Fifty-Eight Years Beyond the Community Mental Health Act, 1963

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Advocacy for the caring of survivors of trauma and difference began much, much earlier than before 1963 when Kennedy passed the Community Mental Health Act. However, at that time, the vision was that training and housing be provided in communities by communities.

An abstract illustration in purple and other colors
“Glass at Night” by Jane Engleman

If I had been in the Movement at that time, my goals would have been:

1. Respect for those who “survived the camps.” The full acknowledgement of the intelligence and personal responsibility shown by anyone who has lived through violence, cultural oppres­sion, psychological gaslighting and the economic shutdown of those who choose not to comply. Eurocentric education established in Wash­ington D.C. insists on assimilation to masculine logic to the exclusion of feminine princi­ples of loving observation, patient wait for progress and the collaboration of independent groups.

2. Integration of the body with the Mind. Particularly for those who have experienced only radical insanity between what is said and what is practiced, it is not possible to engineer “Recovery” by sitting around with a Google printout on how to have a relationship or how to build a resume. When Norman Sartorius, the president of the APA stated in 1984 that psychia­try cannot cure the mentally ill, he was making an understatement. People need minds and bodies to find our way through the terrible suffering that does not end, but is a challenge and opportunity for strength, resilience and blessing. Cognition is not brainwork; it must be moved to the muscle.

3. Finding mercy for others must be a lifelong process of finding forgiveness and mercy for ourselves. If we do not see our own arrogance and ethnocentrism, we will never see the first step needed to heal our families of choice, which is acceptance of our own mental illness and the probability of our own healing the moment we are born again to the awareness that we are still alive.

4. Understanding that brains work in many ways; competent survivors of individual differ­ences are desperately needed as expert guides on these trails. We can work together. Had Steven Hawking or Temple Grandin or Maya Angelou been in this System without some physical support or teaching, they would not have survived high school. Why are our children, 17 and 18 and 19 and 20, going off to the freedom of college, only to gas themselves in a car in the park­ing lot on campus, jumping off any bridge not chained off, or using illegal drugs to wipe their minds clear of our established insanity?

5. Establishment of families. Most of our survivors have never seen a family, never had a family who did not either beat or neglect them. Some of our survivors have kept body and soul to­gether in families of extreme wealth, and complete neglect and the poverty of the soul. They have never seen a gun, and have never been hugged. Some have been simple victims of simple ignorance which do not require scalpels, but a comedy show and a roadmap. Surgery can do so much damage when all that was needed was a massage and a week in a hot tub. Some of our colleagues are so different they struggle everyday just for the privilege to breathe. I hope we can establish a community where hugging and laughter and diversity are the norm.

6. The development of personal competent compassion. There is a wisdom in knowing what kind of tool will be most helpful in a given individual situation. There can be an education over time in the difference between enabling, sharing, torturing, isolating, drugging, coaching, re­warding and training. Part of that is finding a way to get competent long-term depth psycho­therapy for our students without having to sacrifice their dignity to papers and an investment firm. This must be provided in the original language of the student.

7. Professional career, whether or not it complies to current EuroAmerican educational outlines. Since our fingerprints and documents and diagnoses have been smeared all over our records, there seems currently in L.A. County only one career path suggested for survivors, that is “Peer Support” in the System that created this mess in the first place. Survivors of even the worst violence and neglect can find our own niche, to be our own medicine. The coping skills we choose to use are the gifts we bring to the community. The clubhouse must have a clear survivor bridge to community colleges with dorms.

8. Development of professional careers through portfolio and project. Neither Steve Jobs and or Annie Dodge Wauneka had a B.A. when they began their careers. People born into trauma, who have become completely dysregulated emotionally, CANNOT work 9-5 for five days in a row. We must begin to train. We can coach collage and voice and dance at the beginning, matriculating to the Dodgers, Mars, a family or the Taj Mahal. In time. If we so choose.

9. Openness to the idea that if you do not hear voices, it may simply be that you are not connected. Perhaps before Tesla and Einstein, we could assume that if electromagnetic energy could not be seen, quantified or accessed outside material wires and telescopes, they must not exist and that the experience of them must be a “disorder.” But since 1984, this psychiatric “fact” can no longer be assumed.

Generational, like geographical, sound frequencies travel through time and space. These have been seen and experienced by millions. Scientists have been largely focused only on the bits in front of their eyes. Yet physicists, mothers, shamans and gurus speak with unseen “beings” and intuition as a matter of course. How can any voice not become violent when oppressed, drugged, dismissed, disrespected, when they have vital warnings and histories to guide us? Alchemy, witchcraft, government, snake oil and Christianity have not been discredited be­cause they contained no truth or medicine, but because organizations chose to counterfeit them for profit.

