Stalked by Stress, Abandoned to Predation: The Appeal of Suicide in a Modern World

Sarah Knutson
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Suicide, for me, is about overwhelming, inescapable stress. The conditions of life are stalking me, in a way that feels insurmountably scary and bad.

At first blush that may seem strange to you. After all, it’s not like I live in a particularly rough neighborhood. Nor do I have to forage for my dinner or fight off predators who want to eat my young.

Even so, my life has some disadvantages compared to my mammalian forebears. It’s not like I’m that lucky rabbit in the wild who can sniff the air, slip out of my hole for a few nibbles and then burrow back into safety for the rest of the day. Rinse, repeat tomorrow, and the day after that, and the next and next… yawn, ad infinitum…

Modern problems aren’t like that. They’re more like a shadow that goes wherever I do. Where to live? How to afford it? Who do I have to keep happy to keep it? How big of an ask will they make of me? Will I ever escape if I piss them off?  

Add to this databases, identity tracking, employment records, rap sheets, taxes, standardized tests… My failings are never forgotten. The same basic requirements, standards and regulations are everywhere, all requiring me to recall, disclose and defend the density I reported for lint particles in my navel at age 6…  Even with family or long-term friends, there is always a new obligation to be met or graciously evaded. Social media virtually assures it.

Modern society would have me believe that I’m crazy if this stuff kills my desire to live. In mainstream fairyland, no stress is happening:

Nothing is wrong, damaging, intentional. Hardship is avoidable, temporary, my fault. I need to be patient, persistent, responsible. The people in charge will make it all better. My attitude is the problem. If I weren’t so bad or my genes were good, I would be coping like everyone else.

Frankly, those messages don’t make me feel better—they put another nail in my coffin.

MAINSTREAM SOCIETY LIVES IN A FANTASY WORLD “Bad things don’t happen to good people.” “If you follow directions, you will be ok.” “Authority figures keep us safe.” “Help is available for those who deserve it.” [Graphic: Pink pony singing “La la la…” retrieved from https://openclipart.org/image/2400px/svg_to_png/236761/Fantasy-Pony.png ]

But here’s a message that perked up my ears. It didn’t come from the culture. It came from my own body. At the height of suicidal stress—demoralized, paralyzed, utterly despairing—the following questions floated into my dazed awareness:

  • What if some conditions are beneath the dignity of the Life Spirit?
  • What if the effects of chronic stress are killing me not because I’m “mentally ill,” but because the human race needs to find a better way to live?

For me, those simple questions lit the Life in me on fire. I began to look for evidence. Here is what I found:

Head Start on Stress

The stressors cited above are First World problems. They are issues that anyone who can access the technology needed to read this piece is up against and has to reckon with on some level. Due to various kinds of social inequality, however, many of us also experience Second, Third and Fourth World problems, even in relatively prosperous nations.1 This includes poverty, violence, abuse, neglect, labor exploitation, homelessness, environmental hazards, intentional exclusion, substandard education, barbaric healthcare, predatory targeting, police brutality, unresponsive government, callous indifference… the list goes on.

Statistically speaking, these kinds of stressors have a huge impact on health and life expectancy. That’s what the emerging field of study on the “social determinants of health” is all about. Here’s the concept, pioneered by international social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson2 in a nutshell:

Image of book cover: Wilkinson, R., & Marmot, M. (2003). Social determinants of health: The solid facts (2nd ed.). Copenhagen: World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf. Plain language: The stuff we need to live well and be well is both social and economic. A lot of us still can't access it. The result is breakdown - both physical and mental. We can predict who this will happen to.

The potential impact of stressors like these on mental well being is shocking. In 2011, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare reported that an estimated ninety percent (90!) of us in the public mental health system are survivors of pre-existing childhood adversities, including abuse, neglect, violence, poverty, discrimination et al. (pp. 6, 10, 13.)3

Thus, if I have a mental health diagnosis and I’m contemplating suicide, in all probability, I have a lifetime of disadvantage, adversity and resultant stress preceding that.

This isn’t mere statistical correlation. It is easy to see the reasons this happens once I understand how the stress response works. As a child, my rapidly developing body makes me vulnerable to whatever is happening around me. If I’m growing up in a war zone, physically or metaphorically, my body is going to accommodate that. (Sapolsky, 2017, pp. 193-96.)4

High idle mode Many of us develop an overactive stress baseline (sympathetic/ fight-or-flight response) early on in life. Early life stressors play a major role. Causes are diverse & culturally embedded. Long-lasting physical and mental impacts: Chronic stress response activation Delayed recovery back to baseline post-stress [Image of book cover:] Behave: The biology of Human at Our Best and Worst By Robert M. Sapolsky New York Times Bestseller

As a result, a lot of us develop an overactive stress baseline as children. “High idle” becomes our natural normal. This can lead to enduring, devastating effects on both physical and mental health.

The way this played out for me was that I almost never felt comfortable in my own skin. It was hard to rest, relax or let down my guard. The continual discomfort took a toll and wore me down, both physically and mentally. Also, the elevated level of baseline pain made other life setbacks and frustrations feel more intense. That, in turn, affected my judgment and my relationships with others. All of this contributed to the progressing train wreck of demoralizing circumstances and experiences that, ultimately, made me vulnerable to giving up on life.

But wait, there’s more!

The Social Inequality Game

When you look at the data on stress-related disease, it’s not just that modern life is stressful. It’s not just that some of us take harder knocks than others.

Nope. A huge source of stress for humans is, ehrm… each other. (Sapolsky, 2004, pp. 190-95)5

More specifically, it’s how I’ve been socialized to view and treat you—and vice versa. We don’t talk about it much where I live because, yanno, we’re Americans and we’re all supposed to be equal. But underneath practically everyone knows how to play the game:

Rule 1. Pick a measure of social worth (wealth, appearance, education, sports, culturally relevant access or knowledge).

Rule 2. Compare myself with you.

Rule 3: Whoever has more of what the culture values wins.

This is the Social Inequality Game. It’s habitual, ingrained and played every day by practically everyone everywhere. I might not even know I’m doing it—unless I’m the loser. Then I notice. Ouch. That hurts. I don’t measure up. 

According to Wilkinson (2018), this kind of “status anxiety—and its ill effects such as worsening health—affects everyone, the super-rich and the dirt-poor.”6

The more inequality, the more status anxiety. Tortuously, privilege still has to beat out privilege. So even if I’m filthy rich and have the biggest yacht or boobs, the next Kardashian private jet or nose job can still put mine to shame. Also there are endless categories to compete in. Literally, I could feel bad about my lesser knowledge of bacterial life in Antarctica or Spencer Tracy movies in 1949.

Far more insidious is the way that status competition permeates the entire fabric of conscious existence:

[T]hanks to urbanization, mobility, and the media that makes for a global village, something absolutely unprecedented can now occur—we can now be made to feel poor, or poorly about ourselves, by people we don’t even know. You can feel impoverished by the clothes of someone you pass in a midtown crowd, by the unseen driver of a new car on the freeway, by Bill Gates on the evening news, even by a fictional character in a movie. Our … modern world makes it possible to have our noses rubbed in it by a local community that stretches around the globe. (Sapolsky, 2004, pp. 191-92)

While probably no one is “up there” orchestrating it, status competition is demoralizing and destructive in a socially deadly kind of way. In the view of Robert Sapolsky (2004), professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and world-renowned stress researcher, “when humans invented poverty, they came up with a way of subjugating the low-ranking like nothing ever before seen in the primate world” (p. 192). In other words, making each other feel poor has turned into an art.

