Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Comments by Sera Davidow

Showing 100 of 1168 comments. Show all.

  • Pat,

    I’m not sure I’m totally following what you mean? I love to write and stir things up, but as you know, I also work in a world where many of us are out there doing the work in person, too.

    I really don’t think there’s agreement on this national certification business, including that it needed to exist at all. Thus, I don’t know that the answer is to simply offer MHA some competition.


  • Julie, I hear you. I think the only challenge with *no* training if we’re going to do this whole ‘peer’ thing is that *so* many people go through some of those life experiences and come out the other end all full of internalized oppression. I have to admit that I do find *some* training helpful on top of all that personal life experience to help work through some of that, think through what it really means to ‘be’ with people, be curious, support, etc. But overall, I appreciate your post a lot. 🙂

  • Stephen,

    If I had more time on my hands, I’d be fascinated to do some research that involves not only comparing licensure requirements between these various professions and the peer role, but *also* the logistics involved in meeting those requirements as they differ for each, *AND* how they’re applied… For example, I imagine a requirement that one put their licensure on ‘hold’ as a dentist is *likely* to bear many fewer actual risks and lower likelihood of abuse than for a peer role. Oy. What a mess.


  • Frank,

    Overall, I agree with you the idea that everyone who goes into the system should come out as its employee. However, there are many people for him that has been a really important path. Many of my co-workers have seen the depths of the system, and now get much satisfaction out of fighting against it in the way that they do. Of course, most of them also work with the RLC which is much less direct than working for a traditional provider. Working in a traditional provider in a peer role is a terribly hard position to sustain and not lose sight of one’s self again.

  • Hi The_cat. Comparing some of what happens in this world with Munchausen Syndrome is interesting… There does seem to be a bit of a common element in terms of somehow getting emotional gratification via public attention associated with one’s child’s struggles… Although, I’d stop short of the idea that most of these parents don’t also really care about their kids and wouldn’t find it much more important for their kids to be in a happier, better place.

    Thank you for the story! I look forward to checking it out.

  • Laysha,

    It is a really good question, and not one to which I have the answer. Of course, my fantasy is that articles like this one and word of mouth will prevent so any people from taking the damn thing – or organizations from being willing to pay for it – that it will fall apart for lack of funding. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely, but it won’t keep me from trying!!

    Do you have any other suggestions?


  • Dan,

    It’s all needed. As you know, I spend most of my day focused on creating. This recent Sun Magazine article speaks to much of what I’m doing with my day job 🙂 http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/496/an-open-mind

    But speaking out against the Globe… and hoping others are listening (both those who might join in the speaking out, and those who might be swayed by the speaking), whether or not the Globe folks themselves are… It’s all important.


  • Hi Julie,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, as always. 🙂 I know it’s true that the Globe is not alone… though it’s beyond my capacity to poke at them at all. :p But almost everything I write could be lifted and applied to these other outlets as well. Though I worry that the Globe’s Spotlight Team has more capital and credibility than most. I mean, they’re saying the same stuff everyone else is, but already seem to have been lauded more than most for doing so… as if they’re saying something new.

    Anyway, I’m sorry about your CBFS experience. 🙁 I wish it were more surprising…


  • I fail to see how you’re interpreting me as having said much of anything about Hilary Clinton, let alone that she would have been some sort of savoir? This blog is quite clearly primarily about the problem of diagnosing Trump. While I do express some negative feelings toward him on occasion, that doesn’t change the primary focus and has next to nothing to do with what I do or don’t think about Hilary or how she would have treated people who’ve been psychiatrically labeled… That seems like quite a leap…


  • Thanks, Zippy. I appreciate you’re mansplaining… Though, I’m not 100% sure you’re a man? Are you? An, thanks for your mansplaining explanation… It’s always good – as someone who has experienced a particular type of oppression – to be told by someone who hasn’t when and when not to be offended!

    Thank you 🙂


  • Zippy,

    You’re treading in territory where many of experienced systemic oppression that has crushed their lives and spirits. You’re speaking from a place of privilege when you tell those who’ve experience oppression that you have not that they’re trying to curtail your speech and thinking. What I’m telling you is that that terminology has been used to harm people. It has done harm. It continues to do harm.

    I suspect you could find another way to express your meaning. Kind of like you could express your concern for Trump’s behavior without using the non-science of psychiatric labels that have also harmed people.


  • “We shouldn’t be squeamish about applying DSM criteria upon the powerful. Otherwise it remains only a way of manipulating the less powerful in this society.”

    That’s an interesting point, lizadeeza. You seem to both be acknowledging that it’s a manipulation, *and* wanting to see groups across classes more equally ‘manipulated’? I’m not sure I get that.

    Certainly, many of us see that he’s a danger to this country. I maintain that I don’t need the DSM to see that.


  • It is not my fear. It is a reality. One I see *every* day for hundreds of thousands of people.

