As calls for police defunding and reform become louder amidst the powerful Black Lives Matter movement, the suggestion that mental health workers step into the void is also taking hold.
Why is it that so many people seem to think it’s a good idea to replace certain functions of police with mental health workers?
It is likely that deep down, people know that the mental health system, particularly psychiatric hospitals, serve much the same function as the police and jails: social control.
As stated by Stefanie Lyn Kaufman-Mthimkhulu, in her recent article We don’t need cops to become social workers: We need peer support + community response networks,
“Psychiatric institutions are, in fact, part of the carceral state. This means that they are part of the many systems that function to: contain people, take away their locus of control, offer surveillance, isolate them from their communities, and limit their freedom.”
To be clear, replacing police presence with mental health interventions will look nothing like a cozy visit to one’s beloved therapist in a private practice office, sipping oolong tea and smelling lavender oils.
There may be times when a caring social worker listens, de-escalates the situation, mediates conflict, and directs the person and/or family toward resources without violence and without force. This stuff works and I’m certainly here for it.
More often, however, mental health workers responding to emergency calls and crises results in coercion, labelling and othering, paternalism, force, and, yes, even violence, all under the guise of “for your own good.” The penal system and that of mental health are both spokes of the same wheel: built on patriarchy, oppression, isolation, silencing, and control.
And, before the refrain of “not all professionals” or “not me” or “not anyone I’ve ever known” starts to reverberate, know that these words are always the words of an oppressor. So, please, just stop. This is about systems, not individuals, even if individuals within such systems inevitably become part of the problem.
The Mental Health System is Built on Racism and Bias
It is nothing new to point out that the mental health professions have been designed to act in the role of regulating the marginalized and reinforcing White male control.
Since its beginnings, psychiatry has used its medicalized language and pseudoscience to deny experiences of abuse, tyranny, and assault as delusional or, worse, the uneducated perceptions of lesser stock that cannot appreciate help when they see it. Drapetomania, a purported “peculiar” mental illness that made slaves run away, is certainly a prime example.
Mental health professionals played a central part in the development and legitimization of the Eugenics movement. Psychological tests were designed based on White, American norms to determine intelligence and mental fortitude. Those who did not do so well were thought to be genetically inferior and in need of either help from the superior genetic class and/or sterilization or, worse, extermination as in the Nazi camps.
Though it may be believed that much has changed, only just this last month did universities in California decide to stop using the SAT due to its inherent racial and socioeconomic prejudices. This test was designed in a not dissimilar manner to those of a century ago. And it’s 2020.
Aside from such egregious arrogance, the current bio-medical paradigm is also fundamentally racist (and sexist, and heteronormative, etc., etc., etc.) at its core. Diagnostic categories exist based on whatever deviates from the social norm, which, of course, is that of the upper-class White Western man.
Think that’s an unfair overstatement? First, diagnoses are based on committees that consist of almost entirely White men. Second, these categories are nothing more than descriptions of behaviors, not a disease that one can locate and define. Lastly, in an effort to legitimize these made-up categories by looking at the brain, fMRIs have been used to suggest that these diseases can be found in the brain. How do they know? By comparing “ill” patients to “controls.” Who are the controls? White middle-upper class college kids in America. For added fun, these brain scans aren’t even that useful in telling scientists anything about any individual’s brain anyway.
But, there’s more.
Rates of admission into psychiatric facilities, even without bringing more mental health professionals into Black communities, are three or more times higher among various Black groups. These admissions are also more likely to be by force. In other words, Black individuals are being forcefully locked up far more than White people—Does this sound familiar?
And, as soon as a person becomes diagnosed as mentally ill, the contextual and societal factors (racism, poverty, lack of education, chronic stress, oppression, abuse, neglect, violence, etc.) that underly the emotional distress in the first place immediately become secondary or forgotten altogether.
Giving greater power to mental health professionals to diagnose and institutionalize is directly antithetical to finally giving weight to these social traumas and putting them front and center.
People Do Die as a Result of Mental Health Care
Granted, when a mental health professional shows up to an emergency call, it’s much less likely that someone will be murdered. That’s a good thing. But, this doesn’t absolve the mental health professions.
This article in the Huffington Post begins with the very confident statement: “So far there have been zero deaths at the hands of social workers.”
Confident absolutes do not equal truth.
While it is true that social workers do not show up to a person’s home, pull out a gun, and cold-heartedly kill them, insinuating that no one ever dies due to psychiatric interventions is inaccurate, at best.
Early death, by up to 25 years, is frequently found to be associated with long-term use of neuroleptics/tranquilizers (euphemistically called “anti-psychotics). And guess who’s most likely to be forced to take these dangerous drugs? Black people.
While some may suggest that the odds would be worse without the drugs, anyone reading Mad in America should be familiar with Robert Whitaker’s work in this area, showing this suggestion to be complicated and largely false. The socially accepted, but scientifically invalid, idea is that these drugs are insulin for schizophrenia. They are not.
Oh, and guess who’s most likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia? Black people.
