Citizen-driven efforts to make communities more “resilient” or “adaptive to stress and crises” can be inspired by many challenges, from small-town sawmill shutdowns to COVID-19. However, climate change has been fueling a dramatic rise in community resilience-building. Ordinary people collaborate to both reduce energy consumption and prepare for emergencies by making their buildings, blocks, neighborhoods, or communities more socially connected and mutually supportive, economically self-reliant and equitable, and ecologically sustainable.

Part activism and part pragmatism, piloting what’s needed at larger scales to tackle climate change, projects include community gardens, reskilling, sharing of tools, space, and equipment, Transition Towns with Energy Descent Action Plans, community-supported agriculture, alternative currencies, and relocalized economies. Hundreds of Transition Town groups now exist in the US alone, and proliferating community resilience organizations like the nonprofit I volunteer with garner support from charitable funders, government agencies, and business associations.

But recently, another refrain has spread alongside—that climate changes, looming climate threats, and climate-related disasters cause “mental health problems” and “mental illnesses” requiring treatment. Fear, sadness, ecological grief, “eco-anxiety,” and PTSD intermingle with climate change, community resilience, and “treatment” in webinars, TED talks, major newspapers, and magazines covering psychiatry, nature, and urban life.

pop art drawing of man shocked by news in the paper Mainstream mental health services are promoted as pillars of resilient communities in climate science journals and info-hubs for resilience leaders. A growing number of community resilience groups educate the public about climate change alongside trauma therapists or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and channel people in distress toward treatments.

I’ve watched this with deepening concern. Obviously, the possibility of globally apocalyptic climate change, let alone climate impacts already occurring, presents us with one of the most profound personal, social, economic, environmental, spiritual, and political challenges in modern history. But for that reason, isn’t it expected and important that many of us go through anxiety, sadness, despair, trauma, and other inner distress—feelings that, hopefully, will ultimately help transform us and bring us together to build a more environmentally sustainable society?

That is, isn’t inner distress likely a key precursor for more people to ultimately decide to take decisive actions, or become activists? Conversely, what happens if we instead label these potentially revolutionary feelings as pathologies, as brain disorders, as “mental health problems” and “mental illnesses” needing “treatment”?

Yet I’ve seen no visible debate occurring.

So I decided to investigate more and seek other perspectives, particularly from prominent critics of our mainstream mental health system, including a renowned pioneer of community engagement.

Three key warnings emerged. First, mainstream, conventional mental health ideas and approaches pathologize and medicalize people’s negative reactions to climate change, effectively depoliticizing those feelings. Second, these approaches suppress rather than encourage emotions, ideas, and behaviors that challenge or disrupt dominant cultural beliefs and norms. Third, they undermine the diversity, citizen empowerment, and mutual assistance essential for resilient communities.

Ultimately, mainstream mental health services move society closer not to environmental sustainability but to sedating burgeoning activists.

Community Resilience Meets Guild Public Relations

The meme interweaving climate change, community resilience, and mental health, I quickly discovered, didn’t just spontaneously spread. Health organizations have long expressed concerns about increasing disaster-caused injuries, heatstroke, vector-borne diseases, etc.

“Mental health problems” got added to the list after efforts from the professional guilds and pharmaceutical conglomerates that routinely expand markets for psychiatric and psychological treatments by pathologizing common feelings, labeling distraction as ADHD, anxiety as anxiety disorder, or slight sadness as mild depression. In 2017, the American Psychological Association teamed with resilience organization ecoAmerica to produce guidance on solving climate change impacts with community resilience and mental health services. The American Psychiatric Association (with its pharma funders) and a new Climate Psychiatry Alliance helped ensure similar messaging got included in the Pharma-backed Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, the international Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, and the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

It’s obvious why well-meaning mental health professionals embrace community resilience: Many people report “therapeutic” benefits from being more socially connected, contributing towards practical, positive changes, and becoming better prepared for climate crises. But conversely, how do the typical treatments provided by mainstream mental health services—psychiatric drugs and sometimes cognitive behavioral therapy—affect climate change or feelings about it?

All the papers and presentations trumpet that mental health professionals will help us survive and thrive—but none provide evidence. Typical is a report on the impacts of disasters co-produced by the Center for Public Integrity, Mother Jones, and Texas Tribune that calls for dramatic funding increases for mental health services while never asking if science supports it. A 2018 paper by public health specialist Katie Hayes and others, endorsed by the Climate Psychiatry Alliance as a “standard foundation” text, acknowledges that “there are research needs” where “the efficacy and accessibility of mental health interventions related to climate change are assessed.” Nevertheless, even this paper calls mental health services “catastrophically” underfunded for what’s coming.

The promotional rhetoric diverts attention from considering the risks of pathologizing reactions to climate change.

Pathologizing, Depoliticizing, and Disempowering

The pathologizing and medicalizing of feelings about climate change derails social activism, said David Cohen, a UCLA social-welfare professor and co-author of Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs. “The use of the expression ‘mental health’ is such a game-changer,” he said. “It’s so terrible.”

David Cohen
David Cohen

Scanning excerpts I sent him from Hayes’ paper, Cohen noted that “mental health” and “mental illness” were loose categories encompassing all possible states of mind. Simultaneously, “mental health problems” became a catch-all for climate-influenced distresses—loss, anxiety, agitation from wildfire smoke, depression and PTSD after floods, domestic violence from increasing poverty, and more.

Yet, Cohen said, health and illness are medical terms that bring along conventions from our medicalized mental health system.

The terms frame negative feelings in response to climate change as, in part, pathologies or illnesses inside individual brains that require psychiatric or psychological treatments rather than social-political solutions.

This medicalization then “enfeebles” us, said Cohen, making us feel dependent on “expert” mental health professionals to help manage these feelings.

So, while there are many different intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, political, and other ways to understand and respond to distressing feelings caused by climate change, when we apply medicalized diagnostic labels, said Cohen, “those are culturally-bound words that conquer and take away all of the natural flora and fauna, and just put a highway on there and say, that’s the way you go.”

From a different vantage point, John McKnight described how professionalized mental health services, by recasting the impacts of many social-environmental problems as personal pathologies, effectively depoliticize and disempower entire communities.

McKnight is an iconic grandfather-emeritus of community resilience, as he co-founded a widely adapted engagement method called “asset-based community development.” Popularized through the ABCD Institute and books like Building Communities from the Inside Out and The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, his approaches bring neighbors together to share “assets” such as passions, knowledge, skills, gifts, and available resources, and to collaborate on “mobilizing creative vision” to enhance their lives and neighborhoods and tackle social and environmental problems.

John McKnight
John McKnight

The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits lays out McKnight’s argument that our massive social service industries sabotage this whole process.

The harm starts with these industries’ tendencies to view communities in terms of “needs,” not assets: The mental health services industry, which McKnight frequently uses as an exemplar, sees emotional distress, drug abuse, illness, homelessness, etc.

