Saturday, February 27, 2021

Comments by Sera Davidow

Showing 100 of 1687 comments. Show all.

  • Oof. I am having a really hard time with this article being posted in this space. It does not align with the ‘Science, psychiatry, social justice’ tagline at all. Well, maybe the middle (psychiatry) part… Nor does it align with my understanding of the mission of Mad in America overall.

    That aside… Max… You literally refer to people in this article as ‘V-SPMI’… And you write it out so that the acronym is OUTside of the parenthesis and the actual explanation of what it stands for IN the parenthesis. In other words, you use V-SPMI as if it is a legitimate word and thing to be boiling human beings down into.

    It is NOT a legitimate thing to boil people down into. It’s just not. It’s frightening, and unnecessary to speak about human beings as these objectified, dangerous things. Now, this isn’t to say that this is the biggest problem with what you’ve written here. But that that is your starting point is very telling, and it makes me want to talk to you about internalized oppression, and the dangers of painting a whole group of people who can be so subjectively diagnosed as ‘dangerous,’ and so much else.

    This piece is SO problematic. I hope there are people in your life who can help you unpack all of this at some point, and hopefully come to a different place. I’m not talking about trying to take away what you feel is helpful for you. That’s for you to decide… But this message you are putting out to the world is dangerous.

    -Sera

  • rasselas,

    Eh, my point wasn’t so much how great Open Dialogue is, as it was that there are some fundamental differences in power imbalances there between Dr. and non-Dr that I think are interesting and worth exploring. I do talk about Open Dialogue a fair amount because it has good examples of a lot of principles and values… Such as seeing the problem as existing in the space *between* people even if its most visible in *one* person. I love that simply because it is about not automatically medicalizing every bit of distress and knowing that it is often a product of relationships and environments. There’s also the reality that people are available right away rather than after a wait, and that the structure of their system (which is the whole system and not just a hard-to-access alternative to the system in that particular part of Finland) engenders enough trust that many people reach out at the start of their struggles rather than trying everything to avoid it until things get worse and worse. There’s also the approach to psych drugs which leads to no automatic assumption that everyone needs to be on them at all, or that – if they do use them – that it can be just short-term (and short-term can be defined as as short as a few weeks rather than a year or two)… as well as the fact that sleep meds are among those most commonly prescribed because there is a fundamental understanding there about how much meeting basic needs (like sleep, etc.) can lead to distress in a way that is pretty absent here. There’s also the principle about having discussions *in front of someone* rather than in a back room behind their back, and that two clinicians take part in the support rather than just one to facilitate that process… And that – because its recognized that problems lie in the spaces ‘between people’ – the presence a family network (with ‘family’ defined by the person and including whoever they think makes sense including employers, neighbors, whoever) to work through things.

    In essence, it’s less a magical thing you ‘do’ to anyone, and more a process of building trust and recognizing that someone’s distress is often the product of what is going on outside of them rather than within. But I am not intensively trained… I’m mainly relaying what I’ve come to understand from other sources, and what I usually highlight when facilitating trainings myself because it represents so many fundamental shifts from how most places respond to people.

    AND I’m absolutely not someone who says ‘Open Dialogue’ is the answer to all… It has its downsides, too, and is nearly impossible to replicate in many other areas no matter how hard people try because the trust that has been built by constructing a system that holds these principles is a totally different experience than an alternative offering that represents a little pin drop within a system that runs counter to them (among other challenges around differences in liability issues and perceptions related to psych drug prescriptions and so on).

    But again, I really mainly brought it up because the massive power imbalance that exists between those called Dr. and those not isn’t true in every area, even where medical systems still exist (most of Open Dialogue is facilitated by nurses after all). And I think we’d do well to look at how to begin reducing those massive power differentials with the tools available to us as a sort of harm reduction approach. Looking at the honorific system is but one way, but I think it’s an important one because its free, and because training people every single day to call a certain set of people ‘Dr.’ absolutely and totally influences how automatically reverent they may be to them. I see this playing out all the time even where a Dr. is considered an employee of an organization that technically has more power (hire/fire, etc.) but still bends to the Dr. on a daily basis and without question even when what the Dr. is doing is blatantly abusive and/or misguided.

    -Sera

  • rasselas.redux,

    Thanks for your post. And yes, there is a power imbalance. However, in many regards, it is a misplaced one. As I noted in the piece above, the medical doctors (and frankly, doctors of other types as well) often spend the least time with someone, and yet have the most power over them.

    I am curious if you’ve seen Daniel Mackler’s Open Dialogue film? In it, one of the things they emphasize is how the medical doctors do NOT function with such a power imbalance over others on the team. I’m actually uncertain whether or not they are referred to as Dr. Last-name while everyone else is referred to by their first name… But I’m going to find out.

    My point in bringing it up, though, is that the power imbalance needn’t be so great, and we needn’t be complicit in it. I do hear you on the added confusion of so many people getting to call themselves Dr. Last-name above and beyond medical doctors… But I think it’s an issue across the board.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Whatuser,

    I’m not sure if you’ve read any of my other writing on here. I certainly don’t expect you to necessarily have! I just wonder because I have certainly focused at length on the misplaced medicalization and oppressive nature of the psychiatric system in many different ways. That said, the honorific system and the power imbalances that it makes visible play a role in that, and so I don’t think this is irrelevant. Rather, I would say that this is one of the quickest, easiest ways we could begin to dismantle those power imbalances and show our commitment to undoing the larger problems. I would also echo what Steve has said above.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Whatuser,

    I’m honestly perplexed by how stuck on wanting to ‘honor’ the efforts of a particular sub-set of people you and others seem to be. No one – myself included – has suggested that there isn’t a lot of work involved in getting through a particular degree program. However, do you really believe that that effort is consistently greater than, say, the effort put in by so many people doing so many things? Ableist ideals about basing our worth in what we can ‘do’ aside, are there not many people working very hard in this world? Perhaps even more importantly, does the salary afforded to many people with the honorific of Dr. not suffice in terms of recognition and honor? I realize that salaries will vary among the doctorate crowd, but really… So many of them (according to research) come from money and go no to careers that earn them much higher salaries than most of us… Is that not enough?

    Let me put it this way: Let’s say I’m wrong, or at least exaggerating the impact of a system that elevates the title (not just in work but across all areas of life) of someone who has earned the honorific of Dr. in terms of power imbalances and the systemic oppression of others… What on earth harm would be doing by getting rid of that system? At worst, the action would be neutral. (No one has been able to provide an even vaguely convincing argument that the actual earning of the degree, the salary that tends to follow, and one’s ability to hold an actual doctor-related role is not enough to ‘honor’ and ‘recognize’ their efforts, with the exception of those who’ve argued its important *within the current context* for people from marginalized groups to claim their titles as an anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc. act… But again, that’s within the context of the existence of the honorific system, and not its having been dismantled…) At best, it would be a concretely attainable step toward undoing oppressive power imbalances that elevate the voices of those who’ve completed academic learning so far over and above those who actually work more directly/frequently with the humans over whom that power is most regularly wielded, etc.

    Plus all the other things I’ve said in my other comment responses…

    -Sera

  • Jancarol,

    This isn’t a “zero sum game” as some like to say. We can care about things like hunger and housing, and *also* care about how deep the power imbalances run in some of these systems. Of course doing away with honorifics isn’t nearly so important as doing away with lack of food and housing resources. But why would that preclude us from talking about honorifics? It kind of feels like a strawman argument to me… this suggestion that that is any kind of counter argument to what I’ve offered, rather than a different argument altogether.

    Some questions for you:

    1. Is there really no other way to communicate who has completed a type of education or holds a license for a particular role beyond honorifics? This also seems like a strawman to me… I never said people should deny or hide their roles… just not be referred to in all aspects of life by that role (even when they’re not doing anything even a bit related to it!).

