problem. The law is there but it isn’t being enforced. The EEOC has a duty to enforce the law but they don’t. If they can get the wheelchair ramp built, then they can get jobs reinstated. They can clear the obstacles for the soldiers. But the EEOC has been sitting on the sidelines allowing all these things to go on. Which makes me believe the EEOC is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Maybe it’s time to hold congressional hearings regarding how people are being blacklisted by the APA, losing jobs, compelled to go underground, and how the EEOC is not doing the job they were funded to do.
Wouldn’t it be effective to tell Congress about the DSM4 code in the medical record underlined in red ink? Wouldn’t you love to tell them what the lawyer said when he spoke these words: “who is the court going to believe, a well respected psychiatrist or a mentally ill person like you?”
There must be some way to fight back because this isn’t right. We are human beings, not discardable garbage.
Well, maybe I’m overly cynical at this point about the government helping to change this situation, especially given the current level of corruption. I don’t really think the EEOC is at fault, anyway. The problem revolves around who is allowed to access the legal system. You have to be able to (1) find and (2) hire (ie, pay for) an attorney to represent you in a court of law. No matter how egregiously a law has been violated, if you can’t pay for legal representation, you have no chance for redress. Also, many laws are structured so that the value of your “loss” is defined entirely by your economic value–how much money you have, and how much money you make. If you don’t make a lot of money, the value of your award is too low to make it worthwhile for any attorney to want to get involved. Like many other things in this country, only the wealthy can afford legal representation.
Not only the workplace, but the workplace-to-be. As in the case of children taken before they even have a chance to finish high school. Or kids taken while still in college, prior to having a chance to start their careers. Potential employment that never ever happened. And as Katie brilliantly has stated, the government is now offering us Peer Support positions as tokenism, I suppose trying to make the genocide look just peachy keen, and also, to trap us into further silence.
Needless to say I have applied for such positions but because I have stated plainly on all applications, “I do not believe in force nor coercion and cannot support these practices,” I am always turned down. I suppose I have been lucky in that regard.
As I have said in other forums, Jim Gottstein has eloquently pointed out that the field of malpractice or personal injury law is not equipped to handle psych cases. This is so specialized that there needs to be a separate legal specialty for psych. I am hoping that law schools develop specialty training for future attorneys, just like they train tax attorneys, property attorneys, and elder law attorneys.
My guess would be that these attorneys would need excellent medical knowledge, anatomy and physiology basics, knowledge of drugs, have strong ability to see different angles of situations, must have creative ability to empathetically understand a person’s motives, ability to understand coercion, be human rights oriented not “right to treatment” oriented, have full understanding of the United Nations definition of torture and of a person’s right to refuse treatment, and of every person’s innate competence. And have good ability to mediate.
The APA is now serving the same role as the House Committee on Unamerican Activities.
Congress doesn’t care and probably never will. We do need lawyers competent at deconstructing psychiatric bs. We also need Miranda laws applied to psychiatric interrogations.
I do not state this to disrespect the author or commenters. I can empathise with her/them as I have had some horrible life-damaging experiences associated both directly and indirectly with the mental health profession, it’s drugs, it’s labels and their misuse, myself.
I want to know if there are any positive stories out there. These days I have been frequenting this site often, and reading only accounts of lives gone awry makes me hopeless.
Are there people who went through this psychiatry debacle and came out reasonably clean on the other end? Anyone have good careers and successful and reasonably happy lives?
Ah, but life’s a stage and we are but actors upon that stage. I used to think, “Oh, I wish my life was like that person’s life. He/she seems to be so together and happy.” But you know something? We’re all acting on that stage. We are in this together. Act. Listen: What did we do on the wards? We acted our diagnoses and got rewarded for that. Acting well got us brownie points. Now what? No staff, no fucking brownies, right? We still have a stage, we still gotta act. Some play-act happy. Do we believe these smiling faces? You can if you want.
Just live. Don’t even think about it. Get up on that stage and sing like hell.
You may not find “positive” stories, as you’re defining them, in this venue, because this is a place for people to tell the painful stories that need to be heard. In my view, the fact that this site exists is incredibly positive. Through all those painful decades of my life, nothing like this existed. There was no place to tell the stories. No person would listen, even my “therapists”. The attitude was ‘well, you’re mentally ill, what do you expect if you’re going to insist on having a real career?’
Here we can tell our stories and find a great deal of understanding. And there are mental health professionals who contribute here whose attitudes are very different from those whom I have encountered. That is success.
I can’t deny my own pain and sorrow and rage at what’s happened to me, but I can say again that there is value to my life and to my experiences outside of the value that society bestows. The journey is important. That may sound trite, even I have trouble accepting that sometimes (many times), but it is undeniably true.
I personally do not define this stuff as “painful” and I am tired of hearing these TRUE FACTS described as subjective or some type of opinion or again, as our disease we have to go to yet more treatment for. NO! We do not. This is not OUR disease, nor are we somehow obligated to ourselves nor to society nor to our friends and family nor to our communities to “get over it.” I think our communities owe us an apology. I think our doctors and the institutions that backed them and called us liars or paranoid or delusional need to stop that NOW, and acknowledge that they were flat out wrong. They need to acknowledge that they made grave errors. Have we not done so ourselves? Have we not acknowledged taht it was a mistake to trust them, if we ever did? Wasn’t it a mistake to believe them? Wasn’t it a mistake to trust them, even a sliver? We have admitted our mistakes. We know how painful it is to say, “I was wrong.” Look at the lost years of our lives and at our broken families. How can they tell us to get more “treatment” when what is truly needed for us all is for them, the providers that harmed us, to face us, look us squarely in the face and say, “I’M SORRY.”
Hmmm…there is real pain, at least as I experience my life. It’s not pain associated with any psychiatric label, but pain associated with living as a human being in the world. I don’t feel the need to deny it, any more than I deny the constant physical pain I deal with from a spine injury that was a result of a car accident. I also don’t feel the need to “treat” it with psychotropics.
Apologies don’t mean much to me, either. There are so many terrible things that human beings do to one another. If I were to rank my experiences in a list of human-imposed horrors, somehow I don’t think they would rank even in the upper 10%. And, I should add, I’ve been through the whole range of psychiatric/mental health system horrors many others have described, in addition to the discrimination associated with my label. There would be too many people who ostensibly would have to apologize to me. It would get very wearisome.
As you’ve mentioned in other posts, just living as best one can is what I strive for these days. My incredible stubbornness and persistence in believing that I was an intelligent and worthwhile human being kept me not only alive but also pursuing my career. I don’t know where that comes from. Not everyone has that “gift”, so I don’t judge others for giving up or choosing a different path. So many times I’ve railed against the “gift”…
“I can’t deny my own pain and sorrow and rage at what’s happened to me, but I can say again that there is value to my life and to my experiences outside of the value that society bestows. The journey is important”.