Although such problems are obviously fueled by broad societal economic inequities, social injustices, and environmental degradation, service industries don’t organize collective social change but instead seek individual “consumers.” So, they reframe social problems as rooted in pathologies or personal deficiencies—mainstream mental health professionals label individuals as mentally ill, addicts, diseased, disabled, etc. Finally, social service industries proclaim that only they can deliver the “expert services” these “deficient” people purportedly “need”—and drain resources from communities while the real societal root problems remain unaddressed.

In summary, writes McKnight, mental health services divert resources from collective, community-driven solutions to social problems, and instead foster dependency on professionals treating individuals. Influenced a half-century ago by the mental patients’ civil rights movement and critiques of the expanding roles of psychiatry and psychology in managing capitalist societies by Ivan Illich (Limits to Medicine), Thomas Szasz (The Therapeutic State), and Michel Foucault (Madness and Civilization), McKnight remains just as critical today—a fact seemingly unknown or ignored among many contemporary community resilience leaders influenced by McKnight’s other ideas.

When I described the training of community resilience workers to “spot symptoms” of climate distress, deliver preliminary counseling, and channel people toward mental health services, McKnight called it a “cultural invasion” or “colonialization” that suppresses other responses to distress.

Similarly, McKnight was already aware that many people work to make communities more “trauma-informed,” so he wasn’t surprised to hear that mental health professionals and community resilience groups are collaborating to teach people that climate change causes “treatable” trauma. “A ‘needs survey’ [of a community] was a set of things that [social service industries] would identify or measure, that allowed for an ever-growing dominance of institutional solutions,” said McKnight. “I think ‘trauma’ is the same racket. It’s a new way that’s spreading control and dominance of professionals. And it’s absolutely unbounded; it is amoeba-like.”

So, what evidence is there that the impacts Cohen and McKnight warn about are happening in contemporary community resilience discussions and initiatives?

Replacing Adaptation and Mitigation with Treatments

Common, understandable reactions to climate change are getting pathologized and medicalized. As ordinary citizens consequently feel inexpert and enfeebled, mainstream mental health approaches influence or determine community resilience agendas.

cartoon of man with his head in a cardboard box about to walk off a cliffThe process often begins with a muddy tendency to simultaneously view distressing reactions to climate change threats and impacts as understandable and good motivators for community resilience-building and also possible signs of serious mental health problems needing treatment. The effects of pathologizing then seep in.

For example, Hayes’ Climate Psychiatry Alliance-endorsed paper acknowledges the “risk of pathologising” and medicalizing “normal” distress in response to climate change. However, the authors suggest “underdiagnosing” is also risky, and go on to pathologize virtually every negative reaction. They list anxiety, grief, and fatigue alongside PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder as mental health problems caused by climate change, and push for citizens to learn mental health “first aid” techniques that promote medicalized labeling and triaging people towards mental health professionals. As climate change adaptation methods, they list community resilience alongside “pharmacotherapeutics”—without qualification, essentially equating political activism and taking sedatives.

In another study frequently referenced by journalists and community resilience workers, Northern Canadian Inuit people described their lives on the land as like breathing, blood, a limb, and vital energy, and loss of access due to climate changes as devastating, frustrating, and scary.

Lead author Ashlee Cunsolo then framed these findings for news media as, “The mental health impacts [of climate change] were actually what [Inuit] people were identifying as their biggest concern.”

Reframings like this undoubtedly contributed to the Canadian government, after rashes of youth suicides in northern indigenous communities, prioritizing increased funding to mental health services rather than supporting local food production, activity spaces, improved environmental practices, and other approaches commonly used to build community resilience that the youth themselves asked for.

Pathologization and deference to mental health professionals emerge in many Transition Towns. In The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, founder Rob Hopkins boldly outlined how ordinary citizens can lead climate-friendly innovations in transportation, energy, food, finance, governance, and more. Yet when it came to feelings, Hopkins wrote that he had “no background in psychology,” and let a professional psychologist write that chapter. Chris Johnstone diagnosed us all as oil “addicts” and prescribed self-reflection steps, methods of public engagement, and meeting procedures for activist groups based on treatment programs for substance use disorders.

“Inner Transition” subcommittees often morph into ad hoc emotional support groups, but pathologizing influences still emerge: A resource from a recent webinar circulated through Transition Network advises that mental health treatments can help distressed activists avoid getting addictively “stuck” in “flawed,” imbalanced “brain chemistry.” A shared Post Carbon Institute essay regurgitates antidepressant ad pseudoscience, contending that we struggle to build a more resilient society because we seek dopamine hits while serotonin “spreads happiness signals” and “too little leads to depression.” A workshop on managing reactions to climate change concludes with contacts for mainstream mental health services.

I presented some of these examples to Don Hall, co-director of Transition US, and he emphasized that Transition Towns are mostly independent, volunteer-driven, and engaged in practical projects. “We’re not saying we’re equipped to deal with acute mental health crises,” said Hall.

Yet, I responded, no Transition groups end talks about, say, revitalizing local economies, by advising people with “acute” money problems to consult mainstream credit providers. Why direct people to mainstream mental health services?

“That’s a great question,” said Hall, agreeing there’s a need for clearer strategies surrounding emotional distress and community resilience-building. A burgeoning Transition US “Inner Resilience Network” may grapple with some of these issues—it involves many mental health professionals, but mainly ones bringing spiritual and social-justice perspectives.

Some prominent leaders, like Bob Doppelt, told me they’re well aware there’s a paradigm battle underway. Doppelt, an urban planner, Buddhist, and psychologist, often runs workshops for mental health professionals on channeling climate distress through mindfulness, spiritual views of nature, group cooperativeness, and community resilience-building.

But most mental health professionals, Doppelt said, strongly believe in “individually focused,” pathologized, and medicalized approaches. Some members of Doppelt’s International Transformational Resilience Coalition are psychiatrists involved in the Climate Psychiatry Alliance. “I know they’re trying to move their group away from the medication model,” said Doppelt. “They’re trying to work as hard as they can but not get tossed out of the room.”

The threat posed by that dominant paradigm becomes most starkly visible when mental health professionals declare they know which reactions to climate change are the “mentally ill” ones requiring treatment—whether activists agree or not.

The American Psychological Association report, for example, states that “negative emotions” about climate change are “normal”—unless they’re “extreme” and “interfere” with thinking or acting “rationally.”

drawing of a hand reaching out of a pile of skulls

The authors don’t specify what “reacting rationally” should look like amid climate change feedback loops that might destroy civilization virtually overnight. But psychiatrist Burns Woodward pronounces in a psychiatry trade journal that people whose feelings are “distressing or disabling,” or who have “catastrophic thinking” about climate disruption have serious mental disorders. “Such patients need treatment with psychotherapy and/or medication,” he writes.

