Anti-Stigma Campaigns Enable Inequality, Sociologists Argue

Scholars contend that stigma functions as a mechanism of power in analysis of UK Heads Together mental health campaign.

Zenobia Morrill
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A new paper, by Dr. Imogen Tyler and Dr. Tom Slater, contextualizes recent campaigns to end the stigma around mental health and urges readers to rethink how the concept of stigma is being used. Their article, published in The Sociological Review Monographs, takes aim at the Heads Together campaign in the UK, asking questions such as “Where is stigma produced?,” “By whom?,” and “For what purposes?”

“This is not to say that talking about mental distress with friends and families cannot lessen social stigma,” Tyler and Slater write, “rather that anti-stigma initiatives which want to remove barriers to help-seeking, but that do not simultaneously address either the erosion of public service provision or the deeper social causes of increased levels of mental distress, will be limited in their impact.”

Photo Credit: “Kate Launches Major Mental Health Initiative Wearing Breton Stripes from J. Crew,” by WHATKATEWORE

Stigma, a word traced back to 20th century North American sociology and psychology, is defined as “the situation of the individual who is disqualified from full social acceptance.” Tyler and Slater cite Hacking’s interpretation of Goffman, writing that stigma is a “‘remarkable organizing concept,’ a way of seeing, classifying, and understanding a vast array of discriminatory social attitudes and practices.”

In modern-day anti-stigma campaigns, such as the Heads Together movement in the UK, stigma tends to be defined as occurring intra-individually–as an action from one person to another that reflects individual beliefs. The solution to stigma is then positioned as occurring through face-to-face conversations to change personal attitudes and transform social beliefs.

Tyler and Slater point out that this intrapersonal concept of stigma obscures social and political context, writing, “What is frequently missing is social and political questions, such as ‘how stigma is used by individuals, communities and the state to produce and reproduce social inequality.’”

The authors utilize a range of methodological approaches and data sources to describe how the concept of stigma can be wielded by the socially and politically powerful to further disenfranchise marginalized individuals — an outcome that undermines efforts to provide greater care and quality services.

“By thinking critically with and about this campaign, this article seeks to both delineate the limitations of existing conceptual understandings of stigma and to begin to develop a supplementary account of how stigma functions as a form of power.”

The Heads Together campaign is backed by the Royal Family and features testimonials of mental health struggles endured by Prince William, Lady Gaga, and other prominent social figures. In an attempt to normalize distress, these declarations are paired with statements that equate mental health to physical health and that call for care to be prioritized.

Tyler and Slater analyze such high-profile campaigns. First, they address how distress and the disclosure of suffering are much more complicated when individuals do not occupy greater social status. While normalizing distress may be well-intended, doing so within these campaigns fails to attend to broader problems of social decomposition, inequality, and injustice that contribute to the very distress being experienced.

In an article for the Guardian, the sociologist and political economist William Davies addressed this issue, writing:

“The idea that one is simply “unwell” no doubt provides comfort to many people wrestling with their own depression or anxiety. But it also blocks out a whole host of more fundamental cultural, political and economic questions regarding the distribution of distress in our society – the sorts of questions that the Duke of Cambridge would be less likely to grapple with.”

While it is true that testimonials have long been included in attempts at grassroots activism, including struggles against psychiatric authority, the authors suggest that this practice has been “co-opted by charitable and governmental bodies.”

Second, the authors highlight attempts to end stigma through the sentiment that mental health is just like physical health. Psychologists, such as Dr. John Read are dubious of this approach. Studies have demonstrated that adopting a biogenetic view of mental distress and suffering actually increases discrimination. Rather than understanding distress as arising from something that results from circumstances or contexts, people begin to view it as a trait belonging to an individual.

“Indeed, research suggests that the embracing of biogenetic rather than social explanations of mental distress risks amplifying the very negative attitudes and discriminations which these campaigns ostensibly seek to eliminate.”

The authors also describe recent cuts to mental health services in the UK despite the documented increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide. Tyler and Slater cite research connecting neoliberalism and its rising influence on mental distress. Through austerity measures that have worked to cut pay levels and reduce workplace rights, job security, and welfare rights, the political movement toward a neoliberal economy has promulgated suffering, they argue.

Stigma campaigns that exclusively address interpersonal dynamics paper over these broader economic trends that exacerbate inequality and produce distress. Going further, however, the authors argue that stigma campaigns serve to employ strategies that amplify social discrimination and intensify the impact of neoliberalism:

“It is not only that austerity-driven reforms have intensified an existing neoliberal epidemic of chronic stress, but that this program of cuts to social provision has been enacted and legitimated through strategies of (state-sanctioned) stigma production.”

Corporate and financial bodies that benefit from neoliberal systems and austerity measures bankroll campaigns like Heads Together, and their anti-stigma message promotes a discourse that is consistent with their political practices. Namely, the idea that poor class individuals, trapped in their condition and dependent upon government handouts, are an economic burden. This message is built upon the idea that distress and suffering are biogenetic and, because low-income individuals are vulnerable to this distress, it justifies the use of austerity measures.

Ultimately, sociological influences, such as economic factors, are brushed aside. Instead, the message is to focus on changing individual beliefs about mental health and promote services. At the same time, funding for mental health services is being cut.

“So while social psychology might focus on understanding stigmatizing beliefs or behaviors in order, ostensibly, to change people’s behaviors, it often ignores the ways in which, for example, governments or corporations might deliberately activate stigma to ‘nudge’ people into desired patterns of behavior,” Tyler and Slater write.

“Indeed, there is now a general agreement within social psychology that the previous failures of many anti-stigma campaigns to effect much in the way of meaningful or sustained social change are ‘linked to the relatively limited theoretical and methodological tools available’”

Tyler and Slater contend that stigma is neither ahistorical nor apolitical as the objects of stigma, the who or the what, change across time and across different historical, geographical, political, and economic conditions. “Stigmatisation is never a static nor a natural phenomenon,” they write, “but rather a consequential and injurious form of action through collective representation fastened on people and on places.”

Therefore, new analyses are needed that ask social and structural questions and view stigma’s function as a mechanism of power. The researchers put forward an analysis of stigma as a “political apparatus that enables and entrenches existing structures and systems of power that, in turn, legitimize inequalities and injustices.” Connecting this analysis back to the Heads Together campaign, they add:

“If one of the aims of Heads Together is to eradicate stigma in order that people are willing and able to access services, the timing of this campaign inevitably begs the question, what kinds and what quality of services actually exist for those in need, both now, and if current programmes of cuts continue, in the future?”

 

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Tyler, I., & Slater, T. (2018). Rethinking the sociology of stigma. The Sociological Review Monographs. (Link)

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Zenobia Morrill
MIA-UMB News Team: Zenobia Morrill is a graduate of the dual master’s counseling psychology program at Columbia University. As a doctoral student and researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, she seeks to understand the context informing psychology research and the underlying social factors that influence individual psychology. She is currently involved in projects examining the impact of structural violence.

98 COMMENTS

  1. ugh. it just doesn’t get better, does it? Szasz wrote a book that I Have yet to read…before he left this world of toil…about psychiatry as The Science of Lies, or something like that, anyway. Since I know my Szasz, I get it already…

    and he is correct, of course. Lies, 1/2 truths, convenient un-truths…that’s the core of psychiatry and pretty much all of Mental Health, Inc. And..

    this goes 2x, 3x for these “anti-stigma” campaigns. Remember 1984? Yeah, I don’t remember the whole thing, but I do remember something along the lines of….”Slavery is Freedom.” I’m seeing an element of Orwell here, with high dollar celebs and clever marketing…

  2. we do not know enough yet about the CAUSES
    of anxiety and depression…each person is different…
    so we need to keep searching for the truth…
    we must consider all the bio/psy/soc factors…
    we just do not know…yet
    so what kind of stigma do we have here…

  3. what is “depression” ? I have no problem with people taking anything that might help their distress, madness, etc., and….