If played to its logical conclusion, the outcome (literal and metaphoric) is mutually assured destruction:

  1. We’ve created a highly status-conscious society.
  2. Everyone is taught not only to seek high status for themselves, but also to police social status rules as a condition of being a good citizen.
  3. It’s a zero-sum game that I can only win by beating you out and keeping you down.

What is worse, to play at all, I have to buy into the idea that human beings have relative worth. Otherwise I don’t create worth for myself by trouncing friends and neighbors. No less disturbing, to stay on top, I must repeatedly make a loser of you to maintain my illusion of superiority.

The end result is that I end up competing with you for virtually everything all the time. Also the stakes are really high. For most of us, the Social Inequality Game is not played for luxury vacations. We’re competing for life and death necessities—safe neighborhoods and housing, nutritious food, adequate healthcare, the means to make a living and support a family…

This is not only frightening and traumatizing for the losers. It’s even bad for the winners:

Basically, more unequal societies have worse quality of life. Across countries and among U.S. states, more inequality, independent of absolute levels of income, predicts higher rates of crime, including homicide, and higher incarceration rates. Add in higher rates of kids being bullied at schools, more teen pregnancies and lower literacy. There are more psychiatric problems, alcoholism and drug abuse, lower levels of happiness and less social mobility. And there is less social support—a steep hierarchy is the antithesis of the equality and symmetry that nourish friendship. This grim collective picture helps to explain the immensely important fact that when inequality increases, everyone’s health suffers. (Sapolsky, 2018)7

What is worse, it’s not just material needs that we’re denying each other. It’s basic social courtesies like respect, dignity, regard, time, attention, patience, fairness, an invitation to belong, the opportunity to take part, a meaningful audience…  Can any of us grow up feeling okay—or stay feeling okay—without this?

Sadly, this is all stuff that we could freely offer each other—without any grants, public funding or costing the taxpayer a dime. Quite possibly, we would be offering it—if our culture encouraged us to invest half as much in each other as we are encouraged to invest in “getting ahead.”

But even that’s not all.

Little Fish, Big Pond

A close cousin of status inequality is living at the mercy of concentrated wealth and power. Did you know that, since the 1920s, all it takes is a few media giants and a single concerted effort to straitjacket the collective cultural conscience?8 Within a few hours, days, months or years, there’s a routinely recited “same page” I need to be on with the rest of my relevant social world (Chomsky, n.d.).9 If I dare to think, believe and voice out loud anything at odds with this, no matter how personally authentic or seemingly important, I risk widespread re-education from upstanding citizens who “got the message.” Given what I hear from others, I also risk unemployment, community suspicion, monitoring for danger to self or others, and possibly ending up in the criminal justice or psychiatric system, or homeless on the streets.

Next, there’s the marketers, corporations and political machines.10 How they maintain even the pretense of fairness is a mystery to me. Day in and day out, they devote unfathomable economic, intellectual and technical resources to studying and manipulating the rest of us and the rules of a game we are bound by. The rules are so complex most of us don’t even know they exist. Yet, every minute of every day, behind impenetrable firewalls, the world’s top minds are getting six or seven figure salaries to crunch the numbers of my existence—and to ensure that the thumb on the scale pushes the odds to favor their investors and special interests. Consider the likelihood that all of these players cross-pollinate.11 Then factor in their likely strongholds in education, curricula and research. Add to that their likely influence on the experts and outcomes selected for public news reporting.12

My first serious awakening to this clandestine advantage was in law school. We were studying a famous tort case involving Ford motors. Landmark punitive damages were awarded after it was shown that Ford executives knowingly refused to recall exploding vehicles due to an internal “cost-benefit analysis.” They intentionally decided it was cheaper to let an estimated 500-900 innocent unsuspecting consumers burn up inside their cars than change the design.13 That’s how much, and how callously, corporations are studying us—and selling us out, even unto death—to keep shareholders happy.

It’s not like this was an isolated incident. It’s big business as usual. Tobacco, Enron, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the mortgage crisis…  Not to mention the iatrogenic psychiatry-Pharma alliance that Mad in America is exposing.

And it’s not just the big life and death stuff that kills me. There is also the excruciating long, slow death that comes in nickels and dimes. Does anyone remember the annoyingly long and hard to skip Verizon voicemail greetings? Not an accident. The extra time such greetings ran aggregated into billions of extra billable minutes for phone carriers over millions of voicemails daily, monthly, yearly… 14

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even scratched the surface of cable TV, cars, computers, electric and fuel companies, internet service providers, healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing and zillions of other products that modern consumers interact with daily.

I’m not saying the big fish are lying and cheating on everything. I’m just too limited to know what parts. What I do know is that all of this scares me and stresses me out. I don’t trust—or feel particularly safe with—what appears to be standard operating procedure for the lion’s share of high level business and political players these days.

Big Brother is Watching

Now factor in the impact of technological surveillance. Not only in the interests of “national security,” as Edward Snowden finally proved, but also the major industrial players. My habits, location, purchases, opinions, associations are either known or knowable by powerful others with a proven track record of throwing the little guy under the bus.

And the government that’s supposed to protect me from that? Given wealth disparities in who gets elected, it’s pretty clear that mostly the foxes are guarding us chickens.15

Just as important from a stress standpoint, how much weight do you think my opinion is going to carry if push ever comes to shove? I’m a lone citizen with documented “serious mental illness.” They are experts with big degrees and corporations with big lawyers and friends in high places. Even if I’m right, almost no one in their right mind is going to bother pressing my case. The potential downside for everyone who can safely stay under the wire is simply too great.

Modern Predators, Modern Jungle

I used to think I was making a mountain out of a mole hill. Obviously this stuff was just all in my head. Certainly my brain knows the difference between a lion and intentionally bad customer service or an obviously self-dealing politician. And it has to be smart enough to know that it shouldn’t go into blowout stress mode just because my health insurance “lost” my claim again. 

Um. Actually, no. It’s not just weapons and fangs that kill me. Being stalked by industry, bureaucracy and social sentiment is deadly too. Mammalian bodies are not wired to endure chronic, pervasive threat and vulnerability (Sapolsky, 2004). Yet this stuff is ubiquitous and embedded into mainstream culture.

Stress hijacks wellbeing Stress gets me fast energy (Action central- speed power control) [image of lightning and speeding car/ gas brake] Well-being gets put on hold (Ground of Being- sleep, digestion, detox, immunity, healing, growth, awareness)

Thus, I don’t need a lion or natural disaster to experience the ill-effects of stress. Anything that matters to me, including my future, will capture the attention of this system and erode my long-term health (pp. 7-8).

All of that used to make me feel a lot of shame. At the outer extremes, succumbing to the grip of stress can feel a bit like being possessed. I must be weak or crazy to let this stuff get to me. I’m wasting my life. It’s so unproductive.