    2. Do you truly believe that any honorific is actually needed, and if so why? What do you think the honorifics really accomplish?

    3. Do you know of any other completely free and widely accessible way to begin to chip away at the power imbalance between ‘Dr’ and the rest of us?

    4. Maybe you think that the power imbalance the honorifics represent (both in access to education and in credibility/power in the moment)… but then, what harm would it cause to do away with them nonetheless? If they do no harm, still no harm done by not having them…

    Your stories are valid, but I’m unclear how they support an argument to continue the use of honorifics. Much of what you talk about references the inequity to access to education, and as I said in the piece above and in the comments section, within the context that currently exists it may indeed be extra important for people who overcame marginalization to get their degrees and thus represent that by use of honorifics. But would it be important to have a different title if the honorific system was not what it currently was? Because *that* is my argument. That the honorific system is a part of an oppressive system and should be done away with, which would change a lot of the other pieces. People could still get their ‘pieces of paper,’ and have and speak about their jobs… no honorifics would not change that. But it would immediately change how elevated they are above so many others who have also worked very hard in their lives.

    I said this in the comments section over on Mad in America’s Facebook page, and I’ll repeat it here:

    Oh what a world we would have if we could manage to find ways to recognize and celebrate each other’s accomplishments without needing to step on others to do so…

    -Sera

  • Willowweed,

    “Evidence, data and logic should be the basis of an opinion not the perceived “authority of the speaker””

    I certainly agree with this… though I’d also argue that ‘evidence’ itself is so often manipulated and/or rooted in a system that privileges those with a lot of money (to pay to gather and interpret the evidence) that I feel cautious about that piece as well!

    Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    -Sera

  • Bippyone,

    At least in part, I would respond by saying much of what I already wrote out to Marie… Just because it has not impacted you, does not negate the issue at a systemic level. I guess I also find myself reacting to the idea of ‘politeness’ in this context. As someone who has watched quite up close and personal hospital staff (for example) bowing to the ones with Dr. titles at the expense of some of the most vulnerable held on those units I feel really clear that the power imbalance tipping so strongly in their direction is incredibly harmful. I do not owe them any extra reverence or politeness over and above what I would offer anyone else. I would also point to the paragraph where I wrote about people with Dr. Last-name titles often being the ones who don’t show up for new learning and whose power over people is most inversely related to their knowledge of them as an example of how off kilter it all can get. And while – as I’ve said in other comments – the use of the honorific is not responsible for all that, it is a really visible symbol of it and the easiest starting point for things to change. Honestly, I find it bizarre that so many people are resistant to the idea that doctors deserve no more reverence than so many others in our world, and that it is essential that we begin to chip away at the imbalances.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    -Sera

  • Rebel,

    I would certainly agree with you that the whole educational system creates a great deal of inequity. As far as I’ve understood, countries that have free ‘higher’ education have significantly less class differences throughout their culture and that seems like a good thing… but it’s certainly not where we’re at in the US.

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Caroline,

    It’s interesting that you bring religion into this. Honestly, what that brought up for me is this: I don’t know much about religion. I’ve pretty much always steered clear. But when ever I’ve heard from people who believe in a brand of religion that talks about ‘fearing’ their god or their god punishing them for not believing and being faithful, I find myself wondering what kind of god would be so angry toward people simply because they weren’t referent toward that god as much as that god would like? It certainly didn’t make me any more interested in being connected to at least that religion, and I surely hope – if there is a god of any kind – that that god has far more compassion and kindness than that. I guess I feel similarly about doctors. If they are so attached to their honorifics that they feel the need to be called by them or not let go of them for a greater good… Well, then, that’s not a doctor I’d want to follow, either.

    In turn, I’m also reminded by someone with whom I’ve worked a fair amount over the years. He was speaking on a stage to a room full of people who have the experience of hearing voices, as well a to clinicians and various other providers, family members, and even a commissioner of a particular state’s department of mental health when he decided to tell a joke… The joke went something like: What’s the difference between God and a psychiatrist? Answer: God knows he’s not a psychiatrist… I was a little nervous as to how some of the doctors and DMH officials in the audience might react, but people seemed to receive it well. :p

    -Sera

  • Bill,

    Semantical arguments over words like ‘trainer’ vs. ‘educator’ may capture my or other people’s interests, but have little bearing on this particular conversation. We all have an array of roles and/or jobs in our lives, and while we could get into conversation as well about the inequities in that arena it’s not quite the same as talking about roles that are only accessible to a relative few (due to classism, ableism, racism, sexism, etc.) and that give people elevated titles like ‘Dr.’ as well as elevated reverence and credibility that is all too often unearned. Moreover, Dr. – at least in the psychiatric realm – also comes with a whole other layer of power over others beyond simple credibility. In fact – it is Dr. (both medical and non-medical) who typically also has the power to order us incarcerated in a psychiatric facility against our will. And while it is not the honorific alone that allows them that level of control, its all tied in.

    I’m not sure what to say about your question in regards to ‘aunt,’ ‘uncle,’ and so on. It honestly seems a strange direction to go in here. Regardless, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • “The last time I used the prefix https://wikidiff.com/prefix/title “Doctor” it was to exemplify how someone goes and gets a badge because they really can’t support their “teachings” without it”…

    I think you’re referring here to how credibility is sometimes much more about power and social capital than it is about being in possession of real quality information, and with that I couldn’t agree more.

    Thanks for reading! 🙂

    -Sera

  • Marie,

    I gotta be honest that your response here seems really strange to me. One of the links I included in the article above is to research specifically about how much more frequently women are *not* called by their Dr. honorific than men. In other words, there’s a pretty solid and documented history about how this is rooted in sexism. You can deny that – even in the face of this man calling Jill ‘kiddo’ (her husband calling her ‘kiddo’ is a little odd sounding to me, but nonetheless exists within the context of an intimate relationship and is totally different than a stranger taking such a liberty) – but it doesn’t make it less a real thing.

    As to the rest… it reminds me of this: There are many people who say ‘just because the system was oppressive to you,’ doesn’t mean it was ‘oppressive to me.’ And what I say back to them pretty routinely is, ‘Just because you didn’t feel directly impacted by systemic oppression, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.’ In other words, systems either are or are not oppressive… How people are individually impacted by that doesn’t really change things.

    I also don’t really get the leftist vs. rightist argument you’re making, but that’s okay. I’ll leave my response at this for now! Regardless, thanks for taking the time to read even if it did not resonate.

    -Sera

  • It is certainly your choice to write off this and the other NAMI articles I have written. Someone else pointed out to me that the League of Legends reference was incorrect some time ago. It is true that my Google search linked that image and LOL, and that I did not double check it because it was just a sidenote and not a central point to the article. However, I assure you, I have cross checked most everything that is a serious part of this and other articles I publish.

    I have to be honest that your inclination to write it all off for that reason strikes me as if you are looking for an excuse to remain in denial of certain very well known realities. That’s your call. But rather than write off what I’ve written *or* trust it entirely, I’d suggest you simply check out some of what I’ve said here yourself. If you were to do so, I believe you’d find it’s quite an accurate portrayal. And, really, I’m not sure how you – or anyone (except NAMI) – are served by choosing not to do that.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks so much, o.o. I think for me, it’s just that I was clearly taking the ‘Can’t Breathe’ frame that became so well known after Eric Garner’s death that has been in my head as a point of unease for a long time. But, I hear you, too. So many of us are being crushed by different types of power and oppression, and they all mean something and are all worth hearing. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • I wrote this piece about five years ago, and I have been meaning to come back and comment on it as a sort of update/clarification.