    No one is suggesting we ignore people are struggling. What we are suggesting is that these experiences of struggle are very human, and often environmentally related in some way… And that we need not segregate out those who are struggling with diagnosis. This medicalized manner of regarding people’s human suffering came about for many reasons… To make psychiatrists feel more legitimate… For the purpose of billing. As an effort to to reduce what you keep calling ‘stigma’ (and I would call prejudice and discrimination).

    It has succeeded only at those first two causes, ant not to anyone’s betterment.


  • I am suggesting that people struggle. Sometimes deeply. And that it leads us far down the wrong path to understand those *human* struggles by lumping them all into *medicalized* groupings that are largely artificial.

    Sure, *sometimes* people will speak to benefits… Helped them better connect with others with similar struggles and hear what’s worked for them, etc. But the benefits are far outweighed by the negative impacts, many of which I’ve already mentioned.

    We’d be far better off seeing struggle as struggle, and then being able to pick and choose from the array of supports that people have used to make their way through such struggles… Lumping the struggle into a man made category that does not objectively exist, narrows our view and our options and does harm to many of us.


  • I do not ‘have’ a ‘personality disorder’. I have a diagnosis that was the subjective opinion of other human beings, based on the subjective process of man made creation of that diagnosis for which there is no test and cannot be a test because it is literally only a way of trying to boil down what is going on with someone.

    And, if that way of boiling down an explanation didn’t lead to poor assumptions about what to ‘do’ with them, and/or lead to discrimination against them in all matters of life (including child rearing, employment, housing and basic freedom), that wouldn’t be the end of the world. But that’s not how it works.

  • I was diagnosed with a ‘Personality Disorder’ at one point in my life. What it did most effectively was give those who hurt and traumatized me a pass, because the diagnosis suggested it was a ‘mental illness’. The best thing I did to ‘cure’ my ‘mental illness’ was get *away* from the system and all the ‘help’ they were trying to provide me. Whether or not the various things I was doing then or since then had any relation to any sort of diagnosis is completely subjective opinion. But, somehow, I’ve managed to be a successful mother and leader of a fairly complex organization.

    Your ‘perspective’ is *exactly* the sort of thing that leads people to lose their kids because of a psychiatric diagnosis, or not be hired into complex and stressful jobs… Your ‘perspective’ would serve to ruin my life, and it has ruined the lives of many others.

    Look at what someone is doing, not some subjective, man made diagnosis.

  • Yes, it sure is discrimination… It is making assumptions and limitings someone potential based strictly on some sort of label… and, in this instance, it’s a label that has no objective proof as to its existence. What about having been diagnosed makes someone unqualified to act as president? Having been formally diagnosed does not necessarily make someone unreliable or dangerous, nor does NOT qualifying for a diagnosis render someone reliable or ‘safe’. Additionally, having a diagnosis and doing something strange or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean that one did the later *because* of the former.

    The primary benefit you are offering to diagnosing this man is based on playing on the country’s fears and prejudice about ‘mental illness’ itself to your own advantage. I get that, but it is harmful to do so, because it feeds into erroneous and damaging beliefs that already act as the basis for this system of oppression where psychiatric diagnosis is concerned.

    This is not ‘political correctness’. That’s just an insulting way to shut down the conversation. This is people’s lives. We don’t need diagnosis to see that what he is doing is wrong and dangerous.


  • Let me give a quick summary of the point of the article:

    1. Why is whether or not he qualifies for a psychiatric diagnosis relevant to whether or not he is president? It actually doesn’t matter. What matters is what he’s *doing* as president, and whether or not he is demonstrating that he is fit to serve.

    2. He could have or not have a formal diagnosis, and that wouldn’t tell us anything, and to suggest it would is discriminatory and misguided.

    3. Pointing the finger at some ‘disorder’ in his brain does little to help us examine how we got to the point where we were willing to elect someone who demonstrates the characteristics you describe above.

    4. Arguing about this legitimizes that which is not legitimate… Psychiatric diagnosis is a system heavily influenced by privilege, racism, sexism, and various other biases. Diagnoses can’t be objectively ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ because they’re not objective. This is a distraction, and harmful to those of us who have experienced societal oppression due to the legitimization of such things.


  • Eh, systemic racism refers to all of the systems that we live entangled within. Every last bit of it, as it is an overall system that was designed by white, christian, (etc. etc.) men. In general, systems are racist and people’s actions and words are bigoted. Since racism and sexism etc. are systemic issues, referring to one person *as* that thing doesn’t make a ton of sense. It makes much more sense to say they are a part of it, or have somehow perpetuated or supported it, etc. In some ways this is just semantics, but overall, I think it’s critical that these issues be recognized as systemic and so I think it’s important at that level to try and use the words properly.

    In any case, I don’t really think that argument is particularly helpful here. I get to share some of my political perspective in my blogs. You get to disagree. My overall point about Trump and psychiatric diagnosis remains the same. I’m going to stop responding to this thread now. 🙂


  • Eh, I don’t particularly agree with the frame of ‘everyone is racist/sexist/etc.’ However, I *do* agree with the frame that all white people benefit from white privilege and have participated in systemic racism, and ditto all men re: male privilege/systemic sexism, and so on.