In fact, as outlined by Jonathan Metzl in his book The Protest Psychosis, schizophrenia has essentially become a Black disease. Its very definitions and clinical portrayals are designed to epitomize the stereotype of the angry Black man. This was purposefully done in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, with ads at the time almost exclusively depicting a caricature of a rabid Black man.
The relationship between early deaths associated with cardiovascular disease, actual diabetes, hypertension, and suicide among those with severe mental illness diagnoses is complicated, but there is no doubt that the effects of the drugs play a large role in much of this. So, too, do the larger traumatizing interventions.
Suicide, in fact, is directly associated with mental health care. Acknowledging mental illness early on after a diagnosis of schizophrenia is directly associated with depression and suicide attempts. Simply being given a diagnosis of schizophrenia is enough to make a person take his or her own life.
Completed suicide is also consistently shown to increase in tandem with increased involvement in mental health services, especially when such interventions are forced or coerced—which would be the case in almost every instance of replacing police with doctors.
Oppression is oppression whether the uniform is a badge and gun or a white lab coat and prescription pad. Many who have experienced both prison and psychiatric hospitalizations prefer the police. Psychiatric survivors have described their forced hospitalizations as torture. Many would rather be beaten with a baton than to be forcefully injected with mind altering substances that invade one’s core internal being, a process that has been described as akin to rape. As documented by Mindfreedom, Michael Heston, who committed suicide as a result of his psychiatric “care,” wrote:
“I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but I am being tortured. Force injected in solitary. Medicine makes my spirit sick and torments the very soul within me. As well my legs shake and my feet are all antsy. This bodily torture is intolerable. The rape, and not having determination about what goes into my very blood is having extreme psychological effect of me. The forced Risperdal injections are causing my body to deteriorate and I am in mental agony nearly all the time.”
Secondary to all of this is the fact that people with a psychiatric diagnosis receive a lower quality of care for their actual physical health, which also increases the rates of mortality.
Even when people don’t die, there is plenty of violence involved with involuntary commitments. Restraints, take-downs, seclusion, and, of course, forced injections of mind-altering drugs, are commonplace in most psychiatric facilities throughout the country.
Beatings Hurt, But Psychological Abuse Sometimes Hurts More
Being beaten, bullied, abused, and/or assaulted can scar a person for life. But, doing these same things emotionally, and telling the person that they should appreciate it is devastating beyond belief. This is emotional and psychological abuse. Period.
In fact, studies have shown that psychological abuse has effects that are at least as dangerous, if not more so, than physical abuse. Emotional pain and assault are real, and sometimes worse than physical pain.
One of the worst ways that emotional manipulation, oppression, abuse, paternalism—call it what you will—deeply harms is by fundamentally changing one’s sense of self and agency. If you’ve spent a lifetime experiencing microaggressions, lack of opportunities, surveillance, poverty, and/or overt racism and then meet a doctor who tells you that the emotional distress and fear you experience as a result are, in fact, symptoms of a brain/genetic illness in need of drugs (of course, their drugs, not yours!!!), your sense of defectiveness and helplessness risks becoming solidified at the very core.
Replacing the taser guns and brute force of militarized police with needles and the psychological manipulation and gaslighting from medicalized authoritarian do-gooders is flipping the same coin on its head. It’s like entering the Upside Down in Stranger Things.
I mean come on! Is this the best answer we, as a society, can come up with when calling for dismantling systems of oppression and racism?
Black Voices Matter
More than anything, being labeled as mentally ill and given mind-altering, numbing, and tranquilizing drugs serves first and foremost to silence and to tame the voices of the suffering. Trauma and oppression give way to chemical imbalances and brain diseases, despite no physical or scientific evidence to justify this.
People are not ill for being angry, crazed, overwhelmed, fearful, suspicious, hurt, sad, and/or unable to express it in ways others find tolerable. And, they sure as heck are not sick because they’re poor, despite the apparent fact that poverty has, quite literally, been medicalized and pathologized as “mental illness.”
The voices of the traumatized, the tortured, the oppressed, the abused, and the hurting deserve to be heard. Psychiatry will ensure that that only happens if it is done in a docile, pleasant, and non-discomforting, straightforward, logical manner. Even then, you’ll still be gaslighted into thinking you’re crazy or be told you’re just paranoid.
As stated in this recent article in The Atlantic: “The country needs to shift financing away from surveillance and punishment, and toward fostering equitable, healthy, and safe communities.”
Who can argue with that? If funding were directed toward programs and initiatives that provide basic needs, hope, and empowerment; if oppressive patriarchal systems were dismantled and rebuilt on a diverse platform of equality; if humanity and relationship were valued above money, retribution, and preparing for war, then we all might find the peace in our communities that we are hoping for. If we had universal healthcare, universal childcare, caring and empathic doctors of all kinds who were trained to listen instead of know everything, and interventions based on safety, validation, and empowerment, then maybe people might actually start to heal.
Sadly, however, the movement towards progress appears to be suggesting taking a parallel road that leads to reliance upon yet another racist system based on oppressive patriarchal ideals. While it might sound caring and kind to turn towards the mental health system to respond to community distress, it must be recognized that this is an intertwined system with that of the (in)justice system and is one equally built on institutional racism, surveillance, punishment, and abuse.
