Sunday, May 26, 2019

Comments by Sera Davidow

Showing 1463 of 1464 comments. Show all.

  • Thank you for this, Mitzy. Deron has always been one of my favorite people. We drifted a bit, because – I think – he found his inner peace and actively pursued that path, and I’ve stayed more angry. But I’ve still always so appreciated his existence, and his work, and knowing he was just a (relatively) short drive away pushing for similar things, even if in different ways!

    I’m going to do my best to remember lots of moments with him… at protests and rallies, driving along the California coast and sharing the terror of being so close to the cliffs, and staying up late (for Deron!) talking about silliness and seriousness in equal measures.

    Thanks again,

    Sera

  • Hey FreeDom,

    I could have sworn I replied previously, yet my reply seems not to be here, so trying again…

    I particularly appreciate your last paragraph about just how hard it is to get people to believe any of the truths, once they’ve bought into the myths… Because giving up the myth means so much more than just believing the one truth that with which they might be presented in that moment.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Well, yeah, I mean, overall I agree with you.

    But, for example, the Informed Consent laws I’m aware of require:

    * Doc to inform someone of the potential risks and benefits of the proposed treatment
    * Doc to inform someone of the potential risks and benefits of any *alternative* treatments of which they are reasonably aware
    * Doc to inform someone of the potential risks and benefits of doing nothing

    So, even if they stop short of calling “bullshit” or saying “I really have no idea what I’m doing, but this is what the latest pharma rep suggested when they stopped by my office”… the above sure would be a nice change. But most doctors don’t come even close.

    -Sera

  • Alex,

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying and how my comment could be read. In my mind, I was thinking of a particular group of people including Kevin Hines who are basically just going around and telling their stories to make everyone feel good, but kind of supporting the systems way of being at the same time.

    And yeah, I think you could rightly accuse me of being invalidating of that specific group of people, I suppose. But I frankly had a *huge* reaction to hearing Kevin for the first time in person… His story no longer sounded like his story. It sounded dramatized, like a one-person show… and a one-person show that supported many of the things that so many of us are trying to rail against. And I don’t know if I’ve *EVER* received so many e-mails as I received in promotion of his film (which, in fairness, I have not yet seen).

    So, I suppose you could say I’m being unfair to him, and maybe I am. I’ll just have to accept that as one of my many flaws. But it just feels so very far away from genuine sharing to me, and he has such a big platform.

    -Sera

  • Hi CatNight,

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve seen. Ah, truth in advertising laws… Unfortunately, of course, there *are* some laws (e.g., Informed Consent laws) that *do* suggest there should be ‘truth in advertising’ (at least a lot more truth than there is now), and yet those laws are wholeheartedly ignored without any negative consequence (for the folks responsible for upholding them, yet who are not). So many broken systems complicit with one another in making things what they are these days.

    -Sera

  • rasselas.redux,

    As Steve already pointed out, what I’ve written is about the way stories are handled, restricted, and used and often *not* about the stories themselves. In the case of AAS, I’m not referring to the specific stories at all. I haven’t read most of them. And I don’t think of the authors as “victims”, even if I wish they wouldn’t have participated. For example, I know Leah Harris reasonably well, and I certainly don’t think of her as a hapless victim fallen into a system’s trap. And I’m sure some – maybe even all – of the “winning” stories have value. I do personally take issue with some of the folks who’ve kind of made their careers off this struggle, and go around endlessly telling their stories *without* being clear about what needs to change, or having much experiencing in supporting others to move toward that change because I do feel like I see them getting used. And, I did get pretty uncomfortable with Des’rae’s partner commenting that they’re riding her “suicide star” to fame (I don’t remember quite exactly how it was phrased, but it was something like that) in the ‘S’ word, but all of those things are at least somewhat different topics, even if overlapping.

    So, yeah, I am speaking about the contest itself. What it calls upon people to do. How it uses competition between people for these limited amount of funds, yet fails ENTIRELY to actually value their voice beyond the perceived value (often *entertainment* value, in my experience) of their story by not making the conference ITSELF accessible, and so on. As I already said in the article.

    As to the Legislative Breakfast, that’s a whole ‘nother example of this phenomenon where they tend to take people who have very little experience sharing their stories and (as I’ve heard with my own ears) sometimes give *very specific* instructions about not saying anything too negative about any mental health service, and then stick them up there to succeed or flounder (often the latter) and ultimately ask for no real change. It’s PAINFUL to watch. And different than the AAS contest. But under the same umbrella.

    In any case, I stand by everything I’ve said in the article above.

    -Sera

  • Mecarlym,

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. And yes, you’re right. It is so hard to figure out how to navigate challenging the way this works, when we are ultimately talking about people’s personal stories and sharing. Yet, it is indeed often fairly apparent when people are being used or shoved in one direction or the other as to how they tell it… And when that story becomes something else other than entirely theirs.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Fiachra,

    Well, I don’t know if I’d go quite as far as saying it only exists outside of the “medical” system, because I think there are few absolutes and I don’t want to rule out anyone’s valid stories… But, I will say that both research and my own experience resonate with what you have to say in that the medical system sure does seem to do a LOT of *getting in the way* of people actually moving forward and beyond such struggle.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thank you, Rosalee! I’m going to be headed to a “Legislative Breakfast” at the end of this week that is inevitably going to include stories that fit the format you, I, and so many others are pushing back against. I wonder if I might ever reach a point where the screaming in my head while I’m attending will start to come out of my mouth. :p

    -Sera

  • Icagee,

    Thanks so much for what you shared. How the legal system functions and intersects with the psychiatric system is so infuriating. I see horrific examples of it all the time, and most people don’t bat an eye because they – once again – think it’s all “for our own good”. It’s really terrible. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to go through.

    Sera

  • Thanks, Anonymous2016!

    Can you just clarify… I’m not sure what you mean here:

    But here’s the thing. How do you you learn anything from it if it’s not the truth and the bare and brutal truth. The fact is, we will never learn by sugar coating anything. It’s just not done that way and we’ll never change anything. The truth is uncomfortable and so is making change, one cannot be done without the other.

    You write that as if I had said things should be watered down… I can’t tell if I’m misunderstanding you, or you misunderstood me? But, regardless, I’ll just say nothing I wrote above was meant to suggest we should have to water ourselves down, although I did talk about how people often ask us to do that either “for our own good” or to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable… Neither of which I agree with…

    Anyway, thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

    -Sera

  • Wishing I’d read the WHOLE “participant guide” for the AAS story contest before finishing this story…

    Some highlights include:

    * There’s a $10 fee to submit your story to the competition
    * There’s a “guide” on “safe” writing about suicide
    * There’s a warning that writers’ submissions will be evaluated by judges who are mental health professionals, and that they may be “contacted” if they are believed to be at imminent risk

    Oy.

    https://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Writing%20Contest/2017/ParticipantGuidelines%202018%20contest%20year.pdf?ver=2017-08-29-210039-963

  • Thanks, Bricew. It’s always interesting to me how important language is, and how we hear words differently. I do often challenge people re: “Committed suicide” when I’m in training environments. I do *not* ever tell people they “can’t” or “shouldn’t” use it, but just offer food for thought which is this: “Committed suicide” comes from a time when suicide was being painted overtly as illegal (as in “committed a crime”). Based on that, I personally try not to use that frame… but nor am I fond of “completed suicide” or ever telling people *what* precisely they need to say.

    In my experience, telling others (and especially others who have first-hand experience with something) precisely what words they’re supposed to use comes from a special brand of ignorance and insensitivity.

    Thanks for sharing some of your mother’s story as it intersects with your own. I too struggle with this idea that we should get to put our own priorities of people living as long as possible on other people who may genuinely just not want to be here. I’ve heard there are other countries where there are supports set up for people who want to die… Even heard at one point of a place of that nature where people could go to get support in killing themselves that supposedly ended up not having people actually go through with it, because it provided such a valuable space for people to talk openly about their struggles and death and everything else. I actually don’t know if that place actually fully exists as it was described to be… But it sounds really interesting if it does.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Catnight! The taboo you speak of … the reality that a lot of this comes from a fear of talking about death at all… is definitely one of the things we try to address and bring to the surface with our Alternatives to Suicide work. And it was so weird to watch the ASIST folks twist themselves around the idea that we should be able to talk about suicide, while still sending such a strong message that it should also be really hard and upsetting whenever we talk about death. And yes, it definitely doesn’t have to be like this. There are certainly cultures where talking about death in all its forms is so much more normalized. The issues – being able to talk about death at all and being able to talk about suicide – are absolutely intertwined.

    -Sera

  • Thanks so much, Richard. And you’re absolutely right.. I shouldn’t have gone alone (from any other than a financial standpoint). Even before some of the worst things happened, it was still painful to be the lone voice in a sea of providers who were all on the same page with the terrible things they were saying. And it made my credibility much lower in a lot of ways.

    And good question… Massachusetts doesn’t seem to do much with ASIST right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it moved in that direction. We’ll certainly be watching for it 🙂

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Alex. Yes, mandated reporter is a serious issue, *especially* since so many people claim that it has anything to do with the topic of suicide which it most assuredly does not. But in general as well… It is a real issue. And what I think many people don’t realize is that once DCF is called in, it’s kind of like getting a diagnosis… I was thinking about my house after DCF was called on me. My kids aren’t getting abused. They’ve got pretty well supported, good lives… but how would DCF interpret my house not being so clean a lot of the time, and all sorts of other things that are just fine when you don’t have DCF looking at you through a particular lens…. Oy.

    -Sera

  • Fiachra,

    I think the drugs – and their largely unacknowledged contributions to *increasing* emotional ups and downs, disconnections, etc. – definitely have a role. However, I hesitate to say they’re all to blame. The hopelessness that comes with being given some of these diagnoses, the “prognosis” people are given, the hospital environments and how powerless people can feel… All of it also has a role.

    Iatrogenic effects are bit… and with more than just the psych drugs.

    -Sera

  • Oldhead,

    Yes, I know you’re largely right, and I can’t help but try. And no, not a word… although I e-mailed them *ALL* (Office of Mental Health and Northern Rivers leadership and Board members) again yesterday with a link to this article, and telling them that I am *formally* asking for information on how to file a complaint which I believe they should be legally compelled to provide to me… But nope, nothing.

    -Sera

  • Hey The_cat,

    Yeah, I’ve been in similar situations, too and had to make some really difficult situations. Ultimately, I so appreciate where you landed. It’s where I’ve landed, too. People *need* to be able to say some of those things to other humans and not get locked up for it. That said, there have been occasions when I’ve also said to people, “Hey, it was super unfair when you said that and then disappeared, and I’m feeling angry about that right now.” That (treating them as not so fragile that they can’t handle hearing how what they did impacted me) also turned out to be good for our relationship, though.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Hi Rachel,

    Yes, during and following hospitalization is when suicide “risk” is actually the highest according to research, and hospitalization seems to have long-term impact on suicide rates even for people who were hospitalized for reasons other than wanting to kill themselves. It’s pretty staggering and largely ignored data.

    -Sera

  • Julie,

    I hear you, and you’re not the person to suggest I make it about someone else. However, it loses a lot of power when I can’t say “that was me”. Being able to say “that was me” is a huge chunk of the power of sharing these sorts of stories at all. It’s where we get to challenge people’s assumptions in how they might conjure up an image of the person about whom that story is true… I know it’s a risk to me. But in spite of all this, it’s a risk I continue to be willing to take … most of the time. 🙂

    -Sera

  • I don’t disagree with you that people don’t want to deal with the politics and just want help. *HOWEVER*, part of the point here is that often they think they’re getting help and they end up getting hurt. Or, if they get legit help at the individual level, it may still contribute to hurt at the systemic level by sustaining the illusion of need for NAMI. None of that ultimately changes anything I’m saying here…

    Anyway, I think we’re ultimately basically saying the same thing underneath it all…

    -Sera

  • Lenora,

    You said: “Places like this, or your doctor, or mental heath professional, etc take things like this seriously and follow protocol because if they don’t, they might get hit was a malpractice suit.”

    Yes to a certain extent, however:

    1) That’s really misguided, and not at all supported by research evidence that says that both assessment of need and the most common interventions used are wildly ineffective.
    2) Even the fear of lawsuit is misguided, as successful lawsuits blaming providers for suicide deaths is actually incredibly rare, and especially in situations where there wasn’t egregious neglect (such as there wouldn’t be should want simply *talk* to someone rather than immediately shipping them off for “help”).
    3) I don’t even think that’s *truly* the motivation for a lot of people… Having *just* been subjected to a “wellness” check by a provider this past Friday myself, I strongly believe that some of these things are motivated by power and control, and excused under the cover of liability.

    I don’t disagree with most of the rest of what you said, but I’m not – and never have – blamed people for falling into NAMI’s clutches. I blame the broader systems (including NAMI) that make that so damn hard to avoid. So, ultimately, I agree with oldhead… if NAMI were gone, we wouldn’t have keep worrying about all this… but that’s certainly not to say that people don’t really struggle or need support. Just not the NAMI trap brand of it.