10. We do not care only because patients have potential of full sufficiency, but because we all die on pallets. There is now a crisis of suffering of the neglect of the mainte­nance of our individual and collective souls. I have no answer to “Laura’s Law” or to a debate as to whether or not to provide 3800 beds in a prison for the mentally oppressed, except for a great quote from a fellow survivor: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”

11. Appreciation and respect for the nomads and the gypsies. Why have we no respect for those who choose not to pay rent on occupied land? Why like Hitler, have we chosen constant harrying and disruption of any community that is established. When will we come back to the place where birds know how to nest, restored to natural habitats in the patience of time and with the mutual accompaniment of loving learners?

12. The archiving of the DSM as a relic of the racist past.

A Mission Statement Guideline

Do not focus on “getting more beds” or “providing better treatment.” Focus on homes with windows and giant gardens where survivors can be coached to rebel, the weak can be strengthened, and performers can be trained to dance with wild abandon. Human independ­ence and contribution is most fecund outside the walls of forced democracy and assimilation to what you think. Parents and coaches are parents and coaches forever with the clear and agoniz­ing relief of knowing that one day healthy babies will graduate and the disabled accepted and cared for by teams of mothers.

Like fractals, we cannot know what tiny pattern, replicated, will emerge. It is infinite. Focus on the light at the edge of the universe. Then focus your love of yourself and your own body infi­nitely. Replicate the mercy and forgiveness you find for yourself. Know yourself. Know what you need. Know who you love. Know yourself as a daughter of a mother with a grandmother from East Africa. The fractal will emerge, emerge, emerge in living color from the focus.

Focus on building a home. Once that home is established, others will follow, not by force or cop or economic policy, but by drumbeat and fresh produce, sport and play and sheltering. Focus on the living room, however that comes to look.

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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.

31 COMMENTS

  1. What did I just read? Overall it sounds great, & I’m 100% on board, in agreement. But, BUT, there are many verbal “landmines” here, when I stop to think deeply & reflect about what I read here. We start with a citation mention of Kennedy’s “Community Mental Health Center Act”, but then nothing more about that. Next, LOOK OUT!, here comes “the movement”! Another manifesto of impotent rage expressed as polemic. A list of demands. Conditions of “treatment” for “those people”, or “these people”, or something, or I’m confused here. Some of these bullet points seem to refer to current L.A. County practice & programs for homeless people. Screw that “persons-experiencing-homelessness” virtue signaling crap. I was a HOMELESS PERSON. I experience my entire life, – it’s only my body that is homeless. Temporarily. Eventually, in the far future after I die, I won’t care where I don’t live. Why should I care now? Nobody else does. Except a surplus of teeth-gnashing, hand-wringing “progressive” “liberals”, and Social Justice Warriors, who bemoan the fact that they can’t solve all of all of the worlds problems for every body every where all the time….too bad….

  2. The Mental Health Myth and the Autism/Aspergers/Neurological Difference Hoax are the greatest threats we now face to civil liberties, and to life itself.

    And this is always targeted either at children, or at marginalized groups.

    We should be alarmed at the way local governments team up with religious groups to try and subdue the poor and the homeless by attacking their political consciousness and their attempts to build community.

    After the youngest son of Rick and Kay Warren shot himself in the head at the age of 27, Rick said that Matthew, “had the finest psychiatrists, the finest psychologists, and the finest prayer warriors in the world”.

    Well if that isn’t homicide by voodoo, then I don’t know what is. Very few people could survive that.

    And people should be highly alarmed by Warren’s Hope For Mental Health Ministry and the study and prayer circles they are forming, and the counseling hours they are donating to the public, and by their close relationship with the new 8 story Integrative Psychiatry building at UC Irvine.

    https://hope4mentalhealth.com/

    And if this were not enough, we now have CA Governor Gavin Newsom trying to pass legislation which would create Mental Health Courts in each country and subject the homeless to compulsory mental health treatment.

    He first started to talk about this in response to Donald Trump’s visit to San Francisco, where Trump wanted to set up internment camps. What Newsom is trying to do is no different, it is just more politically tenable.

    https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/bayarea/heatherknight/article/Gavin-Newsom-Care-Court-mental-health-16973070.php

    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/gov-gavin-newsom-proposes-court-ordered-mental-health-treatment-for-homeless-people#:~:text=Last%20year%2C%20the%20Legislature%20approved,and%20other%20behavioral%20health%20disorders

    https://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/2385961/newsom-proposes-mental-health-courts-to-aid-homelessness.html/amp

    Very few could survive what Matthew Warren was subjected to. But very few abuse survivors could persevere in their fight for self-awareness and political-consciousness after a session with a state provided counselor, or after a dose of psychiatric neurotoxins.