More recently, however, I’ve come to see stress activation as resulting far more from my gifts than my failings. It is the logical outcome of a brain that allows me to self-reflect, know my limits and appreciate the vastness that is out there. It’s kind of amazing when I think about it:

I have hard-wired mental capacities that let me travel through time such that I can actually project my past experiences into the future and, based on that, make educated guesses about how to live today.

On the down side, this same capacity allows me to be aware (24-7-365) of the zillion things about life (past, present, future) that are beyond my ability to manage or control. If the world I live in is generally benevolent and protective, then all good. Control isn’t such a big deal then because my relevant universe has my back.

On the other hand, suppose:

  • I’m a tiny fish in a big pond…
  • The big fish feel no sincere obligation to me or my kind…
  • They are only interested in what they can get and how fast they can get it…
  • There’s little they want that I’m interested in offering…
  • They have the potential to track my every move…
  • There’s no protection or recourse if they come after me…
  • They have friends in every high place I could turn to…
  • There’s a zillion ways they could make my life miserable or get rid of me if they wanted to…
  • The rest of my kind is as vulnerable and scared as I am so we don’t stick up for each other…

Clearly this does not bode well for letting the “soft animal of your body love what it loves” (Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”).16 To the contrary, given my capacity to appreciate vulnerabilities, project into the future, and hold my awareness of likely outcomes 24-7-365, it is pretty clear that stress is going to create problems for me.

Please pause here because this is an important distinction to get:

The problem of the modern world for me is not so much the stress of having a present threat to survival. It is a continual uncertainty about future survival given the conditions of life as I have come to know and experience them.

The Perfect Storm for Suicide

This is how I think mainstream culture has become deadly for me, and possibly a lot of other people. It sets up a perfect storm of predation and abandonment, wrapped together in a never-ending, ever-escalating cycle. The pervasive predation virtually assures that many of us will, at some point, find ourselves hopelessly in over our heads. The pervasive abandonment separates us from each other—and therefore cuts us off from naturally-occurring human support that is arguably our most powerful evolutionary resource in these circumstances.

The predictable outcome is the Sisyphus Cycle. The stress of trying to survive a predatory, abandoning culture leads to physical and mental breakdown. The breakdown itself makes me even more vulnerable to predation and abandonment, leading to progressive loss of material, social and emotional resources. Here’s the diagram from the first piece in this series ( “The Sisyphus Cycle: How everyday stress leads to suicide”), if you want a quick review:

The Sisyphus Cycle I’m scared, overwhelmed, alone Defenses amp up Brain shuts down or goes into overdrive I do what I know how to do It doesn’t work Resources diminish Desperation escalates I try to get help It doesn’t work … or feel like me … or fit my lifestyle … or my budget Rinse, repeat… until I lose my shit or toss in the towel [Graphic: Guy pushing boulder up a hill talking to self, saying “I’m so tired of this...” Retrieved from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Yb1qHHYlqYo/T2eYHgywpcI/AAAAAAAAAFk/Ld8ZI6ByPb0/w1200-h630-p-k-no-nu/la+cultura+del+esfuerzo.jpg]

A really good example is what happens in mainstream mental health. Economic predation has led the mental health professions to market the message that “mental illness” is dangerous, complicated and beyond the capacity of untrained citizens. The pharmaceutical industry has teamed up with them to market its predatory message that these are brain issues, not stress or life issues, and thus require professional services, preferably drugs. Hence, both of these so-called helpers have used their considerable social and economic power to up their relative status and to limit the array of options available. This is done both at the expense of society (much of healthcare is funded by tax dollars), as well as at the expense of vulnerable people they claim to serve.

These industries also create a subsidiary class of predators. This includes ordinary citizens who are eager to take advantage of the status differentials that make them socially “better than.” The fact of my label not only makes me fair game for this group, it also creates a natural tension with family and friends who now fear the downward status consequences of guilt by association.

The real life impacts are painfully real. When I try to talk about about what I see happening, how devastating and frightening this is, how much it is killing my motivation to live, responsible citizens mostly follow the directions they are given by professionals and experts through mass media. Time and again, respected others politely decline to offer basic human courtesies like attention and interest and instead suggest I see a professional.

The repeated effect of such socially diminishing responses in a status conscious world is devastating. The relative status of the diminishing, rejecting advice-giving person goes up. They have done their duty, followed directions, proven themselves a good citizen. So now they get to feel better about themselves.

The effect on me is the opposite. The person has literally added insult to my injury. Consequently, my status goes down, basic human needs go unmet, and I feel even worse. Yet, this happens over and over, even with family and close friends.

The next stop on the train is the therapist’s office. Here I try to express my honest pain as I honestly see it:

  • Widespread mainstream denial
  • Rampant status competition
  • The professional guild privilege that siloed me into treatment and away from authentic human conversation
  • Social outsider status attendant to a diagnosis, the history of which will follow me and make me vulnerable to social and professional exclusion for the rest of my life even if I beat the odds and “get better.”

If I honestly say, as I often have, that this makes me feel like my life is over and that everyone, including me, would be better off if I were dead, then out comes the suicide assessment.

The repeated effect of this socially diminishing response in a status-conscious world is also devastating. The relative status of the diminishing, rejecting, assessment-giving professional goes up. They have done their duty, followed directions, proven themselves a good clinician. Now they are in full compliance with the ethical advice of their profession and their legal obligation to society and the organization they work for. Society even tells them they have “no choice” because the legal profession predators and the surviving relative predators will team up and get them if they don’t.

Not surprisingly, in this social world, I get worse instead of better. My basic human needs for honest conversation and meaningful connection about my painful state in a painful world are still going unmet. Plus my status is continually decreasing relative to others—simply as a result of voicing my sincere, honest and seemingly reasonable concerns. Again power is used by important others in predatory or abandoning ways, and I am paying good money for this. All of this increases my stress and discomfort, decreases my connection with others, destroys my hope of things ever changing and puts me at a loss for reasons to stay alive.

But do you know what’s just as deadly?

Everyday Responses

Practically everyone knows this kind of stuff is happening. There are new abuses every minute, much of this documented. But if I call it as I see it, in most people’s eyes, I’m paranoid, obsessed, overreacting, negative, dysfunctional, toxic, diagnosable….

I think that’s really interesting. In fact, it kind of proves my point about how stressful it is to be alive these days:

  • Most people know that power is being abused at very high levels.
  • Most people know that higher-ups can take advantage of us and actively are.
  • Yet, we’re all being told by the experts that healthy people cope with this.

Yup, thanks to mass media and mass marketing, I’m bombarded with tips for coping. The social message is that, if I get distressed by the moral outrages of social, economic and political power brokers, it means something is wrong with me. It’s like: Well, boys will be boys. The mature citizen recognizes that and lets it go. In the end, every citizen is an “expert” and happy to share or enforce the coping message on us reluctant lag-behinds.

And just to prove that the social predators truly have no shame, they have turned coping into an industry as well. As a result, there are now countless services and products I can buy to feel better while I am being ripped off.17

If I put all this together, I get a clear, concise recipe for wanting to die:Anatomy of a Suicide Life is hard all by itself Basic needs are insecure Bias and prejudice shut me out Trusted institutions let me down Social responses make it worse Injuries add up Suffering adds up

No bad genes or broken biology required. It’s simply a matter of stress and chronicity. Challenges and injuries accumulate. Suffering compounds. At some point, there are too many injuries, in too many ways, that have happened too often and been too painful for far too long. It becomes too much.