    -Sera

  • Systemic oppression and privilege do not preclude the success of members of those groups, but it does speak to the default design of society. For example, our holidays and workweek and how many people are afforded time off are structured around a Christian perspective. When kids are forced to stand and say the Pledge in school or people are asked to swear to tell the truth in courts, a Christian perspective on god works its way in. Presidential candidates suspected of not being Christian have had to go out of their way to prove that they are. These are just small examples, and don’t predict the outcome or impact for each individual which will vary significantly… but it seems strange to me to suggest that folks who follow a Christian practice aren’t privileged in this society in ways that make their way of life at least a bit easier.

    It doesn’t seem as if we will come to agreement on this. I believe that the insistence on seeing this as insult rather than a reality of the fabric of our society is a part of what keeps these things in place, and that seems really sad to me. But I don’t really know what else to say about it, and I don’t think it’s worthwhile to get into an extensive argument about it here.

    Sera

  • I have to be honest, Oldhead, that sometimes I really do wish you’d give it a rest. You seem like you have so much time to spend in these comment sections actively derailing things, and it can be exhausting to even try to keep up.

    Her main point was that she felt I’d insulted white people, and discounted her experience. I did my best to illustrate how that is a misunderstanding of what I said which isn’t an insult toward white people at all.

    *You* are the one bent on dismissing that in the name of naming capitalism. Of course capitalism has a role in all this, including the fact that it is capitalism that drives big pharma to use groups like NAMI as they do. And that’s not the whole picture, and none of this – not even the white privilege part – was central to the actual point of this article… although overal features of systemic oppression certainly are.

    Sera

  • Marie,

    I can’t be sorry that I included reference to white privilege in the article, because it’s real and it’s important to keep recognizing that fact. But, I am sorry that you received it as an attack, because it surely isn’t one at all. I know it can feel awful, however, to feel as if someone isn’t seeing your own suffering. I believe that you and your family have really struggled, and faced lots of adversity.

    I don’t think that that changes that you’ve received from benefit from your whiteness, but I believe that that’s been much harder to see or feel because of all the other benefits you haven’t received.

    In the end, privilege really isn’t about the person who possesses it being bad, or not having earned much of what they’ve gained. Rather, it’s about the reality that our society has been built and sustained by people who’ve had their own needs and wants and beliefs most in mind… That means that society centers and prioritizes mostly white, male, cisgender, christian, heterosexual, able-bodied folks with some wealth and education. And for each of those (and other relevant) qualities that one does not possess, there are at least a few more barriers in their way to the success… and people from the dominant groups blaming them for having a tougher time because many from those dominant groups can’t even *see* the barriers the marginalized group might be tripping over… because that’s how privilege works.

    Anyway, here’s a couple of samples of what’s out there about white privilege if it’s of interest:

    Joy Degruy presentation on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: https://youtu.be/BGjSday7f_8

    Joy Degruy clip on white privilege: https://youtu.be/dCv4luaBfk4

    Article on white privilege: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/01/16/white-privilege-explained/?utm_term=.d7571600149c

    Sera

  • Oldhead,

    Whoever said that to you was also being silly. The reasons why black and other non-white people aren’t more present here runs deep, and is reflected throughout any movement closely associated with pushing back on the psychiatric system. The reasons run from the fact that people of different backgrounds and privileges are shuffled into different systems, to how the psychiatric system and racism already intersect to even further marginalize non-white people, to how shitty white people are at making space and centering voices other than their own or hearing and respecting people other than those they see as representing their own image, and beyond. Whether you call people asking folks here not to use the term “psychiatric slavery” as appropriation or simply a show of lack of respect for the multiple black voices who’ve come here and said it doesn’t sit well with them… it doesn’t really matter. If becoming less white were more important to folks around here, they’ve be willing to give on these points even if they don’t fully agree.

    But regardless… I’m not going to continue arguing about this. We’ve been round this circle before.

  • Will spent a fair amount of lines on ‘peer respite, Frank. It wasn’t just one casual mention. And I think it was out of place. I actually think Will fairly frequently has include off handed lines in several of his blogs here that are targeted at particular people or groups in ways that don’t feel honest to me. This is but one example.

    That aside, your reference to “adult babysitting” just tells me you don’t know much about what peer respites are actually intended to be or what the ones done with integrity have to offer, and you are missing my point entirely. I also think it’s strangely naive to suggest that creating alternative supports is a waste of time… that echoes of the criticism many of us often receive about pretending nothing is wrong when we argue against the medical model. Mostly, people who hurl that criticism aren’t actually paying attention… because often many of us *are* acknowledging fully that something may be wrong for lots of people… that their pain and struggles are legit and that they deserve support. Just not within the framework the system has to offer.

    I also think you are giving Will way too much credit in what you ascribe to what he was saying there.

  • Sam,

    I would frame what I’m doing here largely as offering food for thought, and material to counter those who continue to argue in favor of these large entities like NAMI, MHA, etc without unpacking what’s really going on.

    That’s neither as personal as venting, nor as productive as offering a solution… but I do see it as being on the road to the latter… or at least a necessary part of ever getting there.

    Sera

  • Will,

    I’m not too sure what to make of this article. It seems a little all over the place. I *think* I appreciate the challenge to using the “creative maladjustment” term as its always struck me as appropriative rather than unifying in any way. But, overall, I’m finding myself a little lost in your point.

    I’m also a little perplexed as to why you zeroed in on “peer respite” here. I’m not super fond of that terminology because of the word “peer” and how strangely it’s come to be understood and used within the mental health system. However, your focus on it here suggests to me you have some deeper issue against peer respite (or the people connected to them) than anything else. Ultimately, “hospital alternative” strikes me as no solution, although it’s often a piece of the explanation as to what “peer respite” is. Certainly, I’d see little to no improvement in automatic understanding if I began using that terminology instead of “peer respite” , and may actually see an *increase* in people who *think* they understand what I’m talking about but don’t.

    I’m all for looking deeply at the power of language, and I’m not at all against looking for an alternative to “peer respite” , but I question the reason for your focus here.

    Sera

  • That’s pretty reductive, Oldhead. I don’t think anyone believes that “psychiatric slavery” is what has chase black and other people of color away from here. In general, non-white people weren’t here to begin with. But weirdly appropriative stuff like the insistence on clinging to that particular phrase, along with appropriation related to MLK and so on certainly doesn’t help.

  • Thanks, yeah_I_survived.. .For reading and sharing some of your own experience. I missed that Mother Jones article (ugh), but yeah, I wish the “liberal” ends of our media and society in general weren’t so hell bent on keeping their head in the sand where psychiatric oppression is concerned. I actually wrote an article about that at one point, too… :p

    In case anyone’s curious about that one: https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/dear-self-proclaimed-progressives-liberals-humanitarians-youve-really-messed-one/

    -Sera

  • Seltz6912,

    I’m not sure who this comment is directed at? Did you take my article to be suggesting that only the “sunny side” of voice hearing, etc be shared? That’s certainly not what I was saying… not even close… and I don’t think anyone else was saying that either, tho maybe I missed something?

    If that is what you took away from this article at first glance, I hope you’ll read through it again, as it’s just not what it actually says.

    Sera

    Sera

  • Steve,

    There’s one that supposedly Pat Deegan put together, but I’m skeptical of *all* the pre-recorded nonsense for all the reasons I already named. I *will* say, though, that the reason I titled the article “almost” is because there are trainings – such as the ones offered through the western mass rlc – that offer live simulations. That means that people – often including many people who have heard or do hear voices – provided a live simulation experience. We have found some value in that because a) it is offered contextually and b) it is debriefed after the simulation at length and most importantly c) it’s embedded in a broader training that talks about all the other pieces of the experience including how different it can look from person to person and moment to moment.

    AND as also noted in the article above, the exercise *still* runs the risk of encouraging people to take away sensationalized ideas and/or generalize… but that is at least also discussed in the debriefing process.

    Ultimately, I don’t think even the recorded simulation exercises constructed by people who hear voices could ever not be hugely problematic.

    Sera

  • Hey Sam,

    I tend to believe you aren’t replicating the NAMI stuff I speak of. However, my believing that doesn’t mean that I suddenly think it’s a good idea to confuse the language, as that opens the door for further issues with others. I believe you that you and your wife have played the meaningful healing roles for one another that you describe, but I do think It’s much more useful when you use that language as opposed to language that’s been claimed in other ways. (Although, iin general, I hate the ‘peer’ language in the way it’s used today almost entirely across the board._

  • Sam,

    Thanks for your comment, and I certainly remember you from other posts. You are welcome to come visit, btw!

    I think where I remember us diverging most is around what ‘peer’ and the role of family is specifically… that said, I’m not sure we diverge all that much. I *do* think it’s essential to *not* confuse family members with ‘peer supporter’ not because family can’t be key, but because NAMI, the whole ‘family partner’ peer scene, etc have had truly dangerous and damaging implications in how they’ve confused those things… and centered family voices *over* the voices of those most directly impacted.

    I also do believe that ‘peer’ is more about how two people interact and the nature of their connection, and I remember you resonating with that… but I just think that needs to work in concert with having key experiences (being in the system, etc) in common or else it drifts too quickly into nami land. Although, as I say that, I can also say that our community takes a pretty broad perspective on what ‘peer’ means, too… So, it’s gray.

    But somehow, I think we need to continue to hold the tension that exists between family (especially chosen family like significant others) having really important roles *and* recognizing that very often they still come with power dynamics and other complexities and historical trends that mean differentiating is also important.

    I fear I’m rambling… perhaps due to being in a vacation state of mind… but ultimately, I’d be all for more trainings, supports, and opportunities for patterns and other family to have positive impact in someone’s struggles… just not to the point of confusing that with the expectation that someone can typically be in that role *and* be in a ‘peer supporter’ role such as we are usually talking about It here.

    Sera

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, rachel777. I think everyone’s experiences are different/unique in some way, but what you described sounds similar to many I’ve heard… especially how the voices connect to something in the environment and self-blame somehow, as well as how the psych drugs didn’t actually make the voices go away. So true for so many people. In any case, thank you for sharing a piece of your experience here.

  • Thanks, Mark. I think for me, the art has a lot to do with how it’s conveyed… if it’s an art display expressly by “crazy” people – like what nami periodically offers and basically just saying “hey crazy people make good pictures too” – then yeah, not a fan. However, if it’s an art installation respecting people’s experiences, or the difference and brilliance that brings that art forth… I can certainly respect that!

  • It’s absolutely true, Kindredspirit. And, in fact, there is research at this point I believe that suggests that people’s sense of having control and understanding over what’s happening means they’ll be less negatively impacted by it.

    How something impacts us and our lives really *is* the key point… although the mental health system doesn’t necessarily see it that way, and the simulations certainly don’t convey that point at all. For example, I used to have visions telling me to hurt or kill my daughter when she was a baby. I eventually figure out why… they were a message to me about how I was blaming my body for the babies that died by miscarriage before she was born. Once I figured that out, they lost a lot of their power over me. Before that, I at least knew better than to tell anyone about them… I don’t think the system would have cared at all what the visions meant…

  • Madmom,

    I wouldn’t suggest IPS for hearing voices at all, actually. I think the 5 day IPS core training is useful for lots of things, but not that.

    However, there are alternatives already established. I struggle with not being too self-promoting, so I left out some of the work we do at my workplace but perhaps I shouldn’t have, so let me offer it here now:

    We offer three day trainings intended primarily for current and future hearing voices facilitators and sometimes others join those trainings, as well… but they are long.

    My co-worker, Caroline Mazel-Carlton coordinated a webinar specifically geared toward family, and I’m sure she’ll do that again in the future.

    She and another co-worker of mine, Marty Hadge, fairly regularly offer three-hour trainings on trauma-informed strategies for working with voice hearing like this one: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VoicesPittsfield2019

    Caroline, Marty and several others on our team also do a variety of other hearing voices trainings. Everyone who trains on this topic either currently hears voices (true of the majority of our trainers), or has had experiences that fit under the Hearing Voices umbrella.

    And we certainly arent the only ones. We have brought out Peter Bullimore and company from England several times, and will have them out again in April. in fact, if you look at our January newsletter, you’ll find information about what Peter and Shaun Hunt will be offering in MA and FL in the spring. https://madmimi.com/s/3ea57d

    There is no excuse for the simulations as they are offered. I understand what you are saying, but there *are* better options that simply don’t have the backing of the simulations so people don’t hear about them. That is the result of NAMI and all the other marketing behemoths (see the next article I hope to publish for more on this point). But the options *do* exist. And often they are low cost or free, offered by people who have that experience, and far more meaningful.

  • Nik,

    We aim to make things accessible. Typically, getting the fee waived is just about e-mailing us to say you want it waived. Although the fees are helpful to sustainability of our work, we don’t count on them. In general, we only say no to someone who’s asked for a fee to be waived when we also just don’t have enough space to offer them a spot.