Woodward adds that climate activists are “especially vulnerable,” and therefore it may be clinically advisable to use psychiatric or psychological interventions “to curb internet searches, calls to public officials, and hounding of family members about energy usage.”

Once mental health professionals move from pathologizing distress towards curbing activism with treatments, for Bruce Levine it raises alarms.

Suppressing “Abnormality” and Diversity

“Anybody who takes seriously what a psychologist or psychiatrist declares to be ‘normal,’ ‘abnormal,’ ‘rational,’ or ‘irrational’ is just not paying serious attention to history,” said Levine, a socially-critical psychologist and author of books like Commonsense Rebellion: Taking Back Your Life from Drugs, Shrinks, Corporations, and a World Gone Crazy and Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian—Strategies, Tools, and Models.

Levine said unscientific, politicized judgments like Woodward’s reveal a real threat: The mental health system has long helped manage society by subduing emotions or behaviors that are legal but viewed as unduly disruptive to dominant cultural norms. Levine’s writings frequently examine how this undercuts burgeoning social-change activism.

There are well-documented, ongoing histories of mainstream psychiatry and psychology pathologizing and coercively treating Black rebellion as psychosis, Native Americans’ spiritual views of nature as schizophrenia, and women’s defiance as hysterical, depressive, and borderline personality disorders. And amid rising social stresses likely to worsen alongside climate change, treatments are increasingly used to subdue disruptive activities in workplaces, schools, prisons, and nursing homes.

So, to many of the millions of Americans who’ve been subjected to forced psychiatric detentions, tranquilization, or electroshock, mental health services aren’t viewed as caring supports for the marginalized, but as threatening, often brutal guardians of dominant norms.

However, said Levine, explaining this to average liberal environmentalists, clouded with prejudices about “the mentally ill,” is like inner-city Black Americans, absent video evidence, describing police to comfortable suburban Whites. “Some will try to get it, they’ll try to understand, but they just can’t at an emotional level,” said Levine. “And in their own head, they’ve had a very different experience; maybe they know psychologists or psychiatrists and they seem like very nice people.”

Linking White privilege, environmentalism, and support for psychiatric oppression isn’t hyperbolic: Both America’s environmental movement and mental health system have historical roots in White supremacism. And environmentalists still skew predominantly White and middle-to-upper class—a demographic more likely to have experienced expensive private psychotherapy than social oppression and psychiatric detentions.

Recently, the Sierra Club, one of America’s largest environmental groups and a community resilience supporter, publicly acknowledged how its founders were eugenicists, excluded people of color, and sought “natural purity” by displacing Natives. “It wasn’t a very good beginning for the conservation movement,” commented Ayako Nagano to me. “It still has a legacy of very white-dominant power structure… The environmental movement has to speak to a wider audience. Otherwise, it will fail.”

Ayako Nagano
Ayako Nagano

Nagano is a Japanese-American lawyer who volunteers with Transition Berkeley, the Inner Resilience Network, the International Transformational Resilience Coalition, and the Green Leadership Trust—the latter of which focuses on expanding involvement by people of color and indigenous descent in environmental organizations.

I discussed with Nagano how eugenicists also helped forge America’s “mental hygiene” laws, and beliefs that Native, Black, and other marginalized groups were “irrational” and “savage” due to genetic brain conditions that required psychiatric intervention. Still today, people of color are more likely to be forcibly tranquilized.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that,” said Nagano. “Open that wound, and put it in its place.” From oil pipelines cutting through indigenous lands to hurricanes that more severely affect people who are disabled, poor, or Black, Nagano said climate change requires diverse groups to understand each others’ suffering and collaborate.

“Social justice work at this juncture requires emotional intelligence,” she said. Nagano finds certain mental health ideas useful—such as psychobiological descriptions of trauma—but avoids stigmatizing labels. “There’s this need to define and categorize in the Western world that is harmful,” she said. “Diagnosing is really not necessary right now… Everybody is traumatized, everybody is triggered, everybody is feeling challenged.”

Nagano agreed that community resilience groups could benefit by hearing more from people with concerns about mental health approaches. And Levine suggested that the mental health industry’s darker role in our collectively “insane” drive toward climate change is best explained by social activists who’ve been oppressed in the name of mental health. “They’ve been radicalized by their own personal experience,” said Levine, pointing to David Oaks and MindFreedom International.

Suppressing “Extreme” Reactions

For two decades, David Oaks directed MindFreedom, a coalition of groups run by patients and ex-patients fighting for “freedom and human dignity in the face of forced psychiatry.” In the 1970s, Oaks experienced intense, unusual ideas and feelings and was detained, labeled mentally ill, and forcibly tranquilized. But Oaks told me that, for him and many others, “extreme states” can be challenging yet also bring transformative insights about oneself, society, nature, and spirituality—a perspective shared by socially-critical psychotherapists like Stanislav Grof.

David Oaks
David Oaks

So, once freed, Oaks stopped taking psychiatric drugs and recovered through, in part, channeling his feelings into human rights activism. He currently offers consulting on disabilities, community organizing, and environmental sustainability, and decries the mental health system’s role in “climate change Normalgeddon.”

“The big-picture question [about climate change] is: Why are we so numb? Why aren’t we doing the really deep changes?” said Oaks. “The mental health industry is one of the institutions in society that has really controlled our thinking and feeling to keep us so-called ‘normal.’ It’s very dangerous.”

For people struggling inwardly in relation to climate change, Oaks contrarily proposed “going into your extreme deep feelings and thoughts, extreme overwhelming feelings and differences, and translating those into action.” He pointed to Greta Thunberg. Labeled with depression, anxiety, OCD, mutism, and Asperger’s, Thunberg recently described her traits as a “superpower” for her activism, and activism as a boon to her well-being.

“Her willingness to be different is why she went to [Swedish Parliament] every Friday, and that’s become a movement led by young people all over the world,” said Oaks. “That wasn’t called normal.”

Tellingly, a high-profile Australian psychologist last year declared that Thunberg was delusionally “caught up in a doomsday scenario” and she “should be getting treatment.”

An Alternative: Embrace Diversity and Mutual Assistance

Is there a better path forward than climate change-driven community resilience-building groups collaborating with mainstream mental health agencies and organizations? Through all my conversations, one proposal kept emerging: mutual aid.

However, to fully appreciate the potential, it’s vital to understand McKnight’s observations on how professional mental health services quell diversity, creative capacity, and social disruption and change across entire communities.

An email exchange posted by McKnight is illustrative. A crisis line worker wrote that he provided emotional connection for mentally ill, socially isolated callers. Couldn’t McKnight support that? McKnight answered, “Everywhere in my neighborhood and with friends I hear ‘she needs professional help’ as the natural and necessary response to every form of deviance, pain, misbehavior. The result is that our communities are evermore homogenous and incompetent.”