Suffering adds up Too alone Too much Too long Too often Too painful Too many ways

Ultimately, I reach a point where life feels disconnected, pointless and unbearable. I decide I have had enough. I am going to get out of the Sisyphus Cycle.

The next time I get energy, I take my opportunity. Some might call this a coward’s escape, but it is also a hero’s journey. The only weapon I have left is my life. Now I’m using it to send you one last message:

Whatever the hell you people think you are doing on planet earth, it is not okay with me. As much as I value my life, I’ll take my chances with death. Given what you are offering, I’m betting my eternity that death is not the worst thing that can happen to me.

If stress is so deadly and pervasive, then why isn’t everyone breaking down?

It’s a legitimate question. After all, statistics suggest that suicide and “mental illness” are related. Roughly 50 percent of suicide completers in the past two decades had ‘known mental health conditions’ (Stone, 2019, Table 2.)18

A seemingly logical conclusion is that stress only gets to emotionally vulnerable people who are on their way to crazy already.

The problem with that kind of logic is that it assumes there is only one kind of breakdown from stress. Clearly that is not the case. Stress affects all sorts of functions in my body—digestion, heart rate, respiration, circulation, immune function, liver, kidneys, detoxification, sleep, healing, growth and development (Sapolsky, 2004). It also makes for poorer judgment and reasoning since it diverts resources from brain to brawn, primes my muscles to act and makes me want to jump out of my skin. Wear and tear, plus lousy choices, increases vulnerability to breakdown, including myriad common maladies: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, ulcers, acid reflux, allergies, colds, flu, pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, cancer, kidney and liver disease, anxiety, depression, addiction… the list goes on.19 Under the influence of chronic stress, such problems compound, potentially leading to system failure and death.

This becomes even clearer when you take a look at the leading causes of death in modern times: diabetes, cancer, stroke, flu/pneumonia, Alzheimer’s, accidents, suicide.20 They are all potentially mediated by stress, including effects like those mentioned above. 21 In other words, quite possibly, stress is getting to all of us, not just some of us. Quite possibly, as a species, we are dishing out to each other more than any of us can safely take. In a very real way, we are all breaking down. We are all dying. It’s just that we’re all dying differently.

That only makes sense. Diversity is a strength of our species. Our bodies have different gifts as well as different challenges. Stress feels out frailties, and makes the kill from there. Whether mental or physical, however, stress gets most of us in the end.

Now I am at the interface between the gift of stress and the gift of wanting to die. Stress is my body’s gift to me. It tries to wake me up to the fact that I’m in over my head and something needs to change. I ignore or kill the messenger at my peril.

Wanting to die is my gift to you. It’s my attempt to share with you my sincere and desperate conclusion:

Some conditions and terms of life may not be worthy of the human body, mind or spirit. I think the culture we live in is deadly.

I have been dying inside from this. Unless something changes, you could be too.

[Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you alone or defenseless. There’s a lot more to our bodies—and humankind—than the moral depravity we’ve been sold on to date. I’ll talk about that—and what we can do—in the last two more installments of this series. If you can’t afford to sit around waiting, there’s a growing community of us who are trying to figure out how to support each other to navigate this territory with dignity, conscience and absolutely no coercion. We hold telephone and online groups that are free and accessible, literally, from around the world. You can find out more here.]

Show 21 footnotes

  1. Deaton, A. (2018, January 24). The U.S. Can No Longer Hide from Its Deep Poverty Problem (Op-Ed.) New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/opinion/poverty-united-states.html.
  2. Wilkinson, R., & Marmot, M. (2003). Social determinants of health: The solid facts (2nd ed.). Copenhagen: World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf.
  3. National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Breaking the Silence: Trauma-informed Behavioral Healthcare. National Council Magazine2011(2). Retrieved from https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/NC-Mag-Trauma-Web-Email.pdf.
  4. Sapolsky, R. M. (2017). Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst. Penguin., https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/19107284-d0wnload-behave-pdf-audiobook-by-robert-m-sapolsky.
  5. Sapolsky, R. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, 3rd Edition (New York: Holt Paperbacks), https://www.mta.ca/pshl/docs/zebras.pdf.
  6. Social Science Bites. (2018, July 3). Richard Wilkinson on how inequality is bad. In Social Science Space. Retrieved May 7, 2019, from https://www.socialsciencespace.com/2018/07/richard-wilkinson-on-how-inequality-is-bad/.
  7. Sapolsky, R. M. (2018, November 1). How economic inequality inflicts real biological harm: The growing gulf between rich and poor inflicts biological damage on bodies and brains. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-economic-inequality-inflicts-real-biological-harm/.
  8. Radcliff, P. (2004). Lecture Seven: The Origins of “Mass Society”. , Interpreting the 20th Century: The Struggle Over Democracy (Course Guidebook) (p. 31). Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. Retrieved from http://download.audible.com/product_related_docs/BK_TCCO_000156.pdf.
  9. Noam Chomsky: The five filters of the mass media. In Public Reading Rooms: The art of politics and vice versa. Retrieved from https://prruk.org/noam-chomsky-the-five-filters-of-the-mass-media-machine/56.pdf.
  10. See, e.g., Kruse, K. M. (2015). One nation under god: How corporate America invented Christian America. Basic Books.
  11. Hanretty, C. (2014). Media outlets and their moguls: Why concentrated individual or family ownership is bad for editorial independence. European Journal of Communication29(3), 335-350.
  12. Levy, A. R. (2019, September 16). The Incredible Belief That Corporate Ownership Does Not Influence Media Content. In Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Retrieved from https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/17/incredible-belief-corporate-ownership-does-not-influence-media-content.
  13. American Museum of Tort Law. (n.d.). The Ford Pinto: Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company 1981. In American Museum of Tort Law. Retrieved from https://www.tortmuseum.org/ford-pinto/.
  14. Pogue, D. (2010, October 4). Verizon Comes Clean. New York Times. Retrieved from https://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/verizon-comes-clean/. See also Mai, J. (2016, February 25). 9 sneaky ways cell phone companies get you to pay more. Business Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/sneaky-ways-cell-phone-companies-get-you-to-pay-more-2016-2; Pogue, D. (2009, July 30). ‘Take Back the Beep’ Campaign. New York Times. Retrieved from https://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/the-mandatory-15-second-voicemail-instructions/; and Reardon, M. (2012, March 27). Why you can’t sue your wireless carrier in a class action. In C|Net. Retrieved December 24, 2019, from https://www.cnet.com/news/why-you-cant-sue-your-wireless-carrier-in-a-class-action/.
  15. Thompson, D. (2011, December 27). Why Does the Wealth Gap Between Congress and Voters Matter?. In The Atlantic. Retrieved December 24, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/12/why-does-the-wealth-gap-between-congress-and-voters-matter/250546/.
  16. Oliver, M. (2013). “Wild Geese” in New and selected poems, volume one. Beacon Press.
  17. See, e.g., 25 Top Stress Relief Products (2019, March 29). In Open Source Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.opensourcedworkplace.com/news/25-top-stress-relief-products.
  18. Stone, D. M., Simon, T. R., Fowler, K. A., Kegler, S. R., Yuan, K., Holland, K. M., … & Crosby, A. E. (2018). Vital signs: trends in state suicide rates—United States, 1999–2016 and circumstances contributing to suicide—27 states, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report67(22), 617. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991813/.
  19. Agnvall, E. (2014, November). Stress! Don’t Let It Make You Sick. AARP Bulletin. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/stress-and-disease.html; 

    Blake, H. (2017, August 9). How Your Body Reacts to Stress. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-happens-your-body-when-youre-stressed-180964357/.