    If you don’t already get it, sign up for our e-newsletter at our website (www.westernmassrlc.org), so you’ll get notified when the next trainings are coming around. 🙂

    Thanks for your input on the name! I imagine we will be putting out some thoughts on the choices we come up with in December!! 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • CryAngerNow,

    Soooo, it’s Community not Center, but yes to the rest! But most begrudgingly for the majority of us who work here. Along those lines, you may want to check this out:

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NewNameRLC

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, and feel free to give feedback on our name via that survey! 🙂 In terms of trainings we offer, the vast majority of our trainings are free to in-state folks. There’s a $100 fee for out-of-state people, but it can be waived if it’s cost prohibitive. 🙂

    Thank you! 🙂

    -Sera

  • Out,

    A good point. I’ve certainly been in a *LOT* of settings where making those in power/in the roles with the power ‘uncomfortable’ sure was frowned upon… and the sensitivity of those folks in power was NOT seen as *their* issue but mine or the others making them uncomfortable.

    -Sera

  • Thanks so much, Irit. Yes, sometimes people who speak loudly and firmly may lose some people, but also act as an important ‘beacon’ of sorts for those who’ve had similar thoughts and haven’t known what to do with them. It can be so important. 🙂

    Admittedly, I do use the term ‘provider’ a bunch because I haven’t felt moved to worry too much about the impact of that one-word label on folks working in the system… but it’s a good point that I should probably think harder about the term and what it conveys to everyone about that role.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Don,

    I find that referring to things as ‘politically correct’ is a way to devalue or cut off the conversation. It communicates that someone is “just doing it to seem cool” or “in the know” or “woke” enough. I’m not saying that that is how you intended that term to come across, but it is how it is very often used (as something derisive in some way) and I can’t help be hear it that way.

    The RLC dropped the term ‘peer’ from job titles some years ago, and moved to Advocate. That’s also an imperfect word, but at least moves away from the idea that our job titles need be inextricably linked to something some people will see as part of our identities. I’m sure there are other options, all flawed in some way, but what I also say in this article is that it is less about a list of good and bad words than understanding values and aims.

    So, if we know that it’s one of our values to not lock people into mental health-system attached identities, then using *ANY* single word to routinely always refer to ‘them’ probably isn’t consistent with what we are working toward. Not client, not participant, not peer, not individual, not acorn. It’s the institutinalization of the language and the person right along with it that is the problem above all else.

    So, I’d be leading people astray if I listed out a bunch of words that are ‘okay’. That’s not the point. The point is figuring out what we are actually trying to accomplish in all this?

    -Sera

  • Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for reading. 🙂 Unfortunately, in my experience, any time a word starts to become a ‘buzz word’ for SAMHSA, the mental health system, etc., it just starts to become hollow. Perhaps there’s something about words uttered by oppressors cannot simultaneously hold value for the oppressed… I think there is sometimes an impossible tension for some folks (particularly those focused on reform rather than abolition, but who still hold some pretty clear lines) who fight for providers to let them define the language, but then should the provider finally listen and use the language as requested by those who’ve until then been ignored or marginalized… it’s anticlimactic because then the language stops sounding so good. So, sure, some of that.

    However, some of that is driven by something deeper… So, for example, most providers who use ‘recovery’ language haven’t actually changed a damn thing about the potential they see for people in the system. They consider an acceptable or even *normal* version of ‘recovery’ to be (as I think I mentioned somewhere above in one of the other comments) sitting on the couch, zombified, and just ‘staying out of trouble’. It would *never* be good enough for themselves, but somehow it’s ‘success’ when looking as those in the system. One of the state hospitals in Massachusetts changed its name (when it wasted millions on rebuilding) to a ‘Recovery Center and Hospital’. So, now they’re using ‘recovery’ in relation to forced incarceration. Great.

    Additionally, sometimes better language simply gets used to win grants and look good. So, for example, not too long ago, we had to re-bid for our primary contract that funds the RLC and we found ourselves up against a clinical provider…. And it happened to be a clinical provider who’d invested a *LOT* of time learning our language and approach. And they essentially used our own work and words to try and take it from us.

    Words are meaningful, but they can also be rendered hollow when they are wielded by people who don’t understand more than their most basic definition, or who then believe that superficial ‘goodness’ is still good when it becomes forced or made hollow by overuse in under informed hands…

    Does that make sense? I think there’s probably a lot more to be said on this topic, but hopefully that helps some. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Thanks for reading, J! I do think that a lot of people do find liberty when they just completely reject what they’ve been told! Not always an easy journey, and I’m never going to personally be one who tells people which journey is right for them (because, at the very least, benevolent force is still force), but I know I personally felt an important shift when I moved from somewhat rebellious to just “fuck off”. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Ron,

    That’s not my experience… that it’s easy to repurpose or reframe words in conversation within the mental health system. Rather, my experience is that routine use of words leads to routine ways of thinking and routine ways of responding to people… And that sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to change the language to signal that people need to change the way they’re thinking and doing things.

    In other words, everyone – on every side – gets institutionalized to some degree.

    But I do hear what you are saying, and I think that will work some of the time.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Ron,

    Fair enough on the broader potential for ‘recover’, but I do believe that the reality is that when it is used within the mental health system the vast majority of people are referring to ‘recovering’ from an ‘illness’, and I think it’s important to not lose sight of that even if it means something different (just like ‘peer’, etc does) outside of the system.

    Thanks!

    -Sera

  • yeah_i_survived,

    You make an excellent point. Some of the people with whom I’ve intersected and who refer to themselves as ‘in recovery’ are shaking from psych drugs, unable to work (in spite of wanting to), etc. I’ve heard stories from others now living full lives who were told they were doing ‘great’ when they were unable to get off their couch or do more than smoke and drink coffee because of how sedated they were. It’s painful to see. Although who am I to say what someone *should* look like, it’s awful to see that so many have been sold this particular ‘recovery’ bill of goods.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Judi,

    I don’t disagree with most of what you write as I understand it, but I guess I think there are different layers to the conversation. Even though I agree that the medical system has lied to people in ways that *should* have legal consequences, I don’t believe in forcing folks on the receiving end of that to give up words they find meaningful. I don’t find force helpful in general. If I am to regard at least some people who’ve been lied to in these ways as – say – trapped in a cave, I believe it’s my role to go in and shine a light on the pathways out that were previously in shadow and thus invisible. I don’t, however, believe it’s my role to grab them by their arm and drag them down the path I’ve chosen for them. That – more often than not – results in their pulling back and struggling with me, *or* in their coming along because they feel they have no choice, but not really feeling committed to that path themselves and so not really even knowing why they’re there (or necessarily staying). In order to be the best support, I believe I need to accept that people may choose to stay, even if they got their because of lies. It’s only by letting go of that agenda that I believe I make space for people *also* to decide differently and go down the path I was hoping they’d find.

    Hope that makes some sense.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Alex,

    I agree it can be a tricky balance, and that different communication styles match different intentions. For example, wanting to get media and general public’s attention may perfectly reasonably involve yelling at a building housing an org you’re protesting while carrying signs with catchy but ‘inflammatory’ slogans. On the other hand, if you actually want to have a conversation with someone, that’s probably not the best place to start.

    However, not bending on honest words and realities seems critical in either place. Thank you for not being willing to bend on words like ‘discrimination’, etc.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks, out.

    I have mixed feelings about ‘content warnings’, but I do agree they are a vast improvement and potentially useful in some contexts… The best thing about them as compared to ‘trigger’ warnings is that they say ‘I want you to know what is included here’ vs. ‘This content may be harmful to you.’ Content warnings certainly don’t suggest in quite the same way that ‘trigger warnings’ do that we are all fragile folks that can’t handle certain topics. Yet, I still remain mixed about them, because I still see the heavy use of them resulting in some similar outcomes. Not quite sure where the ‘right’ balance is.

    And I hear you on the not wanting to forget, but not wanting to be paralyzed by anger (my own words, not sure if they resonate for you) forever. I can very much relate to that.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • HH,

    Apologies for my delay in responding. I was mostly out of reach of a computer yesterday.

    In any case, rarely do I advocate for correcting people on their individual word choices for themselves. While I would, for example, correct a fellow team member in my work place (because I think it’s *ESSENTIAL* that they not be reinforcing negative stuff in their language choices, and that they be using words that leave space for other people to self-define), I wouldn’t typically correct someone speaking about themselves (nor advocate that anyone else do so). One of the most important things in many people’s own healing process is to be able to have the space to choose their own path, including the language they use to describe it. If someone came in using a word for themselves that felt really problematic to me or that I at least wanted to explore with them further, I’d simply ask what that word means to them (or similar). For example: “I’m bipolar.” “I’ve known a lot of people who’ve been given that diagnosis, and they and their experiences are so different. What does that look like for or mean to you?” Sometimes people really need to think through that answer because they’ve been given so much systems language that they just haven’t really thought about what it truly means to them. In other words, as you referenced, some people are just ‘parroting’ ideas, and that phenomenon can become dangerous and inhibit growth and progress and healing and freedom on many levels.

    That said, in order for people to be able to truly see possibilities beyond the crap the system feeds us, they need to be exposed to it and have opportunity to unpack what it all means to them personally… So, that still brings me back to how important it is that we not be unnecessarily perpetuating all this stuff.

    Also, you said?: “When I was trying to educate the Vermont legislature about the problems with forced drugging in institutional situations, I used the term “forced drugging” rather than “involuntary medication” because I thought it was more accurate. But some people who I really wanted to get to understand my ideas, were alienated and stopped listening because they found my language inflammatory and they saw me as not sympathetic to their point of view and not respectful of… yada yada.”

    In my experience, people who are in that place at that time will find something to disagree with no matter what you say. Because you are threatening a paradigm with which they are intertwined either through years of work/education, or through years of institutionalization. I also use psychiatric drugs instead of medication. Rarely do people respond to that in any way in either direction. However, I get called inflammatory, and difficult, and all sorts of things all the time. That includes before I was ever writing on Mad in America. Before I’d put out publicly some of the more controversial things I’ve said. Before we made any films. Etc. Simply because I was challenging a paradigm. I used to believe that if I just tried hard enough, I’d be able to find the right words to reach people who are in that place, and that that was my job. But after years of trying and still getting the same ‘you’re too radical’ or inflammatory or whatever, I’ve stopped trying so hard. Because it’s not about me. It’s about them. They are *INVESTED* in hearing me that way, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about that, unless I water down what I say so much that I’m basically just supporting them and have lost all of what I truly believe.

    That is a feature of co-optation and systemic oppression. It is not our job to make people comfortable all the time, and they are attempting to trick us into stopping altogether when they put in effort to convince that if ‘only we were nicer about it’ we’d get further. While I’m not suggesting screaming at people is effective in many instances, I’ve not found that watering down is either.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Stephen. Yeah, I’ve had my share of experiences with the standard medical world, too. Both for myself, and with my kids. I’ve picked up the attitude (that I apply to most parts of my life at this point :p), that if you can’t tell me why (or if your ‘why’ is some stupid bureaucratic reason that has little to do with me), I’m probably not going to do it…

  • The_Cat,

    Hmmm, I flipped through a few reviews of the film before I wrote my own, but I’m not sure I looked at that one. Not surprisingly, some of them were pretty insulting in the way they talked about people who’ve been diagnosed, honestly, and I got tired of that. Ugh.

    Sera

  • Hey, yeah_i_survived,

    It’s a good question. We focus here primarily on the psych industry, but there are issues all around with the medical field… starting with how much power we hand over to them simply by calling them ‘Dr. Whatevertheirlastnameis’ when we are all our first names…

    Sera

  • It’s a good point. There was an awful situation (but much less unusual than they’re making it out to be) at this place in Connecticut where they finally saw on video footage someone hospitalized there being tortured and it became a big news story… but somewhere in there, I believe they also had to admit that most of the time they don’t look at the footage.

  • So, for those interested, here’s one document from the actual case decision: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1771297.html

    Here’s an interview with Helena on the film: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/helena-bonham-carter-55-steps-interview-eleanor-riese_uk_5bc4f660e4b0fed45beb93d7

    And, I embedded the link to the film on Amazon, but some people don’t seem to realize it’s there, so here is the link to actually watch the film online: https://www.amazon.com/55-Steps-Hilary-Swank/dp/B07JVR24ZL?keywords=55+steps&qid=1539736703&sr=8-2&ref=sr_1_2

  • Frank,

    It’s not about status. Even if involuntarily incarcerated, I believe the ruling prohibited forced drugging unless it was defined as an ’emergency’ in some way (and yes, I know that how ’emergencies’ are defined gets pretty sketchy, too). The film doesn’t really get too deeply into what happens between hospitalizations and forced drugging, or the Involuntary Outpatient Commitment laws and all that.

    However, like I said in the piece above, I think the film’s true significance is less about that ruling in California, and more about having a film circulating with mainstream actors that says some of these things, and puts it right out there that these drugs have killed people. (As well as some of the statements and fairly accurate representations of things like restraints that are offered along the way.)

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • CatNight,

    I think getting the courts to believe that harm was being caused was a long road. They didn’t win at first. In fact, they were barely given a chance to be heard. Eventually, they found some doctors willing to sign on and support their argument which helped. Collette’s having been a nurse and being willing to devote a ton of time to explaining the details of the harms caused was big, too. And then, even in spite of all that, I think people are still so often ignored. So, I’m just not sure beyond that, and I think there’s for sure a risk of any progress they made there being undone.