I asked about it, and McKnight explained: “One of the side effects—if not direct effects—of [mental health services] is the competence of the local community to deal with deviance goes down.”

In effect, we’re all losing our capacities to truly care for others in distress and to embrace, celebrate, and incorporate into our lives unusually intense or extreme feelings or behavioral deviances in ourselves or those around us—let alone work together to channel them into constructive community change—because we constantly turn to professionals instead.

But robust, democratic revolution in response to any major challenges affecting communities, including climate change, said McKnight, requires engaged groups of diverse citizens who aren’t just deficient, dependent “consumers” of services. We must “relentlessly” understand ourselves as vital, capable “producers” of our social realities, he said, and our most different, oppressed, or marginalized must always be valued, core participants.

Impassioned, shared commitment to mutual assistance in truly diverse communities, said McKnight, drives grassroots social innovations that can ultimately coalesce into transformative political movements.

Notably, mutual assistance among neighbors remains central to today’s climate change-driven community resilience-building in everything from tool-sharing and renewable energy to neighborhood emergency preparedness—just not explicitly for “mental health.” Yet the proposal fits strikingly with the socially-informed peer support done by some MindFreedom groups and Intentional Peer Support (IPS).

As distinct from co-opted models where peers keep each other engaged with professional mental health services, in the IPS approach, people assist each other through emotional challenges without pathologizing or ceding power to professionals while becoming more engaged together in changing their social circumstances. IPS describes true peer support as “a way of thinking about and inviting transformative relationships” to generate social change and “stronger, healthier, interconnected communities.”

drawing of diverse women community

So, could we expand an IPS-like model to encompass buildings, blocks, neighborhoods, and communities, where we’re all peers helping each other grapple with the inner challenges of dealing with and turning back climate change?

Only our society’s cultivated dependence on professional mental health services hinders us, answered McKnight. He described a group of neighbors who surveyed everyone on their block about their skills and gifts, and who added the question, “In your life, if you had big problems, hard times that you have gotten through, would you be willing to share that information with your neighbors?”

This, said McKnight, could create an excellent launchpad for a diverse, asset-based, mutual-aid group that can grapple with both inward difficulties and transformative community resilience-building to help meet the challenges of climate change. “On your block are people whose life is a victory statement,” he said. “Why don’t you get together with them?”

40 COMMENTS

  1. Psychiatry cannot rope people in by using the word “mental illness”, so they termed it “mental health”. In this way, if someone feels uncomfortable or worried because they are told to feel that way, well we have help for you. It is called “mental health help”. However, should you present into our doors, we are no longer the “mental health” industry, we are now the “mental illness” industry and ohh we are so sorry that you misunderstood that we got you here under pretense and advertising.

    Sure it looks pretty dismal how every tom dick and harry funnels the most unsuspecting teenagers into the “mental health” industry, but honestly psychiatry created a monster, let them deal with it. They can’t, they came unprepared.

  2. Climate change is certainly one big reason to question the idea that “positive emotions” are necessarily good! I think of the Katrin Meissner quote: “It scares me more than anything else. I see a group of people sitting in a boat, happily waving, taking pictures on the way, not knowing that this boat is floating right into a powerful and deadly waterfall.”

    Still, there are lots of “mentally unhealthy” responses to climate change. One is just denial – refusing to know, even when we have reason to know. Or people are aware it’s happening and are traumatized, and they respond by trying to avoid reminders of it, watch the news less, etc. Or they despair and use drugs or other distraction.

    Whether it’s mutual aid, professionals working with individuals, or public health efforts, we need to be aware it’s a tricky balance to find a constructive approach to big challenges. It’s not about trying to just be happy, or squashing the “upsetting” emotions, but it is about finding a way to not be demoralized and shut down by the threat and finding some kind of positive path.

    • Ah, but the ones who are in denial are the ones deemed “mentally healthy!” If you’re too worried about it, you have an “anxiety disorder!” If you’re working hard to stop it, you’re “Manic!” If you give up and feel hopeless, you have “major depression!” The only acceptable response is to not be too worried about it and assume it will work itself out.

      • We definitely need to abandon simplistic models of “mental health” I have often stated that “stability is a false god of the mental health system.” When we are facing a big threat, like climate change, the last thing we want to be is stable overall, and just keep on with business as usual. But we do need to be stable in some ways, so we don’t fall apart and can take wise action.

      • “The only acceptable response is to not be too worried about it and assume it will work itself out.”

        and in the process exploit the fears and guilt of those who are suffering from a mental illness. Cmon, there’s money to be made people. lol.

        “what happens if we instead label these potentially revolutionary feelings as pathologies, as brain disorders, as “mental health problems” and “mental illnesses” needing “treatment”?”

        Same as has always happened. Noah, mad, Channel 7 news says sunny for the rest of the week. Lot, totally insane to leave such a great city, Party Town. Moses, he’s got plants talking to him now? And that thing with the stick and the snake? Nebuchadnezzar, eat all the grass you like. Balaam says his donkey is talking to him, think he should see the doctor, but he refuses to take his medications and is non compliant. Beat that ‘patient’ into submission Doc, hit em hard.

  3. Rob,

    isn’t it expected and important that many of us go through anxiety, sadness, despair, trauma, and other inner distress—feelings that, hopefully, will ultimately help transform us and bring us together to build a more environmentally sustainable society?

    NO! Feelings are the enemy, and must be suppressed and/or discarded when they get to the point of interfering with business as usual.

    what happens if we instead label these potentially revolutionary feelings as pathologies, as brain disorders, as “mental health problems” and “mental illnesses” needing “treatment”?

    Though it’s unclear who you mean by “we,” what happens is that the system then has a go-ahead to deny responsibility for the trauma it creates, as usual. Because caring too much is a serious personality defect.

    However this is not unique to climate change; any organized effort to create structural change can be deflected by using the “mental illness” card against that movement’s leaders and activists.

    Which is another major reason that we must abolish psychiatry.

  4. This was really great. I’ll have to check out some of the writings by McKnight and others you mentioned.

    I think the processes you describe regarding how society is increasingly pathologizing our distress related to climate change is similar to how society historically treated its victims of racism, child abuse, and sexual harassment (basically any systemic problem in society). You did make this connection with racism a few times in the article, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, so I wanted to pick up on it. How experiences like racism are hard to talk about because (1) our institutions, including our workplaces, schools, etc. discourage people from talking about them (because it’s disruptive, because we have to go through a formal complaint process, because of retaliation, etc.), and (2) other people get uncomfortable when we try to talk about these experiences probably because of the normalization of (1). The only place it’s been safe to talk about these things (prior to this year) is with a therapist. But that reinforces the pathologizing of these feelings, which makes people with these experiences feel further isolated rather than part of the community, and at the same time, as you wrote, “The result is that our communities are evermore homogenous and incompetent” in learning to collectively deal with these problems. That the same process is now happening with our response to climate change is very worrisome.