  20. Heron, M. (2019, June 24). Deaths: Leading Causes for 2017. National Vital Statistic Reports68(6). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_06-508.pdf.
  21. See, e.g., Bisht, K., Sharma, K., & Tremblay, M. È. (2018). Chronic stress as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease: Roles of microglia-mediated synaptic remodeling, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Neurobiology of stress9, 9-21;

    Bruce, M. A., Griffith, D. M., & Thorpe Jr, R. J. (2015). Stress and the kidney. Advances in chronic kidney disease22(1), 46-53;

    Everson-Rose, S. A., Roetker, N. S., Lutsey, P. L., Kershaw, K. N., Longstreth, W. T., Jr, Sacco, R. L., … Alonso, A. (2014). Chronic stress, depressive symptoms, anger, hostility, and risk of stroke and transient ischemic attack in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Stroke, 45(8), 2318–2323. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131200/;

    Glaser, R., Sheridan, J., Malarkey, W. B., MacCallum, R. C., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2000). Chronic stress modulates the immune response to a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. Psychosomatic medicine, 62(6), 804-807;

    Justice N. J. (2018). The relationship between stress and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of Stress, 8, 127–133;

    Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Glaser, R., Gravenstein, S., Malarkey, W. B., & Sheridan, J. (1996). Chronic stress alters the immune response to influenza virus vaccine in older adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93(7), 3043–3047. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC39758/;

    Lehrer P. (2006). Anger, stress, dysregulation produces wear and tear on the lung. Thorax, 61(10), 833–834. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2104758/;

    Moreno-Smith, M., Lutgendorf, S. K., & Sood, A. K. (2010). Impact of stress on cancer metastasis. Future oncology (London, England), 6(12), 1863–1881. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037818/;

    Rosiek, A., Rosiek-Kryszewska, A., Leksowski, Ł., & Leksowski, K. (2016). Chronic Stress and Suicidal Thinking Among Medical Students. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(2), 212. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772232/; 

    Turgeman-Lupo, K., & Biron, M. (2017). Make it to work (and back home) safely: The effect of psychological work stressors on employee behaviour while commuting by car. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26(2), 161-170;

    U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Safety and Health Topics / Long Work Hours, Extended or Irregular Shifts, and Worker Fatigue. In Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Retrieved December 21, 2019, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workerfatigue/hazards.html.

59 COMMENTS

  1. If your on a dopamine blocking agent, the baseline stress is higher (biologically). If you falter, the screws get tightened further through a higher dose. It shouldn’t come as a surprise up to 50% or more attempt suicide at least once.

    Dopamine agents are almost all generic now, so it’s promoted now only by psychiatry to save face, unable to admit the experiment was a dismal failure.

    • Well, only a failure if improved outcome for the patient is what’s intended (and not more revenue). If it’s mainly a con-game, which it is, then it was quite successful. We live and learn.

      Imagine studying to be a psychiatrist and half-way through you discover your being educated just to poison the most vulnerable people in society. With all the student debt that’s piled up, I can imagine most just shrug and accept their new reality … knowing they were conned as well …

      Withdrawal symptoms? They only last a few weeks (so they keep telling us). I think they mean abstinence symptoms.

      • Neo,
        We know why kids become a shrink or doc. Through the BS disguised as science and through being privileged and through coaching that those lower class are ‘effected’.
        They enter it because of ability to study, regurgitate. No passion needed.
        IF indeed they get an inkling that it is a scam, they would rarely drop out.
        I believe they mostly realize the scam in practice, but it is a realization on the surface of consciousness, so it always has a counter argument.
        It rarely touches anything deeper.
        This is fascinating since I live with someone with a brain like a shrink.
        An uncanny ability to see pain, but not let it affect, nor do anything about it. And if they saw abuse by officials, they would NEVER call it.

        Difficult to realize what I live with lol;.

        • Sam, so many of your comments are spot on!
          “An uncanny ability to see pain, but not let it affect, nor do anything about it”.
          That certainly describes the psychiatrist I saw for insomnia while in cancer treatment! I sat there pale, emaciated, dizzy and bald from chemo and she sat with perfectly coiffed hair, dressed to the nines, matching shoes and purse and with a stone-cold face, totally uninterested and oblivious to my challenging situation. She had been in practice less than a year, her father and sister are lawyers and I would bet she had not suffered a day in her life so was totally clueless to any suffering of any kind.

          • Hi Rosalee,
            I have begun to know it as a defensive move.
            These folks have to protect something within themselves and steel themselves so much and use a paintbrush to paint a picture over the person in front of them….a picture that coincides with and supports their lack of empathy. To make themselves feel better about lack of ability to empathize or identify, they basically make the distraught out to be a villain.
            It does not help that they are taught about “removing themselves from the suffering of clients” and taught to basically see everything around themselves as “manipulation”.
            The fallacy that doctors can remain “impartial” is rampant. It is an illusion. Trying to be impartial results in apathy, fear of being manipulated (whatever the heck that means).
            The garbage they are taught is one thing, but I fear that underneath the teaching lie the real problems in the form of an already receptive personality.
            The fact you were indeed sick, just made it more likely for you to be seen as MI….I think many folks really have not experienced psychiatry on the physical body level and how the industry is taking over most/all of the medical areas including cancer, heart, an ingrown toenail. It is the most convenient vehicle to silence people, so you can no longer cry out in pain. Your Arthritis, heart, headaches, cancers, they have now a huge psychiatric component.
            The alternative slanted might say that real diseases have an emotional aspect.
            Being affected by real illness, I SO resent the word “emotional”, because it attaches to it, not MY meaning, but always the interpretation of the other. I fear that almost any word is now seen in this weird psychiatric light.
            As if it is news that when I place my hand on a burner I will pull back because the “emotional” brain kicked in because my pain receptors kicked in.
            Psychiatry is one crazy azzed system. I NEVER believed in it because it was never in line with the way I think, and always had a mistrusting nature of those who knew the secrets of complex things.
            But we still get caught up because that is how rampant their cult is. The alternatives and education combined with exposure of falsity and lawsuits has to continue in order to weaken it.

          • Rosalee, You capture that moment so well. It’s a terrible image, greatly captured. I feel like I’ve met this psychiatrist. Actually, the one I told you about…who I found out, lost her license in 2015, had a similar demeanor. The first time I met this woman, she wore black.leather trousers and a white silk blouse. I started to tell her some of my history. She interrupted, scolding me:. “You’ve had a lot of help” (i.e. it’s your fault you’re not cured). She instructed me to write her a check for my co-pay, which I did, and then yelled at me as I was leaving the office because I tried to exit back into the waiting room instead of the correct way, the door that led to the outside. She said I was violating everyone’s privacy. Such a shame she lost her license.