    -Sera

  • God. This is *so* incredibly frustrating. Perhaps most frustrating of all is I can’t get the website to stop sending me notifications so it’s easy to check out of this incredibly frustrating conversation.

    Somehow I can’t manage to not respond to this, so as briefly as I can…

    You said: “as long as we continue to use race as the sole or major theme to describe who is oppressed and who isn’t, or who is appropriating what, we lose sight of those pulling the strings at the top.” But I didnt say race is the sole theme.

    You said: “People of color do not own the term slavery and slavery as a general term refers to much more than the enslavement of African and Caribbean people of color by early Americans.” I didn’t say people of color own it or that that type of slavery is the only type of slavery. But it *sure* would be nice if white Americans would be willing to attend to the fact that it *sure* is that kind of slavery that is most relevant to our recent history and that it might be nice if we could respect that fact when some people of color express that it’s offensive… especially when there are *plenty* of other words to choose from.

    You said, “But when we get into the weeds over who is oppressed and who isn’t” but that has literally nothing to do with what I said. However, when we are talking about race it is okay to just talk about race. And when we are talking about sexism it is okay to make space to just talk about sexism. That doesn’t mean the others don’t count. I wonder why you hear it that way?

    You said “fashion.

    But when we get into the weeds over who is oppressed and who isn’t, I’m supposed to be greatful it isn’t worse” … again, nope. Didn’t say any of that.

    No one is nullifying anyone’s suffering. But it is super important that we ask ourselves why these conversations about one type of systemic oppression so often get lost in people wanting to say ‘not all white people’ or ‘not all men’ or ‘not all psychiatrist’ etc etc etc… or why a conversation about one type of systemic oppression suddenly becomes about taking care of someone else’s needs because talking about that systemic oppression somehow made them feel bad.

    Good goodness sake.

    Yes, sure, capitalism is a tool in strengthening or driving all these forms of oppression, and they all intersect, and psychiatry has also been used as a tool (as driven by capitalism and control from the ruling class) with all types of oppression. Yes, yes, and yes,

    And we still need to take a serious look at each piece on its own. Cause we continue to be super white, and we continue to ignore feedback from some of the very few people of color who have tried to speak up, and we continue to be *incredibly* defensive about the issue of racism pops up, and we continue to have enormous holes in what we know/think we know.

    Steve, As new moderator, could you make one of your first acts helping me find out why the “manage your subscriptions’ feature isn’t working so I can stop getting notifications about this thread!!

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • There is literally nothing… and I mean nothing… no past history, no commitment to anti-racist ideology or actions… that exempts one from being party to/unable to see their own contributions to racist and white supremacist structures, Oldhead.

    Elitism in my assumptions? First of all, I didn’t make the assumption that Richard ‘has no understanding or privilege’… I believe that suggesting that I said such a thing is what ‘they’ call a ‘straw man’ argument… Second, I wonder if you’re able to see the difference between what I said and your own commentary which is rather accusatory and skewing toward name calling.

    But really, what is your point here? As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the time, your point is simply to argue. Enjoy that.

    I’m going to unfollow this post at this point.

  • Richard,

    I can’t give you the apology you seek. What I can say is that I’m sorry it felt so personal to you. However, I am of the opinion that *all* white (and generally speaking, white passing) people have ways of being and moving through society that are based on benefiting from racism and white supremacy. And, I think that we *all* have blind spots as a result. And, my own experience and learning suggests that the more we have in common with the individual for whom this society was designed (the white, educated, male, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class, able bodied, etc. individual), the harder it is to see all that and to not have those blind spots.

    So, I may be forgetting something (though I did skim back through the comment section of the blog to which you refer), but I don’t think I intended to ever say that *you* as an individual are especially racist. Simply put: Although I can see very clearly that you have invested a great deal of time in being good and moral and aware of oppression and the impact of capitalism, etc., that you – like most of us – have your blind spots made of the privilege you’ve experienced in moving through this world and/or the fact that you haven’t had to experience so many of these issues first hand. And that I do believe that at least some of the ways in which you seem to be using the terminology of ‘identity politics’ and denying the importance of hearing people of color when they ask people to not use terms like ‘psychiatric slavery’ and so on is born of some of that. But certainly not you alone. You alongside so many others, and in spite of that fact that I don’t think that’s how you mean any of it at all.

    You can call that divisive. But I look around here… Around this movement… This white, white movement… And I wonder why we can’t just do everything in a power to try and make space for that to change. Even if none of us have all the answers or are quite sure what will make the most difference.

    Anyway. I’m not going to be able to rehash most of this here. I’m about to start week two of being away from home facilitating Alternatives to Suicide trainings in Maine. I just really couldn’t avoid at least saying what I said about the ‘identity politics’ piece feeling dismissive. And I can appreciate why you wanted to reply back.

    Goodnight.

    -Sera

  • Shaun,

    I’d be silly, naive and whatever else if I claimed you were wrong when you said ‘Second, there are people who will do better after being sent to the hospital.’ We know it’s true because people’s responses vary, and all that.

    BUT:

    1. Why is it true? What about hospital *actually* helped the person? And what did they need to ignore/avoid/not be impacted by that was negative in order to achieve that positive?

    2. How are we defining ‘doing better’? Inevitably, we’d define that in different ways. (Not just you and I… but so many of us…) Some people have been trained to say ‘doing better’ when all they mean is ‘under control’? Some people have been trained to say ‘doing better’ when all that means is ‘numbed out’… Some people have been trained to say ‘doing better’ when what they mean is ‘right in this moment things look better, and to hell with how what we did to get this short-term result may impact things long-term…’

    3. Let’s assume we can find people we’d *ALL* agree are ‘doing better’ *after* hospitalization… There inevitably are such people. BUT, there are also people who appear to be ‘doing better’ after being tortured. (See the Judge Rotenberg Center as an example of a place that tortures people with painful electric shocks because some of them seem to ‘do better’ and stop serious and life threatening self injury after being so tortured.) How far are we willing to go with justifying torture because it seems to ‘help’ some people? What if something is just morally wrong even if it sometimes has some desirable outcome with a set of people? And what if it still hurts FAR more people than it helps? At what point does that intervention become unacceptable for *all* because it is morally wrong and/or hurts far more people than it helps?

    If we can agree that forced hospitalization is morally wrong and if we can agree (i.e., accept the growing body of research and wide array of individual reports) that it is causing FAR more harm than good… then whether or not it may occasionally ‘help’ some people simply becomes irrelevant.

    -Sera

  • Yes, as I noted in my comment, where people aren’t in the same org and there are tensions or a lack of sense of comraderie between the two orgs it can function quite differently. But, in my experience (not just personal, but decades of experience supporting people in different environments who are going through their own experience with the system), the assumption on the part of those with that power that they can and should just do what whichever clinician contacting them says that they should is absolutely pervasive.

    (There’s a typo in my above comment btw… It should say that it’s not at all UNcommon that psych nurses get to just tell doctors what to do, etc.).

    -Sera

  • Although I realize this will take us right back to where we most went to head-to-head, Richard, I can’t help but state how troubling I find your comment here. There has been – and continues to be – lots that you bring to this site and to the world in general, but i find this ‘identity politics’ business to be incredibly dismissive.

    This continues to be a largely white-dominated site, and I for one would be *thrilled* if Mad in America could find a way to take a clearer stand on some of the language that re-enforces some of the white supremacist pieces that creep in here just as much as anywhere else… Including appropriation of terminology like ‘psychiatric slavery’. I’m not interested in re-hashing that particular debate again, so I’m not going to engage even if others comment to say how wrong I am…

    But I needed to say *something*. This isn’t just ‘identity politics’… I find that term just as dismissive as people who get irritated when someone else offers a correction that they feel is “politically correct”… Both suggest that the suggestions – usually based in actually being respectful and not replicating/changing the oppressive ways of the broader world – are trivial, and that honoring or truly hearing them are nothing more than appeasing some silly person. It’s a real problem.

    -Sera

  • Hi Steve,

    So, I know it’s already been head as I saw it come up in my skim of other comments, but I just wanted to echo that I also find the ‘sheriff’ reference to be problematic. Though, admittedly, it simultaneously made me less and more inclined to want to read the piece.

    I also wanted to push back against the don’t generalize piece… I don’t think it’s okay to equate generalizing experienced by groups of people as a feature of systemic oppression (such as people of color, etc.) with generalizing about groups of people who’ve been a part of the oppressive structure itself (e.g., psychiatrists). Sure, generalizations will never be entirely accurate, BUT one is coming out of ignorance and/or a desire to keep systemic oppression in place… The other is coming out of justified anger at the experience of systemic oppression, and even if each INDIVIDUAL doesn’t fit the stereotype or what have you, the point is that the generalization is much more accurate because it speaks to the realities of the *system* and what it charges those with keeping the system rolling to do, etc.

    I generally (to generalize) have appreciate your comments on Mad in America, so I suspect you’ll do a good job here, but I really hope you’ll give particularly this latter piece some thought as you move forward.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks for this, Jess. I crossed paths with Kevin Hines at the Alternatives Conference in 2017 in Boston. I was pretty horrified. I don’t mean to draw into question the basics of his story, but he presents it in such a theatrical manner that it comes across more as one-many show than genuine sharing. And some of the ideas he promotes and/or re-enforces are just awful and damaging. Watching him ride that story to the level he has without question and with such … rockstarish admiration from others in the movement (and beyond) … has been so frustrating. But I appreciate your drawing out the reasons behind that. What he offers is not only incredibly theatrical and appealing in that story porn sort of way, but also doesn’t challenge the conventional paradigm. In the end, it is a part of what silences so many of the stories out there that are much more rooted in the things people need to hear to make the changes that are needed to stop hurting people.

    -Sera

  • Oldhead,

    Hopefully you picked up from what I wrote in the original piece that I *also* don’t think someone’s right to kill themselves is equal to their right to do so in front of me. And, I’d be hard pressed to stand by and do nothing if that’s the choice they made. But whatever I did… I’d do as a *human* and certainly not as any sort of ‘treatment’.

    Also, this piece isn’t about not calling the cops at all. If someone was in my home and refused to leave, I’d call the cops, for example. that said, I also think it’s true that all the white folk calling cops on black people for doing things like barbecuing in the park (etc.) *IS* atrocious and a threat of violence.

    We always bring a ton of intersectional buttons to give away whenever we go to a conference. At the last conference we attended, we premiered several new buttons. The most popular one asid, ‘Fuck your help. My cat saved my life’ But not far behind that were buttons that said ‘Calling the cops on a person of color = a threat of violence’ and ‘Calling the cops on a person in emotional distress – a threat of violence’. This wasn’t intended to mean that calling the cops on people who are literally threatening to/are taking steps to harm someone else is wrong… But I think people got the point, and those also flew of the table.

    I don’t think of that as ‘police shaming.’ I think of it as reality. Speaking of shaming, another couple of our buttons said ‘I’m not trying to pill shame you. I’m just sick of of watching people fucking die’ and ‘Speaking truth about bad science & psychiatric oppression does not equal pill shaming.’

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks, Richard. I agree with everything you say here.

    And for the record, I’m technically taking not entirely dissimilar risks in my work, which is still largely funded by the state mental health system. In fact, in some ways, the risks to us are even greater because if *one* bad thing happens in the ‘peer support’ world people are more likely to discredit *everything* we do than is likely to happen in the conventional system But we also know that if we don’t take those risks we defeat our own purpose. In fact, there is risk even in posting this piece and this particular story. Who knows how folks from our funder will interpret (and I do know that they read my posts here).

    I only wish more people were willing to choose integrity over risk management, and understand that the risk taking not only is absolutely necessary to do their job well, but also often comes with far less actual risk than they fear should something go wrong (as you also point out).

    My one misgiving about your post is the use of the term ‘mandated reporter’… I realize you put it in quotes… But I feel compelled to nonetheless say that that term is wildly used in the system. ‘Mandated reporter’ of course has nothing to do with suicide. Mandated Reporters are required to report when they suspect or become aware of abuse or neglect of a child, someone labeled with a disability, or someone considered elderly by a caretaker. That so many organizations refer to that as ‘mandated reporting’ is a way of silencing the conversation and making people feel forced to behave in certain ways. Because, of course, if it’s a mandate that exists beyond the organization that suggests much less potential to change things than if it’s simply an organization policy.

    Thanks!

    Sera

  • Ken and Shaun,

    I appreciate the truth of what you’re saying… that only doctors often have the right to sign off on papers, etc. to force someone into a psychiatric hold/forced hospitalization.

    HOWEVER, it nonetheless feels disingenuous to me to focus on this in most instances. Because doctors often just take clinicians at their word, and do whatever they suggest is the right thing. Because I’ve heard of situations where doctors have left blank forms with their signature on them for clinicians to use whenever needed. Because it’s not at all common for nurses to be able to go to doctors even in psych hospitals and tell them what is needed with someone incarcerated there and have the doctor just do it (force them into a ‘room plan’ that leaves them in isolation, make a change to their psych drug regiment, etc. etc.).