Having social workers, peer workers, and other advocates respond to emergency calls by providing de-escalation of crises through listening and facilitating problem-solving, and by offering home visits (particularly to the elderly and disabled) along with housing connections, food, supplies, family interventions, supportive relationships, and assessment of abuse is a promising initiative that should most certainly be funded to a greater extent than it is currently. More efforts toward inclusion of peers and community members versus healthcare workers is an even more promising step.
At the same time, having social workers, medicalized peer workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists respond to distress calls or community violence through the lens of getting them mental health treatment is simply replacing one racist, oppressive regime with another. They may not come in guns a-blazing or physically beating up innocent bystanders, but, as a system, they are granted the authority to psychologically manipulate your reality, beat you down with words and restraints, and drug you into submission—and insist you thank them for it afterward.
What is needed is anti-violence, preventative, humane, community-based initiatives, not another racist, White-centered, patriarchal, oppressive, violent, forceful system that is dictated by powerful White men and demands a submissive and complacent sort of happy silence.
People need to be brought together with compassion and harmony, not split apart and isolated through diagnosing their pain as existing in the brain, drugging them, and locking them away in a veiled jail cell.
Please, if change is gonna come, can we at least try to do better than this?
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
“Replacing Guns With Prescription Pads Is Not the Answer”
This suggests an either/or situation.
I realise that my situation didn’t invlove the prescription pad until 12 hours after I was ‘spiked’ with benzos, and after I was tortured and kidnapped and delivered to a doctor to actually write a prescription for the ‘spiking’ of someone he had never met but ….
Lets consider combining guns and the prescription pad?
So for example in order to ‘plant’ a weapon on me for police to find (and provide a referral to mental health services) the people who wanted me transported against my will (kidnapped) to a locked ward needed me to speak to a Community Nurse. They also knew I would not do that.
However, by combining the use of an ‘acute stress reaction’ with a ‘spiking’ with benzos they managed to have me open my mouth long enough to be ‘verballed’ on a statutory declaration. So the combining of the gun to cause the acute stress reaction with the two DO NOTS of acute stress reaction allow one to take what a person has said, twist their words to suit your purpose and incarcerate and force drug them against their will. The administration of a ‘chemical restraint’ before they are even examined by a psychiatrist will leave them dribbling and it is highly likely they will be labelled and kept for ‘observation’ for some time.
It is the case that the ‘spiking’ of citizens with benzodiazepines is a criminal assault however, when police are requested to assist in a “home visit” (or provide the lawful sanction required to conceal the use of known torture methods) they can then neglect their duty and assist with the kidnapping by transporting the victim to the desired location (forget the protections of being delivered to your doctor, I didn’t have one, so they delivered me to somewhere they wanted rather than do what the law required of them)
So this combining of the prescription pad and the use of guns is highly effective in
“obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him
or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind”
and if you can make the person into a “menatl patient” post hoc, then police can ensure that no action is taken against these people who are actually criminals, but are concealing their crimes as being medicine.
Because while the
“pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
by planting a knife on the target and obtaining a referral from police (and their subsequent assistance in your crimes) the
“pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” loophole can be exploited because police will not act against their own acts of torture. Of course there is a case to answer for the conspiring to stupefy and commit an indictable offence namely kidnapping, but who is going to assist someone who is now dribbling in a cell from the ‘chemical restraint’ that was required to stop them complaining about being tortured and kidnapped? No one I know. In fact, most people I know would assist in restraining them.
Two police stood and watched as I was tortured, and then took charge of me and interrogated me (documented), and then transported me on fraudulent documets to a hospital. And what do you think was the consequences of those offences? I wish I knew, but the need to conceal these offences to ensure they can be effected in future on a trusting public overrides my human and civil rights.
There are great benefits from not making this an either/or and combining the prescription pad with the gun. Use the gun to induce an acute stress reaction and the drugs to enhace the discomfort felt by the target. I can give a referral to a dotor who will fill out a prescription post hoc to conceal the fact that the victim was ‘spiked’. And I know a hospital administrator who will distribute fraudulent documents to lawyers after police have retrieved the ones demonstrating the ‘spiking’, all in a hands off get his wife to do it and pretend we didn’t know kind of way.
My argument has always been that there are reasons that this conduct is not permissible in Guantanamo Bay. Though our Minister for Health has a way with words that ensures that the use of known torture methods is called ‘medicine’ if you simply utter with fraudulent documents and change the status of ‘citizen’ to ‘patient’. It’s amazing what can be done to a person once that change of legal status is achieved.
Oh, and I do think that yes it might be a white male world, but many a black man lynched at the point of a finger from a white woman. Something my wife knew all to well after drugging me and planting a knife on me for police to find (with some ‘councelling’ from a clinical psychologist as to how to avoid the protections of the law. Conspiring this is called if police could only find their copy of the Criminal Code) “Help me, help me, my wallet is going to walk out the door, and I need your help to ensure that doesn’t happen”. Not even her child or grand children but the knee jerk reaction of the State is to ‘fuking destroy’ my family. Make him into a “patient” and give me guardianship so I can speak for him and ensure he doesn’t leave with his property, quick.