    You can keep putting words in my mouth because … well… this is the comments section and you get to comment… But I didn’t say ‘gotcha’… I pointed out both those who did vote for him and those who didn’t for different reasons. And I *do* think it’s a sign of a real problem that so many voted for him when he was behaving like such an overt bigot and they thought that wasn’t important enough to not vote for him. And, frankly, I’ve heard so many non-white people speak to how that has felt for them to know so many people saw that and didn’t think it was enough to not vote for him…

    So, I stand by what I say. Thanks for trying to talk me out of it, though!


  • Don,

    Thanks! I guess I just really feel differently about looking at things *other* than people as being ‘sick’ in their way. ‘Societal ills’ means something very different than ‘mental ills’. The former quite specifically leads to examining (and hopefully undoing) that which is oppressive, while the latter does just the opposite. They seem quite fundamentally different to me.

    But, there’s never anything wrong with explaining precisely what is going on, so I won’t argue that that would be valuable!


  • oldhead,

    I don’t know that I’d frame it as ‘attacking’. I *do* question both those who voted for him, and those who failed to have a strong enough alternative to prevent that. I do come from the position of thinking Trump is a bad choice for this country. I do also personally – although it’s not particularly represented here – come from a place where to vote for him isn’t necessarily to be a racist/sexist/etc. but *is* basically saying one is *okay* with those things…

    I feel okay about having an opinion, and I also feel okay about expressing that opinion in what I write.


  • oldhead, Where precisely am I treating what he says as his imagination? As I said in my response to him, Mad in America *does* allow for inclusion of opinion from its writers. I never said that the blog doesn’t express negative opinions about Trump. However, they are fairly low key, and none of it changes the fact that – love him or hate him – diagnosing him is harmful to all of us.


  • Read as you choose, of course. Mad in America does leave room for author opinions provided they don’t overrun the overall point, and so you will indeed find my thoughts and feelings on a number of issues throughout many of my posts. For example, surely you would be able to tell from my blog on ‘Split’ that I didn’t like the film, etc.

    If you feel so strongly about Trump, that one blog that expresses negative feelings about him within a much broader context of diagnosing him being harmful to us all is enough for you to write off the entire site… well, that seems unfortunate to me, but who am I to argue. I hope you find what you seek!

  • Thanks for your comment! Reading and being reminded of some of these historical perceptions and realities was interesting! I did try to raise a similar point at the start of my article as you probably saw… that this whole idea that it’s all worse for a few diagnosis or that diagnosis makes for a bad president makes no sense!


  • Uprising,

    I’m not so sure I agree… But, of course, I wrote it so that’s no surprise!

    But I think it’s complicated. Some people absolutely like his attitudes and approaches and I think that’s a sign of a societal ill. Others were indifferent to them. And I think that’s a sign of a societal ill. Others were desperate to believe his promises because of how terrible things already were. And that’s a sign of a societal ill. And nobody on any side was really able to produce a solid candidate or come together to ward off what’s befallen us. And that’s a sign of a societal ill. All of it.

    While I’m not down with the idea of ‘mental illness’ I am absolutely down with the idea that people use ‘mental illness’ as a way to try and cover or deflect blame for ‘societal illness’…

    Beyond that, though, I don’t really want to get involved in a Democrats vs. Republicans debate, here… It feels too important to stick to the idea that – no matter where you’re coming from politically – it’s a problem to be calling Trump ‘mentally ill.’


  • AntiP,

    I certainly wasn’t suggesting Frances is *any* sort of solution… But I did think what he said in his own ‘Trump is not mentally ill’ article was revealing and of value (in a way totally different than how he meant it), nonetheless!

    I think you make an important and valid point here:
    “the further requirement that is crucial in defining all mental disorders — the behaviors also must cause clinically significant distress or impairment”.

    NOOOOOOT TRUE. Where i live (DSM criteria applies), you get get locked in a mental hospital (for months), by just refusing to take psychiatric drugs. Allen Frances knows that. Every psychiatric nurse knows that.”

    And, I too considered pointing out that his statement about needing to be suffering/impaired was actually not accurate… HOWEVER, there *is* something accurate about it all the same… That privilege that keeps a certain group from being labeled and losing power in the same way as most of the rest… And that’s where Id ecided to focus. Both are true.


  • Thanks for your comments, Tina. I appreciate your bringing in more of the legal context of using diagnosis to prove Trump unfit… I also agree that crisis can serve to bring us together. I hope we end up looking back at all this as a time that drove us toward meaningful and long lasting *positive* change somehow.


  • Frank, I kind of lumped all the terms together in this article… In part, because whatever you call it, I do think that who gets labeled as ‘mad’ or ‘mentally ill’ or ‘crazy’ is subject to essentially the same power dynamics and societal structure… But overall, I agree with you that ‘mentally ill’ is the worse of the three because it not only labels, but also attempts to explain *why* in a way that I find particularly damaging and not based in much objective reality.

  • Thanks for reading, John. I agree that the current fragmentation between our communities, and that many of us (including those who’ve been most marginalized) have been taught to turn on one another rather than looking at those in power, has been a significant part of what’s made space for this phenomenon.