    The truth is that clinicians often have a TREMENDOUS amount of power when they say what is needed, even if they’re technically not able to sign off on the related paperwork. I realize there are exceptions or places where individuals aren’t int he same organization and if there’s tensions between the organizations that they may be less likely to listen to one another… but it’s true more often than not.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Hi Shaun,

    I can appreciate the realities that clinicians working in the system face, even when they truly want to practice differently. I guess I have several thoughts on this…

    1. Read Bruce Levine’s comment. At the most basic, if you could at least be real about *why* you are doing what you are doing, that’s a step in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong. It *still* can be devastatingly harmful to send someone to the hospital against their will, BUT… If you’re real about the reasons then at least you a) Can avoid contributing to the dehumanizing and disabling affects of telling someone that *they* are the problem in such a screwed up system and b) You can perhaps still partner with them to figure out how to minimize the damage. This might even include things like connecting them with folks who can coach them on what to say to get themselves the heck out of there as soon as possible, etc.

    2. Read ‘Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws: Examining Current Approaches to Suicide in Policy and Law’ by Susan Stefan. Susan is an Attorney in Massachusetts who has reviewed case law, etc. on suicide across the country. One of the realities that she has been able to identify along the way is that a clinician being successfully held liable for someone’s suicide is about as likely as being struck by lightning. Reading this book may give you some useful information as to your options and realities of your and others’ fears.

    3. Be upfront *before* someone comes to you and says they’re suicidal. *Tell* them what that would look like, and what you’d be obligated to do. Perhaps give every person you work with an informational sheet that explains all of your limits on privacy and what you’d be required to do if they said certain things. Be as specific as possible. But, don’t stop there. After you’re done being specific about all that, also give them resources for places where that’s NOT true… even if just a phone support line they can call. (But, be careful which one because many phone lines are also set up to call the cops if they perceive someone to be in imminent danger. But, there are SOME out there where that’s not true. The Western Mass RLC’s peer support line is an example of a place that simply won’t call the cops on someone talking about killing themselves, though it’s hours and funding are limited to 7pm to 9pm from Monday through Thursday and 7pm to 10pm from Friday through Sunday. (The number is 888.407.4515.) There are other options out there, too, but you really need to do your research to be able to be confident that they won’t call the cops, because most lines (including those most frequently promoted) will.

    4. Connect with others in your field who are trying to do things differently. Folks in England (for example) have done a much better job of forming ‘critical’ networks where they can get together and talk about how to do their jobs differently, and support one another to know they’re not alone in trying to do so.

    5. Also be honest about your fear and regret, and be willing to say you’re sorry. These things don’t make up for the worst of it, BUT being willing to talk about your own fears, regrets, worries, etc. *is* a big deal. Being willing to say you’re sorry when you cause harm is also huge. It almost never happens in the system.

    Those are my best ideas for now.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Bruce,

    Thanks, Bruce. Your point is an important one… If folks in professional roles could at least be more honest (with themselves and those around them) about why they’re doing what they’re doing, that’d be a huge step forward. At the very least, if someone was honest about doing something to cover themselves, at least the person they’re doing it to might be a little less likely to internalize the idea that they’re bad/the problem/hopeless/etc. It is so much of that latter issue that drives people getting stuck in these systems.

    -Sera

  • Hi Danzig, I’m not totally sure I followed all of your comment, but I hope you didn’t think that this piece was suggesting a connection between biology and people’s emotional distress. While I think there are some situations where we might not know exactly what’s at the root for some people and I would never want to presume to know what causes people’s distress other than my own, I do think that so much of it is environmentally based.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks, John. I can appreciate feeling so desperate about someone potentially being in medical distress that you call for help. I also really appreciate that it’s not what you jump to.

    Unfortunately, overall, I don’t think policies that put it as ‘only in extreme situations’ go far enough because… Well, it still leaves it as an option and we’ve seen through history time and time again that what happens is providers tend to define more and more situations as extreme.

    If we could *at least* get to the point within the provider system that it’s not see as ‘okay’ and is seen as a failure of the system to provide useful options and mandates a review of practices (including an interview with the person themselves)… Well, that would sure be a step in the right direction!

    To come back around what I appreciated about what you offered… That you’ve been able to hold that line and had so few instances where you did resort to calling the police… is really useful toward demonstrating that that level of reduction is possible to folks who believe that ‘extreme situations requiring extreme measures’ are commonplace.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, J! 🙂

    Yes, problems in families are often a part of what drives people to feel so alienated in the world. Along with poverty, racism, bullying, and so much other violence and hatefulness.

    One of the concepts we talk a lot about in Alternatives to Suicide is that suicide isnt the problem… it’s a solution to so many other problems, albeit a desperate one.

  • I’d encourage you to watch it, Oldhead. I think you’re right, we don’t need to keep asking… And in fairness to the film, it doesn’t overtly ask. It’s pretty smartly constructed. But it does put the viewer – many of whom will not have come to the same conclusions as you already – to give thought to those points.

  • The thing is that acknowledging racism does *not* mean we can’t also acknowledge collective fights. It also doesn’t need to mean that it’s ‘race against race’. In fact, the Hamiltons said many times while they were here that we’re all in this. We’re all being affected.

    It’s also possible to acknowledge racism in a way that isn’t all about blame. I benefit from white privilege. I benefit from white supremacy. That doesn’t mean it’s me vs. black people, or that I’m operating with intent with any of that. Often there’s power to be found in acknowledging these issues honestly.

    -Sera

  • (I should add that – as aforementioned – I know zero about Roseanne’s politics, and have never seen the new version of her show so I have literally no opinion on any of it. I’m simply responding to her comment, and the subsequent effort to excuse it as ‘mental illness’.)

  • Fair enough, meremortal. I would have balked less had Oldhead not begun his entire commentary by stating flatly that he hadn’t read anything I’d actually written… 🙂 As an author here, it can be very frustrating to have people come in and immediately go off topic. It can, unfortunately, change the whole energy of the piece.

    -Sera

  • Just one last quick note:
    When you say this “There’s also something deeply bizarre with the idea that “the Blood is at” Roseanne’s “doorstep.” You may, as a white woman, feel that this extreme stance is really putting your weight behing the noble cause of supporting POC. As a POC, I can tell you that I find it profoundly weird that you would compare one comedian’s offhand, ambien-fuelled comment on Twatter to things like redlining, slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, police brutality, etc. ”

    It really makes me wonder if you’re misunderstanding how the phrase is getting used? As I understood it when Dameion stood at one of the screenings and told the audience the blood is now at all of our doorsteps, it was more about not being able to ignore what’s happening in the world… Not an accusation that we are each responsible or any sort of direct cause so much as a call to action, to not look away, to face the challenge of making change… Again, I’m not sure you’ve taken the time to understand what I offered here, but I at least wanted to be clear about that point.

  • Rachel,

    As I understand it, Dontre was *not* homeless. He was simply resting in a park in the middle of the day. I believe there was a report that went out stating he was homeless, but I believe that that was an erroneous assumption (and likely an assumption worth examining the roots of).

    I don’t actually know if Christopher Manney knew of Dontre’s diagnosis when he interacted with him. But I do know that how they painted Dontre afterward was skewed by that fact… (Check out the film if you have a chance.)

  • Make of it what you will, meremortal. Oldhead came in here, openly acknowledged not reading this article, and then proceeded to make the whole thing about Trump verses liberals which has absolutely nothing to do with anything I wrote. I know what happens around here when people do that. It has the potential to throw the entire comments section off track, and, yes, I find that disrespectful.

    It also seems to me that you’ve misunderstood much of what I’ve said here. I certainly didn’t compare her commentary to those things. What I actually said was:

    A) It is ridiculous that people are trying to excuse her behavior under the defense of ‘mental illness’.

    B) That, yes, there is a history of ties between psychiatry and racism, but that it is of a very different nature.

    C) That while, yes, Roseanne’s behavior shines a light on a much deeper and more serious issue of racism in this country, our focus would be much better served on the people and stories worth hearing about… That focus on a famous person’s offensive comments aren’t where to put our attention.

    So, while you seem to have read what I wrote, I’m not sure you’ve taken time to understand. That’s fine. At least you read it. Thank you for that.

  • I called everyone in the article by their first name, as best I recall. Yes, I referred to Trump as Trump… That’s just habit, I guess. But typically, I go for first names.

    And no, I will not be changing my lead in. It is what it is. I don’t know if you’ve actually taken the time to *read* the article at this point, but one of my points is that racism is *systemic* and Roseanne’s comment is merely illuminating that fact. She’s not so different than many people in the country, and as you know very well, I’m someone who believes that all white or white-presenting people have benefited from racism and white supremacy in this country, so it’s far more complicated than Roseanne being any sort of villain. However, I do absolutely believe that consequences for such overt racism are merited and necessary to initiate any sort of real change…

    MOST importantly, though, the point of the article is that it’s *absurd* to try and excuse her behavior as a symptom of ‘mental illness…’ That that’s wrong on many levels. And that the rush to focus on her while we’re still ignoring the voices and stories that deserve to be heard is a problem.

    This is the last time I’m replying to you on this. I find it disrespectful to come onto articles – especially articles that expressly make the point about how important it is that we shine the line on the people who deserve to be lifted up – and attempt to derail things in this way.

  • I do hope you’ll take this elsewhere, Oldhead. I didn’t know that Roseanne was a Trump supporter at the time I first heard about her Tweet, and I certainly didn’t have to have that in my head to hear her comment as pretty blatant bigtory. I don’t care if she is or isn’t a Trump supporter. It’s irrelevant. And.. If she didn’t realize that Valerie was black… Well, I don’t even know what to say about that. I find it hard to believe, even if she’s now claiming it.

    More than anything, I really don’t appreciate this article being turned into a ground for strange political arguments and insults. This isn’t what all this is about. It’s more important than that.

  • Fiachra,

    It means they were given a diagnosis. I quite intentionally use that language when stating a diagnosis that is relevant to a story or circumstance because being given a diagnosis is a fact (if someone in fact was given one by a doctor, psychologist, etc.), but what that means or why is left open.

    For example, I was personally given a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Can’t deny that. I sat before a therapist. They wrote it in my chart. But that still leaves space for me to say ‘and it was bullshit, and means nothing to me beyond the pain it caused me in the system.’ It’s fundamentally different than saying someone ‘has’ or ‘is’ a diagnosis in that way. It was relevant to mention here because the fact that Dontre was so diagnosed influenced how people, including the police, saw, interacted with, and spoke about him. It makes no claim about who he was or why.

    I certainly hope that is not all that you got out of this. I quite intentionally didn’t make this yet another article that goes on about the injustice of the labels themselves because I believe it’s clear in what I did write (for example, in the paragraph where I name some of the relationships that have existed between racism and diagnosis) that there is a problem. The main focus deserves to not be lost.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Jan! 🙂

    So, we did do a facilitator training in Melbourne, and the e-mail address for folks in that area who are getting things up and running is this: [email protected]

    We just did some broader events in Sydney and hope to go back to do a facilitator training at some point, but the contact e-mail publicly listed for that area in relation to the events we did do or bringing a facilitator training to that area is listed as [email protected]

    In Perth, there’s a committee managing getting things up and running (we’ve done the largest number of events/trainings in Perth) and their e-mail is: [email protected]

    It’s all still quite in the early stages, but hoping things develop soon. 🙂 🙂

    -Sera

  • Hi Jan,

    Yes, Caroline and I arrived on March 1 and begin our flight home late on the 24th. We started in Melbourne where we offered an Alternatives to Suicide facilitator training. We then went to Sydney and did a couple of related events with hopes to return in the future for more. We’ve been in Perth for a week now, and between last week and this one up we will have done several events and both a When the Conversation Turns to Suicide and an Alternatives to Suicide Facilitator training. 🙂

    We didn’t get to Brisbane, unfortunately, but would love to in the future! 🙂

    Sera

  • Jasna,

    Challenging feedback is hard, and I’ve certainly been subject to it myself when I’ve written here. However, I feel confused by your feedback which seems to be largely referring to my comment (though maybe I’m wrong about that?). I wasn’t simply looking for the fine points with which to argue for the sake of argument… I found pretty substantial issues with what was offered here that I think either confuse or take away from what was good, and I guess I don’t see the value in ignoring that. Endless fighting over irrelevancies won’t take us forward – you’re right about that… But neither will silence.

    -Sera

  • Hey there,

    Well, you named Alternatives to Suicide so inevitably, I’m sure you knew, I’d pop up at some point. 🙂

    There is plenty I agree with in what you wrote, but I guess I have a lot to say about the things I question or disagree with… I want to start with the opening paragraph:

    “The radicalness of the anti-psychiatry movement has unfortunately become one of its greatest hurdles to overcome. Even in otherwise radical spaces like prison abolition, neurodiversity, or intersectional feminism, the most common reaction to anti-psychiatry ideas is to dismiss them as so intuitively ridiculous they need not be engaged with. Sanism, behaviorism, drugs and force have permeated our culture to the point many people literally can’t imagine life without them.”