In fact, the worst part of the slanderous documents completed by the Community Nurse was the fabrication of the ‘wife beater’ information. Didn’t that cause some problems between me and my wife. Me wondering why she would lie about such things, and her denying she said it. Of course how effective was that in that all the people reading his slander then began ‘treating’ me as if it were true. The lynching analogy is just so appropriate if one is ever as unfortunate to end up being subjected to one of these ‘interventions’ that are to become more common given that they are considered lawful by my State authorities. I would highly recommend this type of slander to any filthy verballer operating in the system.
On one hand they are passing laws to stop people tampering with food stuffs (needles in strawberries) and on the other they are encouraging the ‘spiking’ of citizens to make the planting of items for police easier and then allowing interrogations whilst under the influnece of stupefying/intoxicating drugs. Hypocrisy the greatest luxury.
From the 4th Annual Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, held at Tufts University in 1976:
“We oppose the PSYCHIATRIC SYSTEM because… it is an extra-legal, parallel police force which suppresses cultural and political dissidence.”
Accordingly I hope everyone reading will seize the opportunity to identify psychiatry as part of the police and not part of the solution. And to help spark a spontaneous grassroots campaign to DEFUND PSYCHIATRY. This is the time to confront “progressives” about their contradictions vis. a vis. psychiatric oppression. Repeat the slogan DEFUND PSYCHIATRY as a matter of course, and be prepared to defend it when challenged.
Maybe people could start by using DEFUND PSYCHIATRY (or a variation) as the automatic signature/sign-off quote on their outgoing emails.
As I was looking at Susan’s latest, via her website,
I found this.
How cheesy and how low to stoop. Ignoring the many they killed, the many lives completely smashed, not just clients, but their families.
The poor soul this guy mentions was most likely in a catatonic stance from the “meds”, yet sheepishly the writer ignores that.
Any wonder no comments allowed on Psychiatric Times.
Indeed we live in “psychiatric Times”. We can only, and it should be our mission to warn ANYONE at all, about the damage they leave in their trail.
I think warning and educating is most important, even if people won’t listen. A few will.
In the UK local councils have ben told to find accomodation for homeless sleepers at hotels, making it suitable for them to offer this ‘well needed help’ to many under one roof:
“Doing lots of assessments in the homeless hotels. Really striking how many people say they’ve always avoided psychiatrists “in case I get sectioned”. I feel sad about this – how can we improve things?”
This the same person who thinks it’s a good idea to subject people to depo injections in public toilets and other public places, she is asking – how can we improve things – everybody.
Psychiatry is a lying devious eugenics movement that targets the weak and vulnerable set’s them on a course of pharmacy based on ghost written documents, as David Healy says: “You couldn’t make a better killing machine”
“How can we improve things?” How about not arresting people every time they display distress or mention feeling suicidal? Just for a start?
“You couldn’t make a better killing machine”
Thank You Noel,
“..Black men in Britain are 17 times more likely than white counterparts to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness…”
“..Early death, by up to 25 years, is frequently found to be associated with long-term use of neuroleptics/tranquilizers (euphemistically called “anti-psychotics)…”
Drug induced Suicide (Akathisia) in the first few years after Diagnosis contributes also to the early death figure. Below is a LINK concerning my own experience, demonstrating Psychiatrists being prepared to set up situations whereby complainants can be killed:
I can only presume “this Practice” to be “Common Medical Practice”.
An excellent essay Dr. Hunter with a crucial message.
Let’s see…. would someone in distress rather be beaten up by the police or labelled, degraded and coerced by psychiatry? It’s like picking your poison, which is the lesser of the evils. The police should never be involved in any calls for people who are distressed, suicidal etc. but psychiatry is just as bad and in some ways worse. There already was an “epidemic” as Robert Whitaker wrote about, and now it is poised to get much worse by involving psychiatry instead of police and pushing anyone struggling with the economic fallout/stressors of COVID into the arms of psychiatry.
DEFUND PSYCHIATRY. A totally different system is needed, one that actually cares about people and wants to ‘help’ rather than harm.
I ask this with respect and genuine curiosity, as I am a relatively new mental health professional: what would be the best and safest response for someone who is truly in danger of hurting themselves or another person due to current terrifying sensory experiences (usually labeled hallucinations) or beliefs that conflict with the commonly agreed upon reality (usually labeled delusions)?
For context, I work in community-based services in a community that is majority BIPOC. No surprise, many of the organizational staff (especially in licensed roles) are white. My team tries to avoid hospitalizations and use of CIT officers as much as we can, but there are times when our clients’ families or sometimes professionals from our own organization will “make the call” and send someone to the ER for eventual hospitalization due to safety risks. So in an effort to avoid continuing participation with systemic oppressive structures such as psych hospitals, how should we respond in a way that still helps our clients through their acute crises?
I do not have a simple answer for you as to what to do when a person is a threat to themselves, but I ask you to consider this: Physician assisted suicide is legal in some states. Is suicide acceptable in those situations? Why? The motivations that drive people to want to commit suicide in either the young and healthy, or old and terminally ill probably have a lot in common. A desire to escape unbearable pain of some kind. A desire to exercise self-determination and have some control over a bad situation. Hopelessness. So, what’s the difference? One is socially and legally acceptable, while another isn’t.