    My primary message to be added on at this time is as follows:

    I wish I hadn’t written this, at least not in the way I did… It is not something I would write today. Why? There are actually lots of this piece that I *do* like. I wish I could pull all those pieces out and reform them without the problematic parts. However, as a white woman, I really have no business appropriating ‘Can’t breathe’ for my won use or coming as close as I did to comparing what I have been through to what Eric Garner and so many others (George Floyd, and so many more) have experienced as black people in this country.

    In some ways it is true… Oppressive systems are crushing the air out of all of us. But how I approached this went too far in pulling from what is happening in the world to black and brown people and pulling it into my own frame.

    I am sorry for doing that, and will do better moving forward.

  • Eh, many of my pieces really land with some, and really don’t with others. I’ve seen people saying I really “knocked it out of the park” with this one, and then there’s feedback like yours, as well. I can’t say which is ‘right’ because I’m not sure it’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ matter. This isn’t my favorite piece I’ve ever written, and yet I feel good about it nonetheless. And, perhaps most of all, I feel confident that Harvard guy doesn’t need any defenders. 😉 In any case, thanks for your comment! 🙂

    -Sera

  • Bradford,

    I do not know that it will be helpful for me to go back and forth with you here, but I do want to offer one clarification:

    I am *for sure* not saying that I do not walk with any privilege. I experience plenty of skin color privilege, as well as socioeconomic privilege particularly in regards to where I grew up, the educational systems to which I had access as a kid, and so on. I make a point to name my privilege in these ways pretty much every time I speak publicly and share some of my story. I also have benefited from my privilege in the form of it paving the way for me to access and speak from platforms such as Mad in America. Perhaps that is some of what you mean. And, I experience other privilege, as well… linked to my being cisgender, in primarily heterosexual relationships at least at this time, and son on.

    That said, I feel like none of that is quite what you’re speaking about here, and I’m getting lost in that. I do not subscribe to concepts like ‘female privilege.’ And, as someone who can’t even claim a GED as far as degrees go, and who is out as and works basically from the framework of being someone whose job is linked closely to their own psychiatric history and needing to be very public about it, I am not quite sure where the privilege lies there? I mean, yes, I have privilege within certain contexts (for example, the community where I work and for which I serve as Director and hold the power associated with Director), but I just don’t get the suggestion that this is a position of privilege in the systemic scheme of the world.

    I hear that this all landed as very rude to you. I am not going to dispute that that is a valid interpretation, and one that you have every right to hold. And yet, I still find myself in a place of feeling that I do not owe much of any reverence to someone who uses their quite extensive power and privilege to first acknowledge the ways in which systems fail and harm us, and then encourage them to keep on going just like that.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • dfk,

    Yes, we can come up with ‘better’ approaches to support people through thoughts of killing themselves, but you’re certainly right that until we address income disparities and housing (and the impacts of capitalism overall), various forms of systemic oppression, child abuse, and so much else… We’re just going to keep facing the same problems over and over. Thank you for stating that.

    -Sera

  • Bradford,

    That’s a great strategy to get yourself out. I wonder how often it would work!

    I’m sorry you find the ‘Harvard guy’ references problematic. I’m not sure I understand how I am using my privilege in the same way he is. He published statements saying that assessments are completely ineffective, and yet continued to promote them as standard practice without acknowledging not only their inefficacy but there actual harm as well. While certainly my response to that has a tone, I’m largely just consistently pointing out the status he holds that allows him to do that with relative impunity.

    I can appreciate that that tone doesn’t land well with you and (I’m sure) others, but I think that may be a stylistic difference rather than an issue of privilege. I am, after all, female, carry no degrees, and am writing on platforms that have significantly less reach. I’m not sure how that gives me any power over a white, conventionally attractive, man with advanced degrees and a position at an ivy league school. But maybe I’m missing something?

    -Sera

  • 30-watt-lightbulb,

    I totally agree. Those hotlines get promoted on so many websites, TV shows, provider phones, etc. Not a one of them provides informed consent about the risks of calling, or anything else. It’s basically a way of just checking a box and saying, “See, we offered a resource! We’re good!” Very frustrating. Thanks for mentioning the Reddit thread!

    Sera

  • John,

    Absolutely. A lot of the decision to continue to use them is a protection from legal liability. However, I’ve also had clinicians say that ‘legal liability’ is the cover for wanting to avoid ’emotional liability’ (simply *feeling* responsible and afraid of scrutiny of co-workers who may look at them as responsible). This makes sense to me, as well. It can be very painful to know you were seen as “responsible” for helping someone else who ended up killing themself. I get that pain. And it is nonetheless our own to work through and not put on others.

    Yes, so many people ask just to check off the box that they asked, so they can’t be blamed for not asking, and no one really ever bothers to then look at *how* they asked or anything like that. Asked that question? Did your job. The end. Sigh.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience!

    -Sera

  • dengster,

    Thank you for your comment!! I agree, that so many in the general public have a much different imagined idea of what is happening behind all those psychiatric walls than what is actually going on. Not only do they have a much different idea, but I think many of them really want to *retain* that different idea, because it is of comfort to them to think the “wise” people behind the wall have it covered and will make things be okay.

    I wish it weren’t all such a game that required knowing the key words, etc. to get ‘in’ or ‘out,’ based on your wishes and what’s at stake in that moment.

    -Sera

  • furies,

    Not sure what else to say about this, so I’ll bow out for now. As to ego, I do often wonder the same thing… What leads to people who receive such minimal benefit from speaking in certain ways to want to invest in writing whole articles about why they should get to even if it hurts others very often makes me wonder what is going on for them underneath that… Like, why are so many people who couldn’t care less about the confederate flag and “All Lives Matter” *really* so invested in making the arguments about why they should get to say/show both? What’s really behind that? I think you and I might come to different conclusions, but I do agree that ego is in there for some of them. Anyway, like I said, I’m going to bow out. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Ah, okay. That makes more sense, as I otherwise found your comment a little confusing given the overall nature of the site. When I get these notifications on my phone, it just looks like a sea of links, so I hadn’t actually realized there was a link to something specific at all. I started to watch that video on my own, but decided after the first few seconds that it probably wasn’t of interest so didn’t pursue it. Just went in and watched the whole thing at your urging… And yeah, it is that very typical “progressive” perspective that the problem isn’t the medical model, it’s the “stigma” preventing people from feeling okay about accessing it… Totally agree that it is super problematic.

  • Yes, certainly, Richard. I do not think they need to be mutually exclusive. The hope would be to become better versed in both directions. For example, we held an action against psychiatric oppression during COVID times in Western Mass today.

    We left presents for our Dept. of Mental Health area office 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/serad27/posts/10223134635539815

    And as part of the action, my co-worker Sean and others worked to include an organizer for a recent Black Lives Matter rally in the action today, and two of our crew also stood on the streets of Northampton handing out flyers about psychiatric oppression and our action while we drove through in a protest caravan. 🙂

    And you’ll find other articles from me both here and elsewhere (https://truthout.org/articles/amid-covid-people-involuntarily-confined-in-psych-hospitals-must-be-released/) on psychiatric oppression.

    I am not a fan of changing topics when talking about racism, because it just happens all too often… But I am absolutely a fan of trying to cross and eliminate barriers between our respective causes. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Sam,

    I guess I’m not quite sure what you mean about me seeing your situation through my experience. Honestly, I defintiely dealt with abuse and toxicity in my family, but they weren’t especially involved in my psychiatry experiences because I’d already left home, so what I described isn’t really want I have experienced much at all. Rather, what I am saying is that there are some basic principles that are driven by systemic experiences and dynamics and those rare exceptions that may exist can’t really change the overall history, and so we ask that even those people who are rare exceptions honor that? Something like that. But again, it doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a real, strong place for family.