          • Yes Kate I remember you found that out and I thought it was a small victory she got the boot. 🙂 But wow she got angry you tried to leave the same way you came in? What’s with that? She must have wanted to prevent anyone mingling or talking to each other about how horrible she is!

  2. Thank you Sarah for this informative piece…which I have to read a little at a time:)

    I have been ‘suicidal’ in recent weeks, triggered by the fact of the Trump’s admin is set to cut SSI/SSDI by a huge percent in the 2020 budget.

    I am trying my best to recover from the brain damage from Klonopin; starting my 7th year of this with no end in sight.

    If I lose my disability, I will be homeless. How ironic that I finally found an affordable, comfortable place to live in a new community that I’m loving. How am I suppose to ‘make a home’ here when all this is brewing?? How am I suppose to heal when stressed about my survival? When DT and Co. (hey, Eddie Munster/Paul Ryan…happy now??) kill us off it will be you next.

    Reagan did this in the 80s and 21,000 people died.

    Comments opposing the proposed cuts are being accepted until Jan. 31…

    They give me a bogus diagnosis, load me up with pHarma, then abandon me to my fate. Yeah yeah I made the decision to engage with the beast…but no internet back then and the peer pressure was profound. Some of us are just cursed.

    I won’t use a gun…I wouldn’t want to traumatize whoever finds my body; if only I could score some Seconal or Morphine!…or I could walk off into the snow…

    The self-loathing I feel when I read online random people’s opinions about us ‘takers’…is overwhelming.

    They gave me a bogus diagnosis, loaded me up with pharma, then abandon me.

    And if you think the homeless are a problem now…it’s just going to get worse until we get up on our hind legs and fight back.

    USA USA USA!!!

    • I have been chuckling about our politicians and their conduct and behaviour.

      One party caught using taxpayer monies to pay for prostitutes, and the other party has been saving us money by sexually assaulting the staff and covering it up for 2 years.

      Kids have been getting out of control by having fun at a local water park so we need 600 riot police to attend and pepper spray them and give them a taste of the truncheon. Organised criminals and outlaw motorcycle gangs also need to be dealt with so were going to stop them being allowed to send text messages to each other. That’s got them shaking in their boots huh?

      I can’t help but wonder if those in charge are possibly taking a little more of the ‘good stuff’ than is actually healthy for them, and by proxy us. Still, with a bit of tweaking of our new Euthanasia Laws it shouldn’t be a problem, because anyone who has been subjected to mental health services KNOWS what they mean by ‘voluntary’ assisted dying.

      Good work Sarah.

    • My situation is so similar to what you describe. I’m on SSDI also, for the same reasons. I do think about, if I lose the disability, that will be it for me. There’s no way I can work at this point. I only function a few hours a day… enough to shower, dress, eat, maybe clean my apartment. On a good day I might even make it to the supermarket or the laundromat, but if I do, the next day I can count on being bedridden. I have no social or family support at this point, for the reasons Sarah explained so well. Spent the holidays completely alone. I had a cat but had to surrender him when my health tanked after fracturing my ankle. So, yeah, it’s bleak.

    • furies,
      psychiatry is efficient in that it treats loss of hope, as illness.
      There is always a chemical to numb.
      Always remember that what you feel is the most natural outcome.
      How I tremble in my anxiety, my thoughts are absolutely not an illness.
      I know this because of insight.
      The problem of what was referred to as MI, or inherently misfits has become too massive to be called MI.
      The whole idea never made sense and makes even less sense today.

  3. Sarah Knutson,

    I feel primarily you are speaking of suicide ideation that is fostered by unrealistic, unspoken social expectations or rules which lead to daunting shame and a great sense of not belonging. In addition, you also are speaking of the chronic stress state that engulfs much of modern society and that adds to the shame of those feeling suicidal.

    I would guess that it’s more about the shame experience that leads to the ultimate act of suicide. Furthermore, chronic stress (while it may also be present with shame) seems likely to have been what created much of the biology of many mental illnesses from inception. Shame feels bad. Stress alerts to fight something.

    Shame, it seems, is what everyone in the world is afraid of—even ‘top dog’ officials. If you’ve fallen into the feeling of shame, you’ve lost your sense of power because someone else wanted some or misused theirs. Hold on. Believe in yourself.

    When you have lost belief in yourself, your shame will overwhelm you.

    The fight for the mentally ill is about dignifying ourselves. A belief. Hold on.

  4. Maybe my thoughts are beginning to sound redundant here, but I think if you would substitute the term CAPITALIST for “mainstream,” “big fish,” etc. you would gain more clarity about what the solutions might be. It would also help to stop saying “we” when talking about circumstances that have little to do with US, such as “this society we have created,” etc. Most of us are far from being members of the ruling class, and we didn’t create shit, we just have it slopped out for us and are expected to like it. Though we do perpetuate it by not fighting it; when the energy which should be expended in revolutionary activity is directed inward against ourselves we sow the seeds of self-destruction.

    Good to see you writing btw.

    • My situation is so similar to what you describe. I’m on SSDI also, for the same reasons. I do think about, if I lose the disability, that will be it for me. There’s no way I can work at this point. I only function a few hours a day… enough to shower, dress, eat, maybe clean my apartment. On a good day I might even make it to the supermarket or the laundromat, but if I do, the next day I can count on being bedridden. I have no social or family support at this point, for the reasons Sarah explained so well. Spent the holidays completely alone. I had a cat but had to surrender him when my health tanked after fracturing my ankle. So, yeah, it’s bleak.

  5. R4 Today Program this morning 17/12020 THE morning radio listening in the UK, mostly of the middle class.

    Sarah Smith interviewing two psychiatrists on young people suicide with the psychiatrists firmly placing the blame on internet sites showing self harm and such like info ie this site. Not a single mention of psychiatric drug causation questioning by BBC. Their looking to take your site down Robert.

    Can someone inform Sarah Smith about Akathisia ?

    https://twitter.com/BBCsarahsmith

    • Ahh, so now it is sites that show or talk about self harm that are the problem.
      Psychiatry that in all hopeless seriousness looks at people and tells them they have an incurable illness and gives them awful harmful drugs would have nothing to do with harm.
      I think tons of people committed suicide LONG before the internet.
      No one ever exposed psychiatry before. Scary huh? It must be scary to lose control over one’s minions.
      The ones who drug people, teenagers and children, with bad outcomes.

    • Their looking to take your site down Robert.

      I’ve been wondering how MIA plans to respond when they do. Actually they won’t take it down but they won’t enable links to the site, you’ll have to know ahead of time you want to go to madinamerica.com and type it in directly. Just like they’re doing with anti-vaccine information and very popular natural health sites such as Mercola.com

      This is more of a “when” than an “if” the way things are looking. So don’t be shocked.

    • I’m reminded of all the self-help type of advice that tells people to “stay away from negative/toxic people. They will drag you down. Avoid them. Cut them out of your life.”. After the borderline diagnosis, I used to feel so hopeless and ashamed anytime I saw an article or post with this advice. I knew people viewed me as negative, pessimistic, not-cheerful. I knew that a lot of people (mental health workers included) viewed “borderlines” as toxic.
      Now I think of it differently. It’s hard to be cheerful and positive when you’re being labeled, drugged and humiliated. It’s hard to smile through that. And the truth was, I was toxic, literally, but only because I’d been coerced into taking ridiculous amounts of psych drugs. I’ve also stopped reading women’s magazines and I stay off Facebook and the like.