One of my therapists once tried to explain to me how I shouldn’t commit suicide, because I was relatively young and healthy, but it was okay if the elderly did. As my parents are elderly, I took great offense to this. They mean the world to me, much more than he ever did. If quality of life is a legitimate reason to commit suicide, there are a lot of suicidal people who have a legitimately bad quality of life.
As a person of faith, I ultimately believe that every life is infinitely precious, but we live in a society that considers a lot of people disposable. A lot of people who end up in the mental health system have been disposed of by society. Maybe you could try helping people in acute distress by learning how to just be a friend to them. How would you help them if it was your child or a dear friend?
As for people who commit unprovoked acts of violence that is a criminal matter. The mental health industry commits unprovoked acts of violence against patients. When patients fight back, it is they who are considered deviant. Maybe the mental health industry needs de-escalation training too.
I’m a big believer in the possibility of redemption, even for criminals. If you, as a guide and life coach, don’t believe that someone can change for the better, how are you going to help him or her become a better person? The typical person who ends up in the mental health industry doesn’t need his or her faults and failings pointed out, but rather, for you to see the beauty and goodness that already resides within them, so that he or she can begin to see it within themselves.
The ways of actually helping people are often time consuming, messy, and require something of you. Americans tend to favor efficiency and superficial effectiveness over genuine help. Take your time, be a friend, don’t try to “fix” people. Be more of a servant to equals, rather than an expert condescending to inferiors.
I appreciate this question as it is a fairly common response to the idea of ending forced “treatment.” First, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we can prevent bad things from happening. We are not psychic and not God. Hindsight and professional arrogance has led to issues of liability – that we are supposed to know things that we cannot possibly know. Professionals’ ability to predict violence is, in some studies, actually worse than chance. We are taking away someone’s civil liberties without a crime being committed, without habeus corpus, without evidence other than our judgement. Now, if there is a clear and direct threat against someone’s life, then duty to warn is a serious matter. But, still, to lock someone up because they MIGHT commit a crime is about as un-American as I can imagine. And, to do so under the guise of treatment is just, well, a lie.
Second, people who hear voices or experience altered states of reality are actually less likely to become violent than the general public. Substance use changes this, but, then, the problem is substance use. People are compelled to hurt themselves and others for real reasons, intense rage that has nowhere else to go. Understanding this can actually give us something to use to possibly be actually helpful – Try to encourage the person to express their anger/fear/rage more directly. Give space for the pain underneath what scares the proverbial you, the professional, instead of trying to shut it up and tame it. That just makes it worse.
Lastly, and perhaps more controversially, if someone is going to hurt him or herself, they have a right to do so. Suicide is not against the law. And, rarely, is locking someone up against their will and forcing mind-altering drugs into their system going to change this – in fact, it often will make people who were not otherwise suicidal want to die. Yes, some people are thwarted, but those are also usually people who are more willing to go to hospital for respite and don’t need to be forced (not always, but more often). We could, instead, invest more in peer-led respites that allow people space to experience crisis so that they feel safe and heard and hopefully less hopeless. Peer-led respites are found in many studies to be just as helpful as hospital in this regard, but without the added trauma and shame.
I encourage you to peruse some articles on this website, and to fact check the things I’ve said above. Sending regards – Noel
You should seek a cytochrome P450 gene test, genelex maybe best in the US to ascertain if the person is toxic due to poor metabolism asap. If so then work out a way to withdrawl the psych drugs they are on. If you can’t do any of that you can’t really help most who get into this state and that is pretty much true for all of your colleagues. Two people to study are David Healy and Peter Breggin. If you email David he maywell reply.
David Healy – Hearts and Minds: Psychotropic Drugs and Violence:
The Perfect Killing Machine:
Another way of looking at this, from the point of view of a “relatively new mental health professional” is: Why’d didn’t I learn this in school?
I have not been through any academic psychology training, so I don’t know what that entails. I know that my training includes drills to handle people who are “being difficult” and that means you really drill this with one or more students, with at least one of them acting “unruly,” and you drill it until you can handle that person smoothly, including moderate use of physical force if needed to control the person.
I can understand the reluctance of anyone to handle a person who appears to be “out of control.” But people in this business – which includes cops – should be trained in basic good control until they are reasonably confident that they can put in good control when a situation seems out of control.
Are students being taught this? I have no idea if they are.
If they aren’t (as you have implied), why not? Does academic psychology know anyhing about controlling another person without hurting them or yourself? Maybe not! Perhaps there are huge gaps in psychology theory and practice that need to be filled!
I find this comment suggesting better training to “handle” “unruly” people with “moderate” physical force to be very disturbing in this milieu.
There are many alternatives to force and coercion in care for distressed people which have been discussed ad nauseum in both articles and comments here. The most obvious alternative is prevention of these distressed states to begin with. Once you’re talking about any need for force, you’ve long since demonstrated you don’t understand the basic issues at the heart of the systemic oppression that leads to extreme states.