    I don’t have a problem with people talking openly about being miserable, or very sad, or slowed down, or hearing voices…

    its when we/they are forced to speak in DSM-speak that I have a problem. So, basically…

    I’d like to have an open dialogue about what it means to be pushed over the edge, to be on the edge, to be trapped inside one’s pain…

    that’d actually be amazing, now that I think about it. What the shrinks and their celeb poster children for 21st century Mental Hygiene are giving us is…

    not that. not at all. just more distance between the labeled and the “normal,” reinforced with pseudoscientific jargon.

  4. I have suffered depression–extra strength sadness.

    Try telling someone proud of their cool new scientific brain disease that depression is a feeling.

    No it’s not! You’re saying depression doesn’t exist!

    Sadness exists. Who says feelings don’t exist for crying out loud?

    But they get vitriolic and may even make death threats if you point out depression is not a brain disease.

    I have suffered from it. But there was stuff going on. Dark Night of the Soul. BD classroom where I kept getting shamed and punished for knowing too much. Homelessness. Friendlessness. Etc. I don’t need a “brain disease” to absolve me of unhappiness.

    If you have a brain disorder causing depression, then depression is a symptom. Not the disease itself. I have experienced the symptom of depression from anemia and hypothyroidism.

    Whining “I have depression” when you could see if you’re anemic, start exercising, find out WHY you are so unhappy is counterproductive. But it sells more SSRIs. That’s what counts. And folks often prefer popping pills to making difficult life changes.

    • Rachel – well put. Frankly, I often feel stigmatized when I state my anti-“med” beliefs. As if I’m shaming someone who is taking the drugs. I totally understand why someone would want to – I was that desperate once, too. I’m not against the person, I’m against the drugs! I wasted many years before accepting that the “meds” weren’t going to fix me and that I needed to do the difficult work instead.

        • The concept of “pill shaming,” no doubt generated by the psychiatric establishment, show a great deal of confusion between the choices of an individual to use/not use a particular intervention vs. the intentional deception of generations of “consumers” regarding the nature of their difficulties and the kinds of solutions that might be available. People who want to use pills can use them, and not too many people are going to argue with you. But doctors telling people they have a “chemical imbalance” when they know it’s not true, just so they can increase their “market share,” THAT is truly despicable and can’t be allowed to go by unchallenged. I’m sorry if that’s upsetting to people who find these drugs helpful. I know there are plenty who do. But it’s not the fault of the person telling the truth that the public has been deceived. The anger should be directed toward the appropriate place – the people who lied to you in the first place.

  5. Doesn’t the royal family know all the DSM stigmatizations were declared invalid by the head of NIMH over five years ago? And the royal college of psychiatrists is calling to “abolish use of the formal psychiatric diagnostic systems like the ICD and DSM,” because the DSM and ICD stigmatizations are “not valid” and “increases stigma.”

    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2013/transforming-diagnosis.shtml
    http://www.jacquidillon.org/1862/blog/campaigns/royal-college-of-psychiatrists-abolish-use-of-formal-psychiatric-diagnostic-systems-like-icd-dsm/

    Does the royal family really believe “that poor class individuals, trapped in their condition and dependent upon government handouts, are an economic burden. This message is built upon the idea that distress and suffering are biogenetic and, because low-income individuals are vulnerable to this distress, it justifies the use of austerity measures.” Especially since there is less than zero proof of this bizarre ‘biogenetic’ belief system.

    To the contrary, we now know the ADHD drugs and antidepressants create the “bipolar” symptoms, and the “schizophrenia” drugs create the “schizophrenia” symptoms, via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome and anticholinergic toxidrome. The DSM is a book describing the iatrogenic illnesses that can be created with the psychiatric drugs, not a book describing real “genetic” illnesses.

    Maybe the reality is our world has been taken over by globalist, fiscally irresponsible, bailout needing, thieving, war mongering and profiteering banksters, and their globalist partners in crime? And some people are just too greedy?

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=queen+elizabeth+with+her+gold&t=osx&ia=images&iax=images&iai=http%3A%2F%2Fdarkroom.baltimoresun.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F12%2FAFP_Getty-515988688.jpg

    Maybe the US government officials should return to doing what their function is supposed to be.

    https://fee.org/articles/competition-monopoly-and-the-role-of-government/

    Rather than continuing to betray the American people, seemingly for the British monarchy and their banksters, with their historic and continuing empire building goals?

    http://brainmind.com/AmericaBetrayedBrotherhoodDeath.pdf

    Maybe some of us moved to America to get away from those luciferian globalist banksters, and their Ponzi scheme of a monetary system? As our founding fathers pointed out. A globalist bankster’s confessions regarding the evil of these globalist banksters.

    http://www.themoneymasters.com/the-money-masters/famous-quotations-on-banking/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBDb392sxpg

    Stealing, via a fraud based banking system, filled with idiots who don’t know the number one rule in how to properly manage a bank is, “don’t give out bad loans,” is still stealing.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596363/
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/16/illegal-foreclosures_n_1283467.html

    And when one’s riches are acquired via thievery and fraud, proactively defaming and majorly tranquilizing all possible competition, opium wars, and other war mongering and profiteering. Perhaps we should all rethink the moral right of such people to be in charge?

    Perhaps, the bankers should stop stealing innocent families’ homes and home equity, without even having the proper paperwork, which does make such foreclosures illegal and thievery. Maybe if the wealthy and corporations stopped outright stealing from the masses, there wouldn’t be so many poor people?

    http://4closurefraud.org/2014/03/18/wells-fargo-foreclosure-fraud-manual-under-fire/

    We need a return to the rule of law in the USA. And let’s pray all are judged fairly by God, and collectively we may bring about a better, peaceful world. I agree with the sociologists, “Anti-Stigma Campaigns Enable Inequality, Sociologists Argue.”

  6. i have a different take on this…
    it may be beneficial if they tell the WHOLE TRUTH…
    i have a mental illness…i am unipolar..
    psych drugs are both bad and good…for me..
    that is my identity…i have had my share of stigma…
    i want all the dirty laundry out on the line…
    where everyone can see it…most people just dont get it..
    THE WHOLE TRUTH is going to upset a lot of people…
    like the drug companies and the doctors and the lawyers..
    and on and on..bring it on

    • I can see your point. I didn’t mean to upset or belittle you. I’m stuck on a psych drug right now. turns out…tapering completely just isn’t in the cards at this moment. and…while this may not be the ideal place to write this, i will say: the way society looks at actions, behavior, etc., I do “better” on a certain psych drug than not on it, or (gasp…) drug-free, etc. So…there’s that.

      I just…regret my ‘treatment,’ and i am beginning to think+suspect that there is no definite exit in sight, not for me. Not that its all doom-and-gloom; far from it. I think of it more like an ongoing play, I have a role to play. This role is not who I -really- am, but it is the role assigned to me. “Play the hand you’re dealt,” etc.

          • “If you have taken psych drugs long enough you may need a tiny amount to survive”

            I can’t speak for everyone and, honestly, I wouldn’t know why some can ditch them altogether and others cannot–given our individual natures and processes–but just for balance here, I was on so many of these psych drugs for 20 years, up to 9 during the last year of this, including 2 benzos (Ativan and Klonopin) and a host of other neurotoxins. It was a carousel of drug “cocktails” for two decades, forever being adjusted.