I feel that at this point in my life it’s a positive life. I became aware of what psychiatry was doing to me in 2002 and have been drug free since 2006. It was a slow healing process as my body and brain readjusted coming off the polypharmacy. I now have some wonderful friends. The other day at the yarn group I started we were trying to guess who was the first king of England? That might seem trite but it was enjoyable for us. I’m looking forward to gardening in the spring, I have a couple of books that I’m reading, I went to dinner at a friend’s house Friday night and last night a good friend and I went out for Chinese. I shy away from situations that may be impossible for me to handle because I want the load I carry to be lighter and more manageable in my life. Would I be at this point if I hadn’t been so grievously injured by psychiatry? I don’t know? I do have an awareness that I didn’t have before. I don’t mind spending quiet time with just myself at home for days on end. I appreciate and am grateful for each day even though I may not feel my best.
Yes I did get through about 6 years of life changing experience with every type of therapy and three hospitalizations better than I was before. Though I am critical of the over reliance on meds and a medical explanation of human woes and trauma, I do find therapy,with a caring humanistic person can help. Meds and hospitals are last resorts but sometimes are all we can do, and people should not be shamed or ashamed for using them. Mostly I want people to hear at the start of their journey that extreme emotional distress can be healing, it is not an illness but it is important to get help, in a respectful, empowering, and hopeful setting.
Meds and hospitals are last resorts but sometimes are all we can do
OK I take back my previous comment to you, as you are apparently still clinging to the illusion that there is something “medical” going on here.
I don’t see Dr. Fisher’s comment in that light. We are a pill-oriented society. I’ve met so many people who demand a “pill solution” to every problem imaginable. That is a societal issue with so many causes and implications, one can’t even begin to pull it apart. Some people seem incapable of the level of insight it takes to question the medical model. Judging them as inferior or as “victims” of the medical model, or however one might see it through the lens of one’s own experiences is really not helpful.
When a person in terrible psychic pain and no insight shows up in a psychiatrist’s office wanting a pill, should he/she turn that person away? That seems overly rigid to me, and believe me, I am no fan of the medical model or of psychotropic medications.
No insight? It’s a basic human rights principle that no human lacks insight into their own condition. We are each the primary authorities on ourselves. However, it is my personal observation that mental health professionals sorely lack insight into the condition of their patients, and increasingly so when they assert the authority by diagnosing them with psych labels.
This is not to say there’s no value in medicine. There is. A person can feel pain in a foot and not realize it is broken. The person may go to a doctor and tell the doctor about the foot pain, describing what he feels, which then, hopefully, gets properly diagnosed as a fracture.
The important thing in so-called mental illness is not pain. It is not even unusual experience. It is that a person came into contact with a mental health professional. Truthfully, many of us do come into contact with those dreaded professionals due to pain or unusual experience, but not always. Then what happens? We were flat out misunderstood. We were not heard. The illness, this so-called mental illness, is that act of misunderstanding.
When a person in terrible psychic pain and no insight shows up in a psychiatrist’s office wanting a pill, should he/she turn that person away?
The problem is the person showing up in a psychiatrist’s office to begin with.
I understand your longing for hope and in fact, whether I conveyed it or not I do feel hopeful. But my hope is not in the system, the story is about what happened to me when I put my hope there. I also put my hope that education could lift me out of the “untouchable” class in that system and I found that it did not.
I had no where else to find hope in the end but my faith. Consequently, I put down very deep roots in the hope of Presence in homeless shelters and in hunger, in loneliness, isolation and persecution. My journey has been long and painful and a small fraction is told in the story I wrote. A therapist called my clinging to faith “religious delusions” and said “faith is okay as long as you don’t take it seriously.” But I could see that all her faith was in the system that paid for her Mercedes outside her plush office door. She took her dogma very seriously that spirituality was a minor part of life. For me, it was the way and the reason I kept on breathing. Yes, I’ve lost hope in the system, and in people form the system but I’ve gained a hope I feel that is more reliable. The worse my situation became the more faith kept my head above water in the storn
Wow does the medicalization of spirituality sound familiar! It is so commonly done. As a kid from a Jewish family I was told I had a Jewish problem! Of course, they defaulted to that, since being who you are is a disease since your patient status means you can’t be called “normal” or they’d look like fools.
An example of such medicalization, my most abusive therapist decided to do “psychodrama” (really, psycho-drama) and told me to imagine God was in a chair, and to put a stuffed animal in the chair to represent God. Then she said, “Talk to God.” I told her to go screw.
I’m sorry to hear the stuffed animal in the chair psycho-drama foisted on you. It seems the indignities perpetrated by the profession are only limited by their imagination. Of course I also think being imaginative and creative is one of the things they try to cure if it doesn’t fit in a certain small box.
Psychiatrists can’t control their patient’s lives, if their dogmas are forced to compete with their patient’s belief systems. Be they religious, spiritual, moral, or what have you, they MUST brainwash you out of them, if their goal is to trap you in psychiatry for life.
maradel writes: “In my view, the fact that this site exists is incredibly positive. Through all those painful decades of my life, nothing like this existed.”
Julie Green writes: “Just live. Don’t even think about it. Get up on that stage and sing like hell.”
At first I was afraid, I was petrified,
Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights thinking how you did me wrong,
And I grew strong, and I learned how to get along.
And so you’re back from outer space.
I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face
I should have changed that stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I had known for just one second you’d be back to bother me
Go on now, go. Walk out the door
Just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye?
Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh, no, not I!
I will survive.
Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live.
I’ve got all my love to give.
And I’ll survive,
I will survive, hey, hey.
P.S. For anyone wondering, those are the lyrics to “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
Ahem.,,,,,Yeah funny we sang that one on the wards.
Okay, you just ruined it.
Naw, I think we inspired the escapees.
Our song of choice on field trip buses (to the tune of Auld Lang Sine):
“We’re here because we’re weird because we’re here because we’re weird…” (on and on indefinitely).
Thanks for the article, and *thanks* for all the great comments. So true, all of it.
I would like to comment on this comment:
” I don’t really think the EEOC is at fault, anyway. The problem revolves around who is allowed to access the legal system. You have to be able to (1) find and (2) hire (ie, pay for) an attorney to represent you in a court of law. No matter how egregiously a law has been violated, if you can’t pay for legal representation, you have no chance for redress. ”
This is true. If you cannot “find” a lawyer, you can’t invoke the law that was designed to protect you.
Now suppose that a black man was fired from his job because his new supervisor was a racist. He is now unemployed. He seeks a lawyer who tells him to pony up 25,000$ for a “retainer.” The man says I don’t have the money. The lawyer says, well, sorry, I can’t help you then. But good luck.
So is this ok? To make “justice” only available to the rich black man clearly defeats the purpose of the law.
This is where the department of justice should step in, to assist the victim of racism who cannot afford a lawyer. The agencies are funded for this. They have the resources to take on these cases.
The same goes for the EEOC. If they have been notified of a case where a man becomes unemployed because of discrimination based on disability, they have a duty and an obligation to represent this man in court. For free.