Very disappointed this wasn’t moderated or at least better expressed.
You’ve never had to separate two children fighting? Or let someone down gently while they are having convulsions? This is all I am referring to. I can’t speak for situations I’ve never been in.
Are you talking about people who are already in a coercive setting? If so the question is out of WHOSE control, as context is everything. You don’t seem to be referring to predatory violence here, which is a different discussion.
No, I’m not talking about people who are in a coercive setting. I’m talking about people who aren’t in one and would like it to remain that way.
I recently watched the documentary on Open Dialog (Finland) that was made several years ago. Those people do crisis intervention, but I don’t recall them ever talking about having a problem with violence. So it’s got to be very overrated as a problem.
The other thing is, approach means a lot. A person who is scared of a dog tends to actually encourage the dog to bark and jump at them. While if you are calm and smiling, the dog will stand there and wag its tail. I am sure these “mental health workers,” more often than not, create their own violent situations. Several people on this site have noted that as part of their experience.
I have seen this many times. A staff person puts hands on a kid in residential “care,” the kid reacts by slapping his hands away, and they say, “The patient assaulted the staff.” The reality is, the staff assaulted the patient, and the patient defended himself. But history is written by the victors, as they say.
Right on! But now what am I to do?
The demand to abolish the police is the demand to provide people with what they need instead of punishing them for rebelling against their deprivation.
Living standards for the majority cannot be improved without reducing the wealth and power of the billionaire class who fear that if they open that door they will not be able to shut it. So they cap people’s expectations for a better life by using cops to criminalize dissent and psychiatrists to medicalize it.
At this time, our priority must be to abolish police and prisons and invest instead in meeting human needs. Doing that would dramatically lower the level of mental distress that drives people into the psychiatric system.
A series of crises have created an unprecedented revolutionary situation: On the one side, authorities are pushing for a quick return to unsafe work and more investment in police and prisons. On the other side, ordinary people are demanding safe work, an end to racist oppression, and more investment in education, health care, and social supports. The two positions cannot be reconciled.
As global conditions deteriorate, this conflict will intensify. Each and every one of us must decide which side we are on.
And when folks ask the question of what alternatives do we have to psychiatry, I’m going to point them to this answer, Susan. The alternative is, of course, to reinstate the social contract – we start by providing for the basic needs of every member of society. Poverty, homelessness, preventable illness, educational inequities – these are crimes perpetrated by the financial elites with the privileged wannabes acting as accomplices in their scramble to the top of the pile. Yes, the so-called “middle class” is complicit. The class system itself is what must be abolished. Police, prison, psychiatry, these are all just tools of the oppressor. But the oppressor is not just the Bezos and Gates and Kochs of the world. The oppressor is the comfortable middle class folks working from home in their safe neighborhoods having their groceries delivered and never having to think too hard about those who don’t have that privilege. They gave at the office, contributed to the food drive, put a twenty in the offering plate at church. We have to stop letting those folks off the hook for not fighting harder for the increasing number fighting for scraps at the bottom. With an ever shrinking middle class, I think more folks are starting to realize this. But it isn’t enough to criticize the super rich. They got to that position by the same tokenism to the poor that the comfortable have always given.
But it isn’t enough to criticize the super rich. They got to that position by the same tokenism to the poor that the comfortable have always given.
I’m basically in synch with the gist of your comments, but this one tends to put the onus for the continued existence of capitalism more on the moral choices of individuals, when it is the very nature of the capitalist system itself to concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. It’s somewhat different to oppose the “super rich” (or the “middle class”) as a class rather than as a collection of morally compromised individuals. (I doubt that Susan & I have the same definitions of socialism however; I personally don’t consider Bernie a true socialist, or attempt to divorce socialism from communism.)
What socialist system would you point to that has ever abolished police?
There is a need for police in any state, in fact that’s what defines the state, which is an organization of violence. Very interested in your alternative solution.
Psychiatry is another question, I don’t think Marx ever mentioned it in the context of revolutionary society (Though I’m willing to be corrected.)
I want to add a huge thank you to Noel for her courage in writing this excellent article. Exchanging one form of oppression for another is no solution.
Too many people have bought into the concept of ‘mental illness’ and the supposed benevolence of the psychiatric system.
Mass rebellions against oppression have opened a space for us to push for a humane society that treats everyone as worthy and provides for everyone’s needs. We should accept nothing less.
!!!!! Well written. Why must it be like steering a cruise ship with a paddle? But these changes and expanded awareness comes through individuals first, individuals like you. Thank you.
Most here agree that psychiatry is not the answer.
But that’s not the same as saying that mental health is not a problem.
If it weren’t a problem, then psychiatry would have failed in its attempt to step up and claim this subject as theirs. There would have been no money in it for them, and they would have slithered off to find something else to do that paid better.
Almost everyone I’ve met in this context agrees that “mental health” is more than a marketing gimmick. People really do get mentally “sick” just like people get physically sick. And possibly even for similar reasons.
From my point of view, our continued failure to step into this area and tell psychiatry to “please leave” speaks to a basic weakness in most of us: We don’t understand the subject well enough.