    Great Article!
    Joshua

  3. re: “… Do not focus on “getting more beds” or “providing better treatment.”

    This is just one ‘place’ that deeply bothers me, as my little corner of the world (near Sequim, WA) is adding in a 16 bed “E & T” psychiatric hospital, where there will be 16 safe rooms with 24/7 video monitoring. I ache for the folks who – in their deepest despair – contact our region’s Crisis Line (I was on the committee that selected the organization). I fear that people in need of support – will, instead, find a “crisis team” (or just law enforcement or paramedics) coming to their ‘rescue’ – most likely the very thing that caller hoped to avoid while reaching out for support. I ache for these folks in that their freedom can be taken away on the whim of others, and a system of faces they do not know will decide what they can wear or eat and watch them in their deepest despair from a “safe” distance. I fear that the local community benignly assumes the mental health care “works” – without actually seeing any “customer satisfaction survey”. No one has heard the stories of local folks who’ve been discharged as ‘depressed’ (then wander off in the middle of the night) while in active psychosis or threatened with refusal for much-needed medical care when answering that – yes, they had been deeply depressed (but spoke with trusted therapist) because, first, they need to go get a psychiatric exam. These true stories come from community volunteers with deep commitments to wellness.

    Nowhere in this… nowhere at all – NOWHERE – is a scintilla of understanding re: peer respites. Nowhere. Read that about a million times.

    I ache for the upcoming anger from the local very NIMBY “Save Our Sequim” people, who utterly lambasted those seeking treatment for opioid use (2018-2021) at the soon-to-open MAT center – characterizing all who seek treatment as villains, robbers, violence-prone and coming on one-way Greyhound free bus passes from Seattle to rid Seattle of its homeless so that these homeless “addicts” can live in the fields around Wal-Mart and Costco and rape/pillage nearby seniors. They raised money and filed lawsuits. The Washington Post carried the story of ‘Save Our Sequim”s NIMBY mindset because our county also has a very high rate of opioid use.

    I ache because I have sat on multiple councils and boards re: mental health and disability and see how it is so much easier to maintain the status quo than to put it to the side and consider what we don’t know we don’t know. We hear/see/do what the Powers want us to hear/see/do.

    It’s like we talk, discuss, chat, write, listen, report, read, think… and all the while “mental health” grows increasingly convoluted – tied up. And whatever ‘should’ underpin our thinking about how we care about our fellow sentient beings… is repeatedly thrown under the bus because of bureaucracy.

  4. The Community Mental Health Act sounded good in practice, but it did come into being before the major dependence on psychiatric drugs in treatment. There were some psychiatric drugs available that time, but it was not until “Prozac” and into the 90s’ that these drugs became the first line of care. This proved to the detriment of all, but particularly the “patient.” And it was at that time, I think, that many, such as clergy and others who had been providing counseling and care were more likely to refer their clients to these psychiatrists or to others who could dispense these drugs and also deliver diagnoses as based on the DSM. Additionally, the insurance companies became heavily involved with their “managed care concept” in which to them psychiatric drugs are considered as the quickest, easiest and most financially feasible way to get results. Now, what do we have is a heavily drugged society getting more heavily drugged. In the process, the issues and problems that need to be addressed are not addressed. In my opinion, this includes learning disorders or difficulties which, if not careful get hidden under a mental health diagnosis and the subsequent drugging which causes further issues. There are other things impacting these like toxic substances in the air, water and earth, including even these drugs in our groundwater. I believe all this contributes to higher rates of issues like “autism” and related disorders. One might also consider “Alzheimer’s” which is rising amongst older adults as another aspect of this. I do not know if we have an adequate answer to these issues at present. We must consider that these psychiatric drugs actually do cause or contribute to any alleged symptoms of alleged mental illness. Right now, we are not in a position to completely get rid of all these psychiatric drugs, even if there was a community and legal consensus as to their danger, which there is not, yet. So, the best thing we can do at the moment is assist those impacted and their families in any manner possible. It would also behoove us to not consider diagnoses such as “autism” as hoaxes, because they do affect the family structure in all kinds of ways. Each person, each family needs assistance, not always financially, to help them with the circumstances of which have been wrought upon them. Thank you.

  5. Jane, the problem you have when you are dealing with the homeless, other marginalized groups, and with those being targeted as mentally ill, is that these population groups are already completely colonized by religionists.

    So the people have been led to believe in Recovery. Now this is not the same as recuperation. Subjected to trauma. or after an illness, one may well need to recuperate. No, this is Recovery, which has a very specific moral meaning of seeking to correct an innate moral defect.