Once the employer realizes the EEOC is on the case, I bet the man will be reinstated in short order. If the employer faced a financial penalty for wrongful termination based on disability, I think they would be inclined to follow the law.
And this is why the EEOC is largely at fault. If they are denying legal representation to people who need their help, then why do they exist?
This lack of access to the legal system for lack of money is NOTHING NEW.
It’s the *injustice* system and has been forever.
That is, discrimination based on perceived disability. Because if you were doing the job, and were shut out of that job because you employer didn’t like that you had a label, then it was perceived disability, was it not? Or, if you were doing your job just fine, but missed some time from work, took sick days due to ___ but your employer “found out” that you actually were locked up in a nuthouse (who squealed, I wonder?) then if otherwise, taking time off is okay (when another would take time off, say, for the flu), it’s perceived disability, or outright loathing, or fear of a person they don’t understand, or shunning becausue they just plain hate, is it not?
“The same goes for the EEOC. If they have been notified of a case where a man becomes unemployed because of discrimination based on disability, they have a duty and an obligation to represent this man in court. For free.”
This is exactly what happened to me, I filed a discrimination suit based on disability (ADA violation) lawsuit with EEOC, after getting fired from a voc rehab agency as a client-to-staff employee, they had drafted me for their staff after I went through their program. I was succeeding wildly with clients, they were getting jobs they loved and were excelling at, and then management started reprimanding me for pissing off the CEO. I wouldn’t sign the reprimands, they were absolutely ridiculous, so they fired me, took three of them to do it, and I had no advocacy whatsoever. I asked why, and they kept it vague. I told them they were required to give me a reason (I’d been a manager for 17 years before this, I knew employment law), and they noted an email I had sent that they felt was inappropriate, which was really quite benign.
I went to the EEOC on my own and filed a complaint, and it was denied.
Then, I scoured the city for an attorney would not charge me, and I finally found one at a non-profit employment law teaching center. She was outside the “mental health” system, thank God. I think that was my saving grace. She heard me speak the truth, and not through the filter of stigma, and I was able to back it up because I requested my notes from the agency, and it was quite clear. In fact, the CEO had written exactly what Katie says above, “Alex doesn’t fit in.”
What was interesting is that I made a lot of friends there, with other staffers. Of course, they abandoned me when all this started, they were so scared of losing their jobs. Although they did admit to me that they felt that managers were “torturing” me. Which is true, they bullied and gaslighted all over the place, rather shamelessly. I wanted to change agencies, and they refused to help me. They really wanted me out in the streets! It was very obvious. What could be more ironic than a voc rehab agency that cannot handle the “rehabilitation” part of their mission, and knows neither ADA nor employment law? Travesty.
The attorney was great, I won the mediation, and she was extremely generous and gracious to wave the fee. EEOC awards aren’t that big. The mediator said I could go father if I wanted to but they would make life hell for me. This had already gone on for a year, I was in the middle of healing from psych drugs withdrawal, so I was totally spent by this time. Plus, I was more interested in getting back to work, so that was that. I was extremely fortunate to find this attorney. I do wish there were more like her out there.
Quote: “this author has chosen to publish her story anonymously in order to protect her identity at her new job”
Yes, that was wise… to play safe. Somehow the “peer dumbed”… or psychiatrists say otherwise…
Well told Julie.
As can be seen at this thread, “bad things”… happen to people who speak against the system. Or just cannot accept themselves (or others), get used like trash. So no jobs? Got fired? Lost a boyfriend after telling that “once upon a time… you had SZ”. And atourneys coufh… couffhh… “failed” to do their job. And courts got “expensive”, and he/she had to give up, or get no money. And we die erlier, much earlier than the the same matched group that never got “diganosed/ psychiatric drugs… for their broken brians, for life”.
Yes, that is reality. As is that “peer ilusion”…that somehow is growing. So, it the “peer movement” is destroying to molecules the ex-survivors movement at Germany?
Likely is as Microsoft done with Nokia.
See the link:
“Embrace, extend, and extinguish”, also known as “Embrace, extend, and exterminate”, is a phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found that was used internally by Microsoft.
So, are there a huge number of problems with the “DSM labeled” folks?
Forgot to add this, and is important:
Now… about solutions? Effective solutions? In our lifetime?
AntiP, My current solution is this: Live well. Wherever you are. Live well. Don’t be a label. Don’t live as if you are a mental disease, because you aren’t one, and you never were one. If you don’t want to be called a nut, don’t act like a nut. If you spill milk, good for you. Rejoice that you are human. You may very well make mistakes, and you have the right to change your mind anytime, but that does not make you anything less than human. It is your choice to cry or laugh over spilt milk, but please clean up the milk fast or it might stink very soon.
There are personal strategies for dealing with stuff, such as Julie is good at coming up with in posts like that above. But if you are asking about collective political solutions, that’s a different animal.
Have you researched the many people who write and post at MIA from outside the USA? I would think there are connections to be made. Also, till we come up with something better, you might want to spend more time on the Organizing forum, which is supposed to be for organizing and resistance rather than chatter.
Oldhead, exactly my point. If we set good examples of living well, then isn’t personal political? Just by being decent human beings. Just by being generous and kind. Just by being alive despite all they did to us. Just by creating wonderful works of writing such as Katie has done, even under anonymity out of necessity. Because it helps us all.
Every day, I walk my dog past a yard where apparently the homeowner had a toilet he didn’t know what to do with, so there, he placed his old toilet and it sits there as a birdbath. To amuse myself, each time I walk past, which is twice every time Puzzle and I go walking, I invent a new use for the toilet. Is it really a bird bath? Is it a Friday night can for the drunks? is it a place for forlorn squirrels to drown themselves in an act of suicide because biting the telephone wires didn’t work? Is it really a budget clothes washer?
By the time I get home, I am laughing and joking around with Puzzle, having a good time on our walk, even though some days I feel like shit, and yes, I pick up after her. The personal is political. I’m not a nutcase anymore. I don’t look like one, I do not act like one, and no one calls me one. Nuts are for nutcrackers. Keep them in the bag or chow down on them.
If we set good examples of living well, then isn’t personal political?
“The personal is political” is a concept which, while true on an individual level, can be misused. “Living well” (to the extent to which we are capable of doing so) does nothing to strip psychiatry of the power to coerce others; only political activism will ultimately accomplish this.
Did you wanted to say the: MIA forum?
The “Organizing for Social Change”?
If so… is the third line, after:
1) “All Things Political”
#3) “Organizing for Social Change”.
Well, i will save the feedback of the forums for the end of February. I will only point a couple of things… how number #3) is at the moment.
a) The first 2 threads of #3) are locked.
b) There are more 15 threads visible (and open), at the first page of #3).
b1) One thread is called: “Innowacyjne wnętrza”
and inside, the first line:
“Witam aktualnie remontuje dom. Zastanawiałem się nad tym, co mogę wymienić w domu i pomyślałem, że najlepszym pomysłem”
b2) Which one of those 15 threads was effective… so far?