            And I’ve been drug-free for 16 years now. It was a bumpy ride, to say the least, and I had to find competent healing from other sources, but that’s in the past and I’ve since gone through a transformative process. Getting off the drugs allowed me to do deep core healing which brought me into balance with myself and allowed me to get on with my life in a way that was satisfying and fulfilling to me.

            I don’t know what is right for anyone other than myself, but this message that one might be stuck on these drugs for any reason kind of bugs me, because there is no reason that this has to necessarily be the case, if we do not want it to be.

          • They actually do brain damage over time, which makes it very hard or sometimes perhaps impossible to completely get off of them. But of course, nobody warned you of that possibility, did they?

          • Are you telling me that you believe I have brain damage, or may have, and that I’m not aware of it? That’s what it seems, so I wanted to check in about that, first. As far as I or anyone close to me knows, this isn’t the case.

          • Thank you for saying that msmonique, and I’m very happy and grateful to hear this. Also humbled, given what I posted below, lol. Healing blessings to you 🙂

          • Just trying to cheer up Littleturtle. Like Alex I took multiple drugs for over 20 years. But never more than 3 or 4 psych drugs at a time.

            Went off my cocktail in 16 months. 9 months ago. Still sickly. Not just withdrawal but long term damage that had been building up before my taper. Exhaustion, bodily cramps, heart arrhythmia, kidney damage. The two areas blur over. Not sure which is which.

          • I see that Rachel. What I’m balking at is the message from Will and Daniel which you channeled in your post. I would seriously challenge them on this, were I to ever speak with them personally. Certainly I’d like to hear more about what they have to say about this, because I believe that is an important conversation to have. I’m not sure they’re right about this, but who knows at this point? I would hope, at least, that they are wrong. That would be a better reality, imo.

  7. They convert sins into medical illness, then they don’t want the sinner shunned? Go to page 3 for the medicalize morals https://books.google.ca/books?id=2pduB22E43oC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Like making water not-wet.

    Then we also have voluntary seekers of medical attention (1) and the IN-voluntary (2), the difference of the two types of “patients” is never spoken of because psychiatry is supposed to be a science.

    Making a different language (insults the common man can not understand) to make it seem like science.
    http://www.blameitonthevoices.com/2009/10/fatness-of-ye-arse.html
    Man: “M’lord, you have a fatness of ye arse.” [ The man is in a guillotine ] Header: Modern doctors: Doctor: “Mr. Prime Minister, you have acute steatopygia.”

    • It’s not that cut and dried. They lump sins/bad behaviors with harmless eccentricities and emotional trauma. But they they throw them all in the same garbage pail like Victorian jails where they threw debtors in with highwaymen and Jack-the-Ripper types.

      Aunt Betty across the street, the weird but kindly lady with 4 house cats and a huge collection of Classic Coke bottles is diagnosed bipolar. Just like Ted Bundy. Ain’t psychiatry grand?

      • “They lump sins/bad behaviors with harmless eccentricities and emotional trauma.”

        Good point, Rachel. I think psychiatry doesn’t appreciate the vast uniqueness within the human condition, and just because someone doesn’t fit the boring stereotype of “normal”, it doesn’t mean that they have a “disorder” that needs treated with drugs. I think we all should be most concerned with those who are harmful, like the Ted Bundy’s of the world (and doctors who knowingly harm their clients). If psychiatry could stop those people (antisocial lunatics) from doing heinous acts, that would be admirable. I don’t see that happening, however.

        • My dad’s a clergyman, Shuan. He has also been fighting the dark side of human nature.

          I have a crazy idea of setting up an outreach program where teens would be encouraged to single out kids being bullied. Ending bullying may be impossible. But having a support network for these unhappy youngsters where they find unconditional love and acceptance might save them and prevent them from going bad and harming others. And they could grow up into decent adults too. 🙂

          • I don’t think that idea is so “crazy”, Rachel. Outreaching at risk youth is important, because they need to know that people care about their suffering and that they have something to offer the world. When people are bullied, nothing good usually comes from it.

  8. Back again to “stigma,” one of the most misused concepts ever.

    “Stigma” is what results as soon as someone is given a psychiatric “diagnosis,” which is analogous to branding someone with a label that society is conditioned to see in a judgemental way. It is part of what has been done to people by psychiatry, not something which is dependent on how the branded individuals “feel about” their designation as “mentally ill.” “Stigma” is part & parcel of “mental illness” labels; eliminate the psychiatric name-calling and the “stigma” will evaporate.

    But then there would be no careers available in the “anti-stigma” field.

    • As soon as we group any bunch of people together, “stigma” (aka discrimination and bigotry) will emerge. Particularly when these people are grouped by subjective traits that most people (including the labelers) view as “negative.” It’s kind of idiotic to create a group called “weirdos” and then say, “There is great stigma against weirdos. We need to treat weirdos with respect and offer them our support despite their weirdness.” Let’s face it, as soon as we called them “weirdos,” we stigmatized them! And making it more “sanitized” or “medicalized” by calling it “Bipolar disorder” or “ADHD” fools no one – everyone knows they are categorizing people by their problem behaviors, and the stigmatization is done the minute the label is applied.

      Seems obvious to me.

      • Hmm, well, considering our previous discussion in the “why men commit suicide” blog, I take it you’re not a fan of my work, perhaps not even of my person, based on this and also what you expressed to me above (seriously?!)–which has kind of been apparent to me for a while, but I was hoping that we could get past personality differences and still find points of commonality, for the sake of this “cause,” (whatever it is, because based on this collective, I’m really not at all clear, even after all these years of reading and participating, I just know my own objectives). But I see now that this is impossible.

        Which is fine with me, all of it, but the method by which this information is all coming about is rather confusing to me. Anything but direct! I fail to see how any of this is productive in any way, shape or form. In fact, I’d call it DEstructive.

        I think after 6+ years of posting here, my time is done. I’ve said that before and came back, often because someone reached out to me and asked me to comment on something. Also because I felt I still had something to express here. Honestly, I can’t think of anything left. I believe all these discussions are played–to.the.ground.

        Ironic—despite my over 30+ years’ textbook journey through the mental health industry inside and out, I don’t fit in here! That’s kind of interesting to me and I guess it’s good information for me along this journey. So many paradoxes along the way, this is just yet one more. Fascinating.

        • I’m not sure why you think I’m not a fan of your work? I thought the video was excellent! Can you let me know what I said that gave you that impression? I’ve always thought you were one of the most thoughtful and rational posters on MIA. I think there is a misunderstanding of some sort here.

        • @Alex

          (I know you weren’t taking to me but I jumped in because your comment reminded me of something I have been thinking about.)

          It does seem like all groups eventually produce a scripture that is used to differentiate the in group from the out group. The foot soldiers in this struggle are the ideological dogmatists who try to shame and silence challengers and dissidenters no matter how valid their criticisms might be.

          To some extent it is necessary to diffitentiate between insiders and outsiders, or what is the point, but when it is taken to extremes it results in society dividing itself into smaller and smaller identity groups that do nothing but fight and compete amongst themselves while the people with real power watch and laugh at the spectacle of fools who are saving them the bother of devising and implementing divide and rule strategies.

          Margaret Thatcher’s famous maxim “there is no such thing as society, there are only people”, has become reality. How quickly we have done away with the commonalities that united us as human beings from different backgrounds and with different ideas and replaced them with a toxic tribalism that continues to divide and polarize people here and abroad.

          As long as people are afraid or unwilling to honestly and openly examine their own role in perpetuating this splintered society, the result will be more bigotry and discrimination and, of course, more anger and discontent. A society that has done away with all widely shared commonalities is doomed to unravel and destroy itself.