    But no matter what I think about all this for the most part… It sounds like you and your wife have something going that really works for you, and there is value in that.

    -Sera

  • Sam,

    I had started a reply earlier, but I do not think it went through, so I’m starting again. If this is a duplicate, apologies!

    I do remember hearing much of this from you in the past. I think I was thinking your comment here meant going deeper in making spaces for family and friends. I’m sorry that – as much effort as you’ve put in to really, genuinely being there for your wife and her alters – that you’ve nonetheless felt othered here and in other spaces.

    I think I’ve said most of this to you before, but i think the challenge is that there are *so* many power dynamics embedded in so many familial relationships, and so many family members who’ve been a part of someone’s trauma… And then there’s also the legacy of pharmaceutical companies using the desperation of family members to get help for their loved ones as a way to market their products a la places like NAMI and similar… And leading to communities that speak for us, over us, about us as the norm.

    For those reasons, I can’t personally support the idea that family members should be centered equally as people who’ve been diagnosed, and psychiatrized. I think it’s so much less about you than it is about that broader history, and the need to hold some lines so as to have the best shot at ensuring people really get to speak for themselves, and so on.

    That said, I’m in full support of supports *for* families, especially to create an alternative to NAMI and its ilk, and because family members do certainly have valid experiences to share, and need support themselves. I know that Hearing Voices USA and the Western Mass RLC have both worked at trying to expand efforts to recognize that importance. Hearing Voices USA, for example, is currently working on amending the existing charter to include a section on family groups.

    You have a ton of valuable experience as a family member, and I’m glad you’re here. I do not want you to feel invisible, and yet I think grappling with some of the tensions I described above are pretty important. I hope you’ll stick around and grapple along with us.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Sam,

    I am sorry you found it hurtful, but I just can’t take it back. I believe in naming things what they are, and I have heard many speak to how hurtful it is when that doesn’t happen. Racism is a systemic issue. It’s not as simple as just treating people badly, and even when black and brown people rise to places of power and abuse that power, it is sometimes still related to systemic racism. I also hear very, very often from black and brown people (not all, but many with whom I’ve crossed paths) how hurtful it is that people so often want to change the topic, or turn anti-racism conversations into “let’s talk about all oppressions’ conversations. That is another reason why I find it important to sometimes talk about racism, and really just talk about that.

    And no, it would not be my place to go to an anti-racism website out of the blue and post about psychiatric oppression. However, I’ve had many, many conversations about how to educate in *both directions* across those lines because I do believe our voices will be stronger together. Typically, where I find the most room to have those sorts of conversations is among, for example, the prison abolition community, and so on. I do indeed think it is important for many more people – including those focused on anti-racism efforts – to understand our central issues, too. Hell, one of the Black Lives Matters founders (Patrisse Cullors) has a brother diagnosed with schizoaffective and absolutely seems to have bought into the Treatment Advocacy Center-type arguments. I’d *LOVE* to see those conversations happen. But this is where I have an established publishing relationship, and this is where I see myself as having a responsibility to push things a bit, so here I am.

    -Sera

  • furies,

    I get what is being said. And I absolutely do not agree with it. The whole concept of “political correctness” is pretty offensive, honestly. It is just one of many tactics used in efforts to silence people who’ve been marginalized and are asking for change. Sure, there are some “saviors” that swoop in and get over zealoused at times, but what a way to shut down a conversation … this calling someone the “PC” police… and what a way to invalidate the ways in which they’re saying they’re being disrespected to call their request to not be called a particular label (or similar) by ascribing motives to being “politically correct.” I don’t buy it when I get told it when I am asking people not to call me “client,” or “mentally ill,” and I do not buy it as it shows up in this article, either.

    White media has a long history of co-opting, appropriating, misrepresenting, and even finding members of marginalized groups who will say what white media wants to hear and/or whose words can be taken out of context enough to support white-driven agendas. There are lines that get crossed, especially with the aforementioned savior complexes afoot… but those lines are often far less harmful than the lines being crossed by those who show disregard.

    Headlines like “Buildings Matter” and all the other appropriative stuff that flies around are worthy of negative attention in my eyes. So, I guess you can continue to see me as just not “getting it.” That’s okay. I did read the article you attached, but it just didn’t move me or resonate with me the way it does you.

    Thanks nonetheless for taking the time to comment 🙂

    -Sera

  • Thanks for speaking up here, Morgan. You are definitely not the first black person I have heard say that psychiatric oppression has impacted you far more deeply than racism ever did. I know you do not need my validation or confirmation of your message, but I am sorry that not only psychiatry has hurt you so much, but that the people who at least theoretically should have had your back have instead acted like your pain and oppression simply does not exist.

    This is such a strange time… when so many people who couldn’t be bothered with these conversations of Black Lives Matter are now suddenly all about it. It feels like it is absurd that they weren’t there for the conversation before, but would be even more absurd to continue to ignore it now. And how to measure the level of disingenuous and posturing and just wanting to be seen that is involved i do not know, but I can imagine why it would all feel overwhelming, especially in the face of continuing to have the source of your pain and oppression being ignored.

    Black people working and using force in these systems is such an important topic, too. It is one that I do not personally feel like it is my business to be the one to speak on for the most part, but I have been working on this film project with some co-workers that is a bit complicated to explain, but has led to a black man who has experienced force in the system challenging a black man working in a psych facility very directly on how he reconciles being a part of that environment given oppressive histories.

    I think maybe with some of your comment, you are responding to my question re: why are there not more black and brown people’s voices being centered here? I can definitely understand it must be too much energy or too painful to even think about wanting to invest the time (not to mention expose one’s self to criticism and backlash). That makes sense.

    I responded to a lot of pieces that I heard in what you said. But underneath it all, I am sorry you have felt so unseen in all this. It is *so* hard to get most people to see and understand psychiatric oppression. It is as if it doesn’t exist in most people’s eyes. And where does that leave all of us whove been so consumed by that which is invisible, if not invisible ourselves? It is very painful.

    sera

  • Oh, oldhead. I want you to know that I keep being asked if your and a few other people’s comments should be moderated out. I have said no, but my energy is really waning for this.

    Several things:

    1. Your comment led me to go back and read ‘A Racist Movement’ again. There is a lot of good stuff in there. I do not regret it. There *was* a piece I did regret. A reference to Tourettes Syndrome that was less than respectful. A moderator helped me remove it once I realized our error, so it is no longer there. There is also another racism article that I *do* regret for its appropriative nature. It is this one: https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/01/cant-breathe/ I am embarrassed that I used “Can’t Breathe’ for anything, and centered so much of my own story. If I could take *anything* down, it would be that one. However, Mad in America has a policy against removing past articles, and so I’ve never asked. Additionally, living with the embarrassment of my own mistakes is okay. Necessary in some ways. I recently decided that I would go through some of my old pieces on racism and offer some corrections and apology for the things I see as wrong in them now. I do not see doing that on ‘A Racist Movement Cannot Move,’ for several reasons including that I co-wrote it with two black people.

    2. I am wondering about your definition of ‘reasonably well off.’ Certainly, I was born into some wealth as a kid. And I’ve benefited from that somewhat as an adult to when I had parents to fall back on to help me – say when I got very unexpectedly pregnant in my 20s. I was lucky and have privilege in that regard, and I mention that every single time I share my story publicly. However, I haven’t had access to any “family” money in a very long time. I am severely in debt, and go further in debt every single month because my single-income household does not have enough to cover basic expenses. I’m hardly living in poverty, but we will struggle to figure out how to pay for the least inexpensive Community College for my son when he leaves highschool next year. I guess I do not define that as “reasonably well off,” but it is better than many people who don’t have enough to cover their basic expenses and also don’t have access to the credit that I have to survive for a while longer, so interpret it how you will, I guess. This is irrelevant to most things here, but it’s hard – when I am struggling so much with money – to read such assumptions.