    All of the out reach to these marginalized population groups has first and foremost the objective of making people believe that it is their own immorality which is the cause of their marginalization.

    And then this is compounded all the more so when there are talk therapy sessions where the client is being induced into disclosing their affairs, or when there are psychiatric neurotoxins being introduced.

    You would think that the people at the bottom of our society, those who have the least to lose, would be the most radical. But very rarely is this true.

    I will say this, during the Occupy Protests, you did have those on the margins partaking. And the Occupy Movement was envisioned to be able to include the homeless.

    But in the vast majority of situations you find those in such marginalized groups seeking approval from their oppressors by trying to show that they have signed on to the same moral code. So then no one else is ever responsible for your suffering, because the Self-Reliance ethic says so.

    And then local government works with the religious groups. They give them defacto exemption from local ordinances for the use of tax payer funded properties. And these are not people who are intending to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, like say Food Not Bombs. Local officials run them out. No, the defacto exemptions are given to the religious groups because of their message of Repentance and Recovery. These groups are not defending the First Amendment, their actions are protests against the First Amendment. They believe that we should be living in a theocracy.

    Our county mental health officials hold all day long meetings with the religious groups, and then declare that, “Recovery is built into everything we do.”

    So you can’t have community when people have swallowed this innate moral defect idea.

    And it is because of this innate moral defect idea being so wide spread that Gavin would believe that he can set up Mental Health Courts which would compel involuntary mental health procedures.

    And then coming from the George W. Bush Housing and Urban Development, there was this idea called “Housing First”. And it says that while someone may need mental health treatment and job skills training, you can’t really do that very well until they are housed. So this is somewhat progressive.

    But this has been completely coopted by this shelter industry, people like Abode. They present their mission as dealing with the presumed mentally ill and mentally incompetent, and their actions are little more than a funnel to get people into the mental health system.

    And then once housing the homeless became about things like Tiny Houses you were already talking about moral defect and mental illness.

    Housing First meant housing which could be rented to other people. And to do this it has to be code compliant. Building codes do not allow a bathroom door to open directly on to the kitchen. And there are minimum size requirements for door ways and minimum clearances for bathrooms.

    Carefully designed you can get a code compliant studio apartment down to about 400 sq feet, about the size of two adjacent car ports. But this is over the 8’6″ width limit for the public road ways.

    These Tiny Houses are usually built to be road transportable. They use the amenities and design modes of travel trailers and recreational vehicles. These are not permanent buildings and so the codes do not apply. And they are also not intended for permanent occupancy.

    Some people may chose to live long term in such things, but this is their choice. Once the interest in housing the homeless got shifted to talking about these Tiny Houses, it was already in the realm of internment camps and mental health.

    And Abode likes to run these, and they are completely centered on the ideal of mental health and innate moral defect. And just like it is with Gavin Newsom, their talk is always gaslighting.

    We need to block all of these things until their is a sufficient economic restructuring to make sure that no one is ever unhoused or without needed medical care. Otherwise these kinds of targeted and needs tested programs will always be designed to make marginalized groups into scapegoats.

    Joshua

  6. Tiny Houses are supposed to be cheap. And this is why they are made to comply with 8’6″ public road limits.

    But they are not cheap, they are just shanties.

    If you wanted cheap you would have to use the land more effectively, and build high rise. This would have to be code compliant and high quality. Code compliant studios can be about 400′ min, but there aren’t road legal subassemblies, The units would be more likely 20′ x 20′

    Tiny Houses are just a gimmick. They solve nothing, except to be able to portray the homeless as a public menace.

    And we have a shelter industry, Abode, designed to Gaslight people and to funnel them into the mental health system.

    The objective of the authorities here is to get the homeless under “case management”. And to this end operatives with San Jose ReDevelopment brought their own pastor into a local church and took over. They brought her all the way from Nebraska, and her background is in Privatization of the Case Management of Government Social Services. And Mayor Sam Liccardo has always been publicly behind this.

    Liccardo and the business community, especially the real estate sector, do not like the idea of a visible homeless contingent in the downtown.

    And so they raise private money to set up these private programs that give the homeless, not living wage or minimum wage jobs, oh no. They give them Work Readiness Programs. Basically a kind of moral reform and life micromanagement.

    No one deserves to be treated like this. But Trump came to San Francisco and wanted internment camps. That was when Gavin started talking about compulsory mental health procedures. His present plan still amounts to Internment / Mental Health Camps.

    And the primary mode is to break down people’s privacy and right to silence so that the mental illness case can be made in Gavin’s new courts.

    Who else should I be talking to about this.

    Thanks,
    Joshua

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