Yes, i know there is “the question”… what is “effective”?
Wait… there at #3) there is a QUESTION: “Anti psychiatry meme contest”.
Ah, well… 🙂
That said oldhead,
thanks for your post. Before the end of this month, i will post a list “tiny things” that could be time/ energy/ $ efficient and wont mess with the priorities of MIA.
Sure, i would like to take some ideas from Julie,… and take them a step forward.
But i wont do that.
I dont know the forums (and the priorities of MIA), well enough…
And am still waiting… for 1 thing or 2.
MiA gets a LOT of Polish spam in the forums, and staff doesn’t deal with it in a timely matter for whatever reason. Sorry that puts you off; it’s a shame.
MiA is all ‘we’ got right now.
And Julie, the saying, “the personal is political” is thought by some to be just another device to keep us atomized and on our own as *individuals*; kinda like how the ‘think positive’ meme was introduced into public consciousness around the time of Ronny Rayguns.
That depends on how you apply “personal is political.” If it is used to silence people, as “think positive” very well can be used, then yes, by all means. Slogans are often used by religious cults and totalitarian regimes such as psychiatry, and are one of the hallmarks of the nuthouses. How many times did we hear various slogans there that were only used as excuses for further torture and encourage our passive acceptance of that torture?
However, we can use their slogans and slap them in their lying, cheating faces with them. I’ve seen the same done with their HIPAA laws. The administrations love to exploit HIPAA and say, “Oh, we cannot disclose due to HIPAA.” We see that every day in the papers. Wow what baloney. I have known many savvy ex-patients who have used HIPAA to turn the tables on their ex-providers and win lawsuits, or at least get their rights and freedom reinstated.
Likewise, the same slogans they threw at us to silence us we can now use to slap them in their lying faces. “Just like diabetes, eh?” Etc.
As for the personal being political, I do see value in being a good person rather than being a shitty one. Simply because I was raised to be a good one, and I do want somehow to be a decent human being. It’s inconvenient to do stuff like park illegally, because you’ll end up with ticket, or towed. However, you can still be noncompliant and raise hell otherwise, because without our noncompliance, without having realized somehow that we had to say NO MORE, most of us would be alive today, right? Be beautifully rebellious, and don’t lose that.
Katie, this article moved me beyond tears and took me to a place of deeper understanding. Your experiences reminded me of some of the terrible people I deal with in the mental health sector, callous “professionals” who lord their supposed superiority over others, flouting privacy laws because they can. In all my years as a “consumer”, I have never met a radical nurse or para-professional. However, I did have a very genuine psychiatrist discretely give me the link to Ron Unger’s work, which lead me to Monica Cassani (sp?), whose work inspired my continuing journey out of mental health hell. Your bravery, and that of other people speaking out against this system, will continue to provide much needed light for those still caught up in the system.
While reading the comments, I did noticed that a few commenters made comparisons to US slavery. This concerns me because the analogy does not work. Slavery was not just psychologically sad, or a simply a state of unease, it devoured the physical bodies of African American people. Slavery meant being shipped away from everything you knew, packed into boats as cattle and forced to endure extreme physical and sexual assaults, regardless of gender or age. One social scientist commented that at one point, you could see the bones of Africans who were thrown overboard or committed suicide in the Atlantic Ocean via sonar. Incredibly dehumanizing.
While I agree that modern US psychiatry causes real harm to many people, I will never compare it to American chattel slavery or even modern-day slavery. I have been through pain as a current consumer in the mental health system (forced injections, hospitalizations, and physical punishment), but it does not compare to the shear unrelenting hell that African American slaves experienced and modern day human trafficking victims currently endure.
Sorry, i can not agree. Sure is not exactly the same. Yet even slavery changed with the times. And if you read the newspapers slvery still exists, and people still (as 2017) get convicted at a court of law (and sent ot prision), by using slaves for DECADES.
Now, that i now for a fact at my country.
But at my country i do not see psychiatrits go to jail (or even get convicted), for people dying because of the drugs that were forced on their pacients. For suicides of their pacients. And for abusing for years their pacients. Or for making their pacients lose their will to live, and basically become useless. The users of psychiatric drugs often become useless: can not think, can not work, can not learn,can not figth back.
So what do you you think is worse:
a) beeing “chemically lobotomized”?
b) be a “old school” slave, and have some hope, and still think clearly (and suffer all the pains)?
Easy way, hard way.
Sorry, we dont agree. I dont want to argue about this. At one point we agree, things need to change.
“RP”: I think you’ve been misled by the misconceptions of a particular faction associated with MIA which is dedicated to suppressing comparisons of psychiatry to slavery, and creating the impression that such comparisons are racist. While I hesitate to resurrect a debate which has been very destructive to efforts to reach unity among anti-psychiatry “survivors,” I am compelled to point out that to compare two things is not to equate them: If I compare apples to oranges, I might note that, while they are both round and about the same size, oranges are orange and apples are red. I am not saying that they are the same, only that they have similar features.
Similarly, some imply that comparing psychiatry to slavery is to equate the two, down to every horrendous detail. It is not; it is merely to observe common dynamics between two evil institutions. While it is alleged by some on MIA (mostly white people) that Black people as a whole are “offended” by such comparisons, I have found this to be generally untrue; the several individuals cited in the past as “proof” of this were “offended” by anti-psychiatry arguments in general.
I am not versed enough at historic positions… for this or against.
I prefer to take a more pratical way.
If “pencil necks” or “potato coaches” say they know better, it doesnt botter me much.
I give you an example: i have my own method of exercising. Professionals who had seem me… say: dont do that. Yet… i can do things they cant. If they know so much better theory… why cant they they perform?
That said, i apreciate very much your remarks and advices.
I makes mistakes, all people that try… make mistakes. So i make mistakes and try to learn with them. When someone points my mistakes the better, i save time.
I posted about modern slaves. I done that because i think Psychiatry is at a “too high Ivory Tower”. That is not real, is way FAKE.
As you know, certain users at this forum… dont like that: Psychiatry, or health professionals… get associated with: “evil”, “slaves”, “corrupt”, “negligence”, “crime”, “psychiatric bias”, “psychiatric stigma”.
And worse… people with a DSM label, buy that idea, and play that music.
NAMI and “wanna-be-NAMI”… TOO.
And “peers-wanna-be-health-professionals”… too.
As i see it, that is part of the problem.
Lack of vision of some ex-users. And Cynism of “wolf under sheep cloths”.
Those fakes relativise everything, are like the 3 famous monkeys:
Did not saw that (for years),
did not taked to defend the diagnosed (for years),
did not hear the DSM diagnosed complain (for years… and decades).
And one day… those fakes regret it a bit…A tiny bit, but dont list who they hurted. Hundreds? Thousands?
I dont try to divide. Division is all over the place. Showing there is divisions… is not making it worse (i hope). Truth hurts, people get hurt. People split and go away. Is the natural way.
I want see changes for the better… before i die.
