Our Mental Health System May Be Unfixable. But There’s an Alternative

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From Salon: “The primary tenet of the Hippocratic Oath, taken by all physicians, is ‘do no harm.’ Yet that tenet of the oath is broken over and over. These harms can include forced treatment, traumatizing hospitalizations, overmedication, police brutality, and electroconvulsive therapy. The message of the biomedical model itself does harm to those rendered patients, and it also inhibits the personal and social transformation that could come from the recovery model and if we honored the wisdom of mutual aid.

Harm also comes from an offensive disregard for the insight and self-understanding of the person seeking professional help. There is even a word in psychiatry to denote this supposed lack of insight: anosognosia. We are thought, because of our supposedly ‘imbalanced’ brains, to be incapable of knowing what is best for us, and thus must become compliant or ‘concordant’ with treatment. Doctors are not a priest class, but they often act like it. Mental health professionals should be facilitators of each individual’s own wellness. Progress is being made in this direction, but we have a long way to go, particularly with the majority of psychiatrists. But therapists are not immune to these problems either. In addition to the growing recovery model which offers hope that people with mental and emotional struggles can and will learn not only to cope, but to heal and thrive, we need a strengths-based model that acknowledges people who experience a range of emotions and mind-states outside the realm of ‘normal’ may actually possess unique talents and visions, or what some call ‘dangerous gifts.’ Often this requires greater self-care. These unique perspectives we have to offer society should be cultivated and honored, not feared or stamped out . . .

Our healing journeys are not just about individuals. They are about transforming society and shifting the culture. The Icarus Project asks: What does it mean to be labelled ‘crazy’ in a world gone mad? And it asks if we in fact, as ‘mad’ people, could take that label on with pride. Maybe we shouldn’t adjust to this world. Maybe we should change it, not only to better serve our own needs; mad folks should support each other with mutual aid so we can better use our ‘dangerous gifts’ to carry out visions of a just and safer future for us all.

Part of being radical involves being the best human you can be in a world not designed for love, in a world that trains us to be competitive, individualistic, selfish, hierarchical and discriminatory. Every act against that norm is a radical act. Mutual aid embodies those acts, and that is its simple yet revolutionary power.”

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