          It has been said (I forget by whom) that a critically thinking person can never belong to a political group or party because he or she will always resist taking on, and internalizing, rigid group dogma and sooner or later, think themselves out of the group. I tend to agree, but wandering alone in the wilderness is not conducive to getting things done either. What to do? I wish I knew.

          • Nice FreeDom, and it is indeed time for a change, so that the one who follows his/her own heart, is, perhaps, the example of change, and then others might see that this is the way to liberation from oppression, to individuate and claim one’s truth as their guide, rather than the need to “belong,” which is when we try to appease the truth of others over our own–square peg in round hole, simple enough.

            When we let go of one thing, we’re leaving room for something better. I believe that’s a fact of life, if we are open to seeing this.

            Wandering alone in the wilderness? That wasn’t my fate at all, I have many communities and strong healthy relationships with people who respect the journey I took. We all follow our hearts, that’s what we have in common, and where we feel our connection. We have complementary and compatible creative processes.

            Other than that, we’re all regular human beings, like anyone else.

      • Ok, thanks for the response(s)–all of you.

        First, Steve, your comment above about “brain damage” got my attention, and I felt this was significant in the conversation.

        Then, when I saw this–

        “It’s kind of idiotic to create a group called “weirdos” and then say, “There is great stigma against weirdos. We need to treat weirdos with respect and offer them our support despite their weirdness.”

        Considering the emphasis on the word “weirdos” here and given that we had JUST been talking about this and how it’s projected so pejoratively, and I had also just invited your feedback to the clip I had posted—which came as the result of a program like the one being discussed here, which of course is why I explained that I had eschewed it, although not for these reasons I’m seeing here, but I don’t want to go into that now—to see this before you actually replied to me on the other blog made me think. And, other things you’ve said or seemed to imply over the years here, but I’m not going to dig for those. What I’m putting out here is enough, this is present time.

        I’ve often said the communication on here is confusing, and then I see others saying the same thing. I don’t know, this gaslighting thing is tricky, and I believe we’ve all been swimming in it at times. I can still be a bit unclear about what is being communicated initially, so I check it out, like I did above. Seeing this was like a 1-2 punch, so I reacted from my gut.

        I don’t know if you’ve ever been on that side of social abuse but trust me when I say it is significantly traumatic, it gets into the bloodstream, so to speak, and challenges our most core spirit identity; post-traumatic-mental-health-system-stress (ptmhss) is what I called it, and it was a painful healing.

        I appreciate everyone’s heads up and I hope my response clarifies where I’m coming from.

        I do get impatient with the direction these dialogues take, however, which is why I said they are played—that’s imo, of course, although I’m sure I’m not alone. I find myself getting exasperated on here for the same reasons repeatedly, which best I can say about that now is loss of focus. I think what I believe is important to focus on is different than most on here, that’s what it has felt like.

        I believe the mh system is a destructive entity and I think it’s specifically because it is a socially bullying organization. The projections and gaslighting fly back & forth faster than bullets from an M14. There is just no two ways about it, and that’s that as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s clear as a bell.

          • Which, yes, I completely agree with your point. Although I still say that we have power over how we perceive ourselves, regardless of anything, and that makes all the difference.

            We’ve talked about how we’re all “weirdoes,” and we can own our uniqueness this way. Many ways to look at this. But as I’ve said, when projected by the system, it is damning, and that is deeply felt and experienced, and it can really fuck a person up in many ways.

            And when I was first diagnosed, I had no issue with it, I was one of the one’s relieved to know this and that there was some kind of direction to go with it, to manage it so I could get on with my life. This was 1982, not a terribly big deal in my community.

            And it worked for a while, with limitations (living with side-effects). I was open about it, though, made no bones about it, continued to be self-responsible and I worked and went to school, had my coping strategies for anxiety. I felt no judgment or stigma whatsoever, had no negative impact on my self-respect.

            That began later in life, starting in grad school, late 90’s, as I’ve often said, which is when all of this began to come to light for me. I went on to discover it layer by layer. In the end, regardless of what I did to heal or get clarity or stand up for myself–or in any way actually embody my self-respect–I got clobbered one way or another because it is standard procedure to punish certain people, I’ll just put it that way. The independently minded ones, I guess you’d say.

            That was the case with me, and I had my integrity, I was not a trickster. This is so hard to describe and explain. Sorry this is long, but what you say is loaded for me, oldhead, I’ve thought tons about this very issue, based on what I went through. This was the core issue for me.

            So I’d say it isn’t so much the words but the energy and intention behind them, which is easily felt, especially by people like me who are sensitive to energy. The reality is that the damage has been done, and what I’m focused on is reversing the damage, and HEALING. This is what I put forth, regardless of whether it is healing the damage done by the drugs or the damage done by the stigma.

            Stigma is damaging, it’s not a matter of “hurt feelings” or “taking things personally” or “being overly sensitive” or “caring what others think,” etc. It is seriously dispiriting and it affects the nervous system, especially when it comes rapid fire, everywhere you turn. It’s an easy cause of eventual suicide, and certainly suicide ideation. At the very least, it causes chronic anxiety and depression. How could it not? It translates to powerlessness.

            For me, stigma was exactly the reason I had to do backflips just to make a living, and it shouldn’t have been that way. I stepped up repeatedly, and was treated very differently than other “peers.” I got stigmatized for my history, and then for healing, coming and going. That was the main issue of my journey, that which created the most sabotage in my life. No one saw my heart! And that really mattered, because it meant I was the target of mass projections. Trying to figure me out is not how to get to know me. Listening to my heart is. This is what I try do with everyone, listen to their hearts and spirits, not try to dissect their brain. I believe it’s why I’m a good healer.

            I got over what happened after doing healing work as a result of this, and I moved on with things, and found my affinity as we always have the potential to do after disappointments, and I repeat that often so that people don’t give up hope, which I understand how easily that can happen, given all we know.

            Some of the statements I read on here seem to imply some level of hopelessness, and I try to speak up when I see that, for what I think would be obvious reasons.

          • Alex,

            What you say really resonates with me. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

            One thing I’ll add on the stigma debate, is that society and families also stigmatize people who are “different”. This happened long before psychiatry was about pills and before the DSM had a stranglehold on society. People who were called “crazy” were locked up for years in asylums 200 years ago. Humans are scared of what they don’t understand, and thus we can be quite reactive and punitive in our responses to those whom we don’t understand or see as being “abnormal.” Human history of responding to people who are different than what is considered “normal” is horrific: http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1673/the-history-of-mental-illness-from-skull-drills-to-happy-pills

            People demonize and bully others all the time, starting in grade school. We make others feel “less than” ourselves as a defense mechanism against our own vulnerabilities and insecurities. Humans are very flawed, and you are right that we ought to start with ourselves to be the change we seek in the world.

          • Thanks, Shaun and yes, it’s been a bullying world for generations.

            With respect to the mental health industry, we’re talking about professional bullying. People make money doing this, at the expense of those who are seeking help and support, often from the effects of family bullying/stigmatizing/ostracizing.

            So it is a triple whammy of adding fuel to the trauma fire: betrayal, deceit, vampirism. It’s quite brutal, as anyone who has experienced this would testify. We’re not talking about merely schoolyard bullies, we’re talking about drunk with power people who can act rather sociopathic if mirrored critically. It is really scary to be on the receiving end of this, and it is pure sabotage. I guarantee you, it cannot be imagined. It has to be felt first hand to get the impact of it.

            My point, always, though, is that this can be remedied with the right kind of healing. And yes, the school of thought from which I’m coming is the one that says we create our life experience from the inside out, this is how it works.

            Not everyone agrees, many people still believe that we create by going outside of ourselves and manipulating others; whereas I maintain we have more control internally than we’ve been led to believe. There’s a reason for that, but that’s yet another discussion.