    Thanks so much for writing about this. I hope people pay attention.

  5. I’m sorry: This would be a very amusing article if it were not dealing with such serious issues.

    For me, “climate change” is just another trigger phrase, like “mental illness” that lead us out into long discussions about existential threats which end up ignoring the most basic source of all real shorter-term (hundreds of years) challenges here on Earth. The most basic source for all these challenges is the sociopath.

    His primary strategy is to give people things to worry about so they won’t notice it while he gradually turns them all into slaves. In a slave system, the sociopath can assume his rightful role as “master.” This is his fondest dream.

    For us to worry over all the other challenges of life – real challenges – without recognizing this primary challenge is self-defeating. We can only understand these real challenges when we recognize to what a great extent they are being caused – or effective handlings are being blocked – by sociopaths who occupy power positions in society.

    I write this immediately after reviewing a couple of long articles about the subject of “political ponerology” as developed by Polish psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski. This material aligns quite well with my earlier training in this subject. For those who are willing to study it, understand it, and deal with it, is solves many riddles as well as pointing a way forward. I am surprised the subject is not mentioned more often on this website.

    I have also been reviewing the recent work of Dr. Peter Breggin. He continues to focus on the threat of authoritarian rule (Lobaczewski’s “pathocracy”) in the world, and particularly here in the U.S. We thought we had a fool-proof way to preserve basic human freedoms here, but even that is failing us under the onslaught of psychopathic ideas currently being promoted to us.

    I hope this will be a website where these concerns can be expressed and discussed. But as the pressure builds, that openness will become more and more difficult to maintain.

  6. “Yet I’ve seen no visible debate occurring”. .. .. .. ….. … … …. “Yet I’ve seen no visible debate occurring”……. . . . . . . .. . . . …… . … … …. . Period!

    .
    – –

    . .

    ‘ –

    x the argument; the logic is not necessarily an x to y expression; rather the challenge is more from an ecological perspective where understanding can be realized in relationship to the normality of engineered systems as well as the outliers outside the lower and upper range of data. Even then the methods and logic of artists types seemingly represents a different expression of intuition and learning. Does Law as practiced, merely a game or do the individuals begin to realize their “life’s purpose”? Organized statistically may filter the same results, if the questions are being framed in the same manner. However, one is challenged to question, was the energy spent organizing a thought spent with a tactile focus, have the emergent thoughts seeded the field of understanding to ask where did the ideas, products originate from? And who or what is trying to advance the civil rights to include difference? (The civil rights of access to credit and trade, when in fact the records show an absence of understanding for economic development. ) The community based climate MOOD inside a Space-X capsule Changes the revolutions of how to focus and release the breathing.

    In closing and checking the Comment, the program squashed and collapsed the art that was set just so. Sorry…. the tech of this software is causal to the problems, too.

  7. Thanks, Rob Wipond, for addressing this unimaginably important & urgent topic. I appreciate his interview of me. So very glad to see a quick interest in dialogue on these comments. Good point, Ron Unger, that there can be unwell responses to the enormity of climate crisis. Personally, I have found a wide range of alternatives to support myself, and I would especially like to include nature (going out on 3-day fasts in Oregon wilderness, for example) and small peer group support. We need alternatives to look at the immensity of our challenges, and think/act creatively and helpfully. I look forward to reading other comments & questions by folks, and I hope to reply to some. By the way, Rob mentions my consulting. A plug, you can find that by directing your browser to: http://www.aciu.info — Aciu! Institute, revolutionary consulting. And we on the West Coast of the USA as we peer at the dirty skies sure know we need a revolution for sure, soon.

  8. Great work
    Just noting the same thing happening with Defund the Police
    where the goal is to divert funding from them murdering the “mentally ill”
    into the “mental health” scam to unjustly enrich what is essentially the same dam system
    People who understand the pig problem don’t get that “MH” is just another form of social control

    We’re fucked but its good to know some people can see the whole orgy

    • We’re in basic agreement, though you could ease up on some of the “pig” rhetoric; pigs are nice animals, and if they eat shit it’s because they have no options (Rachel can you confirm this?); cops have no substantial social or political power, they are dehumanized employees of the system. They can’t even fire their guns without permission, at least theoretically.

      However your basic analysis is right on, with a few caveats. (Some of the following is consolidated in a soon to be released set of anti-psychiatry organizing principles and demands, collectively written by abolitionist survivors.)

      As you seem to agree, psychiatry is not a branch of medicine, but a tool of “law enforcement” and social control which assumes the trappings of medicine. The “mental health” industry cannot “replace” the police — psychiatry IS the police, literally. Many people have already taken up the slogan “Defund Psychiatry” based on this understanding, and I encourage others to do so as well.

      There is a subtle difference between the two “defund” campaigns however. Most people in poor crime-ridden neighborhoods don’t want to abolish the police, though many want better police and more community control. There is a legitimate social argument to be made in favor of police being needed to protect citizens (in any society) from bad people. How effectively and genuinely this function is performed is a separate question.

      However there is no comparable argument in the case of psychiatry. There is no legitimate social function to be served by an agency devoted to enforcing thought and behavior via absurd manipulations of logic and semantics, along with the assimilation of medicine.

      So we don’t need “alternatives” to psychiatry any more than we’re looking for alternatives to ICE. We just need it gone.

      • “However there is no comparable argument in the case of psychiatry. There is no legitimate social function to be served by an agency devoted to enforcing thought and behavior via absurd manipulations of logic and semantics, along with the assimilation of medicine.

        So we don’t need “alternatives” to psychiatry any more than we’re looking for alternatives to ICE. We just need it gone.”

        Oldhead, that needed to be repeated.

      • “As you seem to agree, psychiatry is not a branch of medicine, but a tool of “law enforcement” and social control which assumes the trappings of medicine. The “mental health” industry cannot “replace” the police — psychiatry IS the police, literally.’

        I don’t think it is “law enforcement”, since the subjects are not criminal at all. So psychiatry creates it’s own laws, literally, and therefrom they become the police. They also rule the court systems, since no lawyer or judge, not even the supreme courts overrule psychiatry.

        • The specific principle I refer to here is: Psychiatry is a tool of social control which enforces conformity to the prevailing social order. It was conceived with the understanding that there are both written laws and unwritten laws.

          Although there is some overlap, written laws are primarily enforced by standard police agencies, and violations of unwritten cultural or societal laws by “mental health” agencies. So it’s all at least technically “law enforcement,” at least that’s what I mean when I say that.

          • In my dream world, the police would realize what psychiatrists were doing and take them out themselves. They would suddenly find the amount of lawbreaking greatly reduced and would retire or find more productive and less dangerous ways of life. Defund psychiatry – accomplished!