    3. I cycled through the comments on the other article (Racist Movement). I keep thinking it is funny that people say the comments section hadn’t gotten out of control, when they have no idea how many comments were being moderated out (i.e., that are no longer visible now), or how much labor it was requiring on my part and moderators’ parts to try and keep up.

    4. In flipping through old comments, I looked for where you are getting this idea that I called Richard a “racist old white man.” It doesn’t sound like something I say, and I didn’t remember saying it. And, as best as I can tell, I didn’t say it. I did, however, find a comment where I referred to the “mostly older white men” group that was responding to my comments. What I guess I was trying to get at is that I find that you, Richard, and some others do have what I receive as a very – at times – condescending way of speaking to me, replete with periodic references to how much longer you all have been at this and how much more you all know than me. It may not be intentional, and you/others may find me equally condescending. Fine, but it does get tiresome. The comments are so long, and I’ve actually been chastised at times for not writing a long enough comment representative of enough of what was said back. As if this is my job, and I’m being paid to do it. As if I owe endless amounts of my emotional labor. All this even in spite of the fact that I’m one of the few authors who actually takes the time to consistently respond at all. So, when I said that, that is what I had in mind. But I could have phrased it better, and without using the word “older,” so I am sorry for that. Regardless of my intent or what I was trying to say, I can understand why it landed as ageist, and I could have done better.

    5. a) I’m pretty sure I’ve said at various points that when it comes to systemic racism I am talking about *all* the systems.

    6. b) I *have* said that capitalism and economic justice are inextricably intertwined with racism. Multiple times in multiple places. Just because I don’t want to don the labels that you deem most appropriate for me to don in order to pledge my allegiance to your philosophy (aka “anti-capitalism,” and “anti-psychiatry”) doesn’t mean I have not acknowledged this point. I have.

    oldhead, I do not see a point in continuing to go back and forth here. Maybe you still have an axe to grind with me, but for my part, I am doing my best to create change. Sometimes that looks like words on a page. Other times it looks like direct action. And still other times it looks like a zillion other things. And, I am really, really tired. I do not feel any differently about what I wrote here than when I started, so if that was your goal, you haven’t been successful. I just feel more tired. It’d be nice if you’d direct your energies elsewhere for a while. I hope you can find something else to do with your time here. I don’t know that I’m giong to keep responding.

    -Sera

  • Bob,

    I want to reiterate that I have never said that Mad in America has never mentioned racism. I have to be honest that this effort to dig back in Mad in America’s history feels odd and misguided to me. What I said was that there had been no *recent* mention of racism. If I was not clear enough, what I meant was that this site was almost entirely devoid of any mention of what is happening *now*, and what is happening *now* is historic and potentially revolutionary.

    Just for the sake of doing, I did go and search racism and 2020 and I got around 10 articles. Four of them were from this week. Earlier ones were prior to this current period we are in.

    I feel a bit like we’ve tread into territory where we’re just preparing for a research article or something. But all of it misses the point I was actually making in this piece… This is an important time. It wasn’t represented on Mad in America by writers, staff, or commenters at least not in any noticeable way. It is important that we be present and paying attention in these times because our liberations are bound up in one another, and for all the other reasons I said above. That’s really it.

    Bob, You do good work. But like so many of us, I think you may be taking this too personally, and that is getting you off on the wrong track. It felt important to me to name the silence here. It is even more important that everyone work together to change that silence. Going back and forth about what percentage of articles prior to this moment in history represented racism or not just wasn’t ever the point. Let’s move forward together.

    -Sera

  • anomie,

    I find it really odd that you are accusing me of not talking *with* you. I have done my very best here to stay present and respond, and even hear (some) criticisms when offered. Blaming me for a “difficult atmosphere” feels pretty frustrating, honestly. Your seeing me as “lecturing” when so many people have also been “lecturing” me here seems uneven.

    I also would offer that your post *is* impacted by gender, whether you meant it to be or not.

    I think it is fair that we both disengage from this as I would agree it is not especially productive. Thank you for taking the time here, nonetheless.

    -Sera

  • anomie,

    I am going to admit upfront that your post here pushes my buttons in a BIG way, so take that for what it is worth.

    I know nothing about your gender, but I can say that the level of sexism I have experienced in this movement has been staggering. I have had white men steal my work in blatant ways. I have had white men who are getting paid wayyyyyyy more than me ask me to help them with their work behind the scenes, and then have had to fight to see that help credited. I have had white men say things in MUCH more controversial ways than I do in in person meetings (where I tend to be far more diplomatic than when I am writing an article), and yet I have been perceived as the stand out “bitch.” I have literally had people write on training evaluations for trainings I’ve done with another female co-worker, “You two were both wonderful trainers, but you must have a man who is a good trainer and that you could have sent.” And on and on and on.

    So, I am *not* going to respond well to being told that I need to defer to two white men to learn how I should speak, even if they also have valuable things to say. It’s just not the way this is going to go.

    Meanwhile, a few things about Will… I have known Will in person for about 15 years now. I am not going to criticize him in any way. I think he has brought valuable things to the conversation both here and via Madness Radio, etc. However, please note that Will neither has children nor a permanent full-time job with many moving pieces that requires his constant basically 24/7 attention. Yet, in spite of that, and while I haven’t looked at all his articles, I have noticed that he often responds to reader comments either minimally or not all.

    I’m not going to critique him for that. It’s a personal choice. I choose to respond to comments because a) I think it’s disrespectful and a power move not to in a forum such as this (not a specific dig at Will, just how I feel across the board in this forum), and b) When the author responds, it tends to lead to more comments and deeper dialogue within them. But I also wonder what element our gender socialization has played into whether or not we each choose to respond. And I want to emphasize that responding in the way that I do requires a TON of emotional labor.

    So, when you tell me to look at the comments section of Will Hall’s latest article and how much better it is going over there, I want to point out to you how that that article was posted over 24 hours ago, and its comments section has a grand total of 9 comments. None of them are from Will. He hasn’t shown up ther eat all.

    The article itself is also not directly about racism, although I’m glad it unites the issues. I am not going to say anything bad about it. I am glad it exists and was posted here. I never suggested my article should be both the first *and* the last, but I reject completely and entirely that his article is the only “right” way to bring the conversation here. And I ask you to question why you would even suggest that I should defer to how to white men have chosen to do things.

    They have their way. I have mine. That is okay. It requires many people speaking up to move things. And it will always be messy and imperfect along the way.

    -Sera

  • Okay, Richard. I hear you on my misunderstanding. I gotta be honest, it is *really* hard to have lengthy dialogues in this manner. I work *a lot* of hours, and even more hours right now during this ‘COVID’ mess. I feel a responsibility and obligation to respond to each commenter at least once whether they right something supportive or in disagreement, but you and oldhead in particular write very lengthy posts with a lot of complex ideas in them, and usually not just one of them per article. I am trying to keep up here, but the reality is that I am reading very quickly a lot of the time in an effort to keep up with my obligation to things I write and not just be so arrogant as to write and run… but it is really, really hard to pull the full meaning from every long post I receive when so pressed from time and pulled in multiple directions. If I listed out all the things that have been going on in the last 24 hours in my work world (never mind my kid world) while also trying to answer comments here… well, it would be a long list.

    I’m not sure it’s helpful – or at least I’m not sure I’m *capable* logistically speaking of continuing to go back and forth here, but if you want to e-mail me to talk about things further, I am willing to do that.