  6. Sarah,
    Thank you, your writing is phenomenal, an outreach to touch lives that matter.
    An outreach to connect minds on such basics as life/death itself. It is most liberating. I can suffer without having an MI, I can suffer the discontent of psychiatry and the social system that heaps it at our feet to trip over and loads it on our backs once we are on the ground.
    That IS the illness. We suffer THEIR discontent.
    The inability to suffer, called resilience, some call it a chosen world view, a chosen self perception, is nothing more than an inability to identify with what someone else feels or experiences.

    I live with someone that can see a starving animal, a hurt human and after turning his head, no longer sees what he saw, or what I pointed out. THAT is “resilience”.
    After all, people have to protect their psyche.

  7. Thanks Sarah,

    This series is very worthwhile.

    Life has always been stressful, but I think it’s become a lot more stressful now for the average person and the average (in the process of being deskilled) middle class person – because all the money is going in one direction – and this is being supported worldwide.

    There are lots and lots of clever ways to undermine the population majority of unimportant people; and it’s still easy enough to get a very badly paid job.

    I’ll have to study all your episodes first, to see if you can suggest any solutions.

  8. Your writing is a valuable community service since it is articulate and insightful; you should be broadly published. Consistently, I believe in the natural science advocacy of our natural motivation to seek well-being (social affirmation and support) and that people generally seek “status” to promote well-being when the community is stingy with its affirmation and support.

    What confuses me about your article is the apparent, standard disconnect between distressful experiences and stress. I understood you to describe brutal, distressful experiences as stressors and that the “potential impact of stressors like these on mental well being is shocking.” I am confused by your shock and our cultural belief that distressful experiences are not the sole cause of anxiety and stress. I believe that “mental health” is an oxymoron that effectively pathologizes natural emotional suffering from distressful experiences (social, economic and/or spiritual distress). By defining “mental health” as emotional well-being, psychiatry implies that emotional suffering is a sickness (regardless of predominately distressful experiences). While this is illogical, it is a common perspective on emotional suffering. Thus if you tell someone that you are considering killing yourself, they do not hear the obvious (that you are suffering emotionally); instead, they hear that you have a disease that worries them. They are afraid that your disease will kill you, that you lack insight about your need for professional help, and that they do not want to mistakenly appear to have any valuable expertice into your disease.

    I believe that we all seek well-being (affirmation and social support) and that we all feel some degree of stress from cultural values. But I also believe that status anxiety is generally significantly greater for those without status and that there is substantial injustice around that issue.

  9. Sarah, I appreciate the candor and authenticity in your writing. The harmful façade of psychiatry is still such a shocking realization for me because of my long held belief (brainwashing) that psychiatry was about “helping” people get through difficult life circumstances. I used to be a positive, hopeful person but learning the truth about psychiatry and of how many have been harmed and devastated by it, has been very demoralizing.

    “The problem of the modern world for me is not so much the stress of having a present threat to survival. It is a continual uncertainty about future survival given the conditions of life as I have come to know and experience them.”

    Yes I can relate as that is how I have felt since my encounter with a psychiatrist.
    Thanks again for this truth-speaking unvarnished essay. I look forward to your upcoming blogs.

    • Rosalee,
      That “helpful” pretense is rife in society. Not until we are in need of the system, is it exposed for the control or attempt at control.
      It is indeed a realized uncertainty. We are absolutely not safe if we need care, even in an old folks home.
      Our deaths are not even ‘safe’. The only assurance one can ever have is to live and die on one’s own terms. One cannot help wanting to be validated or recognized by more than the next door neighbour.
      We feel a need to be validated by powers, that is the kind of control they wield, yet looking for validation or help just furthers their egomaniac drives.
      Like kids on the playground, we want to be accepted and if we are called weirdos, we take it to heart. Being called a weirdo on the playground has big implications. If one is shamed by the herd, even the teachers get swayed.
      This powertrip thing runs so very deep and is constantly enacted in the wild, but given that man puts himself above other animals, he is inherently supposed to do better.
      He however is more and more resembling the snake in the tree. “Eat from this apple”

  10. Are they going to make euthanasia legal for cases like mine… completely alone, age 53, “unrecovered borderline”, they can’t make money off me anymore since the treatment ended and I have more and more trouble taking care of myself. Am I just being made to live so the nursing home can make a profit? If the government wants to save money it can take away my disability but I want a way out.

    • Katel,
      You are not “unrecovered”, because you were never “IT”.
      You are YOU, who for whatever reasons, unknown, are suffering.
      Sarah tells you that life can be tough, and can feel harsh.
      No one has failed if not making it through without flying colors.
      There is no failure, only if you compare to the herd. The herd
      cannot survive with everyone succeeding at the constructs. The constructs themselves rely on what they verbally call failures.

      There are no diagnosis, and so, there can be no labels. Therapy would ever only include naming the weird way we run society, or how it tries to survive.
      You have no clue how much society relies on “non recovered”. Except, the word does not have any meaning, not within a non recovered society.
      You can fill a jar with dirt, and claim it as your own spot on earth.
      I have a jar of dirt. I occupy space. I give many people meaning and importance, right down to “researchers”.
      Actually, think about the GREAT importance you really hold.

      • Thank you, Sam. I’ll try to hold on to these thoughts. It could be that as much as I rail against psychiatry, the decades of brainwashing still have a hold on me. I see that at 53 I’m alone in the world, and immediately my mind goes to *their* explanation for why that is… which puts all the blame on me, the patient (ex patient), of course.

        • Katel,
          Our minds always look to make sense of yesterday. If yesterday had problems.
          We choose the nearest explanation.
          The brainwashing is really a lot older than decades, and comes from many sources.
          Psychiatry cashed in on the biases we all hold, it helps us to solidify that the problem lies in us and is us.
          We are no longer a human with issues, we are the issue.
          We adopt that and is the part that is very harmful.
          In fact, there are no answers for many questions, even the questions that get us down and as we look for answers to make sense or feel better, there are none. Everything does not need an explanation, and everything beyond explaining is not an MI.
          Psychiatry does blame, so why join? Have you felt their miserable attitudes? Why join that? Seen their destruction? Whenever we see destruction in a system, a practice, how does it gain validity? We have to come to the conclusion that help looks nothing like that.
          Our original “problem” that we went to psychiatry for, was because we were already somewhat brainwashed into thinking they could help.
          We are really our best help.
          Possibly acknowledging that yes, we tend to go into circular thinking, which is exactly what psychiatry does.
          Just realizing that we judge, others and ourselves. But is that factual.

          I think fairy tales exist that we are supposed to be coupled. Our divorce rates are hmm 50%?
          And how alone are the other 50% that are in relationships?
          Shrinks get divorced. A shrink can never tell you the crazy in his brain

          • So much truth in this, Sam. You’re right, psychiatry is one piece of the puzzle in the brainwashing. Everybody buys into it. Once I was diagnosed, I couldn’t have a human problem anymore. It was all, “did you take your meds? Can you talk to your therapist about that?” After I went on disability, I was sitting with a friend one day and stated my concern that I would not be able to re-enter the job market. She said, “Is that something you can talk to your therapist about?”. Later I told her that her response hurt my feelings. She said, “I didn’t think I could field that response myself.”. Field that response. Like suddenly I could only get support from people with degrees in the space of a 50 minute session. And you’re right, psychiatry/the mental health system is nothing but endless circles.