    I see others already disagreeing with your first sentence. I guess I do want to say a few things about the paragraph as a whole, though. I still think that ‘anti-psychiatry’ falls way short as a term. It implies focus on psychiatry rather than a whole system, and distracts from the actual arguments for being a term so often used as an attack or diagnosis against someone others wish to dismiss.

    Meanwhile, I’m concerned about terms like ‘sanism,’ as well. I don’t get it. These terms seem to be raining down on us from leftist intellectual land, but I guess I don’t really appreciate what this one seems to suggest. If racism is a systemic oppression that centers whiteness and assumes it as society’s ‘default,’ and heterosexism does the same where heterosexuality is concerned… Are we saying that society society is centering those who are sane and setting that as society’s ‘default’ as opposed to those who are insane? I don’t get it. And I really, really do not accept the idea that I am ‘insane’ (or mad, etc. etc. etc.).

    This language seems to fly in the face of the idea that we all have (or have the potential to have) deep distress, extreme states, etc. at various points, and that those experiences often make a ton of sense in relationship to our environments. It also flies in the face of the idea that experiences like hearing voices or seeing visions are the norm within some cultures, and can be a variation from the norm that does not mean anything is actually ‘wrong’ in our own. So, not only do I not really get that terminology… it actually seems actively harmful to me.

    So, on to your second paragraph:

    “On a good day, our leaders pontificate about “reforms” that would somehow fix a system whose deepest foundation is a bed of violence, oppression, and at best pseudoscience. They ask for cultural awareness training, yoga classes, art therapy, and healthier food options in psychiatric facilities, without ever questioning the confinement that made those things unavailable in the first place (let alone the coercion involved when participation in such activities becomes a condition of obtaining release).”

    Wait, who are you thinking of as our ‘leaders’? And who on earth among our ‘leaders’ isn’t questioning the confinement and coercion? Myself and most (if not all) of my co-workers fall in the middle of the ‘reform’ vs. ‘abolition’ debate… Many of us believe abolition would be best and is a noble goal, but also that it is naive and harmful and unfair to desert those individuals still stuck in the system… And so we spend time working on making the conditions more tolerable, too. But we *NEVER* lose sight while engaged in our efforts in the latter of the force and coercion that occurs. We write articles about it, we talk to providers about it, we offer trainings that incorporate awareness of it, and – most importantly – we take action to push back against it wherever we can both in individual situations and overall.

    I think there are some people who fit the description you offer, but it’s completely inaccurate to suggest that any and everyone who hasn’t invested all their time in abolition talk fits the definition you’ve provided here.

    Another section I want to quote directly: “Mad and neurodivergent people would be managers, not “peer specialists…The essential function of a “peer specialist” is to appear non-threatening, earn people’s trust, and convince them to stay on their meds. Hiring managers know that these positions only exist because others don’t, that there are far more job-seekers than jobs to fill, and thus that anyone they hire is easily replaceable.”

    Again, this seems misinformed to me. I certainly agree that a *huge* number of ‘peer’ roles are co-opted, poorly designed, and harmful. But the definition you offer defines the co-opted lot, and not what these roles are truly meant to be. And what they’re truly meant to be *does* exist in at least some peer-to-peer *and* provider settings. It also suggests to me that you’re unfamiliar with the true landscape of things when you say that there are far more job-seekers than jobs to fill. In many areas, people are struggling deeply to find qualified individuals to fill peer roles.

    Also, there are a number of places where people who you might define as part of the ‘mad’ movement do hold managerial roles. I know many in my state alone. Although, what precisely are you suggesting they should be managers of, if the system will no longer exist?

    I understand where you’re coming from with the following: “If the “peer specialist” has more power than the patient, then they’re not a peer, and if they have the same or less power, then they’re not needed.” Yet, it also seems a little misinformed to me. There’s still a tremendous need to have someone – even who has no more power than the individual stuck in the system – to be by their side, bear witness, help them strategize about how to get heard, help them learn about ways out, etc. There’s tremendous power in these things. Though, I’ll also add that of course people in peer roles don’t have exactly equal power as the person they’re trying to support.. They’re getting paid. They get to leave locked environments. They’ll be seen as more credible because they’re an employee. Etc. Etc. Etc. But if they’re well trained and supported, their role will be designed to reduce and avoid power imbalances as much as possible.

    This is also inaccurate: “Currently, all hotlines train their staff as mandated reporters, to listen for key phrases and if the caller utters one of them, secretly send people with guns and a history of recklessly using them, directly to the caller’s location. The sole exception is Trans Lifeline, which is of course exclusively for trans people, only a fraction of everyone who might want to call a crisis hotline.”

    Unless you’re not counting ‘peer support lines?’ The Western Mass RLC operates a Peer Support Line and we absolutely do not track calls or notify 911 no matter what someone says. I agree with you that what you describe is a huge issue among such lines, but please be careful about misrepresenting these points. I’m pretty sure there are at least a few others who do not track calls, too.

    Meanwhile, I’m also concerned about your use of the language of ‘mandated reporter.’ While some employees within the system are misinformed that mandated reporter is generally connected to reporting people who are suicidal, this is not what it means in most places. Rather, ‘mandated reporter’ most commonly means that people are required to report known or suspected abuse or neglect of children, elders, or individuals labeled disabled by care givers. It’s important that we not further contribute to that common misunderstanding.

    And there’s this: “In a post-psychiatry world, both would be regularly, sternly reminded of their humility. Moreover, they would be taught when not to intervene, and they would not need to have basic respect packaged as just another proprietary methodology, with a sexy name like “Open Dialogue,” “Intentional Peer Support,” “Emotional CPR,” or even “Alternatives to Suicide.” You follow this up with the following in the comments section: “Essentially they boil down to “don’t do Mental Health First Aid” or “don’t call the police” and the rest is just fluff to make them sound more like something social workers might accept into their existing paradigm. IPS, eCPR and Alternatives to Suicide are good tools for mitigating a big problem, but I long for the day they become unnecessary.”

    So, first of all, I wasn’t aware that “Alternatives to Suicide” was a ‘sexy’ name, but… thanks? I will say that the rest of what you say about it here, though, is both confusing and offensive, if I’m honest. I’m not aware that you’ve been through the Alternatives to Suicide training… Have you? Am I mistaken about that? Caroline and I are currently traveling around Australia offering a variety of presentations and trainings on just that approach right now, and while I’ll agree with you that some of each training and presentation focuses on the research about how current approaches are harmful… There’s a heck of a lock more to the approach than ‘don’t funnel people into the system’ or ‘don’t call 911.’

    We talk an awful lot in these trainings about what *to* do… How to respond… questions that can be really useful to ask… fears that can arise for the listener and how to work through or learn to sit with them… This is only the briefest of summaries. But the point is, it’s not ‘fluff.’ I also don’t experience Intentional Peer Support in the way that you describe.

    And I wonder about the society where you feel these sorts of supports would have no use? Do you really mean to suggest that its only the mental health system that’s seen death and suicide as taboo? Cause I’m pretty sure religions that long preceded the mess we’re in now have had issue with it… And that families and communities have struggled in various ways since basically the beginning of time.

    Are you really meaning to suggest that the absence of the mental health system trap would mean a lack of need for healthy supports for people who are struggling? Cause I can’t quite help but hear some of that in what you’re saying right now.

    I’m going to stop going through your article point by point because it’s just so long and I don’t want to basically write a blog of my own in your comments section… I do agree (as I said at the start) with many of your points including the problems with the idea of rebranding (although I think there’s value in referencing psych diagnoses as opposed to most of the other terms as it’s simply a fact that one’s been diagnosed and said nothing about what’s *actually* going on), with the need to dispose of the diagnostic system, and with some of the overarching points about the problems with in and need to do away with the mental health system.

    But I keep getting lost in what feels like a lack of full understanding, contradictions, and what feels like a disregard of how the mental health system and its functions and perspectives are rather inextricably linked to school systems, prison systems, capitalism, and so much else…

    -Sera

  • Bradford, Sounds like you may have spent even more time in at Suicide.org than I did! I missed the angel bit. :p Thanks for sharing some of your experience. It is strange (but true) how both the absolute fear to talk about death and the hyperfocus on preventing on death at all costs can co-exist. In a way I guess it make sense… because if you talk and act only to prevent it, then you don’t need to actually talk about it in any depth? It’s definitely a symptom of how messed up society is.

    I’m sorry about your friend. I’ve lost a few people to suicide. It’s hard, and only gets harder when no one will actually talk about what happened.

    -Sera

  • Richard,

    I’ve come back to your comment a few times, and I’m not really sure how to respond. I guess I agree with a lot – maybe almost all – of what you’re saying. And yet, I do find the message paralyzing, as much as you say you don’t mean it to be. I’m also not totally sure I agree that the *only* way to shift some of this is to undo capitalism. Even with capitalism in place, I think I’m going to have to at least hope that there are other ways to adjust its focus or what feeds it… Somehow it feels more attainable to me to *use* capitalism’s tools to undo its capitalist appeal than to undo capitalism. Perhaps that’s foolish, but I’d be interested in a conversation about what *that* could look like.

    -Sera

  • Eh, I see some of what you’re talking about, Julie… I personally support people to use *any* drugs they want in whatever way works for them, and without needing to post about it. People always have used drugs. It’s not inherently bad. What’s bad is the system that pushes a particular set of drugs as the ‘cure,’ while demonizing people who use the other set.

    I personally do talk about not using psych drugs at this point in my life… because it’s important to have some people (and not just some, but a critical mass of people) out there challenging the perception that psych drugs and psych diagnosis are a meaningful and consistent link in any sort of way…

    Sera

  • Rasselas,

    Thanks for your comment… Although, I don’t think this is accurate:

    “Some people, I accept, such as Sera, work hard at bringing people together. Other people, such as myself, encourage people to break free and go it alone.”

    I think part of the challenge of the community in which I work, myself, etc, is that we do both things… We offer talks and trainings to providers, attempt to develop better ways for people who might be more succeptible/willing to ‘get it’ to begin to think about things in a different way… While *also* making films like the ‘Virtues of Non-Compliance’ that is basically all about how being so-called ‘non-compliant,’ ignoring what we were told in the system and getting on with life, in fact, saved our lives… Or a project we’re working on right now that is all about gathering information from people who’ve survived the system to share their wisdom about how they navigated the system’s unwritten rules and were able to ‘play the game’ well enough to get out, etc.

    We do both, and we don’t apologize for it. That makes us pretty hard to tolerate for a lot of people… And that’s fine.

    Sera

  • Thanks so much for your reply, Susan.

    I love what you wrote here:

    “I came to the conclusion that many people who say they to want to hear ‘the other side’ actually don’t. They want to feel smug in their ‘open-mindedness,’ but they are threatened by any hint of real change.

    It’s called cooptation – they pretend that you have a place with them, but that place is only to make them look better than they are.”

    I think it is exactly true… Please stick around only so long as you make us look/feel good about ourselves.

    -S

  • I genuinely am not sure why you are posting this here. This blog isn’t about ‘recovery.’ I’ve been pretty clear for many years that I don’t support the concept. And I am a part of a community that rejects most conventional ideas about psychiatric diagnosis and ‘help,’ and takes many pretty concrete actions toward change.

    Feel free to not like what I do or say, but arguing with me about something that has nothing to do with me because you – for some reason – need to believe that that’s part of my message is… not too much better than how the system treats me at the moment.

    I’m not going to respond anymore. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Yes, I believe you are being presumptuous… You responded to a blog that has nothing to do with recovery with what feels like an attack on what I do based on the concept of recovery. And when I say you are being presumptuous it is because there is nothing that I write about that indicates support of the concept ‘recovery,’ and in fact, what I write about specifically speaks to my rejection of the term. Because there’s nothing on our website that speaks to ‘recovery’ beyond our name. And so on. We didn’t come up with our name, and while we’ve talked about changing it, frankly, we’ve been too busy with the ‘doing.’

    If you’re curious to see what happens with our work, just take a look… at our films, at our materials, etc… We’ve been around for over ten years. There’s already plenty to see in terms of where we come from.

  • Nope. What you’re saying is presumptuous and sort of empty. Our name has the word ‘recovered’ in it because it was chosen 15 years ago and we didn’t have control over it. We’ve talked about changing it more recently and are working on that. But I don’t think there is a single person on our leadership team that would say they are invested in the concept of ‘recovery.’ We talk about our lack of belief in that, ‘mental illness’ ‘suicide prevention’ and many other such concepts all the time. So, please stop making assumptions and look at our actual work. 🙂

  • Thanks, Deena. Unfortunately, I just haven’t experienced most folks in the system *truly* hearing too much, even when watered down. Sure, they are less angry, more entertained, more thankful. But not necessarily more changed. not saying it never happens, but the overall trend…. I dunno.