            And in psychiatry’s dream world…the police would join the “mental health system” and criminals could do anything they wanted (except mess with a psychiatrist). Defund police – accomplished!

            Which dream seems to be winning?

          • In my state a mental health worker was placed in every police station, not a police officer placed in every mental health facility. They wish to keep an eye on both the community AND have a ‘reporter’ in every station. Worked really well for the Gestapo too.

            A psychiatrist can call police and request they not take proof of serious criminal offences from their soon to be “patient”. Police can only request that a person be assessed by a mental health practitioner and not use this to ensure they are their soon to be prisoner, well, that is unless you can use the mental health system to torture confessions from people and “they wouldn’t do that” I am told.

      • oldhead, I might be missing your intended sarcasm, but your comment comes across as very dismissive of “defunding the police” in order to prop up your anti-psychiatry position.

        You state that “there is a legitimate social argument to be made in favor of police being needed to protect citizens,” while “there is no comparable argument in the case of psychiatry.” Yet there are thousands of people across the world protesting law enforcement, and not many protesting psychiatry. Can you recognize that the strong feelings you have against psychiatry are similar to how many people feel towards the police?

        The police don’t protect citizens, they protect power and capital. Again, the idea that “cops have no substantial social or political power” seems like it must have been intended in sarcasm, because being able to get away with murder is the definition of power. We can acknowledge the pain and abuse we’ve experienced from psychiatry without being dismissive towards the pain and suffering caused by police brutality.

        • I have to take issue with this to some degree. I have known many police/sheriffs who have done a fantastic job of “protecting and serving” the community they are in, including handling some situations involving “mental health clients” with particular aplomb. I’ve also seen unwarranted brutality, dismissiveness, and threatening behavior that would make anyone distrust the force. Both kinds of officers exist. And while accountability issues are critical, particularly with darker-skinned people, and systemic racism is very, very real, I am not sure we really want to live in a society where there is NO police function at all. We saw what happened in the CHOP zone when there was no law enforcement – people got shot and died. Every society has some form of law enforcement, formal or informal. There will always be people who threaten the community in some way. While the current system appears to have been coopted by the rich and powerful, and this has been true for a long, long time, I have to ask what means will we have to deal with people who want to harm and take advantage of others if the police are entirely “defunded?” And even if they are defunded, what’s to prevent psychiatry from coming in to take over their role by “diagnosing” people who don’t behave as society expects, for whatever reason?

          • Hi Steve, I appreciate your comment and that you have more questions than answers, although I don’t want to hijack this conversation, and especially don’t feel like getting into this conversation with a bunch of white men. But in regards to your point that “I have known many police/sheriffs…,” I just don’t see how that is relevant, unless the fact that there are “good” psychiatrists is supposed to be a convincing anti-anti-psychiatry argument as well.

            Many of the arguments against abolition have been responded to elsewhere if people are genuinely interested. Here are some good links:

            http://criticalresistance.org/abolish-policing/
            http://baltimorebeat.com/2019/11/06/an-introduction-to-police-abolition/
            https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/08/why-crime-isnt-the-question-and-police-arent-the-answer

          • I’m saying that not all the individuals who play the role of police are acting in defense only of the rich and powerful. I suppose the same could be said of psychiatrists, though in my observation, there are a hell of a lot more police of integrity than there are psychiatrists. The school system is very similarly messed up to me. There are a goodly percentage of teachers who care, but they work in a system that disempowers the students and they can’t really fix it themselves.

            I’ll look at your links, but I was interested in YOUR answer – what do YOU think we do about bullies and aggressive people when there are no more police?

          • For me, the shift has gone from policing by consent (the original idea promoted by Robert Peel) to policing by force (as the system was being corrupted) to policing by terror (as it stands at present). I’d like to see it head back in the other direction.

            In my state the mental health services are so worried about being exposed as the frauds and slanderers they are that they have resorted to the killing of citizens who have a legitimate complaint regarding their treatment.

            It used to be that if you made a complaint regarding public sector misconduct there would be an investigation and then a cover up. In some cases there would actually be action taken and very rarely they would even apologize for what was done. Not anymore. these days pointing out public sector misconduct will get you an overt threat from the State (“we’ll fuking destroy you”) and a chemical cocktail that will unintentionally negatively outcome you in the Emergency Dept whilst police retrieve any incriminating evidence from your home, and threaten your family and witnesses (and I have recently had my claims regarding the types of threats they make confirmed on national television [60 Minutes, threats of rape and assault made against a young woman falsely accused]).

            I guess it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the illusion of democracy in the face of overt fascism. What better way to maintain your good reputation other than killing anyone who dares say anything you don’t like.

            The symbiotic relationship between police and mental health services is being realised where I live now that they have placed a mental health worker in every police station. This will allow police to engage in acts of torture, subject to it being “inherent in or incidental to lawful sanction”. Mental Health Services will be able to ‘chemically restrain’ pre interrogation as a result of you being referred to them, and they can then hand you back for ‘coercive methods’ to be used (ie threats of pack rape and mock executions) and then have you transported to the locked ward for ‘treatment’ for the mental illness caused by the chemical restraint.

            You might not like it but …….. tough. We need methods to obtain confessions, and these mentally ill people are getting wise to the methods being used. they are failing to attend the confessional, and even when we have forced them to attend the ‘church’ they refuse to maintain their links with their ‘medicators’. Something needs to be done. We need the right to arbitrarily detain and torture under the guise of ‘medicine’. These bleeding hearts and artists are getting away with murder claiming they have human rights. Don’t they understand they are only there for show, and there is no remedy available?

            What I can say is that I was referred to mental health by a Senior Constable for attending a police station with documented proof I had been ‘spiked’ with benzos. When having proof of criminal offences by public officers is justification for a needle full of anti psychotics to treat your truth speaking, there is a problem. Sure they thought they had concealed the torture and kidnapping, ugly, nasty behaviour from these ‘professionals’ that they would prefer went away, and were quite prepared to kill the complainant rather than speak the truth soooooo

            Anyway, it’s not the USA and I hope you guys don’t take the same path my government has chosen.

            Spotted this article looking for the news item about the shooting of the Chief Psychiatrist by a ……. deregistered psychiatrist.

            “SA mental health services reported to ICAC as Chief Psychiatrist intervenes in care” (search for this article)

            “They also rule the court systems, since no lawyer or judge, not even the supreme courts overrule psychiatry.”
            At least on this occasion they overruled a psychiatrist Sam Plover, though it seems more to do with who the victim was, rather than the fact he ‘lead medicated’ someone (an off label use not approved for non aboriginals in South Australia).