    -Sera

  • meremortal,

    I am certainly not going to argue with you that I’m making assumptions about race at times, but after spending a lot of time here over the last 8 years.. which has included getting to know several of the commenters both based on what they’ve shared in comments, and what they’ve e-mailed me, etc, and looking at who is *writing* for Mad in America, and how that has developed over the years, and after talking to various Mad in America employees over the years… Well, that’s what’s informed my take not that there are *no* black and brown people showing up here, but that there are comparatively very few. But yes, like I said, I am not going to argue that I’m not making assumptions, and that those assumptions are sometimes wrong.

  • Meremortal,

    The older piece was a moderation nightmare. Many of the worst were moderated out. Ditto the ‘Dear Man’ post on sexism and misogyny.

    I will take your words here into consideration. I do think that these pieces are designed to be ‘opinion’ pieces, not dialogues, and so many of them contain strong opinions, strongly phrased… not just mine, though I can certainly appreciate if you feel that my pieces in particular have that tone and will bear it in mind.

    For now, I will offer that when writing an article, etc. I do not think it is generally the time for a ton of uncertainty. I regard it as a time to state one one believes/has experienced – often with certainty and a clear perspective. That – in those moments, it can be time to “teach” or at least clearly impart wisdom one feels that they have to offer… And that the mutuality comes from us each taking turns in that, not in necessarily avoiding ever speaking strongly and clearly from a particular perspective.

    I really don’t know that I can promise to change my writing style or the importance I see in wording things strongly at times. But, I will consider your words.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • anomie,

    Well, a couple of things… I try my best to respond to most comments, but the reality is that I’m often reading quickly in the middle of work tasks, and sometimes my efforts to pick up something I can respond to in someone’s comment may miss the mark. That is certainly true. The first half felt mostly like the correction that I responded to above.

    As to your second and more central point, maybe I am not quite getting what you most want me to take away from what your saying… But I’m not looking for there to be articles on here devoid of *any* connections being made, and I agree that connecting psychiatry and policing both as a way of controlling people is an important point… though I do not agree that it has to be made strictly within an anti-psychiatry framework… For better or worse, I think that can be talked about even within a reformist perspective.

    In the end, I think there are lots of connections to be made… some of which I at leats attempted to make in this piece… and moving forward, I just hope there continues to be less and less silence when something so potentially revolutionary is going on in one realm, especially as it is the case that all these threads are so impactful of one another. But I know I’m just repeating myself at this point!

    -Sera

  • Okay, thanks for being willing to answer! it feels hard for me to separate out using a last name as respect vs deference that i see so often in our systems, and so it always jumps out at me when i see last names or titles being used. but i can totally hear that it is gratitude when you do it here. i am sorry if this was too weird or invasive of a question. it is just a topic that has really been on my mind lately!

    sera

  • Sam,

    i am curious what would help this site feel like that place for you? i am not disagreeing with you that it isnt, i am sincerely curious. we are trying to develop more and more family support and opportunities to share where i work, and via hearing voices usa, and i know miranda and likely others have been working hard here to do the same. alternatives are so needed. i would love to see them drown nami out!

    sera

  • meremortal,

    it is true that -based on how few black and brown people appear here- i tend to make that assumption, sometimes erroneously. i am sorry if i have done that to you. Also, if i have rewritten your same points, then i do not think i understood your points, as i was thinking they were not exactly in disagreement with your points, but in disagreement with them as the full picture. the points i did offer are ones i have been offered directly from non-white people during conversations of this nature. i will go back tomorrow and relook at your points so i can perhaps better understand them and how i may have restated them in my own.

  • Richard,

    “Sera, I would never expect you or anyone else to defer to someone merely because of their age or political experience in political movements. But there are some people writing in this comment section with literally decades of radical activism, and some have been in the forefront with other Black radicals in some of the most significant struggles in this country’s history against systemic racial oppression. I’m in my fifth decade, and I know of others who equal that experience ,or come close.”

    You basically just did. You’re just not going to convince me here. And while I think there are things to be learned from the elders in any movement, they do not hold all the truths.

    “While your intent here is to combat various forms of racism, and some of your particular examples you used (in the past blog) to highlight your intent were exactly that – crude forms of appropriation that do come off as racist, and just plain stupid.”

    Richard, Can we be done with this? You are still at me over an article from no less than *four* years ago. Although, in fairness to you, I would absolutely still stand by the idea that white people have no business using terms like “psychiatric slavery,” but I have *zero* interest or willingness in continue to volley that discussion back and forth.

    Rather, in fairness to me, I will offer to you a hope that you might consider why you have spent so much time holding on to that four-year-old conversation. There are many aspects of what I know of you and your work that I have respect for, but I’m not obligated to respond to every comment at length nor work out these differences in perspective. At some point, you may just need to accept we see some of these pieces differently.

    -Sera

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment here, Bob. As I mentioned in this piece itself, I am thankful for what Mad in America *is,* in many ways, but think – as with so many other things – we can do better, too. I appreciate that you do not shy away from anything that ventures in to the land of the critical. I certainly know what that can feel like as someone who has been in a leadership role for the Western Mass RLC for the duration of its existence (now 13 years not including its unfunded phase).

    I hear you on the reform pieces, and appreciate your acknowledgement of the lack of non-white representation, too. And, I imagine you already understand this, but I certainly never said that Mad in America *never* touches the the topic of racism. But – in this moment in time – I found the silence problematic, not on any single person’s part, but as a collective. I’m glad that silence is now broken, messy as it may be.

    I do worry about the name piece you mentioned (re: oldhead). I worry – on a site that intentionally includes so many people who’ve been harmed by systems – that there isn’t more room for pseudonyms. It necessitates a certain level of privilege to right under one’s own full name. Privilege to not be under threat from the system itself (or even have to worry about being)… Privilege to not be running from an abuser in the community… Privilege to not be vulnerable to power holders at work or in educational environments. Privilege to not have to fear losses among our family, friends, and neighbors should we speak too openly of our psychiatric histories. As you know, my parental status was threatened just a year ago when I shared a historical experience of seeing visions at a training. I know there are reasons of journalistic integrity that drive you, and that I also respect, but I hope that this can be something in the ‘food for thought’ category, as I worry that it may marginalize the voices of some of those folks who are most at risk. Anyway, food for thought.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • I just want to take a moment right now to highlight power dynamics. I’m so curious – anomie – why you chose to call Bob Mr. Whitaker? I am actually not trying to chastise you, I’m just really genuinely curious. I just recently wrote to the Commissioner of Mental Health in our state pushing on the idea that they call everyone by their first name except for doctors and the most senior officials in their systems… A small point in some ways, yet so illustrative of power differentials. I’m curious if it is coming from that place, or from a different place for you? I wasn’t going to ask, but I just kept coming back to this place and wondering about it.

    -S

  • I am confused about your response re: black psychiatrists. My main point in the article was that the virtual silence on what’s happening in the world at this moment in time is troubling, and brings me back to times when I was told that my other articles centering systemic racism were not relevant to this space, and I fear we haven’t moved beyond that. Then I explained why it is important that we move beyond that. I’m unclear how that connects to black psychiatrists being more or less oppressive than white psychiatrists, honestly. And as I mentioned in a prior comment, I’ve never suggested that they *never* do. In fact, at the very start of the piece, I cited two other times when they posted pieces by me and centering racism, and I’m surely not the only examples. But this is about now. And how important it is that we not be silent.

    So, again, my points are that we can’t be silent on this topic right now, and that our liberations are intertwined, and well… all the other points I made in the article. If the article doesn’t land well for you, that is also okay, but I think I feel just as confused by your comment as you feel about the article itself.

    -S

  • Fair enough, You found a reference. My original point still stands. I never said that Mad in America has *never* addressed racism. I know it has. I’ve written *at least* four other pieces that were posted here and that centered that topic. Some of them I’d never write or would write very differently in current day, but they are there. That wasn’t the point. The point was that there has been almost complete silence on *this* moment in time, and no recent posts centering racism. And that we can’t remain silent because our “liberations are intertwined.”