Slavery is not my business. As for race… SZ is about 1% of population, and white, black, hispanics… all get DSM diagnoses.
I am aware that at the USA there are a lot of statistics that discriminate very well sex and race and physical health status (at several diseases). That has been done.
I do not want do change the subject of this thread, highjacking it to: slaves/racism.
I am not a consumer of Pharma drugs, or a consumer of psychiatric drugs.
And more important…i dont wanna be one. Never again.
That said oldhead, sorry if my style seems a bit “off mark”, or agressive. I will find my way. And hope you have the pacience to help me to do that 🙂
My above post was not a response to yours.
I am sorry that you have suffered such oppression.
Other oppressed groups have organized in self-defense and, if anything is to change, we must too.
The first step is telling the story, and I so admire your courage in doing that here.
A Canadian psychologist told his story of self-harming behavior in a TED talk (The Skeletons in My Closet – https://youtu.be/G17iMOw0ar8) and also in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Cutting Through the Shame – http://www.cmaj.ca/content/188/17-18/1265.full.pdf+html)
I wish you all the best.
@Susan Rosenthal: Thank-you for posting the link and broaching this topic. As it was, I could only stand to watch 1/2 of the video. It was excruciating, and not for why you most likely first think. I’m seeing a lot of self-pity, and “poor-me-ism” in that guys’ talk. A very much “blame the victim” mentality. So-called “self-harm” as he’s describing it, is in fact an attempt at SELF-HEAL, is it not? The scars forming the reminders of a right-of-passage of sorts – physical PROOF of mental, emotional, and psychic pain arising from ABUSE by OTHERS. So why is he self-describing as having “mental health struggles”? Aren’t the REAL ONES w/”mental health struggles” the BULLIES, and VICTIMIZERS? Or will you take the next step and call out the bullies, too?
This Canadian psychologist seems to miss some important points. That the abuse he endured went on so long, and was so poorly addressed by his schools, family, friends, various “authorities”, etc., speaks volumes to me about a VERY SICK SOCIETY. And, to carry the parallels to psychiatry, the shrinks, and the whole system, (psychologists included in “guilt-by-association”/passive encouragement), are really the sick ones. Why didn’t the guy have big brothers, big friends, Father, etc., to help him? Why BLAME himself, and internalize his pain? I’m seeing a lot of folks who dropped the ball. The *tone* of the speaker in the video has caused my response here. Like him, why should *I* take any personal responsibility?…. I earned my IATROGENIC NEUROLEPSIS the HARD WAY. Evil Psychiatrists almost KILLED me with their POISON PILLS, and the psychologists did NOTHING to stop it, or even report it, except remain COMPLICIT….~B./
I totally get your frustration and rage. However, your anger is misdirected.
People to come to realizations in their own time in their own way.
I admire Stephen for showing his vulnerability, for how far he has come, and for how much he is helping young people to stop blaming themselves for how they manage overwhelming emotions.
When you are ready, I encourage you to watch the rest of the TED talk.
I think you will find that his views and yours are not so different.
We all internalize our pain – that is inevitable.
And we all need support to work our way out of self-blame.
@Susan Rosenthal: Thanks for the reply. I was correct, in that you DO NOT “get my frustration and rage”. Or my “anger”. I felt no “frustration, rage and anger”, while writing the comment, so you’re misinterpreting me. OK, yeah, there’s mild “frustration”, but that’s the frustration of trying to put very difficult ideas down into clear, concise, readable words. It’s the “frustration” of the student or scholar, or writer. I’ve known other folks who were “cutters”, usually women. They shared with me as much as they could, and I did my best to understand. The smaller number of “self-harming” men I’ve known have engaged in other types of “self-injury”. This is all very difficult to talk about in few words, online, with strangers. By that, I simply mean it’s difficult to put thoughts & feelings down here in typed words. It would be easier in face-to-face conversation. I’d say you & I are maybe not “on the same page”, but at least we’re reading the SAME BOOK! 😉 How’s that work fer ya’? 😉 Also, there *ARE* “hidden agendas” behind *some* Ted talks, and I’m still looking into Ted’s censorship of a Dr. Rupert Sheldrake talk! I do appreciate your reply, thanks again! ~B./
“a DSM label that was destroying me” I’m so sorry for what you were put through. I don’t believe a human being was meant to be subjected to abuse that cuts you to the core. Please keep talking and writing because you are the hope that others who are gaslighted need.
What the author speaks of is, in essence, a classic witch hunt. The person with a DSM4/5 code is the witch. The employers and coworkers are the witch hunters. The objective of the witch hunter is to identify the witch and to eliminate them. Although there are other environments where the witch hunters do their hunting, it is in the work environment where the most severe injuries are inflicted.
To answer a recent question posed by a commenter, I will give a glaring illustration.
*******”It only has to do with my inability to be employed because of the repeated and calculated disclosures of my personal medical information by those who had something to gain by those disclosures.” How did you know this info was disclosed to potential employers? What did you sign that includes this in a background check? ******
In my case, a federal government agency created a document that named me by name, and disclosed the words “post traumatic stress symptoms” implying I had PTSD. This document, typed on federal letterhead was then mailed to my employer, two states where I held a professional license, and 4 hospitals I worked at.
Guess what happened? I was prosecuted like a criminal in two states. The document disclosing “ptsd” was cited as my accuser. The document, was introduced as evidence in a court of law. I was put out of business because someone wrote ptsd in a sheet of paper. This is all it took to ruin my career.
Some people find this hard to believe but I have a trial transcript that proves it. This is the power of a label. I am a witch and I was burned at the stake.
When I reported this to the EEOC what did they do? Nothing. When I filed suit in federal court under the ADA, what did the court do? They dismissed my case in a motion to dismiss.
So I was put out of business not because I have PTSD, but because some government secretary wrote the phrase on a piece of paper.
All that for PTSD? I thought that was a relatively harmless label unlike so many others.
Not so “harmless” as you’d think. The Dept. of Defense – DoD – routinely releases “statistics” of dubious accuracy, which claim as many as 1/3 or more of Veterans have “PTSD”. Part of that comes from Veterans themselves claiming disability, and part of it comes from their lawyers. “PTSD” is often used by defense attorneys in criminal cases involving Veterans. Many different folks believe that anybody with “PTSD” should not be allowed to own firearms. (With almost NO exceptions, in rare cases where Veterans use firearms in a criminal act, they were ALSO given usually multiple psychiatric drugs, which are the real trigger. Pun intended). Many combat Veterans have also survived various blast injuries – bombs, IED’s, mortar rounds, grenades, etc., – which can cause PTSD-like symptoms from concussion, as can various TBI’s & mTBI’s. (“Traumatic Brain Injury, mildTraumatic Brain Injury, etc.,).
Here’s 2 ways of thinking about “PTSD” that I’ve found helpful:
1.PTSD = People That Suffer Distress, (as the result of:
2.Personal Touch Sensory Deprivation
See what I did there with those 2 acronyms?