  • Eh, I’m going to steer clear of giving *anyone* a psych diagnosis, bcharris.. But I hear what you’re saying. I definitely thing our citizens need to take a look around at themselves to better understand how we got here… And not necessarily entirely in blame, but we do need to figure out how on earth we got here so that we can, perhaps, have a shot and digging ourselves out!


  • Hi Kallena,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I checked out my language (I’d originally used the term ‘alter’ and got feedback that that was not ideal and that ‘personality’ and ‘part’ were better), so I apologize if I got that piece wrong. And thank you for sharing additional layers in terms of how parts might work together and influence one another, etc.

    I’m also saddened here (and wherever) I see people trying to force frameworks on each other, even when it’s a non medical one. It just seems to be a way of being that misses a large part of the point of what we’re fighting for…


  • Nomadic,

    I know you don’t know me in person, but I’m the one who says that none of the system stuff – not therapy, not the diagnoses, not the drugs, none of it – worked for me. That ‘non-compliance’ saved my life. That getting away from the system when I did saved my life. Also, whenever I share my story, I share how problematic the word ‘recovery’ is and how it’s just another part of the ‘mental health/illness’ box that I don’t want to be in. So, you’ll get no argument from me on much of what you say.

    And at the same time, I just don’t find myself wanting to be another person who tells someone else how to live or what they need to do to find their own way. In fact, sometimes, I think doing that actually pushes people *more* into the system, rather than helping them be open to at least considering if there’s another way.

    To be clear, this in *no way* amounts to me encouraging people into system stuff. I spend the bulk of my time trying to build alternative choices to all that, and sharing information about things beyond the medical model, etc. But I don’t want to be just another person in someone’s life saying, ‘Hey, I know better than you.’

    It’s a tricky balance.


  • Hmmm… I replied to this yesterday, but it seems it didn’t show up, so let’s try again:

    Thanks, Steve! 🙂 I particularly appreciate your sharing about the woman who used her ‘teenager’ personality (that she used against people she found threatening) against the psychiatrist. It says a ton about the dynamic we have going in this country with the system that is supposed to ‘help’!


  • Vortex,

    I quite disagree with the idea that ‘Alternative Facts’ are what we offer here, as noted in a previous response to a commenter. I see ‘Alternative Facts’ (as they’re currently being offered up in the media) as NOT facts. People in this world all too often confuse what is opinion with what is fact, and in many instances those ‘Alternative Facts’ are just. not. facts. 🙂 As we get accused of being ‘anti-science’ and all that, I often find we’re being so accused by people who refuse to look at the actual science. I find people I’ve met from this website, on the other hand, to be particularly interested in what research has to say.

    Meanwhile, it is an error in evaluation to simply count up what the majority of villains *look* like. What I spoke to was the *ratio* of representation… Number of characters represented positively who are from a particular group verses number of characters represented in some negative way. Totally different reference point.

    I find it really unfortunate that you are making the assertions you are about race (mostly irrelevant in the 2010s? Really?), and that it is actually your apparent need to diminish the relevance and prevalence of racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on as it very clearly exists in today’s pop culture. My comment on that point amount to one sentence in the actual blog. At this point, it is you and other commenters who feel they must argue about it that are actually diverting the focus away from what this blog was actually about.

    I am hoping that most commenters will be interested in talking about the actual blog and its points. I’m going to do my best to resist the urge to respond to further comments on this point. 🙂



  • Thanks for all your thoughts, CatNight. I remember the ‘Caps for Sale’ book from my son’s childhood (somehow we missed it with my daughter several years later). I’m actually not familiar with the pieces you mentioned (King of Hearts and Madwoman of Chaillot), but curious to look them up! Somehow, I think we need something of … Harry Potter… status or something… that really takes hold in pop culture, but gets at all these issues!


  • Matt,

    I say what I say because it’s cis, white, heterosexual men who are most frequently portrayed on TV and in movies as strong, smart, non-criminals and non-sex objects, etc. I say what I say because the ‘default’ role for the portrayal of a white, heterosexual man in pop culture is *not* as the disposable sidekick for comic relief or who is most easily expendable when someone needs to be killed off. I say that because the majority of big Hollywood (etc.) directors and producers are white men who so commonly create starring roles in their own ‘default’ way of thinking (also influenced by what they think will ‘sell’)… which is basically in their image. This doesn’t make them (necessarily) ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, not does it make the average man so. It’s simply more evidence of our container, and how we’ve been taught to think and prioritize and skew. Media is no different than any other part of our culture in that way.

    What you say – that more people of color experience poverty, and so on – is certainly also accurate. But, this is not what is at the root of this phenomenon, even if it’s one influencing factor.

    Race (and gender, etc.) are *always* a relevant issue. Because ‘systemic oppression’ means just that. *Systemic*.