  • Meremortal,

    If you look at the link you provided, only one appears to even be as recent as 2019. I do not think I ever suggested that there are *no* posts on racism ever. One of my points is simply that if psychiatry has been used so historically as a tool to oppress black and brown people, and if black and brown people are subjected to more force, harsher diagnoses, etc. within psychiatry… Then why aren’t the topic and black and brown voices better represented here? And even if George Floyd’s name weren’t mentioned here, why weren’t there even any mentions of the US currently basically being on fire? Part of my point here is that it *is* related. It is *all* interrelated, and it makes no sense to have the country be on fire and have there be such silence on a website that is addressing systemic oppression, particularly of a type that has swallowed so many black and brown people whole.

    One additional point: We can’t possibly keep opining about the lack of representation from non-white voices at this table, without considering whether or not that means a different table needs to be built… In other words, if we aren’t even willing to mention the issues most deeply impacting so many black and brown people today, why would they ever see us as relevant? And if you think that the endless systemic racism and white supremacy that people experience in this nation isn’t part of what ends up driving them to the distress that lands them in this system… Well, suffice to say, it is all interconnected. But I already said most of this in my piece above!

    -Sera

  • Richard,

    So, the meme that I posted is not my words. It is a meme circling the Internet, and that I have most explicitly seen posted by black people. They are not my words. I am supporting them.

    While I think I get your point about – as a white person – not being beholden to ideas that may be coming from internalized oppression or are simply harmful… And while I *have* fallen into debates at times with – for example – black people who argue in favor of the existence of “reverse racism”… I nonetheless do not think we are going to come to a point of agreement on this. It is just too important right now that white people follow the lead of black people… That they make space for black leaders to fight out the best approaches… That space is made for people to move in a particular direction through their own process, and not be forced and pushed, even if someone is simply pushing them in what they think is the ‘right’ direction (and even if I would personally agree it is the ‘right’ direction).

    I think white people *need* to have a place in the discussion, particularly when pushing back on other white people and using their privilege to push back on power in general. I think there is also space for us to ask questions that *could* support people to unpack and consider different ideas, or to share our own experiences at times. But systemic change has got to mean more black and brown leaders, not just more benevolent white people leading black and brown people in a different direction.

    I know that’s not carrying all the nuance of what you are saying, but it’s how it boils down for me. I’m afraid we just won’t likely reach a point of agreement here.

    As to the article you are referring to, I do not regret shutting that comments section down. Among the hundreds of comments remaining there, sure there’s some worthwhile stuff, and as we discussed earlier in this comments section, I have taken some commenter feedback to heart (e.g., not buying into the language of ‘loot’ and ‘riot’). However, that post was being flooded by horrible things, just like the Dear Man post was. Much of it has been moderated out, but it would not be fair to require me to have kept going with it and trying to keep up with the flood of awful, nor would it have been fair to others reading it.

    Richard, I have now written over 70 pieces on Mad in America. Those are the *only* two pieces for which the comments section was shut down. I am generally fine with feedback or disagreement in comments sections of my articles. Even when I feel irritated by some of it, I do not request that it be erased, and as a moderator, Steve could tell you that – since Mad in America switched its approach to ‘moderate first’ – pretty much whenever he comes to me asking if I’m okay with a particular comment going through (if it’s on the line) I am typically in favor of letting it through and just responding to it. I am also one of the few authors on here who generally takes the time to response to each commenter on each piece at least once. That said, I also want to be clear that I – like all non-employee authors here – receive no compensation for my time spent writing pieces or responding to comments, and I have a limit to how much time I have given I also have a full-time job that consumes often 80 hours of my week, and two children. It would not be fair of people to expect me to be obligated to respond indefinitely to all comments on every article. The comments section for those two pieces went well beyond ‘okay,’ and I am glad they were closed. I’m not sure what to say beyond that.

    -S

  • It is true, John. There is so much work to be done in so many communities, groups, and organizations. Hopefully, many were already doing the work to support more black and brown people to take on key leadership roles. It’s multi-layered work that requires not just inviting people in to the existing table, but re-evaluating the table altogether and building new ones. (My comment for some reason posted way above your comment, so just re-posting it here.)

  • oldhead,

    I don’t disagree (particularly in the way you framed seeking ‘black support for the Mad in America agenda”), but I also think that sometimes in transition a lot of stumbling steps are needed, and recruiting black and brown people (who have a legit interest and something to say) seems valid to me as one of many efforts. It’s pretty hard to go from 0 to 60 in one step.

    -Sera

  • Meremortal,

    That’s actually not consistent with my experience, or research I’m familiar with… It has actually appeared to me that black and brown people often end up even more deeply embedded in the system all too often, including heavier psych drug regimens, more force, harsher diagnoses, etc. And unfortunately, in many public sector hospitals and mental health service providers, they seem pretty heavily populated by non-white folks. Of course, not all black and brown people are the same, hold the same experiences, or respond in the same ways so that may very well be true for a number of non-white people… but certainly doesn’t seem true for all.

    There’s also the matter that so many black and brown people get routed into the foster care and prison systems rather than the mental health system, so I’m sure that has an impact. And I’ve heard many other perspectives too including:

    1. Black people (for example) already have a label that leads to systemic oppression (Black!) that has heavily impacted their lives, and they don’t really want to take on any psychiatric labels in a public sort of way.

    2. Many non-white people are deeply involved in spiritual communities that have very specific views on emotional distress and that do not necessarily align that may serve as barriers to identify as someone who’s been psychiatricaly labeled.

    I could keep going here, but I guess I’m just saying I think there’s a lot of complicated, layered issues here that include some of what you named, but a lot of others, too.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • It is true, John. There is so much work to be done in so many communities, groups, and organizations. Hopefully, many were already doing the work to support more black and brown people to take on key leadership roles. It’s multi-layered work that requires not just inviting people in to the existing table, but re-evaluating the table altogether and building new ones.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • anomie,

    I think it’s on everyone. Mad In America staff, Mad In America authors, Mad In America commenters… If you want an example of problematic contributions from commenters, check out the Facebook post for this article. And yes, I noted to Pat that I am asking the comments to stay on track because it’s extremely common – when racism is the topic – for people to move and shift the topic to something else. I have a responsibility to keep an eye on that.

    I think it’s a fair criticism of this piece that it wasn’t clear enough in its criticism of Mad in America oversight and their responsibility here. In truth, I didn’t name any specific group, and my point about the comments was more to say “I couldn’t even find a reference in the comments,” then to try and say it is the commenter’s responsibility to bring it up. I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer on that.

    In the end, I think we *ALL* hold a piece of the responsibility… but yes, as always, the greatest burden should be held by those with the most power and privilege in each space.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • markps2,

    I am not sure it changes too much, though I’ve also heard they worked for the same business over the course of several years. I do not know that means it is any less an issue of racism and white supremacy… not only what Derek did, but the complicity of the other cops, and so on.

    I worry about your recommendation for a psychology test for a number of reasons including:

    1. We have all been socialized in a white supremacist culture. All of us. That means that pretty much all white people will sometimes do or say things rooted in systemic racism. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are doomed. But it does mean that we need to *all* stop with the defensiveness, and intentionally pay attention to that so that we can recognize it when it happens in ourselves and others around us and attempt to mitigate it, correct it, and apologize to those we’ve harmed along the way. (Etc.)

    2. Even “good cops” are embedded in a criminal (in)justice system that is fundamentally rooted in that white supremacist culture. Weeding out those cops (or prospective cops) who are invested in actively *maintaining* that seems valuable, but ignoring that the system will generally force even the “good cops” to become complicit in awful things is necessary to make real change.