Folks “correctly diagnosed” with “PTSD” have experienced life-threatening, and life-changing events. What they most NEED, are family, and friends. While the so-called “mental health system” sometimes pretends to play those roles, they too often throw drugs at the “problem”. Which as everybody here knows, always make more problems in the long run….
So-called “PTSD” is a VERY problematic “diagnosis”! ~B./
There are no “harmless” labels when it comes to psychiatry.
I don’t approve of any of the labels to begin with but am particularly against the PTSD label since what is labeled as PTSD is NORMAL behavior on the part of a person who is emotionally overwhelmed to the point that they cannot deal with the event or experience. Labeling something that is normal behavior and making it into something that is pathological is so typical of psychiatry.
Yeah, Stephen. What can be said of PTS__ that was caused solely by abuse done by medical personnel while inpatient? What a joke.
None of the friends I had prior to 2011 are my friends anymore due to to social othering. I went through a drastic personality change due to the trauma, but who will vouch for me?
Actually, as a veterinarian, I can tell you that behavioral correlates of most, if not all, of the symptoms of “mental illnesses” in humans can be found in nonhuman animals, especially those who have been subjected to severe repeated abuse by humans. Shame on veterinarians who prescribe psychotropic drugs to dogs and cats with “behavioral problems”!
Symptoms do not designate illness. Behavioral “symptoms”, from a mental health perspective, are a normal response to abnormal situations. Are there neurochemical changes associated with behavioral “symptoms”? Of course! That is how the brain functions. There are genetic and epigenetic factors that both contribute to and are influenced by behavioral patterns, as well. Behavior is the complex response of the brain to the environment, both internal and external. Using a set of behaviors to define an “illness” is ludicrous.
Have you heard of the new mmpifcad? Question 1 for cats: 1. I have had a very traumatic experience with a dog. One meow=yes, two meows=no.
Question 532 for dogs: when I see a cat, I want to chase it. One bark=yes, two barks=no. Question 435 for dogs: when I dream, I often dream I am chasing a cat. One bark=yes, two barks=no. The questions are loaded into a computer that uses a proprietary algorithm to determine what disorder your cat or dog may have. Highly technical but secret. The results are correlated with the DSM1FCAD.
Maradel, I cannot locate your last comment on here but you mentioned gossip. Yes, true! Academic circles are very tight, so that is why gossip can spread so fast. Likewise, medical circles are like the academic circles. It’s amazing how they talk, talk, talk. And YES, they do “blacklist” patients! You bet! They “red flag” patients, of course they do! Yes they break HIPAA in doing so, all the time. Back room talk, behind the scenes. They HAVE to, or think they do, to protect their financial interests. So if a patient is a known troublemaker (i.e. let’s say, knows too much, or saw something…) you bet they “flag” that patient, to keep him/her from talking, or to keep her/him from writing or, as of late, posting on social media. In fact they were taken by surprise when they found patients were actually savvy enough to learn to use computers (like they’re the only ones with brains enough?). You bet they pass information between them. HIPAA or none. I am witness to this, I was subject to it, it was the whole reason why I was abused….and I will stand by what I am saying, even say so in court if I have to.
Oh, yes. The worst abuse of my privacy was early on in my “career” as a mental patient. This was before any HIPAA protections. The campus of one of the first (and worst) hospitals I was in also had laboratory facilities, one of which included the lab of a colleague who worked in the same field I did and whom I knew fairly well professionally. When the staff at the hospital did a case review of me, everyone in that lab attended! But I was not allowed to attend!! I was publicly outed in the absolute worst way possible at the very beginning of my professional career. I didn’t find out about that until several years later when I met someone who was a postdoc in that lab at the time I was hospitalized. He told me all about it. My horror and shame nearly caused me to kill myself. I’ve had to work extremely hard to distance myself from the suicidal feelings that come up around these public disclosures. The pain, the shame, the knowledge of how my life as a scientist was destroyed–it gets overwhelming. All the posters here obviously understand that. The public disclosures about my illness have done far, far more damage to me than my “illness” could ever have done.
Yes! Same here, 1983-1984. This was on a much smaller scale, but the results were the same. I was refused disability payments. I was confused about the whole thing since the doc who evaluated me did not ask about my eating disorder, which was truly disabling me, but instead, asked rather boring routine questions about where I lived and who my family was. So since I was refused I decided to go straight to work. I was hired but ended up incarcerated soon after, for a few days. After I got out, I went back to work. I discovered they’d “found out” where I’d been. Also, I no longer had a job! I’d been replaced already.
I went to see my psychologist and tried to confront him. He seemed to think everything was peachy keen and wonderful. I told myself he was a liar and a faker who knew nothing about eating disorders and had been deceiving me for an entire year and not helping me at all. I went home and took a bunch of pills. I lived.
I suppose, doing so was a “statement.” Whether my intention was to die or not, that “statement” was costly to me and to my family. That’s the important part. The consequences. The fact that you are considered an subhuman animal afterward, and your friends stop speaking to you, too, which is pretty much standard. It’s odd how many are more suicidal afterward due to horrible treatment than they ever were before the “act.” And meanwhile, the confidentiality betrayal was all “justified.” In fact, they were glad to be rid of me, I suppose patting themselves on their backs for a job well done.
Thank you for writing this graphic and eloquent expose’ of what is happening to many in the peer worker movement. I’ve experienced similar things though nothing as horrible as what you’ve lived through. I work in the “hospital” where I was once held, which creates certain difficulties in itself. Staff think that they know me just because I was once a patient when they know nothing about me at all. I’ve been patronized and treated with paternalism. I’ve been verbally attacked by psychiatrists in public meetings for raising objections to things like shock treatment. When the hospital had a newsletter I wrote a number of articles about peer work. The psychologist of the unit where I was held said to me one day, “Stephen, I didn’t know that you were intelligent enough to write such well articulated articles.” There was one psychiatrist who slammed doors in my face all the time.
All this kind of behavior and what you’ve experienced from co-workers makes me wonder who the truly “sick” people are in all of this. Thank you again for sharing your experience with us. I’ve almost given up on the idea of trying to change the institution and the system from the inside.
With ALL due RESPECT – and that’s a LOT, Stephen, – I think you’re being both too hard on yourself and your efforts, and not giving yourself enough credit. I’d say you’re a “frontline” “shock troop”. You’re actually “in the trenches”, engaged in “hand-to-hand combat” and defeating the enemy. Sorry about all the war metaphors, but isn’t that what fighting for justice and human rights is all about? That you *can* do what you do, and that you *DO* what you do, can only be of great benefit in the long run. I don’t see you surrendering to your discouragement any time soon! *THANK-YOU*, Stephen! ~B./
(I’m trying to make myself feel good about my own puny efforts, which consist mostly of writing comments on MiA!…. 😉
“I didn’t know you were intelligent enough…” Yeah, same deal here. I was told by several “doctors” that they didn’t think I was intelligent enough to 1. operate a computer, 2. get my degree, 3. Hmm…Was that a real degree? They ask…Oh, you had special help, didn’t you? When I tell them I didn’t, they insist that an MFA in Creative Writing isn’t a real degree, that it has no meaning, no usefulness, no practical application at all. Why don’t you bag groceries, they say, do some “supported work,” all that patients are good for. Then, I am threatened after I WRITE about my experiences, and told I must stop, or else! So the uselessness of writing (so they claimed) was enough to scare them a bit and ruffle their feathers…..As we continue to do here on MIA. Keep it up, folks.