    Thanks for your comment, and for giving me the opportunity to explain. 🙂


  • Thanks, Matt. Yes, at some point, the Globe agreed to publish an editorial I wrote, and I made a point to highlight some of the bad in the current system that they’re ignoring and some of the good (like Open Dialogue) potential they’re overlooking. They published it, but it doesn’t seem to have actually impacted them at all…

    And yeah, it seems so incredibly disingenuous for any of the Globe crew to be hanging on to claims that they’re not pro force (or paternalism). They are terribly clear where they stand in the excerpts such as the ones you cited above.

  • Dear all,

    I am writing just to let you know that I am headed out of town and away from Internet connectivity for most of the next week.

    My general policy as a writer is to respond at least once to each commenter, but I just won’t be able to do that much after today and until the 27th or so.

    I apologize in advance for my silence, and thank you all for reading this blog and any comments you might make. 🙂


  • Steve,

    So true that logic clearly fails here. And it fails so terribly, that the most logical, fact based speakers among us are looked upon as anti-scientific jokes a solid amount of the time. I wish I knew what to do with that, as well. Because I myself feel like I’m stuck in a loop of trying to present logic (albeit with a healthy dose of sarcasm alongside it), and it’s obviously just not enough.

  • Hey Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment and appreciation of my writing style. I know it sometimes gets a little too sarcastic for some. 😉

    I did honestly flag a bit in my energy to cover this series, hence this blog covering four Globe articles at once… However, when Kelly (whose story is featured here) reached out to me and I read the awful San Antonio piece, it was just the kick I needed to not let the whole thing close with at least one more response!

    I just wish we could figure out how to get heard (and get those stories like what you mention here about psych drugs heard) in a much, much broader way.

  • Thanks, Frank. You’re absolutely right that sensationalism was the ‘wind beneath the wings’ of Murphy and his ilk. There are so many powerful societal forces (sensationalism, greed, etc.) at work here that it feels terribly hard to effectively interrupt it here. Hoping these articles have at least served to put a bit more doubt in some people’s minds.

  • Icagee,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I absolutely think there are many of us here who would be able to design supports that would be far more helpful than anything currently offered. And, thank you for some of your own ideas.

    The discrimination one is also huge. Unfortunately, there seems to be an underlying perception among many that when it comes to psych diagnoses many instances of discrimination aren’t actual discrimination, because they’re just ‘truth’.


  • Bcharris,

    I feel a little confused by your comment. Peer-to-peer support is really about coming at supporting one another with as little power differential and as much mutuality as possible. So, being responsible for sending police out on certain situations or being trained in martial arts for use on the job feels confusing to me?

    There’s several other things I feel inclined to say, but since I’m overall not sure I understand exactly your vision, I don’t want to jump into many directions trying to guess.

    Let me know if you want to clarify!


  • Actually, they took up over two hours of the two hours and fifteen minutes just letting the panel members talk and not letting the audience speak at all… but when I did finally get ahold of the mic, I did make mention how far more people are dying every day from the ‘treatments’ the Globe series is urging for more of… oy.

    But you make a very good point of who exactly gets to decide who is villainized…

  • Thanks for your comment, Deena. They do approach this series as if it is a noble mission for which we should all be thankful.

    In fact, I saw two members of the Spotlight team (Scott Allen and Jenna Russell) on a panel Wednesday night, and they were quite self congratulatory about the whole thing… and Jenna (who I’ve actually liked and appreciated during individual conversations in the past) basically said that while she acknowledged that they’d perhaps contributed to ‘stigma’, that the real ‘stigma’ causer was that we (people with psych diagnoses) keep killing people. Oy. It was something else.

  • Thanks so much, Alex. I appreciate your taking the time to really explore what we’ve offered and beyond.

    I want to be upfront that the video I linked you to and to which you refer in your comment here is one I only watched for the first time *after* the blog was written (it was actually already waiting on the Mad in America system for moderators to post when someone shared it with me), and I have no idea if Earl and Iden have seen it. So, our blog isn’t really based on that video, but there are many points that do resonate with it.

    I appreciate that you’re spending so much time looking for the connection points between what you’re hearing and learning and your own experience. Relating is *so* different than taking as one’s own, and is an important part of how we can build understanding and connection.

    Again, thank you for your time and comment.

    (A quick note to others: We decided to let these comments through because Alex’s conversation got cut off mid-way when we closed the comments, and it seemed to make sense to let it be completed!)

  • Although things have quieted down a bit in here, we have collectively decided that closing the comments section makes the most sense at this time. But, before we do, we just wanted to offer some closing comments from each of us:

    EARL: Whoa! I am always hesitant to discuss race. It is kind of half the point of a racist society, the idea of making oppression such a quagmire to discuss that it isn’t worth it. However, if our thesis was that racism exists in dramatic ways in our movement, boy, were we right!

    The comments section has felt like quicksand and every time I thought of commenting, I remembered that I don’t want to fight you guys. This has felt terrible and unfortunately, this is what has been put out to people of color. This visceral response has been noted and I am in agreement that ending it now makes sense.

    IDEN: One of the things I find most fascinating about the comments section is that it appears that mostly older White men populate the comments. They argue incessantly about liberals and the usage of particular language and whose voice should not be ‘that of millions’ yet they use their two or three as if they are ‘the voice for millions’ themselves.