  11. “Nothing is wrong, damaging, intentional. Hardship is avoidable, temporary, my fault. I need to be patient, persistent, responsible. The people in charge will make it all better. My attitude is the problem. If I weren’t so bad or my genes were good, I would be coping like everyone else.”

    The people in charge actually rarely say or claim that they will make it/us better. Society, the people in our lives say “go get help”…sometimes because they themselves are feeling the stress, or they close up in response to the “help” plea.
    Psychiatry also closes up to the “help” plea, their mind was made up long ago that every single person that walks through their door is “sick”, by definition, you walked through their door.
    That makes you unhelpable, but they do promise to try and “manage” you/IT. You are not you, you are IT.
    The word “manage” is perfect in it’s description of psychiatry. They chose that word without much forethought. Within that word, it tells us that we are damaged goods, to be managed, on their terms.
    They hand out hopelessness. They decide if you in fact have improved. Improved means to get a degree and work at jobs they consider to have meaning. It does not include working in the arts, or macD’s, even though they partake in buying the products or make their living of YOU/IT.
    A shrink lives on the back of downtrodden YOU, without YOU/IT, he has NO MEANING. Yet he hates YOU/IT. He hated you?IT before you went in to help him make his next 100 bucks.
    If there were no dependent ones, we would all be fighting for jobs, because the jobs taken by the ones who “manage”, would no longer exist. No lawyers, no shrinks, no jails, no judges, and the myriads of jobs that fall under the system. Yet the birthrate would remain.
    It is ironic.
    Rehabilitation and recovery are jobs all of their own.
    None of the management jobs keep people alive forever. They simply die before the hundred years are up, to be replaced by the next idiots that derive meaning in their hundred and less years by segregation.
    When we speak of “meaning”, for some it simply means “importance”.
    We are in fact, all equally important. Our “status” is of equal importance. Put the most suffering beside a shrink, look at both and tell me, which one is sane, which one has more value.

  12. Great article about horrible world we are living in. Just great. Thank You, Sarah.

    “I’m in favor of destruction, aggression, hating things. Not bearing things anymore. We think the breakdown comes because our life is in bad shape. But maybe the ideas cause the disorder. Something tries to break through and causes the disorder.”

    The whole culture is under terrible pressure and fraught with worry. It’s hard to get out of that box. That’s the dominant situation all over the world.

    The self divided is precisely where the self is authentically located. . . We all have identity crises because a single identity is a delusion of the monotheistic mind. . . Authenticity is in the illusion, playing it, seeing through it from within as we play it, like an actor who sees through his mask and can only see in this way.

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    I don’t think anything changes until ideas change. The usual American viewpoint is to believe that something is wrong with the person.
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    “I’ve found that contemporary psychology enrages me with its simplistic ideas of human life, and also its emptiness.”

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    “My war – and I have yet to win a decisive battle – is with the modes of thought that and conditioned feelings that prevail in psychology and therefore also in the way we think and feel about our being. Of these conditions none are more tyrannical than the convictions that clamp the mind and heart into positivistic science (geneticism and computerism), economics (bottom-line capitalism), and single-minded faith (fundamentalism).”
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    JAMES HILLMAN

  13. A good case could be made, that MiA should NOT allow first-person suicide stories to appear here. It encourages others, and leads to more suicides….
    It’s a little-known fact that many suicides today are protesting the latest “died by suicide” linguistic fascism…

    • Bradford,
      I disagree, although I understand your view.
      Psychiatry has a mantra and many more mantras.
      One of them that always speaks to me and is PLASTERED ALL over the internet is:
      “If you are feeling suicidal, call a crisis line”. “there is nothing to be ashamed of” “It is okay to be mentally ill”

      That is subliminal, because it pretends to speak to someone else. And do you know what happens when you do ringy-dingy the “helpline”?
      A lot of kids and teens react to that subliminal messaging, and might entertain thoughts that were not on the surface.

      It is like seeing an ad or picture of chocolate and then craving chocolate.
      The more psychiatry tries to “help”, the more hopeless people feel, right down to their suggestive chatter about mental health.

      There are certain words that the industry uses.
      “mental illness”, “not something to be ashamed of”, “stigma”, “suicide”
      “crisis”, “help”, “medication”

      Actually I find Sarah’s blog empowering.

    • We all need someone who will believe us. Monotheistic psychiatry does not believe in death. And psyche belongs to polytheistic reality, which is condemned by our shallow barbaric culture. This is tragedy for psychological man. Death is in the center of the psyche. From psychological point of view – mental health (ego heroism) is a naive heresy. Rationalism is the most naive kind of perception, but we like to feel comfortable with our thoughts. Death is not our enemy, egoic barbarism and comfortable cowardice, is.

      We must break free from the anti psychological monotheistic and spiritual chains. We need psychological perspective to cure our barbaric and materialistic point of view.

      Comfortable thinking does not describe reality of the psyche. Comfortable thinking describe our safety needs.

      I recommend James Hillman psychology to everyone. We need to cure our ideas, not psyche.

  14. Sarah, Thank you! I appreciate your insights. I relate to and agree with all you have written here.
    I, too, am struggling with the isolation and sense of abandonment so many people write about in comments here on MIA. I feel pooped on by all those who claimed to have my “best interests in mind” when I sought help from “professionals” who did nothing but harm me. When I dare to speak about it I am shunned, silenced, rejected as invalid.
    I have read articles and comments here on MIA for quite a while. I started with one mindset and overtime came to realize how I had been groomed into accepting so much that is wrong as correct. Thanks to commenters and article writers here I have come to understand the truth about “mental illnesses” and the horrific damage I and so many others have incurred as a result of “treatment”.
    To Rosalee, Sam and so many others I say “THANK YOU!”. Your comments and sharing have opened my eyes, my mind and my heart.

    • Nancy,
      So many great minds and writing here.
      When we adopt beliefs like psychiatry likes one to do, I judge
      how that system makes me feel and also how that system does affect me, not just in the pit of my own gut, but what it is doing to others, and how it affects a human on all social service levels.

      If there was something good about it, it would NEVER affect people as worse than being a criminal.
      Psychiatry never does advertise that nasty side, that their labels bring, even without meds.

    • Hi Nancy, So glad that you have found the same help and validation I did on this site. There was so much on here, including the blogs, personal stories and other commenters that helped me to process my ordeal. I was struggling with the trauma and resulting nightmare of seeing a psychiatrist for help with insomnia. (sent to the psychiatrist by docs administering cancer treatments) I believed/trusted a psychiatrist was in the profession for the purpose of helping and supporting people in difficult circumstances and could not wrap my brain around what was done to me by a cold and very dishonest psychiatrist. I thought I was alone and my story would be too hard for anyone to believe – until the day in mid 2018 when I found the MIA site. It was SO validating and really a lifesaver to realize I was not alone and there was a battle raging against the damaging façade psychiatry is. I will always be immensely grateful to Robert Whitaker for his incredible work, integrity and perseverance in educating people, exposing the harm and saving lives.

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