Stephen, I agree with your frustration. It is indeed nearly impossible to change the system from within. In fact, it may be a rule of systems theory that by their very nature systems cannot produce the second order change, the transformational change, from within. Then it becomes a question of the best strategy. At NEC we have been pushing the envelop for some time, by going outside the mental health system to reach less trained persons who deal with issues of emotional distress by teaching emotional CPR to the lay public. Also, Oryx Cohen’s film Healing Voices” reaches out to the public at large.
Yes, we are going to bring people in from the outside who are certified to teach the “patients” on the units about emotional CPR and we bought “Healing Voices” to be shown to staff and “patients”. It will be interesting to see what kind of commotion that creates in the “hospital”. We are trying to figure out just how to go about doing all this. Peer workers cannot do what they’re trained to do in traditional institutional settings because the staff, and many of the “patients” unfortunately, are too entrenched in the “chemical imbalance” lie and in the lie that people can never recover and move on with their lives in productive ways. If you want to meet the “true believers” just go to a state “hospital” and talk with the staff.
Stephen G, If I were working that job, I would be tempted, on a daily basis, to be seriously sneaky. I hope your coworkers and the CEO of your prison (oops!) I mean fake hospital are not reading this. I’d be super “nice” one day and throw a pizza party for the staff. Lace the pizza with a whopping dose of Zyprexa, and it better be whopping. Better yet, lace it with one of those illegal horse tranquilizers. Once the staff are comatose, open the doors and let all the patients out. Run for your lives. Get everyone the hell out, and keep running. Then, the next day, when you go back to work and realize you haven’t quite done that yet, today, resolve to do it for real.
The best escape job I ever witnessed, by the way, was a guy who did it naked. 🙂
LOL!! Don’t think I haven’t thought of doing something exactly like this! Actually, if the “patients” in the “hospital” where I work wanted to they could bring the place to its knees in 30 minutes. All they would have to do is work at a little coordination between all the units. This could be done when people are allowed off the units to go to recreation since they all go to the same places. They could choose a particular time and then at that moment all the “patients” on each unit could surround the nurse’s station and bring all the units to a halt. There are not enough police (yes, we actually have a real police force made up of people who go to the state police academy) to handle the situation.
But here is the glaring problem with all this. Too many of the “patients” would be scared to take such direct action. Too many are afraid of retribution and punishment. They’ve been trained very well by the staff to embrace their learned helplessness. Too many have been in the system since they were kids and they have great difficulty thinking for themselves without someone in authority giving them permission to do so.
When I was a patient at this “hospital” some of us on the unit I was on talked about this and gave it much thought but then everyone abandoned the idea as being too risky. Many felt that they’d be taken to court (yes, we even have our own city court that sentences people to the “hospital”) afterwards and given more time so we dropped it. But don’t think that I don’t think about it a lot! You are a bad influence on me!!!
I guess if you’re going to escape from a psych “hospital” you may as well do it up big time and do it naked!!
very sad and touching . thank you. unfortunately, i can relate…
There’s a certain thing I’ve noticed. And I may be wrong, both due to selection and confirmation bias.
What I’ve noticed is, the experiences of people who underwent the psychiatry phase in their lives prior to the internet age, especially in the 70s,80s etc. tends to be a lot worse.
Am I wrong?
registeredforthissite “noticed”:…” the experiences of people who underwent the psychiatry phase in their lives prior to the internet age, especially in the 70s,80s etc. tends to be a lot worse. Am I wrong?”
2) registeredforthissite thinks that… 1) is due/caused by: “selection and confirmation bias”.
3) registeredforthissite asks us… to “confirm”?
Humm… are you trying to imply that the author experiences of this article are:
B) “a thing of the midle ages, impossible at 2017, at any country of planet earth”?
We are talking of things that go on for DECADES.
Havent you noticed?
Psychiatry has a long story of doing “some” things over and over.
Yet, some people ALWAYS believe the: “new year… better life” publicity.
Maybe he’s wondering if you’re chronic, so maybe we should hope the E room hasn’t taken over his mind.
The average age at death for people given the most serious diagnostic labels, since the development of the atypical neuroleptics (1990s), has gone down 10-15 years or so, that is, people are dying at a younger age. Atypical neuroleptics, in other words, are killing people faster than typical neuroleptics. I don’t think this creates a good case for saying that treatment methods have improved substantially.
One major difference between the 60s and the 70s and today is that criticism of psychiatry has become rarer, and perhaps more muted, than it used to be. Back then, I’d say it was a lot easier for a person to trash the whole psychiatry business without fear of consequences than it is today. Since then, drug advertising has become the primary sponsors of much television. The APA has started their own PR campaign to store up it’s image, and the drug companies have gotten even more insidious in their infiltration of all aspects of life. 1 in 6 people are estimated to be taking a psych-drug in the USA at the present time.
Another difference is that psychiatry is blaming its failures on its critics. I don’t think this sort of confusion was going on when we first tried to draw attention to the harm being done by psychiatry. Apparently, the profession is learning how to sow discord of its own. Now that harm, in their telling of it, is the result of criticism of their methods. You can’t cut through the BS either without some kind of real investigation into the harm done by treatment but, given the cozy relationship of psychiatry with the pharmaceutical industry, it’s not anything to expect any time soon.
One way in which things have gotten worse is that now psychiatry is much more likely to follow a person out into the community once their incarceration is over and done with. You’re got Assertive Community Treatment teams to make sure treatment/harrassment doesn’t end at discharge. It used to be one had freedom to look forward to, not so any more. To my way of thinking, these are not improvements at all.
Frank that’s an awesome assessment of the situation. Might I add, also, that the advent of the Internet took the APA by surprise. I know for one thing, they were concerned about their own “online presence.” Why? Because they’re corrupt, and they don’t want anyone knowing! Also, they didn’t expect the inmate population to have the wherewithal to take interest in computers and online activities. But we did! They did not want us to become educated nor have freedom of access to information, for obvious reasons. Even worse, for them, that is, we began to freely communicate between each other and communicate outside the ghettos they had made for us. All this presented serious problems for the establishment, due to their corrupt nature. As soon as they realized this, they took measures to limit us. They confiscated gadgets. They physically separated us, ending smoking rooms on wards, for instance, anything they can do to limits friendships and gathering. They tried even harder to disable us as a way to silence us with drugs and increased ECT and court-ordered methods, as well as offering token jobs just to look nice, and I believe this will continue.
One way in which things have gotten worse is that now psychiatry is much more likely to follow a person out into the community once their incarceration is over and done with.