    Making space for others in between the MIA pages is crucial to ensuring diverse voices are heard. There is nothing to be gained by listening to the few. There are many lessons to be learned in the MIA space around access, privilege, the use of writing as a privilege, and oppression, but most importantly using it as connecting. I wish to use it more for connecting.

    SERA: It seems relevant to note that this is only the second blog (of 55) that I have been a part of where the decision was made to close down the comments. The first was ‘Dear Man: Sexism, Misogyny, and the ‘Movement,’ published almost exactly one year ago. Comments were closed at 200 because of the level of vitriol that the topic drew out. This one made it over 350, but the response has felt very similar.

    A lot could probably be said in comparing the two blogs, but the basics are clear: Each directly asked our ‘movement(s)’ to take a hard look at the realities of how we’re treating particular groups of people, and how we’re perpetuating specific ‘isms’ whilst claiming to fight systemic oppression. I feel sad about this blog – which ultimately (simply and straightforwardly) asked people to consider the images and words they use, and to center the feelings and voices of people of color, particularly when it comes to the experience of being non-white in this world.

    Regardless of how people felt about the ‘tone’ of what we had to say, it was offered honestly and because we see a serious problem – this absence of people of color in our movement(s). The comments section helped illustrate *why* that is the case. The question continues to be what do we do about it.

  • The timing, oldhead, is that the blog was finally read to go. Nothing more nefarious than that! I took a quick look through the comments on Noel’s blog because I was interested in her blog. Didn’t even see your comparison. This blog was written because all the points above are serious issues… it’s not about you. 🙂

  • Nah, it’s totally not ‘no MLK’ quotes. A co-worker of mine, Caroline, took me on a lengthy walking tour of DC, and one of my favorite parts was the MLK monument and looking at all the quotes. He’s said *lots* of *great* things.

    The *problem* isn’t quoting him overall… It’s that Paolo (in the example in the blog) took his quote and warped it into something it was never meant to say… Or that David Oaks used his words to apply to mostly white groups and than suggested those mostly white groups were what MLK envisioned which again seemed at least a bit appropriative…

    In addition to that, there is a certain trend to almost only and ever quote MLK when one wants a quotable black person (which seems either representative of substantial lack of exposure to black history and the many people of color who’ve said important things and/or that MLK said things in ways that are more palatable to white people than some others might have), so it does feel important to broaden our knowledge and exploration of quotable people… But I don’t think anyone’s saying MLK is off limits entirely if you’re white.

  • Humanbeing,

    I wonder where we’d be able to get if we did the following:

    If a black person or other person of color says, “Hey, it hurts in a deeply personal way when you say that” [e.g., psychiatric slavery] or “it feels like you don’t see me when you say that,” [e.g., color blind] or “that’s a misuse of my (or another person of color’s) words or culture” [e.g., appropriation of MLK’s quotes, etc.], and a white person simply said, “Okay. Thank you for letting me know. I won’t do that again.”

    And if people who are not female-identified could similarly listen to those who are, and respond similarly when it comes to what it’s like to be a woman in this world…

    And if people who haven’t experienced psychiatric oppression could similarly listen to those who have, and respond similarly when it comes to what it’s like to be psychiatrized in this world…

    And so on. Where would we be then? Because that’s one of the central, underlying points of this blog, and the railing of so many white people against it is kind of exactly the opposite.

  • I don’t recall the nature of your (or oldhead’s) participation, Richard, so I personally was not attempting to make any references to it (or any specific person). When I speak about that blog, it is primarily to point out that it followed a very similar course to this one in the comments section overall.

  • humanbeing,

    There is a common trap left to lie for those of us who are speaking of systemic oppression from the vantage point of first-hand experience. I have been called out more than once for speaking out about misogyny and sexism in this movement, and *I* have been painted as the problem… Not the man about whom I was speaking (and I wasn’t swearing, or calling names… simply stating clearly that I would not work with a certain person and why, in one situation that comes to mind) who has explicitly done things that have hurt women. But, me for calling them out. Because I didn’t do it in a way that was most palatable for some in the group who was hearing it. (And, honestly, I’m not sure anything would have been palatable other than silence.)

    I have also been the person who was told that I spoke up in a way that couldn’t be heard by providers about psychiatric oppression… That maybe even that term is too harsh for their ears. That it’s great when I tell my story, but that it might be too much ( at least too much too fast) to actually expect them to effect some sort of change after I share some of the most intimate details of painful periods of my life.

    And – on the other side of things – at times, I’ve *been* the person who looked at some of the chalk drawings on my college campus’s walkways written out by the local LGBTQQI* community and said, ‘That seems a little too extreme They’re never going to get their message across if they say it like that.’ And, I’ve felt similarly in the past about some of the anti-racism actions I’ve witnessed. ‘Is inconveniencing people really the best way to get heard?’