            For me, personally, this is a supremely empowering perspective, because it is how I took my power back to create my own life my way. That depended on what I believed about myself. This is what I had to transform internally, following the utter confusion and disorientation of severe psych drugs withdrawal coupled with extreme stigma and the inevitable stonewalling which comes with that, from the people whom not only I trusted, but who at one time were my colleagues.

            Guess what I learned? Time to get away from the toxic environment. Made all the difference, and I started to get my head on straight again, and I did my healing work, which was profound.

            Not an easy journey, but this awakening changed my life because I changed my inner landscape, so to speak, and I started to align with my natural innate power again. The evidence is my life, which transformed amazingly over the years, as I did this deep inner work. That’s always my message. Otherwise, we give our power away to the abusers when we identify as their “victims.”

            It’s a tricky one, and I guess controversial, but revolutionary change like this is always a one-step-at-a-time proposition and it is a must to be open enough to explore new perspectives. Otherwise, what exactly do we expect to change? We’re talking about unfamiliar territory here, for most people. I like to give it time to unfold.

          • Alex,

            Thank you for sharing your story. I do believe that you are correct. Getting away from toxic environments is key to being healthy, and addressing our “inner landscape” is integral to healing.

            I agree with you about the “professional bullying” piece as well. Clearly this is dangerous and very toxic to people swept up by the system.

            One challenge I see is that many providers within the system genuinely believe in the model of mental illness, and thus they think that anti-stigma campaigns are important so that people get the help they need. They genuinely believe in the interventions, such as SSRIs and antipsychotics, and tend to view “side effects” of treatment as minor compared to their perceived benefits to their patients. They’ve (and really we’ve) been indoctrinated by the medical model of mental health, and thus think that treatment is usually necessary for people to “recover.” Clinical staff also too often mindlessly do what they are told because “it’s the best we’ve got” and “we have to bill to keep our doors open.” When I have brought up concerns to my boss around the lack of validity to what we are doing, I’m viewed as being a threat to the agency and told that we use “evidenced-based practices”.

            We should be thinking critically of what we are doing everyday, because innocent people are being harmed because of what we are doing. The agency tries to amplify the positives, like X number of people got jobs or housing because of our help,” and yet they never advertise the dark side of the industry, like “X number of clients now have diabetes and heart disease due to our prescribing practices.” It’s all distorted and one sided.

          • “One challenge I see is that many providers within the system genuinely believe in the model of mental illness, and thus they think that anti-stigma campaigns are important so that people get the help they need.”

            Yes, I’m aware of this, which is where the entire issue of stigma becomes distorted to the point where it becomes dismissed, and I think that is too bad because in its truest form and how it plays here, it is not at all to be dismissed. Imo, it is pivotal to why this all gets so murky.

            I think it’s a matter of walking our talk and embodying integrity. We all do what we can. There are no clear answers, other than living our truth best we know how with our awareness of the moment. That’s always my intention, each and every day.

            As we’ve agreed upon, change happens whether we like it or not, that is the nature of life. Best to embrace it and go with it. Otherwise, could be a bumpier ride than necessary. Resist the change or allow it? That is the question. Most certainly, there are greater forces and energies at work beyond our physical being-ness.

          • One challenge I see is that many providers within the system genuinely believe in the model of mental illness, and thus they think that anti-stigma campaigns are important so that people get the help they need.

            It doesn’t matter what their misconceptions may be. The state of ignorance of “mental health professionals” is their problem to solve, not ours. It’s what makes them dangerous, and makes the abolition of “mental health” systems most urgent. It also illuminates the need for their colleagues who have a bit more awareness of the destructiveness of psychiatry to help set them straight.

          • Oldhead, it does matter what their misconceptions are, because their beliefs drive their actions to treat suffering people in a certain manner. The whole system is based on this general belief about illness and treatment. We have a long way to go before we truly see a system that isn’t dominated by the bio mentality. I think we need a bonfire with all DSMs. They are worthless.

            I do think training programs need to change. If they don’t, young professionals will continue to move in a similar direction as prior generations of treatment providers.

            You are right that clients don’t need to solve the problem. The issue is that they lack the power within the system–FDA, medical schools, MH centers, etc–to directly change it. Hopefully professionals will wake up to the reality of the situation.

          • I was using a prejudicial, negative term to make the point. You can’t create pejorative terms for a group of people, call them pejorative names, and then ask us all to not stigmatize the people you yourself have stigmatized. It feels like that’s what psychiatry does. They claim this kid over here who hates school “has ADHD,” they call him “brain disordered,” and then ask everyone “not to stigmatize the poor sod, after all, he’s disabled.” It’s pretty hypocritical, to say the least.

        • I am saying that taking the drugs can do damage to one’s brain over time. I’m referring to the “neurological down- and up-regulation” that Whitaker talks about in Anatomy of an Epidemic.

          As for the “weirdos” comment, I was using that as an example of someone creating a pejorative term and labeling someone with it, and then complaining that people mistreat the group they have so labeled. I would NEVER call anyone a “weirdo” or any other such label! In fact, the biggest rule for our kids and our household was NO NAME CALLING, no matter what. I was going for something so ridiculously over the top that it could not be taken seriously.

          I am truly sorry if this was confusing to you. I can see looking back on it how it could be interpreted that way. I was not critiquing the group labeled “weirdos,” I was critiquing the psychiatric profession for effectively calling people derogatory names by labeling them with “mental disorders.” I was trying to point out the absurdity of giving a derogatory label to a group of people and then acting surprised that they experience “stigma.” That’s what I see the psychiatric profession doing. I have always been a strong advocate for eliminating the DSM entirely, because I find the labels to be worse than the drugs, for the reasons asserted above, and other reasons.

          I have the utmost respect for those I have tried to help with mental/emotional pain over the years, because I’ve suffered such pain myself and know the struggles involved. I guarantee you that I am the biggest advocate you can imagine for viewing “mental health issues” as normal reactions to difficult circumstances. I’m sorry if I ever gave a different impression.

          • No worries, Steve, I get from where you are coming. I appreciate the clarity and it seems we’re talking about the same thing here.

            My general thesis around all of this is that the stigma comes directly from the system, and it spreads from there. And that is a big problem because it makes people sick. The fact that the system stonewalls, avoids, and dismisses grievances makes it so toxic I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

          • That is my view as well, and the point of my sardonic comment. They start off by stigmatizing all of their clients, claiming their brains don’t work right without any evidence that is even true, and then bemoan the fact that people discriminate against those they have themselves stigmatized? And there’s even research now showing that their own actions cause the stigma they complain of. Are they evil, or stupid, or both?

            But I do think there is hope, because somewhere inside of us, we all know it’s bullshit. If we can break out of the social “niceties” and assumptions and look reality hard in the eye, most humans understand that emotions are, well, HUMAN, and not a sign of “illness.”

          • There is hope, if people can know the power of their own light.

            This following clip is not mine, I just went to YouTube and did a search on “The power of our own light,” and this popped up, a mere 2 minutes of inspiration. It is a quote I dearly love and believe in, and in fact, it is at the end of Voices That Heal. But I’d never heard of this film, and I think the context is perfect. Makes it human.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ybt8wXIahQU

          • Steve,

            “I have always been a strong advocate for eliminating the DSM entirely, because I find the labels to be worse than the drugs, for the reasons asserted above, and other reasons.”

            I would disagree with your latter point. The drugs directly cause early death and disability. Diagnoses like PTSD can actually help a veteran, for instance, to get the necessary support to cope with their trauma. I think the problem with the DSM is how it is used and not the diagnosis in and of itself. Because DSM diagnoses are used as justification for drug treatment and, that I see as the main problem.