    3. I am not interested in giving any more power or trust to the mental health system. Do we really believe that they’d be any more capable of psychologically evaluating for beliefs rooted in racism than much of anything else? Do we want to give them that power?

    Although I’m in disagreement with your proposal, I nonetheless appreciate your posting your thoughts here.

    Thank you,

    Sera

  • Sam,

    I am not 100% sure I followed all the ins and outs of your comment, but to be clear, I am for sure not saying that racism is our only problem, or the only form of systemic oppression. Nor do I support those who are calling for social workers to replace police, as social workers/the mental health system are – as others have pointed out – is just another form of policing in so many instances and is quick to call in the actual police, too. I regard many of the people saying such things as well-intended, and harmfully ignorant. It is far too common that those who get topics like systemic racism simply have no clue about psychiatric oppression, and think the best answer is to incarcerate people in psychiatric facilities (aka “give them access to treatment”).

    I have heard non-white people say “All lives matter.” It’s not my job or place to figure out why, though I will say that the majority of times I’ve heard that it’s been to largely white groups, and it’s hard not to wonder how some non-white people have been trained, and pushed, and punished into finding ways to signal that they are not a threat, and support white people. But, while I *have* heard *some* black and brown people utter that phrase, I have heard *far more* black and brown people be hurt by it. For so many reasons. Including that it represents an absolutely fundamental misunderstanding of what it means.

    Here is a brief segment of what I wrote in a comment on Mad in America’s Facebook page post for this article. (Side note: One commenter noted that the comments section was like a “dumpster fire,” and I would not disagree.)

    In reality, Black Lives Matter is not the same as saying ONLY Black Lives Matter. Rather, it is a way of saying:

    * We must focus on those lives being treated as invisible or disposable *in order for* all lives to actually matter.

    * We must focus on those being routinely harmed in order to lift them up…. no, not above us, but no longer below.

    * We must recognize that – until we are able to find a place of equality, equity, and inclusion – it is essential that we keep naming that Black Lives Matter because that is not the message being sent or received at this time.

    In any case, there’s much more I could be responding to or better understanding here I suspect, but I’ll leave it at this for now.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks for your comment, Richard. There are a number of things I would change about ‘Baltimore is Burning’ and other things I’ve written related to systemic racism and police brutality. That includes not using ‘rioting’ and ‘looting,’ and I believe you were one of the people that brought that to my attention five years ago, so thank you for that.

    And yes, I did not mention the role of capitalism and economic justice. My main point here was to draw attention to the silence on the topic at all, and while I certainly could have worked that in… well, I didn’t. But I do not disagree that economic justice and the systems that perpetuate it are central to the problem, and need to be central to the conversation about what to do about it.

    As far as the second half of your comment goes… I do not disagree with all of it exactly. However, there is a ton of nuance and tension wrapped up in what you are saying. It strikes me as absolutely essential that we make space to elevate, listen to, and follow the lead of those who’ve been most marginalized. That simply can’t happen when well-meaning allies are constantly telling those most directly impacted by systemic oppression what to do, even if they really, really feel they know better. It can’t happen when those who’ve had the privilege to study concepts and language in school (and similar) attempt to overrun and speak over those who’ve had to actually live and learn to survive that which the others have primarily only studied. It also can’t mean just following along without any critical thought, or deferring to any and everyone whether or not they’ve internalized oppression, learned to act in the image of oppressors for survival’s sake, or simply not been supported to unpack all the crap they’ve been fed along the way. Somewhere in there, there’s a way to at least try and hold both of those points, however messily and imperfectly.

    And yes, there’s also the matter of compounded oppressions, or even – as you noted – the central role of money and capitalism in all forms of oppression. I watched a film recently (The Uncomfortable Truth) in which one of the central people (a black man) speaks to how black people and poor white people should have been great allies. There is indeed much as play here that serves to keep so many of us “under.”

    So, yes… being born with privilege (white, male, etc.) shouldn’t totally silence people… And, no… sometimes knowing how much privilege we hold *should* lead us to take a step back, even if not permanently… Because otherwise we continue to monopolize the space that is there. When I facilitate trainings – actually when I and/or any of my co-workers facilitate trainings – we include in our meeting agreements the need to sometimes take a step back or count to ten before speaking if you are someone who knows that you often speak first. This is because so many others need a moment to gather their thoughts in order to step forward, and will sometimes remain silent if all that space keeps being filled. This may be because of how society has trained/socialized them to defer to others, how they’ve been slapped back when they have tried to speak up in the past, for lack of trust in the room, because they haven’t had access to the education that supports others to use all the ‘right’ words and speak in ways identified by society as ‘articulate,’ or even just because their way of thinking and pulling ideas together takes a bit more time. Regardless, it’s not about those of us with privilege silencing ourselves forever, or following along without any critical thought at all… But it is about us recognizing how much damn space we’ve taken up at times, about how many others have never even been afforded the space to stumble around a bit as they grow into leaders, and about how sometimes shutting up is actually an important act of revolution at times.

    What you’ve said is complex and important, and I don’t know that I’ve responded to it all, but this is what I’ve got for the moment.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Oldhead,

    My time is really limited at the moment, but what I will say is this: Yes, absolutely systemic racism and capitalism/the need for economic justice are deeply intertwined, and have been since the beginning. And I would fully support the ‘defund psychiatry’ initiative, and it is not the first time I have heard that phrase over the last few months. Psychiatry has been used as a tool of oppression with many forms of systemic oppression, and certainly racism.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Ooof, I’m just seeing this now, but yeah, that’s scary.

    It makes me think – unfortunately – of the guidance our own state is providing to hospitals on whether or not to *release* them from psych facilities to save them from danger of catching COVID through presence in a congregate living facility. They’re basically asking these facilities to consider whether or not someone is good about wearing a mask and doing 6-feet distancing… standards that NO ONE out in the world is actually being measured by as a reason to have their freedom taken away (well, unless they start following TAC apparently).

    -S

  • Sam,

    There are so many terrible stories out there of these sorts of things happening. I wish we could all do a better job of understanding and sharing with one another the laws around how to successfully evade this sort of force. For sure, it seems ridiculous that basically a nationwide search could be issued and sustained over years for someone who clearly didn’t want to be caught. The story is so vague that I’m not sure what on earth to make of it, but it’s frightening nonetheless.

    -Sera

  • I’m not sure that I’m entirely following your post, Jen. This article wasn’t about “solutions,” but about that particular question, its harms, and the reality that providers exhibit dangerousness to us on many occasions. I also disagree that resources need to mean solutions. It is this idea that supporting someone through suicidal thoughts necessarily means that our actions must be designed strictly to get rid of the suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, the best “solution” is just being willing to be with someone in the darkness because “solutions” aren’t really possible at that time. We don’t have housing or steady income to give. We can’t raise the dead when someone’s grieving. We can’t zap away emotional distress, and when we temporarily numb it sometimes it actually gets in the way of someone’s ability to move through. The approach we use encourages validation, curiosity, vulnerability (including sharing on the part of the supporter), and community (looking at ways of expanding connections that might tether someone to this world), etc. But we also do all this without the agenda of making someone not kill themselves. Rather, we are looking to support them in the moment, and suicide “prevention” is a common side effect of that. There’s no way to write out easy answers, because the context of people’s lives are unique to them. As to resources, if you’re asking what the infographic is referencing then what I’m proposing is that people who can’t discuss suicide with someone without resorting to force etc have lists of on-line Alternatives to Suicide (or similar) groups, peer support lines that do NOT call 911 (Trans Lifeline, RLC’s Peer Support Line, etc.) on hand so that the person at least has the space to talk about where they’re at without being under threat.

    -Sera