I must say that in recent webinars I’ve watched, I’ve seen psychiatrists who are troubled with the terrible legacy of their field and want to improve it. I have learned about “interventions” like Open Dialog which seems much more promising as a crisis intervention method than what is done in most communities. Yet those few “good guys” don’t have sufficient understanding of their subject or their situation to change the field. It would probably be better for them to very publicly and noisily leave the profession. There is still psychology, after all, as well as other practices, some of which are much more embracive.
For me, the problem of understanding has to do primarily with the medical model. On the one hand, it is obviously incorrect to apply a medical model to mental health. Unless you believe that all important mental processes occur in the brain, a biological organ. On the other hand, this belief and this model are very seductive. Part of understanding the problem is understanding why that is. This understanding informs us concerning the power of doctors in society, and suggests a path towards a better “balance of power” you might say. Without this understanding, how can we stand up to the power of psychiatry as an idea?
So if “mental illness” exists, what does it look like? Like my distress? My crying? Not working or showering? Wanting to die? Being miserable, unhappy? Angry? fearful? Anxious?
And that would then deserve being housed in a facility with no phone to text my loved ones, no passport to cross borders, losing my children, no windows in my jail, having to line up to receive my chemicals that I don’t want? And be strapped down to get a needle if I say I don’t want the chemicals? Being written up as “sick” in my head which makes every physician and nurse ignore real health issues, or at best, being patronized? Losing all rights in court? Jailed indefinitely until they decide I can go? Housing me in a place worse than prison? No trust in me? Not speaking to me in caring ways?
So if we have a “health” issue, why is the “treatment” worse than the issues? If I am hopeless, is it a good environment I am in?
Psychiatry is a bullshit system. However, distress and unhappiness are real. Issues are real.
I am not buying a shitty hoax system just because there is nothing better.
You ask what mental illness looks like. Then you tel me what the “treatment of the mentally ill” looks like. Well, from my point of view, you are telling me, in those descriptions of “treatment,” what mental illness really looks like.
The “treatment” is worse than the “sickness” because we have allowed criminal psychopaths to be in charge of “mental health!”
I agree it would be better to just leave people alone, if the “treatment” is the current system. We have some examples of better treatments, but most of psychiatry doesn’t want to use them. Just makes our point more obvious.
Most here agree that psychiatry is not the answer.
But that’s not the same as saying that mental health is not a problem.
If you champion Scientology as you often have how could you possibly not see that “mental health” is a fictional, metaphorical concept, just like “mental illness”?
You are baiting me, oldhead. You shouldn’t do that.
But it seems obvious enough to me: What are most psychiatrists if not mentally ill?
I don’t call happiness, confidence and a sense of loving others as “metaphorical.” Seems like a pretty real concept to me.
Let me ask you this. From a purely personal viewpoint, what do you think a “mind” is? Is it a part of the body, a section of the brain? Is it an outgrowth of the brain, like a computer program creates images on a screen that are not understandable in terms of the structure of the computer? Is it something external that resides in the brain, a spiritual entity? Or an interface or control mechanism for running the body?
If the mind is NOT a part of the body, what would it mean for the mind to be “ill?” Can the concept of “illness” extend to a spiritual entity? Certainly, distress is obvious, as is happiness or confidence. But is lack of confidence an “illness?” Or is it a lack of an ability to believe in oneself? If we’re talking about beliefs, it’s hard for me to see beliefs or ideas or even spiritual entities as having “illnesses” in the same sense that a body has infections, cancer, broken bones, etc. How can a mind be ill if it is not a part of the physical universe? And who would decide what “ill” would mean?
The other point I made already is that the term “mental illness” has been utterly claimed at this point by the psychiatric profession and their allies, and is fully associated in the public mind with “brain disorders” or “chemical imbalances” and such. To me, it makes no sense to use a term that feeds into the hierarchy of psychiatric dogma, as it is way too easily misunderstood or misappropriated. I much prefer to speak of “mental/emotional distress” or “suffering” or “confusion” or “altered perceptions” or “sadness” or “worry.” You may think it is splitting hairs, but in terms of reclaiming power from the “mental health professions,” I believe discarding this very confusing and coopted term is essential, regardless of what other considerations exist.
As far as discarding and replacing the term, you have a valid point.
As far as “mind” goes, before I got trained I really had no idea. I had a variety of mental experiences, but I couldn’t add them up to a concept of “mind.”
But now that psychiatry’s own Ian Stevenson (though I’m sure some want to disown him) and his group has investigated thousands of cases of past life recall in children, it’s pretty clear that the “mind” is some sort of energetic “field” or construct that the personality carts around with it.
Thus a mental “illness” might be called an “illness” just because there might be certain behaviors connected with it that mimic physical illness, like expressions of pain. We also have the sense of “ill will” which has to do with intention, and also a sense of “faulty or imperfect,” which could refer to almost anything. In short, calling an “illness” “mental” simply serves to signify that you aren’t talking about a physical illness. Yes, the choice of “illness” is an unfortunate cultural habit. Maybe we could successfully replace the term. But I think it’s much more important to get a better grip on what “mental” means, and also to realize who is calling the kettle black!