  • Thanks, Brett. I appreciate your reading and kind words. I know it can also be difficult to be in a more clinical role and oppose the current paradigm. In fact, in one of our current film projects, there are three groups – individuals who’ve been ‘in’ the system, clinicians/direct support works, and administrators… And truth be told, Group 3 (administrators) was FAR angrier with Group 2 (clinical providers) when they said critical things about the system than they were with Group 1 (people who’d been ‘in’ the system). I imagine the reasons for that could be interpreted in at least a few different ways, but nonetheless, there it was.

    -Sera

  • I have to admit this comment makes me angry, so I’m going to do my best to respond as best I can without falling into that.

    I am not ‘in bed’ with anyone in the sense that you speak. The community with which I work has done more to support people to get out of the system, to push back against the system, to challenge psychiatry, etc. In the last ten years than most other communities and groups and activists I know. We work hard beyond our limits and take risks all the time to have that be true. I would suggest you check out our work first hand before assigning it to any category.

    I do not ‘want to be.’ I am. And at least half the folks I know who disparage what we do as being somehow ‘in the system’ are spending most of their time saying those things, not actually doing themselves.

    By the way, my blog says nothing about change ‘needing to come from the inside.’ And frankly, it’s more than a little insulting that you suggest I have such a childish view that lacks any real nuance.

    This blog was about how hard it is to hold the lines I’ve held and do the work I do and the cost that comes with that… the cost to me as a human being who can only take so much poor treatment, even if it is expected.

    Perhaps my next blog should be the predictable way in which people in this movement tear each other down, too.

    Thanks for reading,

    Sera

  • Pat,

    I continue to be perplexed by your portrayal of things. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel welcomed with Hearing Voices USA. And yet, I repeatedly hear you misrepresent what people have said, what Hearing Voices USA or the charter stands for, what I’m saying here, etc. You’re also conflating Hearing Voices USA and the RLC. The RLC is the group that brought Rufus May and Elisabeth Svanholmer to the US to offer some training on Voice Dialoguing. We don’t expect others to do what we are doing. We choose our own priorities, and I think many people have benefited from many of the choices we have made. I’m sure they also disagree with some of them, or wish we’d prioritize other things. We do the best we can.

    My experiences with you in person have always been pleasant, but I’m pretty baffled by the parts of yourself that you bring to this forum. Ultimately, I guess it’s your choice how you show up here, but I do want to ask that you do your best not to misrepresent other people/groups wherever possible.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Oh for goodness sake. You’re over hear arguing semantics, and Pat is down below ignoring the problems that paid peer roles have created. Perhaps the two of you could argue together?

    I’m done and holding out hope that people may show up here who want to actually talk about the blog, and not these arguments that are getting us nowhere.

  • Oldhead,

    I guess part of my point is that it’s (largely) impossible to not eventually feel beaten down by the constant abuse, disregard, dismissal, etc… It doesn’t have to be about approaching them as lesser than or needing their approval. That I don’t is, I imagine, part of the problem. And yet, I am human. And it gets exhausting.

    I very much disagree with your ‘black power’ analogy, although I get your point. As I’ve already stated, I don’t care for the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ and it’s not really about try to soothe anyone’s fears. I simply don’t relate to it, and the fact that that’s actually my *truth* and people *still* want to use it to dismiss makes the whole thing all the more maddening.

    Yes, I realize that a large part of the downfall of the strength of this movement came with paid ‘peer’ roles and such. I talk about that with a great deal of frequency. And yet, expecting people to network, gain strength, and have a voice long-term with*out* any funding to support that is part of what made what was also not sustainable, I believe. Kind of a lose:lose…

    -Sera

  • It’s funny. My post feels so clear to me, and seems to be connecting with several others to whom it also feels very clear. But, I guess we all see things through our own lenses and experiences, and so I can’t fault you for feeling otherwise.

    Perhaps it comes down to my simply not liking the word. I do not think that the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ conveys the things that you say above very well at all. I also feel that many people who talk about ‘anti-psychiatry’ as their primary perspective tend to over simplify things, but as you’ll see above some people feel that over-simplification is a bonus.

    It doesn’t work for me. That’s kind of all there is to it. It’s like arguing about what the word ‘bipolar’ means. Even for those who accept that label, it actually *looks* a thousand different ways, let alone if you factor in those who do not. It is not a way I choose to identify myself, and I think the term misses the mark, at the very least, in being a way to accurately convey what (some) people mean by it. I don’t really see the point in arguing about it, honestly.

    -Sera

  • Criticism is fair, and there’s already a good amount of it in this comments section if you missed it! But I’m often troubled by your comments, as they seem to misrepresent what I say and what I do more often than not. I’m also confused by your capitalization in the above, but that’s also fine. And, you’re welcome to continue to e-mail me or the RLC for resources… My point was that you seem to tend toward attack here, and yet you clearly must see *some* value in what we do.

  • Yes, I like to call like to call it activism with integrity, and you’re right, it’s hard to do that sort of activism without burning out. 🙂 It’s hard to imagine that you’re actually trying to argue with our push back against the Boston Globe for their deeply offensive ‘mental health spotlight’ series, or the way our school systems are failing our kids… Is that really what you’re doing? Also, my ‘getting along/synthesizing’ comment wasn’t about my blogs. I say what I want here. I was talking about my ability to navigate my daily work. 🙂 And speaking of my daily work, didn’t I – at your request – just send you a book I wrote on developing peer respite? It escapes me a bit why you keep coming on these blogs and intentionally misrepresenting or disparaging what I have to say. 🙂 But that’s okay. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. 🙂

    -Sera

  • I absolutely refuse to have the slavery compared to psychiatry argument again. This blog was deeply personal for me and took me a long time to write, and I simply won’t participate in having it hijacked in that way.

    As to the rest… The whole argument misses the mark for me. Almost any perspective that is completely one-sided is usually missing something in my eyes. That is how ‘anti-psychiatry’ feels to me. It a) misses that humans have used drugs for an eternity to manage their feelings, experiences, etc, and I’m not entirely sure that’s wrong in the most fundamental sense b) misses the fact that iatrogenic harm and dehumanization happen in the system for many reasons that include but extend beyond psychiatric drugs… At a minimum it misses those things.

    In any case, I’m done arguing about this, too, but thank you for reading the blog.

  • mecarlym,

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting, as much as you’re not so generally inclined. 🙂 There seems to be a real push/pull for so many of us when it comes to staying in this work and fighting vs. walking away to do something else, or at least not get paid within the system. Touch choices all around, but you sound like someone I’m happy is still connected. 🙂

    -Sera

  • I suspect we will continue to disagree on elements of this, Frank. I’m mostly going to look past your first paragraph (which feels a little insulting) and say this:

    As I said in one of my comments above, I agree that wiping the slate clean and starting over in terms of what we regard as ‘helping’ people and why and how to go about all that in our society is the ideal.

    Where we most strenuously disagree, I believe, is where I feel you have over simplified things. It’s not *just* about people being ‘different,’ as much as that’s a huge part of it. It may, in fact, be the most motivating part of it for the roots of this system… And yet, there are also people who are really struggling and want help, etc. Additionally, whenever I hear people get so fixed on abolition rather than change, it feels like it comes from a place of privilege to me. (Not privilege as in wealth or lack of hardship or whatever, but privilege nonetheless…. The privilege of not so much being at risk anymore of ending up in one of these places. The people I work with go in to institutions every day to try and help people get on their feet and get out… Abolitionist talk misses that. I realize that if we were truly successful in abolition, those people would also get out… Except, it wouldn’t be those people… They would have been lost and died off long ago. And I’m just not comfortable with sacrificing people in the now for what we might achieve somewhere far down the road.

  • I hear you, feelindiscouraged. Most of this blog was directed as those who hold power and aren’t at any particular risk, not people who are trying to avoid incarceration. I’ve definitely experienced marginalization, but fortunately haven’t faced any real threat of incarceration in a long time for which I am very thankful. -Sera

  • Mark,

    Eh, there are lots of ‘smart’ reasons why people leave those of us who are speaking up on our own, yes. It’d probably be smarter for me to shut up, too… Maybe follow my brother’s path, and work in the field of computers. And yet, here we are.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, J. In the best of worlds, I think abolition is indeed where it’s at. I’m not sure how we fix something that is being driven by so many interests that just aren’t helpful or healthy. What keeps me chasing reform is knowing how many people are stuck in there if we stop tending to that, and the numerous successes many of us have seen of helping people move beyond stuckness to a full life. I don’t feel great about getting too black and white about abolition goals primarily for that reason… But, yes, we need something totally different than what we have now.

    -Sera

  • Not totally sure how to interpret some of your comment, but thanks for reading, either way.

    I disagree with your link between ‘critical psychiatry’ and ‘moderate,’ but perhaps that does – as you say – depend on who you’re asking. I only know that the only place I ever get called a ‘moderate’ is around here, and only by a pretty small group of folks. :p

    Personally, I’m not backing away from ‘antipsychiatry’ to justify anything. I’ve never cared for the term. It’s too black and white. I prefer to be critical of anything and everything. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Hey Will,

    I’ve been traveling and am super sleepy at the moment, but wanted to write a quick comment since you took the time to name us (Western Mass RLC) in your blog!

    I hear you on the fact that our movement hasn’t been nearly as successful as we want to be or should be or need to be in making real change… And I can totally support the idea of trying to re-evaluate strategies, and decide if we need to change direction a bit (or a lot) and how. This is actually not the first conversation I’ve had of this nature in the last sevenish days.

    However, I feel confused about your proposed strategy here… Not because I think capitalism hasn’t been harmful, but… because I’m not sure lack of capitalism has particularly led to success for individuals with psychiatric histories, and I certainly don’t feel more hopeful about our changing the tide of our political and economic systems than I do about changing the the mental health elements around us…

    I also feel confused about why you called out RLC specifically? I’ll just assume it’s because we’re such a good representation of what peer-to-peer support can actually look like 😉 … But bear in mind we aren’t just doing peer support and sitting around for others to change the world. We’re trying to work on all of it… but we’re definitely open to new ideas about how to move forward. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Hi Patrick,

    I’m finally back. I hope you’ll bear with me in my more detailed response to your piece. It’s going to be long, although it’s late and so I’m afraid it won’t be quite as thorough or well thought out as I would have liked.

    First of all, let me begin by saying (once again) thank you. In order to respond to your blog, I needed to go back and read my own. I forgot how much I liked that particularly blog, so thanks for making me take another look! 🙂

    Okay, but, let’s get down to business. For starters, no, I am totally not kidding you. Do I mean to suggest that this certification has taken a completely healthy ‘peer support’ industry and knocked it off its perch onto the ground? No. ‘Peer support’ was suffering for being an ‘industry’ at all, and it was already deeply in trouble. But, Mental Health America certainly ain’t helping the situation.

    My complaints about Mental Health America (MHA) date back well before this last blog. In fact, the very first blog I ever wrote for Mad in America (back in December of 2012) was about MHA’s disappointing connection to mental health screening tools. See here, for more: https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/12/i-am-the-number-60/

    I followed that up with others, including ‘Dear NAMI: My apologies. I’ve been unfair’ (https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/03/dear-nami-apologies-ive-unfair/) in 2014 (in which I detail MHA and a few other organization’s heavy connections to the pharmaceutical industry), and ‘Do NAMI and MHA suffer from Anosognosia’ (https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/09/do-nami-and-mha-suffer-from-anosognosia/) back in 2015, where I discuss (among other things) Gionfriddo’s testimony in support of the Murphy Bill. So, you see, the problematic roots of MHA run deep.

    But, that aside, let’s look at what you wrote.

    So, the bell. I think you missed quoting what the bell *actually* said, or accurately representing my concerns with it at all. It’s not the ‘mental illness’ language. As harsh as that is on my ears, I understand the language of the era and all that. It’s the actual message. A refresher: Here’s what the bell’s inscription says in full:

    “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

    It doesn’t say that the bell shall ring out hope for the ‘mentally ill’ and victory over the system, the abuses they have suffered, the discrimination, the maltreatment, or whatever words might have been most commonly used to describe these phenomenon in that year. No, it suggests the bell ‘ring out hope’ for ‘victory over mental illness.’ That’s a *completely* different message, isn’t it? In fact, it sounds exactly like NAMI’s message, and every other organization that seeks to increase treatment to ward off and conquer these destructive ‘diseases’ without any real critical eye on the system itself (except perhaps to say it doesn’t offer enough beds or access for the “seriously mentally ill”). So, either you have re-interpreted what was written to what you wish it said (or what serves you in this moment), or the author(s) was a really poor writer. Either way, I’m sticking with my assertion that it is tone deaf and gross.

    You continue with several other points (I particularly appreciate the details on who makes what per each certification, so thank you for that), but also misrepresent another point I made here:

    “On a side note, I have no qualms about saying that all of the peers, including me, involved directly in the creation of this credential have just as much right to claim membership in the peer community as anyone else. When other people, particularly those with large audiences, try to disparage our “peerness” I have visions of a so-called recovery center I once visited which required proof of diagnosis before people were allowed access to the facility. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

    Not a single time did I question anybody’s ‘peerness.’ Anyone who knows me or has read much of what I written will know that anything that links me to any place that would ask people for their diagnosis (or any other such thing) isn’t taking the time to understand what I’m saying at all.