    So, yeah, I’ve been on *both* sides, including the side you seem to currently be sitting on – where you’re telling Iden that he’s (we all are) being too angry to deserve to get heard. I can tell you, though, that I don’t feel proud about the examples of myself that I offered above. Because – while I do think there’s different best approaches for different situations – I also think it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. And, perhaps, more over, I think it makes sense that people *ARE* angry!

    Hell, Iden is the *only* black person who’s been responding consistently on a thread that now has over 300 comments, many of them being ones that reportedly feel quiet upsetting and offensive to several people of color (and others!). How long is he expected to tolerate that and not sound at least a little bit upset or irritated? What about all the other people who’ve sounded a little upset or irritated on this thread? Has that not bothered you?

    We simply *can’t* say, hey, come, non-white person, into this white world we’ve created here, offer up your thoughts, let us tell you how wrong you are, share your experiences and feelings openly, but could you do it *perfectly* (as defined by us)… and, please, don’t get upset, keep your voice down, stay calm(er than we’re expected to)… Or else we’ll have *another* way to discredit you.

    Well, I guess we can… But where it gets us certainly isn’t change.

  • humanbeing,

    I wonder why you think that all the steps toward unification must *look* like unification along the way? Doesn’t every such process – if there’s any honesty to it – also require a painful process of naming what’s wrong, what’s been hurtful, what needs to change first? And when that happens, how often is that not – at least at first – met with defensiveness and anger?

    I went into this with absolutely no expectation that everyone would be happy and unified at the end. I went into it because these problems aren’t being openly named, and our movement is not just ignoring but perpetuating them. I went into this with the hope that at least we might play some role in bringing that more to light. It would have been great if it had gone better, but this is a necessary step and I feel like we have successfully been a part of taking it.

  • Richard,

    I can see that you are very upset with me at the moment. For what it’s worth, my initial thoughts about you weren’t made up or simply to appease you. I’ve seen you challenge yourself and the approach the work you do with great seriousness and care.

    But, I’m also not going to cave here. I think your insistent focus on ‘identity politics’ is a problem that comes across as a dismissal, much like the ‘political correctness’ accusation. But, I’ve said this before.

    One thing I perhaps haven’t said before – or at least in this particular way is this: People in this comments section seem to be taking some of this very personally, and hearing me and some others as if we are saying ‘YOU ARE A RACIST.’ And, that’s not quite exactly what’s being said. At least by me.

    Racism is about systems… Systems that are developed and defined by and for those in power, which results in some of us having privilege that others don’t have because we fit (or are closer to) the image of those by whom the system was designed. I imagine I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before, and I could go deeper into it, but instead let me say this:

    While I *am* absolutely saying this movement is just as racist as any other that exists within this nation, that’s a bit different than calling particular people out as ‘racist’. I’ve heard others frame it as ‘every white person is racist,’ but I guess I would tend instead to say ‘every white person has benefited somehow from the privilege that comes with being white, and has participated in some way in perpetuating that structure, even if only by not acknowledging or working to change it.’

    But not saying that straight out allows for space for it to all continue on unchecked. I pointed out the same dynamics in relation to sexism and the movement with my ‘Dear Man’ blog. I can’t recall if you commented on that one. Did you read it and have the same reaction?

    You are pointing the finger and me, Iden and Earl for ‘identity politics’ and behaving poorly throughout this whole comment thread. I am pointing the finger at how we have all been together, at the reality that this movement *is* extremely white and that that doesn’t seem to be changing.

    You seem to be blaming me and my co-authors for setting up the dynamic that has shut down this conversation, but it just seems so strange to me that you’d feel in a position to place that blame when everyone I’m aware of that is a person of color that has had a reaction to this blog (certainly more than Earl and Iden at this point) is reacting to what is being posted in the comments section by a series of white men.

    Does that mean you are ‘racist’ for disagreeing? No. Not exactly. It’s not that simple. But I do think that you and others here have substantially contributed to the perpetuation of keeping this a space that feels most comfortable to white people.


  • There have been several comments here and on Facebook from people who are saying there is no ‘movement’ or that there are multiple movements. I’ve said the latter, at times, myself… but I wanted to take a moment to say overall that this feels a disingenuous argument, at least here.

    Iden and I do – I think – disagree on language to some extent. I don’t use language such as ‘mental health movement’ (or ‘peer movement,’ or ‘recovery movement,’ etc.), and if I do speak about movements, it’s usually without any specific title, or ‘human rights movement,’ or (occasionally) ‘psych survivor movement’…

    However, I think it’s disingenuous to go too far down that path here for two reasons.

    1. It strikes me as silly to say that there is not a movement… When many of us are on the same email lists and list servs, when many of us go to conferences and see the same people (or know the same people who aren’t there because they disagree with the conference’s existence or what have you), when so many of us recognize each other’s names even though no one outside of this ‘movement’ would and even though we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, when – whether or not we agree – so many of us are familiar with the same ‘in’ language and warring perspectives and common points made within each…

    I don’t want to be associated with a movement that promotes ‘peer’ roles over understanding and undoing psychiatric oppression, or talks about ‘mental illness’ as a global truth, or wastes time on ‘stigma’ campaigns… My personal perspective tends to resonate most strongly with those of you who are talking almost entirely from an oppression/liberation point-of-view. AND, I know there’s still a movement. It’s a movement (or smaller, fractured, somewhat interconnected movements, if you prefer) that has dark and co-opted pieces to it… A movement that I think is largely failing. And many people with whom I *refuse* to unify because unity strictly for the sake of numbers, and with no attention to integrity seems like a failure all on its own…

    But, to say there is nothing… just seems so strange to me.