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Eric_Gassy

            [Dr Gassy, your service stinks lol]

            I did briefly describe the method being used to ensure that criminal matters did not progress. The S.A. Chief Psychiatrist claiming victim status it would seem. It is of course subject to a sophisticated knowledge of the law (not unlike our methods of euthanasing). I may return to this matter soon.

          • “Policing by consent” is the only possible policing that would work. And of course, with the huge prejudices and power imbalances in our current society, we’re a long, long way from “policing by consent!” It seems the less power you have in your position, the less “consent” is required for you to be “policed.”

          • Just want to quickly highlight that people who experience altered states or are currently experiencing them are often painted as wanting “to harm and take advantage of others”, which is ableism.

            Also, I think something that could be helpful to society in general trying not to be a Karen.

          • I appreciate your gracious response, Steve. But to be honest, I’m not even interested in my own thoughts on this matter. I’m more interested in listening to the black and brown people whose lives have been damaged by policing in extremely more grievous ways than my own. And I’ve never – EVER – had a positive encounter with the police. Police in our communities exist to constantly remind us that we’re persona non grata. This is why I say I can’t have this conversation with white men. As Rob quotes Bruce Levine in his article:

            “Explaining this to average liberal environmentalists, clouded with prejudices about ‘the mentally ill,’ is like inner-city Black Americans, absent video evidence, describing police to comfortable suburban Whites. ‘Some will try to get it, they’ll try to understand, but they just can’t at an emotional level,’ said Levine. ‘And in their own head, they’ve had a very different experience; maybe they know psychologists or psychiatrists and they seem like very nice people.’

            I just have one thing to add in terms of alternatives to policing, however, which is to never underestimate the power of reputation and social condemnation. For example, look at what happened to Amy Cooper. She was punished without criminal prosecution, and she still has a good life and a chance to redeem herself. Everyone should be given the same opportunities for redemption. It’s true that there are sociopaths in society, but I would point you to the case of James Fallon:
            https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-neuroscientist-who-discovered-he-was-a-psychopath-180947814/

            Which shows that good education, material security, and career opportunities can overcome even the worst “predispositions.” On the flipside, when affluent people behave badly is often because of too much power and no accountability.

          • Terrorism works, and it has been working for white police against the black community in the US for quite some time now. The very public execution of black citizens is not about policing, it’s about obtaining compliance from black citizens in the same way as was demonstrated by Sun Tzu to the Emperor of Wu. Take two heads and the rest will do as they are told, when they are told. If you fail to recognise this then you are not serious about maintaining your State.

            The point made by Oldhead below about police doing both duties, protecting citizens AND Power and capital. Who else is going to keep the ‘staff’ in line should they start talking about ‘fairness and equality’?

            That’s what got Bilal a beating. He refused to flog a man for repeating what Muhammad (saw) said regarding God seeing all men as being like the teeth on a comb. We can’t have people talking about such things.

            I live in a first world Nation and am so ashamed of what is being done to our indigenous population that I feel like I am committing a crime by posting images of it.

            Take a look at the conditions we have left these people in (see 2.00).

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYS_gMW10HA

            And mental health services are where? Oh wait, there goes one with a carpetbag.

          • @Steve —

            There will always be people who threaten the community in some way.

            I’m not that pessimistic, unless you mean in this lifetime. But if we’re talking about the present…people gotta deal.

          • Bowen’s “rebuttal” of Steve’s example is flawed, as Steve was responding to Bowen’s previous blanket statement, which bounces back & forth between a political abstraction and a personal dislike of police.

            Though I could easily be wrong I also would suggest that few regular readers of “Critical Resistance” and “Current Affairs” are likely to live in a neighborhoods in which their lives would be in constant daily peril without the existence of police.

          • This is why I say I can’t have this conversation with white men.

            I hope you’re not going to really say this while being white yourself, which would seem to imply that you consider yourself too beyond racism to even relate to other white men, whom you consider hopeless or something compared to yourself.

            ALL white people in america are racist, it’s not a matter of choice. White people who believe they have personally “transcended” racism but point fingers at others are in actuality more racist than those who recognize their own internal racism and try to fight it.

            Incidentally if you refer to people as “sociopaths” you are using a psychiatric narrative. So check your own contradictions.

          • @boans:

            The point made by Oldhead below about police doing both duties, protecting citizens AND Power and capital.

            To expand a little — the same cop who takes you to the hospital after you’ve been assaulted is also required to bust your head at a demonstration, which I’m sure bothers cops who join up out of a desire to help protect people from bad guys.

            At a higher level, the current state doesn’t protect citizens out of altruism, but because its support among the people includes an understanding that people’s basic personal security will be protected. NOT doing so would be very bad for business, which is why terrorists and guerillas often attack civilian populations — to demonstrate to people that the government can’t protect them and is not worth supporting. This is why I point out that protecting citizens is part of protecting power and capital.

          • oldhead, I don’t know why you assumed I was white. I think your tone is patronizing and your attempts to mischaracterize my arguments as “a personal dislike of police” rather than being rooted in experience is gaslighting. So I think you’ll understand why I am not going to further engage with you in this discussion.

          • “the current state doesn’t protect citizens out of altruism, but because its support among the people includes an understanding that people’s basic personal security will be protected. NOT doing so would be very bad for business, which is why terrorists and guerillas often attack civilian populations — to demonstrate to people that the government can’t protect them and is not worth supporting.”

            You’ve no idea how much that makes me smile Oldhead. Because this letter from the Chief Psychiatrist points out that he has removed the legal protections afforded the public in our Mental Health Act. Thus enabling arbitrary detentions that we accuse China of doing. NOT doing so (providing protection from arbitrary detentions and torture) has been very bad for the Ministers business, because the enabling of terrorist tactics (arbitrary detentions, torture and kidnappings, and then refoulment of the victims with unintended negative outcomes) being used by mental health services has been exposed, and the government can’t have it known that it was them who were engaged in actively promoting this. They need to be made into ‘bad apples’, and not be the leader of the government in the Upper House.

            Bursting the bubble of the illusion of the public being protected from torture and kidnappings by ‘rogue doctors’ acting with full knowledge of the State, and who is concealing these acts for them a particular problem at election time. Especially when they don’t know who, other than the Opposition, has the documents. Terrible when you don’t know who else knows that your torturing and killing citizens for complaining. Tends to make the ‘leader’ a little, shall we say ‘paranoid’ (subject to the criticism of using the psychiatric narrative lol. You should have seen how ill it made the Boss. He must have lost 20 lbs in a week. Aw cmon, it’s tough at the top. If God didn’t want us to use psychiatry for cover ups, He wouldn’t have invented it)

          • Responding to Bowen:

            First, duly noted regarding your Asian heritage — though I don’t know why you couldn’t have been specific in the first place, since you made a point of stating that you aren’t Black. If a white person trying to be “woke” had said some of the same things I would have considered them racist, so I appreciate your providing some context.