Psychiatric terms (“ego” “id” “neurotic”) are so embedded in this culture that to rid us of them seems to me a task not worth attempting. I’d much rather work on getting “mental” right and watch as the language reorients itself to a more workable truth.
We still call our planet “Earth” even though they called it that when they thought it was flat and at the center of the universe. Now we can also call it a “globe” which is a newer concept.
Also, I would love to see psychiatry “hoist by its own petard” so to speak, as the profession contains some of the most mentally ill people I have ever run into.
I think what you just said agrees wholeheartedly with the concept that “mental illness” is a metaphor (“Thus a mental “illness” might be called an “illness” just because there might be certain behaviors connected with it that mimic physical illness, like expressions of pain.”) With which I agree, but my reasons for not using the term “mental illness” still stand. It adds confusion and makes it easy for the psychiatric industry to continue to convince people that they need to see a DOCTOR, rather than a friend or spiritual guide or wise elder or another person who understands what it’s like to be in your circumstances.
It is also wrong to substitute other terms for “mental illness” when the intent is essentially the same.
“It adds confusion and makes it easy for the psychiatric industry to continue to convince people that they need to see a DOCTOR, rather than a friend or spiritual guide or wise elder or another person who understands what it’s like to be in your circumstances.”
Trouble is that the friend, spiritual guide or wise elder then refers you to a doctor these days, for the very reasons that Bob W pointed out in his book. They have lied to these people and made false claims regarding the effectiveness of their drugs. Lets not mention the oppositional tolerance problem. You guys know the story …… and of course what also isn’t mentioned is how much money one can make by ‘directing’ people who can be made into “patients” into certain types of “treatments”, if they can be jammed like a square peg into a round hole.
Here’s a guy who gets it. A 23 year old claiming to have 10 years experience in the mental health field (which means he has been in practice since the age of 13). Seems police have found their copy of the Criminal Code, though I guess the complaint was made by a ‘professional’ and not a ‘walk in’ with documented proof of torture and kidnapping police wanted the ‘professionals’ to deal with in that…. cough cough, we’ll look the other way while you outcome him kind of way. If only he actually had the qualifications he would then have police assisting him with the scam.
“as the profession contains some of the most mentally ill people I have ever run into.”
I prefer the term morally ill, as the ‘disease’ seems to reside in the heart not the mind in many cases. They are of the opinion that what they can hide from the eyes, can not be seen. Like a visual cliff. Oh how wrong that was shown to be, if you had seen his face lmao. Right in the middle of a convenience killing lmfao. We now see what was in his heart 🙂
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Sadly for me and mine the only drop of care and compassion (all in quote marks ) we have ever experienced over the last 7 years of horror has come from the Police.. So I personally will not have a word said against them either individually or collectively..
It does expose psychiatry. I am very sorry Madmother13 that you have had to feel the horrors of psychiatry.
go on then ask me why …..
Your excellent article inspired me to write a post, “Cops Criminalize Protest; Psychiatrists Medicalize It.”
I hope you don’t mind that I quoted you twice!
The writer in the above article seems convinced that he is not part of the problem, and yet he is cashing in on
the present to keep his hoax alive. There is one reason he is doing it although he might not be ‘aware’. He is unaware that he is fearful that psychiatry will be much more discovered for the abuses they are involved in, which are greater than any cop can dish out.
Thank you Noel.
The only way people will ever unite to march against psychiatry in effective numbers is to educate people to the fact that Psychiatry is not a legitimate field of medicine and Psychiatry is a tool of social control. So if people at MIA want to /approach this realistically they must realize that psychiatry IS the police. Those at MIA who wish to be consistent with the spirit of BLM should not be appropriating popular slogans without a viable analysis. They should recognize that MIA readers who wish to carry the “defund” theme into the sphere of “mental health” they should be demanding TO DEFUND PSYCHIATRY. BLM doesn’t need white liberals to lead it, or mislead it as in this case.
As I and Anomie, and maybe others by now have mentioned, a grassroots anti-psychiatry survivors movement now exists and is growing steadily. Our goal is to “make psychiatry history.” As abolitionists we recognize that “reform” of psychiatry is a contradiction in terms, as it is designed to oppress and repress us. We have two primary demands:
⦁ An end to all forced psychiatric procedures and “treatments,” including but not limited to incarceration, solitary confinement, physical restraints, drugging, and electroshock.
⦁ An end to all state support for psychiatry, including but not limited to the use of psychiatric testimony in legal proceedings; psychiatric screenings in schools, prisons, and workplaces; licensing; and the use of public monies to support psychiatric programs or research.
As can be seen, the last demand is essentially saying DEFUND PSYCHIATRY.
At this stage of history and with the growing level of anti-psychiatry consciousness among survivors, to demand anything less would represent a sellout.
We don’t want to appropriate the Black struggle, but to help advance it by exposing how — just as the initial role of the police was catching escaped slaves — psychiatry and the entire eugenics movement have been and continue to be an enforcement tool for white supremacy and capitalist exploitation.
“Mental health workers” who support the above demands should make their positions clear, or else get off the bus.
Thank you Noel Hunter for writing this – I would love if it got published outside of this website.