    2. This feels like a point of distraction to me. So often, when the topic of racism comes up, people look for other topics to bring in… And this feels like an example of that to me. A way to be talking about something else. And whether that’s the intent or not (unconscious or not), it is the impact. I understand why it might be important for people to name that they do not see Alternatives as ‘the movement’ or that it is a co-optation of the movement… Fine. I see it as a broken, co-opted piece myself, but also one where I might be able to go in and share information with people stuck there who don’t know there’s anything else. We can argue another time whether I’m wasting my time, and whether that’s good or bad.

    But meanwhile, that very same section that talks about Alternatives *also* talks about a blog by David Oaks, co-founder of Mindfreedom who is engaged in pretty much the same practice. And, Frank, that’s actually where I met you. At a Mindfreedom conference. So, presumably you don’t dismiss them as at least connected to the movement you’re a part of?

    So, in the end, I think there’s value to piecing out some aspect of this ‘what movement’ conversation, but this is a blog about racism… and how it has been maintained throughout *all* pieces of *all* movements connected in any way to this issue, and how we’ve really failed at making spaces and conversations that are accessible to people of color.

    I’m hoping that people can put this ‘movement’ conversation aside for the most part, while we talk about that.

  • Matt,

    Fair enough that you don’t want to take my statements about Facebook at face value. However, this isn’t a legal case. I was intentionally vague because what I read was from people who were *VERY CLEAR* that they did not want to be dragged into all this for the reasons that I stated.

    To call them out by name or point you to that Facebook page so you can go argue with them kind of… completely defeats that purpose and would be incredibly disrespectful on my part. So, you’ll have to live in wonder.

    And, you’re right… People on *my* Facebook page who are discussing this are mostly white.. But I’d just like to point out that many of them are women (sexism is also rampant in this movement… see my ‘Dear Man’ blog for more on that!), and the person who came into that thread on my own page and was very upset and argued with it is (shockingly) also a white man. Meanwhile, if you look at Mad in America’s Facebook page, you can also see that the people who are most vehemently disagreeing with the blog are… also white men… and then there is a person who at least appears to be a person of color who had this to say over there:

    “Scarlett Alejandra Salvo Gutiérrez Thank you, Mad in America. The refusal of all the “mental health professionals” I’ve come across to even acknowledge the huge role that racism plays in the mental issues I have is so beyond exasperating. unfortunately, the comments here are pretty exasperating, too. So things go. Thanks for putting this out there.”

    Yet, you are here continuing to say things like “if we can’t dialogue with these people from the mysterious group, it’s a dead end – if they think we’re unwelcoming (without having ever talked to us, I should add), and we don’t know how to contact them – then there is no way of interacting or changing perceptions. Thus things will remain a closed system…”

    So, you know. I guess I’m left with the fact that you really seem so ready to argue and look for any loophole that lets you out of needing to take a hard look at this topics from a *much* more open, much less ‘I’m the expert’ kind of place. A *HUGE* central point of this blog was that we are not creating spaces as a movement that leave room for people of color to even want to come into them. Your insistence that people should just ‘give it a go,’ ignores a lifetime of hurt that so many of people of color have experienced in this country, *and* for many, what they have also already experienced in this movement. You’re also ignoring the fact that some of the people I referenced may not have spoken, but they sure did *look*… And they saw people like you, oldhead, Frank and others doing exactly what they were concerned would be going on…

    You mention that Earl hasn’t commented here, and I can tell you that he will be speaking for himself on this point shortly, so I will leave it at that.


  • Matt,

    This is not about a popularity contest. It shouldn’t be surprising that this comments section has played out the way that it has, given that it’s a fairly common result when the topic of racism is brought up.

    What I am attempting to point out, however, is that while I and at least a few others in this comments section are trying to raise issues and point out ways of being that allow for racism to continue so unhindered, you are often speaking in a way that illustrates that for us.

    If you are unable to see yourself in the article that Iden linked you to, or even attempt to hear the problems with a white man speaking to a black man in the way that you have about race… then I just don’t think you’re ready to hear it. But, I hope that someday you are…


  • Thanks, Jordan.

    The inclusion of that term in such a public forum was my fault (I wrote in that part), and it had occurred to me even before your comment that I probably shouldn’t have… Although I think that it was a reflection of several people’s experiences at the time that Paolo Del Vecchio was just kind of randomly and without care throwing out the names of several black people in his speech in a way that felt chaotic and problematic, I also get that it comes across as making light of something real (Tourette’s) and using it as a joke (which is how I think it is already commonly portrayed in the media) especially when written in to such a more permanent document.