            I’ve never – EVER – had a positive encounter with the police. Police in our communities exist to constantly remind us that we’re persona non grata. This is why I say I can’t have this conversation with white men

            This same statement uttered by a privileged white activist — which is what Bowen seemed to be saying he was — would come across as the same appropriatiing and presumptuous hypocrisy we see all the time from white people. (Such as his personal experience with cops or the reference to “our” communities.) Anyway I regret the confusion, though I didn’t “assume” Bowen was white, I surmised. Incorrectly.

            My main point remains valid however: Calls to abolish the police are rarely supported by the vast majority of those in poor neighborhoods, who have no other recourse for self defense in many cases, and risk being imprisoned themselves for exercising it. So if people want to feel radical and call for abolishing the police they might as well be honest, and consistent, and call to “smash the state” as well, which would be the near-immediate effect of abolishing the police. And without something functional and democratic to replace it with I don’t think too many people would enjoy that. It’s putting the cart before the horse.

        • I will preface my response to Bowen with an introductory quote from my sadly departed revolutionary mentor, Abbie Hoffman (from his book Revolution for the Hell of It:

          America Is Racist
          America is Imperialistic
          Police are Brutal
          Mass media distort

          Bah-Bah-Bah-Bah — Sheep talking rhetoric. People on the Left spend most of their time telling each other things like that. The point is, everybody already knows, so call it Rhetoric. The Left masturbates continuously because it is essentially rooted in an academic tradition. It is the rhetoric of the Left, its insistence on ideological exactness rather than action that has held the revolution back in this country as much as the actions of the people in power. The Left has the same smugness as the New York Times.

          [The above was written in 1968.]

          With that in mind let me examine some of Bowens’ statements. (PS I guarantee nothing I have said about defunding psychiatry is sarcasm.)

          …there are thousands of people across the world protesting law enforcement, and not many protesting psychiatry.

          Yes, this demonstrates the hypocrisy (or at best the cluelessness) of the “woke” Left, which I refer to as the faux-left. That there is very little resistance to psychiatry demonstrates the degree to which it has infused itself into the consciousness of the former Left, which supported the AP movement 30 years ago.

          Can you recognize that the strong feelings you have against psychiatry are similar to how many people feel towards the police?

          Since you don’t know me or of my history fighting for political prisoners and victims of police violence I will refrain from actual sarcasm here. The answer to the question is “yes”; however you still miss the point, which is that the police and the mh system are the SAME SYSTEM SERVING THE SAME PURPOSE.

          The police don’t protect citizens, they protect power and capital.

          They do both. Plus protecting citizens is PART of protecting power and capital. (See introductory quote re: “rhetoric.”)

          Again, the idea that “cops have no substantial social or political power” seems like it must have been intended in sarcasm, because being able to get away with murder is the definition of power.

          I’ll have to check Webster’s, I don’t recall that definition. Sounds more like an expression of impotence and frustration, even if it were routinely true. As for social and political power, you don’t see to many cops living in gated communities.

  9. Thank you for this brilliant essay and for the weaving together the ideas of heroic, human dignity activists. I came of age in a cult, and found as I encountered the mental health sytem working in a government agency as a monitor of complience, how cult like the system was. The priests of the cult are the therapists and the aim is to create a population of conformity, of Stepford wives.
    The mental health world then polices “normal thought” which are thoughts that go along with theirs. I once questioned a therapist why I should trust him having met him 15 minutes before as he demanded my trust. I’d already picked up his trappings and mannerisms of white male access to power and determined he was incrediably patriachal. His replies “there are medications that can help with that” demonstrated his priviledge that anyone that didn’t immediately trust him should be drugged to do so.

    In all systems of oppression there are thought police. Those that are given authority over our minds as we are trained to not trust our own. My patriarchal cult said the minds of women were the devils fodder, hence only the male voice was trustworthy. THis is how men end up with 20 wives and 80 children everyone around them is taught that the “annointed ones” are the voice of God and brainwashed from an early age that the female mind must have the “covering” of the male mind. This seems very much like the therapy world now only it is the therapist mind, a mind often shaped by privilege they never unpacked that gives them a corrupted lens of their right to rule over others mind. The arbiter of truth for you, for your family is someone that only knows you from a lens of their own superiority. They are blind to their a lens completely skewed by privilege

    The DSM is their holy writ and they are the cultural intepretors that help us get along with the insanity of the American Dream. On occasion someone with insight stands back and see is all for what it is. You’ve listed several of my truth speaking heroes here,my favorite is John McKnight that views people as assets not problems to be resolved by the superior and the privileged
    This quote is priceless :”””Linking
    White privilege, environmentalism, and support for psychiatric oppression isn’t hyperbolic: Both America’s environmental movement and mental health system have historical roots in White supremacism. And environmentalists still skew predominantly White and middle-to-upper class—a demographic more likely to have experienced expensive private psychotherapy than social oppression and psychiatric detentions.”””

  10. A timely and excellent report Rob given “mental health” professionals penchant for using every possible excuse to pathologize normal emotions and to label people. Also much appreciation for the discussions involving the work of David Cohen, John McKnight, Ayako Nagano and David Oaks.

    As Ayako Nagano said “Social justice work at this juncture requires emotional intelligence”. Yes, and unfortunately that aspect is almost non-existent when it comes to the psychiatric industry.

  11. Excellent, important article, Rob. Thank you for writing it and for choosing to highlight the work of such smart people. A few specific comments:

    “mainstream mental health approaches influence or determine community resilience agendas.”

    Or obliterate them, eh? Keeping in mind, too, that “mainstream mental health approaches” include the administration of incapacitating drugs that prevent thinking about, never mind acting on, any sort of agenda other than compliance, trying to get out of bed in the morning, etc. And of course psychiatric drugs commonly cause a huge variety of physical problems that can contribute to the human body’s ability to deal with excessive heat, bad air, etc., etc. Not to mention that it’s harder to get out of a burning house, or town, when your body and brain can’t function properly.

    “the competence of the local community to deal with deviance goes down.”

    I wish the word “difference” were consistently used in place of “deviance,” which, though harmless in its actual meaning, unfortunately carries connotations of “abnormal psychology,” “deviant” as “criminal sex pervert,” etc.

    Finally, in reference to David Oaks’s words about his “wide range of alternatives to support myself … especially [including] nature (going out on 3-day fasts in Oregon wilderness, for example)” certainly needs to be taken in the context of what is happening to the Oregon wilderness right now – I hope you’re okay, David! – and what will happen to all wilderness and nature if climate change goes unchecked.

    Personally, I pretty much need to get outside every day, preferably riding my bike to and around a park, in order to feel anything close to okay (one of the consequences of long periods spent locked up in hospitals); and, right now, smoke in the air here in Canada, as elsewhere – smoke that is emanating from U.S. wildfires – makes outdoor activities “inadvisable.”

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