            If clinicians were to say that the way they feel is clearly the result of trauma, like I do, then we can quickly de-stigmatize the “diagnosis”, because their reaction is completely “normal” under such circumstances, although it is causing them significant problems in daily living. And the reality is that many people coming in for services know that their symptoms, like nightmares and flashbacks, are causing them difficulties in daily functioning. They know something isn’t right, and they want relief. Ideally the system would provide non-invasive supports that would be purely voluntary, like EMDR. That is what I’d like to see happen anyway.

            I do agree that too often diagnoses harm people, making them feel dependent on the system to keep them going because they have “a mental illness that needs a lifetime of treatment to maintain stability.”

          • Shaun,

            Well, they both suck, but as you point out, the DSM creates the justification for labeling and drugging. Also, the DSM doesn’t just affect “diagnosis,” it has become absorbed into our society as part of the “bad brains” mythology about the “mentally ill.” So in the interests of making more money, the psychiatric industry has intentionally warped our entire cultural thinking about the mind and emotional distress in a blameful, undermining, disempowering way that supports the status quo and marginalizes those whose behavioral or emotional reactions tell us that we’re on the wrong path as a society.

            As for the drugs, there are people who like taking them, and as long as they are not forced or lied to, I see no reason why people should not be afforded this opportunity if it works for them. It’s the reframing of these drugs as “medical treatment” that creates the horrible dynamics, including the use of force to make people take them who find them worthless or harmful. So if you take away the DSM justification, it’s easier to help people see emotional damage as an attempted adaptation to their environment, and also to see value in condemned traits like “hyperactivity” or “anxiety” or “compulsiveness” which are demonized by the diagnostic process.

            Anyway, that’s why I put the DSM as a more damaging entity, even though the drugs have wreaked havoc on many lives. I guess I’m focusing more on the overall social effect rather than the effect on an individual. For sure, the drugs can be far, far worse for any individual to have to cope with!

          • We had a similar rule in my family of origin Steve. Dad told us once sternly, “It’s okay to say, ‘You lie.’ But don’t call someone else a liar. When you call someone a liar you’re saying it’s who they are. They’ll never change.”

          • As for the drugs, there are people who like taking them, and as long as they are not forced or lied to, I see no reason why people should not be afforded this opportunity if it works for them.

            This is a slippery slope, and more complex than an issue of “free choice.” Psych drugs aren’t like cannabis, opium, alcohol, etc. for which humans developed a natural demand; they were designed specifically for behavior control, and “users” introduced to them coercively and deceptively, and encouraged to become dependent. No one is talking about forcing anyone into cold-turkey withdrawal, but the degree of consent here is not cut & dried. No one ever came to me when I got discharged looking for extra Thorazine.

            So this needs to be explored some more. Is there also a demand for handcuffs and straitjackets that should be respected and obliged?

          • I think you make a good point. These drugs can cause tremendous damage, and they are not easily handled by the body. The thing is, though, there ARE people who appear to feel better when they take these drugs – just met one the other day. And I really don’t want to take that away from them. And I don’t hear too many people demanding straitjackets or ECT. We live in a drug-based culture and it’s hard for me to see a way around that. Certain drugs should absolutely be banned, and maybe some of the psych drugs fit into that category. But banning drugs won’t undermine psychiatric hegemony, whereas exposing the fallacious “science” behind the DSM and the idea of “medical treatment” of social constructs voted on in committees will. And if the mythology of these “diagnoses” can be dissipated, I doubt that most people would be interested if given a fully informed choice.

          • And I really don’t want to take that away from them.

            But would you be willing to approve public funds — even in the form of tax breaks, etc. — to finance a factory to make a drug to alter your friend’s biochemistry so that he/she feels “just right”? Maybe we all have our personal “chill pill” formula of choice; is having access to this now to be considered a human right? Is what’s important not what we do or what happens but how we “feel” about it?

          • Can’t really argue with you. Pills should not be a “caveat emptor” undertaking. But in a way, it’s worse when they are prescribed, because then you get the “seal of approval” from someone who is supposedly objective and concerned with your welfare. Wish I had the answer, but I KNOW that the DSM has got to go, and if it did, the dropoff in pill consumption would be massive.

  9. We do not talk about the “stigma” of racism or other forms of discrimination so why do we do it with people who are said to have so-called mental illnesses?
    Talking of “stigma” puts the focus on the people being discriminated against, rather than with the people doing the discriminating. This is the wrong approach.

    The problem here is not one of “stigma” but of PREJUDICE and it ought to be addressed as such. Many people in our society are prejudiced against those who experience the world differently than they do, and their prejudice makes it very difficult for the people targeted to participate with dignity in our society.

    As long as “mental health professionals” believe that the root of their “clients’” discontent is reducible to a character flaw or “chemical imbalance” that needs to be corrected they are part of the problem. The solution is ending PREJUDICE against people who think or act differently than the majority and to stop medicating, ghettoizing them and making them freaks to be feared, laughed at or pitied.

    Blabbing on about “stigmas” is the typical do-nothing pretend “solution” so beloved by defenders of the status quo who do not want to be seen as defenders of the status quo. It won’t work because the status quo breeds prejudice against even the mildest dissenters, i.e. anyone who is labeled “different.” It is basically telling people “if you want to participate in society and be treated like a human being you must, via prescribed drugs or otherwise, submit fully to a sick and corrupt society that will stab you in the back first chance it gets.” Well fu*k that.

    • “It’s good that everyone is so united in their understanding of the “stigma” scam”

      Yes, you can include me in this, the anti-stigma campaigns as they are, are scams.

      “and that…“stigma” is external prejudice, not something to “overcome” internally.”

      I’m obviously the dissenter here. While we can perhaps inspire others and teach by example, we do not have the power to change others, only ourselves. And while I believe that it’s been established that Ghandi never did say exactly “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I do think it is a good guideline and I go by it.

      We’re talking major core changes here, do you think everyone’s going to be on board with that? Most people are scared of change! Even the ones that call for it and would benefit from it, then turnaround and resist it at the same time. I’ve seen this repeatedly over the years. We all have the capacity to grow in our awareness every single day.

      • I absolutely agree that there is the possibility of internal freedom from stigma or anything else having an adverse effect on how we view ourselves. But this is a very great challenge, the challenge of a lifetime, really, and not something a person can just decide in a moment. It it, in fact, where real therapy should be pointing us.

        That being said, there are external manifestations of prejudice and discrimination that no amount of internal insight or attitude can change. Being denied housing or having medical concerns ignored or having one’s employment options curtailed due to a “mental health diagnosis” is very real and isn’t something that attitude can change.

        Perhaps the most important point, though, is that if we want to lead a movement to overcome prejudice and bigotry and to alter the unerlying myths of the “mental health” system, we really do need to model a new way of being together and supporting each other and apply that even to those who insist on promoting these prejudices. So Ghandi or whoever decided he said that was correct, in my view. We can’t be hypocrites if we’re going to create a better society. So yes, we have to start with ourselves, but then we have to expand it out into the rest of the world. And it’s a long, slow process.

        • Not meaning to imply that YOU were saying it was a momentary decision – I’ve just heard way too many people send out the “Just think positively, have a good attitude and everything will go well” message, and it’s crap. It’s not that easy to do – it’s something I work on every single day, and it’s literally taken years to get to where I have a pretty good handle on not letting others’ attitudes and beliefs affect how I see myself.

          • “It’s not that easy to do – it’s something I work on every single day, and it’s literally taken years to get to where I have a pretty good handle on not letting others’ attitudes and beliefs affect how I see myself.”