Right. (Part of why I like the term “psychiatric outmate” as interchangeable with “survivor.”)
In the state where I live there is a probation program for people labeled as “mentally ill” who got in trouble with the law. It lasts five years and you must report to a monitor constantly. You can’t leave the city limits of the city you are discharged in, unless you ask permission of your monitor. The restrictions are endless. You can go right up to the very last day of your five years before your freedom kicks in and be remanded by your monitor for another five years. People who have experienced both prison or jail and this program often tell me that they’d rather be in jail.
Main Entry: outing
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: politically motivated exposure of another’s secrets
Synonyms: announcement, declaration, demystification, disclosure, proclamation, revealing, tossing, uncloseting, unmasking
Frank Blankenship writes: “You’re got Assertive Community Treatment teams to make sure treatment/harrassment doesn’t end at discharge. It used to be one had freedom to look forward to, not so any more.”
This is interesting to know.
This website talks of ACT as follows:
” Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is an Evidence-Based Practice Model designed to provide treatment, rehabilitation and support services to individuals who are diagnosed with a severe mental illness and whose needs have not been well met by more traditional mental health services. The ACT team provides services directly to an individual that are tailored to meet his or her specific needs. ACT teams are multi-disciplinary and include members from the fields of psychiatry, nursing, psychology, social work, substance abuse and vocational rehabilitation. Based on their respective areas of expertise, the team members collaborate to deliver integrated services of the recipients’ choice, assist in making progress towards goals, and adjust services over time to meet recipients’ changing needs and goals. The staff-to-recipient ratio is small (one clinician for every ten recipients), and services are provided 24-hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as they are needed.
ACT teams deliver comprehensive and flexible treatment, support, and rehabilitation services to individuals in their natural living settings rather than in hospital or clinic settings. This means that interventions and skills teaching are carried out at the locations where individuals live, work, and socialize and where support is needed. ACT teams share responsibility for the people they serve and use assertive engagement to proactively engage individuals in treatment.
ACT improves recipient outcomes. When comparing recipients before and after receiving ACT services, studies have shown ACT recipients experience greater reductions in psychiatric hospitalization rates, emergency room visits and higher levels of housing stability after receiving ACT services. Research has also shown that ACT is more satisfactory to recipients and their families and is no more expensive than other types of community-based care (Phillips et al., 2001). Evidence of ACT’s effectiveness has led mental health advocacy groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), to endorse ACT as a key service with proven positive outcomes.”
Those of us who have seen enough garbage from psychiatry are familiar with quasi-smart, quasi-medical and quasi-scientific sounding terms, statements, documents and articles (and I use the word “quasi”, because these writings obfuscate the realities of what these ACT experiences actually involve in real life) like:
1.) “Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is an Evidence-Based Practice Model designed to provide treatment, rehabilitation and support services to individuals who are diagnosed with a severe mental illness and whose needs have not been well met by more traditional mental health services.”
2.) When comparing recipients before and after receiving ACT services, studies have shown ACT recipients experience greater reductions in psychiatric hospitalization rates, emergency room visits and higher levels of housing stability after receiving ACT services. Research has also shown that ACT is more satisfactory to recipients and their families and is no more expensive than other types of community-based care (Phillips et al., 2001). Evidence of ACT’s effectiveness has led mental health advocacy groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), to endorse ACT as a key service with proven positive outcomes.”
As you are aware (from another thread), I am not from the US, and I have had the privilege of not being through such rubbish.
But can you tell me in reality what this so called “ACT” actually involves in real life?
All I read is “evidence-based, research based, positive outcomes, improves X and Y” and all that fancy jazz. But what do they actually do and how do their “subjects” actually feel?
Honestly, when I read these things, I feel scared to come to these countries.
Man, when the hell are they going to improve the writing features? It’s become a pain to write, not to mention the paragraph spaces etc., are all going haywire. The way I write gets displayed completely differently and in a bad way.
Assertive Community Treatment teams exist for the benefit of those deemed more disturbed than others, that is, for people thought to have a hard time coping on the outside, which is, in itself, something of a leap to judgment. I’ve seen ACT teams put people in the hospital for one reason or another. Not taking “meds” is a good one. As I mentioned previously, I was taking Virginia Human Services Training at one time. This training would have qualified me, most probably, to work on an ACT team. This would have been a matter of taking psych-drugs to some patients, and making sure they were taking them. Low man on the totem pole, it was not something I would have wanted to do, and so, for ethical reasons, I withdrew.
I guess one could say that ACT teams most closely resemble a parole system for ex-patients. Screw up, and the ACT team is there to handle the matter.
Thanks, Frank. I speak near daily with a close friend who is also an “ACT” VICTIM. The *TRUE* purpose of creating the whole “ACT” scheme is to reinforce the social control aspects of psychiatry, and “Community Mental Health Centers”, and guarantee a growing market for psych drugs. In addition to the sequelae of Electro-Cution Torture (“ECT”), my friend is also forced to take several DRUGS, which cost several times per month what my friend lives on in Social Security Disability. The point of “ACT”, therefore, is also to increase tax-subsidized employment of “ACT” workers…. Rather than concentrated, centralized CONCENTRATION CAMPS, the Medical Fascism is decentralized, and “distributed”…. Most of the “ACT” employees are young, brainwashed, and clueless. At best, “ACT” is a sick joke! But I’m sure that the “ACT” “team” produces copious amounts of paperwork, which *seems* to justify their existence!
Any time you hear the phrase “evidence-based” you know there’s a totalitarian aspect to what is being said. It’s a meaningless term used to justify atrocities.
Maradel, again i could not find your comment right away, so I am posting here. You mentioned your experience when people see behavior problems in animals. We humans define behavior problems on human terms. So if they fail to follow human rules we define that as problematic. But is it? No, many of these problems are human problems, since we are intolerant!
I reported the above spam twice, please join me.
post, reported, too!
I reported all mmythomas371 post, all the the same.
Ban the spammer.
Maybe these are not random spam comments as they appear to be, but directly from the “opposition,” as we occasionally call it, having noticed that this article and subsequent comments are clearly indicative of our insight into THEIR despicable condition. So they are trying to get the mods to close the comment section off. Nyah nyah.
So they said we were psychotic, eh?
A spam filter would help. They used to delete comments posted more than once.
WordPress has a spam filter already. I sent suggestions to Emmeline as to how to use the filter to catch these comments. I know WordPress. been using it 13 years myself.
I just remembered this article after many years. I hope the author has found some solace in her life.
Kate W. writes, “This is the problem with being a consumer — we get consumed.”
Wow. Reading this article confirmed my worst suspicions about people who work in the mental health system. Nonetheless I was deeply saddened as I read Kate W.’s painfully vivid account.
And it’s an eye opener for anyone holding illusions about creating alliances in a mental health system based on stigma and invasions of privacy.
Kate W.’s story painfully illustrates how nothing messes with your identity more cruelly and unjustly than a psychiatric diagnosis.