            No, it’s not, but it is so rich, empowering, and effective, why not go for it? Me too. Plus, Steve, you and I have had different journeys, we have different spirits, personalities, and processes. It’s different for everyone. For me, this is a lifestyle. I walk around pretty darn conscious these days. It’s a trip! New life, that’s my point.

        • “Being denied housing or having medical concerns ignored or having one’s employment options curtailed due to a “mental health diagnosis” is very real and isn’t something that attitude can change.”

          I disagree with that last part, I do believe internal shifts can open doors to new pathways and opportunities, because it is a matter of where we choose to focus when we face obstacles, even the most extreme ones.

          Attitude = perspective, level of patience, deception vs. integrity, fear vs. trust, willingness to learn, face the unknown, embody humility, ability to surrender to the process, etc. These are malleable traits, we can each grow as we go–although this is why I say the “ego” can be out of control: if we are attached to our ego (necessary outcomes, needing to be right, needing to control others, needing to stay in power), then we will not grow in this regard and our lessons will repeat and repeat and repeat until we’re ready to wake up to something about ourselves.

          This is where I point to the mh system and practices as the best example of stagnation and non-growth, which is not a judgment, I believe it’s truly a fact, which is why these discussions are happening. This is dangerous!

          I do not like how this field teaches people to address their obstacles in life because I see a lot of people feeling very stuck, as I know I once did before I learned how to expand my consciousness and I discovered new perspectives which is exactly what did the trick for me and allowed me to heal as I did.

          No, it’s not about thinking “positive,” per se; it is about seeing the light on things—that is, where do we have power? vs. getting stuck in the illusion of powerlessness. Can we look toward the light rather than insist on shadow-staring? Shadow begets shadow, and if you stare at it long enough, everything will eventually appear that way, even the light. Remember Plato’s The Cave?

          Are we to be victims of life, or creators of it? We choose, and to me, that’s an attitude which can make all the difference.

          It’s also about learning to come back to center after a stressful experience, which many people do not know how to do, they just carry the stress around looking for what to do with it, how to get rid of it. That can be a frustrating inner battle, to say the least. I know this, too, from experience.

          Until we learn to center ourselves and release energy, or detach from that which is clearly not good for us, things can snowball as we repeat bad patterns without knowing why. Some people have been way off center for a long time and have somehow gotten used to it. I like for people to feel it, so that they can heal it. It’s not comfortable at first, and I’m supportive through that process, always holding a space of encouragement and safety. We’re often so much stronger than we think–or than we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves.

          Once we learn to come back to center (which can eventually take simply a few moments, with diligent practice), then we have that very powerful tool for life, and things can change drastically for the better for us. I am living proof of this, and I have many videos from over the years as testament to how this worked for me, as well as my program, which has been a work-in-progress for years. I think all healing work is “work-in-progress.” It is pure creativity.

          In the healing work I did, I learned all about clearing energy, owning our stories, energy boundaries, etc.–all that I did not learn in my MFT training, nowhere near any of this, and turned out to be vital. Made me not only a better counselor but also a better person, clearer from day to day.

          Because I learned how to LET GO of things, and then how to use my life experience as the indicators of my life purpose and soul growth, I have energy for actually creating what I desire in life, rather than wringing my hands day after day and year after year because of “what happened to me.”

          Nor did I look for saviors. Teachers, yes, but I do firmly believe that we are our own guides, healers, gurus, and saviors. In the end, no one can do it for us but ourselves.

          Good teachers can help point the way, but the idea is to never become dependent on the teacher. We will always grow past them, into our own person, if the healing is worth its salt. Otherwise, it becomes just another power-relationship, and we all know about those.

          Took me years to learn this, apply it, and integrate it into my life, but I have and so has my partner, and this is what I teach others in my practice and “healing academy.” This is what it all amounted to for me.

          “So yes, we have to start with ourselves, but then we have to expand it out into the rest of the world.”

          Naturally! I think once we make internal shift, it ripples without effort. That is the nature of energy. Change ourselves, change the world. That’s a given.

      • I’m obviously the dissenter here.

        I don’t see what you’re “dissenting” from — that “stigma” is actually bigotry?

        That some people can learn to inure themselves from internalizing the effects of such bigotry — I certainly have, at least at any conscious level — does not negate the fact that “stigma” is not something that is imagined, or that arises from within, or has something to do with one’s attitude; it is, again, straight up prejudice, inherent to the concept of “mental illness”; it is objectively the way you are viewed by others as the result of being labeled “ill” (or “weird,” or what-have-you). What you do with that realization or how you cope with it is another matter.

        This is a vital distinction. Humans are resilient and can overcome many things internally, even solitary confinement and death sentences. But that’s beside the point here. Why should we have to? Why should stigma or any other form of oppression exist in the first place? The ultimate answer is to eliminate the root cause, in this case psychiatric name-calling, i.e. “diagnoses.” Then we can find better things to “overcome,” or otherwise spend our valuable energy on, and stop playing mind games with “concerned” mhp’s.

        • I agree that eliminating DSM diagnoses is necessary, if only because they are false, and lead to nothing good. It’s just made up stuff based on an extremely narrow and subjectively-based cultural perspective of humanity; it’s totally bogus and indeed leads to all sorts of misconceptions about people in the most negative ways, and none of it based on anything reasonable or true.

          And of course bigotry and the effects thereof are real and stigma comes from bigotry. By this, we can conclude that the DSM is a book of bigotry, kind of a Bible of Bigotry, if you ask me. So yes, let’s get rid of it. But of course, this will not eliminate bigotry in the world, but it definitely would be the start of a good trend, I believe.

          What I’m most interested in is peoples’ healing, that is my main focus and that is based on who I am as a human being, and how my experiences added up for me. Society has healing to do, without a doubt, and this starts with individuals finding their healing paths. Healing, in this case, I would equate with raising consciousness, which is how we shift our energy and broaden our perspective, so that we are taking in more information for consideration.

          I don’t know how to solve the problem of bigotry and prejudice in the world, but I can do my part in it by being ok with myself, aligned with who I feel I am, walking my talk, all that good stuff. From there, I have good clarity and will see my own path of healing and change. I practice this, my partner practices this, and together we help others find their path to heart healing and inner peace. That is my job, what I do for a living, and also my contribution to the community. I do some stuff for pay, and I also volunteer my time, attention, and energy in a variety of capacities without the expectation of remuneration.

          And from there, we have the power to create a new reality around us, and I imagine this will ripple out one way or another. That’s how energy works, and it’s been working for me for years. My own healing has taught me this, and as I’ve said, much has changed around me as I’ve come to know my sense of innate trust in life–that is, to know my light (what I’ve been talking about above).

          Bigotry is based on fear, and I support others in loving themselves, and practicing self-respect. If we love and respect ourselves, we will not fear others, simply because we do not understand them or they are different, etc. If we can get to the point where we truly love ourselves (which is not what we are taught at all in this toxic society, we are taught to be very hard on ourselves, to the point of deeply cutting self-judgment and painfully harsh guilt if we do not appease others), then the collective will benefit from this in so many ways. It starts with one, then ripples outward, as Steve and I had discussed above.

          Huge task to clean up the world from this mess. This is the best I can do with this at the moment. Should more opportunities present themselves to me to help raise consciousness in the world, I’ll be there.

          • Bigotry is based on fear

            Maybe we need a better word than bigotry in this case, as psychiatric denigration is not based on emotion, but programmed into the system.

            But that’s not the theme of this post. It is rather to make a hopefully helpful distinction. There are actually two basic orientations among people who frequent MIA. Both are valid.

            A) One goal is to develop effective means of human support. (I balk at calling this “alternatives to psychiatry” since psychiatry does NOT provide human support, so calling TRUE support an “alternative to psychiatry” gives psychiatry too much credit.)

            B) The other is to eliminate the power of psychiatry to defraud and, more importantly, COERCE people into submitting to its “treatments.”

            These are separate functions calling for different approaches. The first is about feelings, social supports, etc. The second is about political struggle, analysis, and sometimes confrontation. Neither is more important than, or a prerequisite for pursuing the other.

            However, these functions often get conflated in the course of MIA discussions. I think recognizing them as both important, but reflecting different priorities, might eliminate some confusion. It is particularly important not to get drawn into pitting one against the other. (As in “you can’t oppose psychiatry without having an ‘alternative.'”)

          • Oldhead, you articulated the two goals of the folks who frequent MiA so very clearly! I think you should store this statement somewhere for future reference as new folks come in, so that they understand that this is the best way to move forward on either of them: to not impede progress on either of them. Both are not only Valid; both are Needed.

            I, personally, support both goals. But I am much more equipped to work on the goal of providing avenues to get the support people need when they need it, than the goal of social and political reform. The latter overwhelms me, and knocks all the wind outta my sails.

          • Glad you get what I’m getting at. That said, they are connected in a yin-yang sort of sense.

            I am actually no more a champion of “social and political reform” than I am of “psychiatric reform,” if you get my drift; they are both illusory contradictions in terms under capitalism.

            While the political/support functions are distinct, we also can’t just have one bunch of lovey-dovey-grouphuggy people “supporting” one another over here while the “political” people hold the barricades and take the bullets (literally or figuratively) over there. So that’s something to consider too. When push comes to shove it’s not always a responsible option to say “nah, confrontation isn’t really my thing” as you watch the crowd from your hiding place.

          • Oldhead, I appreciate this distinction and how they address the issue of change from different orientations. Of course, separate and distinct parts do come together to create a whole.

            I can relate to both of these categories, and then some. Interacting here has taught me a lot about myself and others, been really rich that way because conversations like this do not happen every day in the world. It’s been very helpful for me to process my experience here among others who have had similar experiences–and with interesting differences, as well.

            Although actually *destroying* the system is not my expressed intention, because this is not how I operate, I never considered myself someone focused on destroying something, but rather creating things. As an artist, I have a passion for creativity. (I won’t lie, however–were I to see a wrecking crew going at it, I would not complain, and in fact I would more than likely not only cheer, I would breathe a sigh of relief).

            Still, I am always happy and willing to speak my truth about it as unequivocally as I can, and I will hear what comes back to me, take it from there. It’s always a crap shoot, but I always feel better when I express myself about it, because obviously this is a vital part of change, to speak up and out.

            It also stirs energy, so I know that things manifest from truth-speaking. Speaking my truth in my film changed my life, simply because of the path which the film took from who picked it up, and to where I was invited to show it. Telling the world my story, front and center, generated radical change in my life, this is a direct correlation. No money involved here, just energy, intention, focus, and following a process.

            I believe the two process of creating something new and making obsolete the old work in tandem, that is nature at work. I do my best to express how I feel these old systems have failed us (not just mh but also political, economic, and even educational system to a large degree, etc.), and I’m always ready to share not only my story as a glaring example of how this is so, but also all of my observations from my experience, and how I connect these dots, hoping to give persuasive evidence of how current systems are causing so much harm and damage. I know that more and more people can hear this now because it is so obvious, we are indeed waking up.

            In the meantime, I continue to create my life away from all of this, and that is exactly how the NEW has been happening for me. Not something I planned or calculated or designed, because I would have had no idea how to do that, this was all unknown territory for me, new ground. It all unfolded precisely by following the path away from such toxic corruption. That was the option I took when I was at the crossroads with all of this. I knew it was time to change my life, once and for all. Turned out this required a shift in consciousness, no two ways about it.

            For this, I had to do so much internal work and introspection, really look at what my beliefs had been and how they influenced my getting to such a dark space in my life, and then, of course, I worked to change those beliefs and get myself aligned with a new truth. Took a lot of work and focus, but it’s what I do, for me it’s the way to go, and I love doing this work because it creates change in the most amazing way.

            That’s what gave me an entirely new perspective and experience, and it radically changed my reality, and it took. I’m in an entirely new place now, with saving grace awareness.

            This is all based on what came into my life after the mh industry had failed me so miserably, and they could not exist in the same space. Where I finally got my healing was so vastly the opposite of what is dished out by the mh industry. Healers like myself, energy workers, etc., we already know psychiatry is toxic. It’s why we do what we do. This perspective comes from a heart-based view of humanity (one whole), rather than analytic (categories).

            And I agree, I wouldn’t call it an “alternative” for the same reasons you would not. Instead, I would simply call it “healing,” as in–the real deal. Has absolutely nothing to do with what I learned in graduate school, that was crap, and you’re right, the duality, othering, and marginalizing are built right into it, can’t avoid it in that dynamic.

            What I do is different than this. The core premise being unity consciousness, the opposite of duality. So if we get enough people into their hearts and out of their heads, a new society will come forth with no effort and the old will disappear. That’s a choice everyone has to make for themselves.

            But I very strongly believe that it would change the world, were enough people to begin understanding heart-based unity consciousness. That’s the shift I made, and which I am looking to influence. That’s what my community is all about.

  10. Why NAMI and similar groups should be called out on their anti-stigma campaigns is they seem aware touting the bio-model–Please be nice to the severely mentally ill cause they can’t help it they have messed up brains–is not working. There was an article on their website 5 years ago (or more) acknowledging this.

    Pete Earley and many others active in the movement are aware that the “chemical imbalance” is nonsense.

    Surveys have shown that teaching people the “mentally ill” went bonkers due to crap that happened leads to viewing them more kindly. (More humanizing perhaps?)

    However, ignoring these findings, NAMI soldiers on promoting the Broken Brain.

    • From NAMI’s website: “A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.”

      It seems they are taking on a biopsychosocial model approach. But it is clear they still heavily buy into the “bio” part because they promote the idea that the DSM labels are discernible and reliable diagnostic categories. They have an entire sections on their site about diagnoses and the typical drugs which are prescribed to treat said conditions.

      • They changed their rhetoric after they finally had an actual service user as their ED. But they’re still heavily funded by Big Pharma and still argued in favor of the new “mental health act” that discourages “alternatives” and encourages locking up and forcing “treatment” on the unwilling.

  11. Oldhead, it does matter what their misconceptions are, because their beliefs drive their actions to treat suffering people in a certain manner.

    Which is why the “mental health” narrative must be exposed and eliminated and people educated to avoid “mental health professionals” like the plague. We need to make it so they don’t have the power to make us care what they think. Simply understanding that psychiatry is destructive and based on fraudulent principles doesn’t change anything. A system designed to keep people down can’t be miraculously changed into one that liberates people, nor would there be any reason for it to sabotage the purposes for which it exists. People concerned about the root causes of suffering should be focusing on political and economic structures, not individual reactions to such. But the latter is far more profitable, and the stuff careers are made of.

  12. These anti-stigma campaigns promote paternalism, something that is demeaning in, and of, itself. They are based on the negative prognosis so common among psychiatric professionals. We are back in the era of the incurable lunatic, only nobody calls him or her incurable, nor lunatic. The issue is prejudice and discrimination, not against anybody with a friend called “mental illness”, but prejudice and discrimination against people who have known incarceration/mistreatment (i.e. abuse) at the hands of psychiatric establishment. Today you’ve practically got trendy “diseases” because the idea is not to “get over it”, the idea is to provide the marginalized with a position, marginalized at that. Liberation is outside of the system altogether, but to get their you have to deal with the fact of unfair mistreatment. Anti-stigma campaigns, rather than being a way of getting there (outside the system/on an equal footing), are a way of not getting there.