    This is what is called a straw man argument, Patrick. You are responding to an argument I never made in order to (intentionally or not) distract from the points I actually made. I have *never* questioned the experiences of anyone who claims to have a psychiatric history or to have faced enough life-interrupting challenges to work in a peer role. What I *actually* said was that many organizations eat up the people who have internalized oppression, or who are prone to be silenced and changed when their paycheck comes from those they’ve previously sought to change.

    This is an important argument. It does not seek to diminish one’s experience or identity (and certainly doesn’t seek to ‘prove’ whether or not they qualify for membership to the ‘club’), but rather it questions whether or not they have had or currently have the support to not be swallowed up whole, co-opted and used by the system. And, it further questions the nature of a system that would prefer to hire people in this position than those who have gone through a fuller process of self and system realization.

    Based on what you say here, I’d also go several steps further and question your use of the word ‘peer’ in at least two other ways. First, you seem to be using it to mean an identity. Thus, right from the start, you are using the word in a co-opted manner. ‘Peer’ is not an identity you get to claim because you have some particular life experience. ‘Peer’ is a way of relating to other people. It’s an approach. A way of being. You serve to do the work of co-optation of the role simply by changing it to mean something else. (See my blog, ‘Cheers for Peers’ for more on this: https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/07/cheers-for-peers/)

    Meanwhile, by claiming doctors and licensors and all that can be ‘peers’ you also go a step or two deeper into dangerous territory by not only claiming ‘peer’ as a singular identity, but by also ignoring that peer supports and peer-to-peer relationships are fundamentally built on minimizing power imbalances. So, while doctors, licensors, and all sorts of other people may have psychiatric histories and legitimate wisdom to share from those experiences, they are full of power.

    Is this what you mean when I say I’m questioning people’s ‘peerness,’ Patrick? Because, if so, then I guess you’re right on. I do not question anyone’s right to claim a psychiatric history, or to choose to work in peer support. I do not think someone needs to share a diagnosis, take a qualifying test, prove they’ve been hospitalized, or anything else in order to play this game. But, yes, I sure as hell reject that I am a ‘peer’ (I am a human) or that doctors who have psychiatric histories are able to participate in offering peer support for all the power they hold.

    On to the clinical dance: You say, ” What is not said, through no fault of Ms. Davidow, is that in the initial interview I accentuated that individuals choosing to participate in DBT do so voluntarily and arrive at treatment goals and methods in concert with their therapist.”

    Now it’s my turn to say, ‘Are you kidding me!?’ Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced into DBT-inspired programs. If they’re given a choice at all, sometimes it goes something like this, “So, you could live in this here DBT-based residential program, or… you could be homeless. What do you choose?”

    Additionally, some people who ‘choose’ DBT do so under coercion or misinformation. And, once they’ve ‘chosen,’ and they realize it’s not working for them, they can’t easily or immediately undo their ‘choice.’ So, yeah, what you offer here changes nothing, and simply re-enforces my impression that you’re not paying attention to what’s actually happening to so many people in the mental health system.

    By insisting that peer supporters deviate from listening to the person they’re supporting over all other influences, you are diminishing the most very basic point of this all. At the very least, if a person participating in DBT chose it voluntarily, then surely THEY know that. If, knowing that, they still choose to reach out to a peer supporter and ask them to advocate or help with something that clinicians may seen as ‘interfering,’ they do so also knowing that. Are you suggesting that the peer supporter nonetheless treat that person as a child who can’t knowingly decide to act outside of the DBT framework, and that the peer supporter needs to take on that responsibility?

    In my world of peer support, we practice responsibility *to* one another, not for. The system has already done far too much harm being responsible ‘for.’ If a peer supporter has a question (so much of our work is about questions and curiosity), then they can *ask* the person with whom they’re connecting. After all, this is all so much more about understanding THAT person’s worldview and NOT someone else’s (and certainly not Marsha Linehan’s). I reject this idea entirely, and continue to assert that such beliefs will contribute to further destruction of whatever good and potential may be left. So, yes, ‘clinical, I do think so.’

    You go on to offer that, “Ms. Davidow’s comments on the Code of Ethics are her opinion… They are the same as the majority of codes of ethical behavior that any certified professionals agree to.”

    Well, okay, but this isn’t the “majority” of work. It’s an employment structure for people who have faced silencing and discrimination. It’s already been severely co-opted and misunderstood. While I don’t agree with everyone here who says its pointless altogether, I do seriously question whether there’s any way to have it exist and hold it on track as anything else than what people here accuse it of being. Peer support is also already something that people like Tim Murphy, Susan Inman, Elinore McCance-Katz, E Fuller Torrey, and DJ Jaffe have sought to control or destroy. The language of not practicing beyond one’s expertise is precisely what was put into the Murphy Bill in an effort to control peer roles in really limiting ways.

    Saying this is all ‘just the same’ as any other license is just silliness as far as I can tell. Don’t you at least think the level of potential for discrimination is worth considering before people start signing off on this thing? Has it not occurred to you that various Anosognosia disciples might lodge complaints simply to push these issues? Are you ignoring national news of the Murphy Bill passing under the 21st Century Cures Act or McCance-Katz making her way into SAMHSA with destroying peer support on her mind? Might you not be handing them just the tools they need?

    I just recently received an e-mail from someone wishing we’d get ‘shut down’ simply for hosting a Coming Off Psych Drugs event. You seem to be very naïve about the potential dangers here, and that is terrifying given you are constructing a framework in which so many other people may get caught.

    You close with this: “Ms. Davidow is writing this in a blog about Mental Health America, so the clear implication is that MHA is shrouding itself in “so-called peers” and “party liners.” The comments about not being able to see through their own medicated haze and tokenism are even more revolting.”

    Are you denying that organizations across the country are hiring up “party liners” and people who haven’t made their way out from under the weight of over prescriptions and other varieties of disabling treatments enough to think about their role? If you’re truly suggesting that’s not a thing, then you’re not paying any attention at all. None of that is meant to disparage the people working in peer support who get caught up in that trend, as it’s usually not really their fault. But, to ignore the phenomenon is just as dangerous as everything else you suggest.

    But you seem really wed to ignoring all this. For example, when you say “The individual who “confessed” to feeling beholden to their employer was not referring to us since they are not an employee of our office,” you’re missing the point entirely. Is it intentional?

    It doesn’t matter if they were talking about Mental Health America when they told me how silenced they felt at times. They were saying it in regard to a presentation they were offering, and in general. They were explaining how they felt that – whenever they acted in a professional capacity relating to their role in any way – they felt they needed to watch what they say, and tow at least some part of the party line. Your unwillingness to understand how that connects to MHA’s work is baffling to me.

    Patrick, this national certification is not a good thing. (And neither, I suspect, is Canada’s, though I know much less about it.) None of this is news to you. People have spoken up at your presentation at iNaps, at Alternatives, and more. Your blog really doesn’t present a convincing argument otherwise. I hope you’ll consider this further, but it seems clear you won’t.

  • Hi Patrick,

    I don’t have time to respond to this right now (but, boy is there a lot to respond to)! However, I just wanted to say thank you! I’ve been cited in blogs and articles before, and even been the focus of an article outside of the Mad in America world.. But this is totally my first Sera-focused Mad in America blog written by another party. 🙂 It’s kind of like when I got my first ever hate mail following a letter to the editor that got published in the New York Times. Pretty exciting stuff.

    I look forward to having the time to respond.

    -Sera

  • Eh, I see you are poking at another argument underneath your main points here, oldhead. I don’t disagree with much of what you say – that he is recklessly exposing what others don’t want to have seen.. .But much of this is also about him, specifically.

  • Thanks, Fiachra. Neither one is my gig, but I hear ya… The discrimination they put out there and the assumptions inherent in it are obnoxious! Not only is there that statement, but they ask you in your application form about your psychiatric history.

  • Hi CatNight, Very true indeed. I almost included some of that history in the blog, but decided not to go off on another thread… However, it’s nonetheless a valid point. This is not the first time we’ve had a president who is potentially ‘diagnosable’, but that means little for each president and certainly nothing for them as a group compared to one another.

  • Thanks, Eric. 🙂 You bring up an important point that I’ve also argued at times… Not only is there a low prevalence of violence among people with psych diagnoses, but the fact that someone who commits violence has a psych diagnosis does not necessarily mean there’s a causal relationship. Far fewer people recognize the latter, than the former. And, of course, when we *do* start to look at what qualities and characteristics are most common in people who commit violence, it points us in another direction entirely…

    -Sera

  • Thanks, littleturtle. I agree, looking at the bigger picture and how we got here/where on earth we’re headed is much more important… and much more productive than the same old routine of putting the weight of the blame on those who are already marginalized.

  • Thanks, Stephen. I’ve heard the comparison to Hitler before, certainly, and the first part of it seems apt (in terms of people thinking the idea that he’d end up in office is absurd and thus nothing to worry about, etc.). Hoping that’s as far as it goes!!

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Anonymous!

    This is an interesting and good point: In some respects, I hope they do succeed with getting the president with a diagnosis. I would love to see a congressional hearing on it for all the world to see. How annoyed do you think he might become then? Can you see his lawyers pick apart the basis for psychiatry and diagnosis?

    However, the likelihood of that success is super low, and the likelihood of harm done (or at least perpetuated) is high (and already happening).

    In some ways, this article is a bit of an experiment. I’ve intentionally NOT challenged the basic psychiatric paradigm (though I’ve equally as intentionally not supported it), because I’m not sure it’s necessary (and in fact may be detrimental) to use that as a starting point with people in the liberal/progressive camp. It’s such a leap from where they sit now, but trying to win understanding by focusing more on the basic human rights violations and injustices is less of a leap…

    Perhaps, if the conversation starts there, rather than with something that is SUCH a leap for people to take, they might listen a bit more… And then, if they do, they might be more open to the next push..

    We’ll see. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Hi BigPicture,

    Thanks for your lengthy and eloquent response. 🙂 I certainly want to believe by ‘doing’, we are leading the way to something different, and in many ways, we see the evidence that we are… And yet, it is all so easily co-opted and then the ‘doing’ can also lead us astray.

    -Sera

  • epthe,

    The Hearing Voices movement definitely isn’t about telling people that it’s safe to come out about hearing voices! It’s definitely understood that that’s a risk for a lot of people. And, at the same time, when people are willing to come out, hopefully they make it a little safer for others to be able to do the same eventually. Totally respect your position, though. 🙂

    -Sera

  • JanCarol,

    Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I’ve noticed more and more the weird little recommendation buttons popping up in my chatboxes on Facebook… or ads that correspond to some element of what I’m saying! :p It is disconcerting to say the least… Though in fairness to Joy, what I’ve seen in her responses suggests a total lack of attention, rather than too much. But, I hear you and your fears on this count seem totally valid to me!

    -Sera

  • John, I do see you last comment got removed for moderation! I can’t quite remember what it said. :p Joy does seem fair game, though, all things considered… Someone recently e-mailed me to let me know there’s a new bot on the Facebook scene called ‘Woebot’, too…

    That one is… I don’t know. Different. It gets around Joy’s biggest issues by simply providing pre-determined bubbles one can choose for response. :p

  • Thanks, Stephen. I agree he doesn’t have too much understanding at all… Precisely what I meant to convey with these lines:

    “This isn’t your world. You don’t belong here, at least not without some humility and a guide.”

    “Joy basically is Danny. All his good intentions, hopes and dreams, naivete, ignorance, arrogance, and blind spots are there in equal measure.”

    I wish he’d recognize that.

    -Sera

  • Hi Bradford,

    Actually, just for your reference (and anyone else’s), if you go to ‘About’ in the Mad in America drop down menus, and then go to ‘Contact Us’, there’s a drop down menu from which you can choose any Mad in America employee or author and send an e-mail.

    People have definitely contacted me that way! I also don’t mind giving people my e-mail, but I’m reluctant to post it here for spam purposes.

    I’ll also be upfront that while I do my best to respond to all e-mails I do sometimes read something and then lose track of it, if I can’t respond right away, and so sometimes it may require people to ‘nudge’ me to bring me back around…

    I heard someone else talking about that film, but I at least *thought* they responded more positively to it.. I don’t know much about it myself at all.

    In any case, I’m realllly overwhelmed in work life right now, and am headed out of town for three weeks mid-summer, but I’m willing to give it a go, if you think I can somehow be useful up there!

    -Sera

  • Matt,

    Yes, it does seem invisible to many who are on the inside of it! I think even of commenters here who are simultaneously challenging the validity of this article’s claims, while unknowingly pointing out some of the fundamental pieces of exactly what the article says makes the whole system tick along. It does all end up feeling a bit like asking the organization to change is like asking a human being to learn to not only live but prosper without food…

    Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting!

    -Sera

  • Thanks, messenger48! I tried submitting one article to Counterpunch, and didn’t get through. (I think the first time is always the hardest!) I’ll have to try more. I’m certainly interested in reaching a broader audience. 🙂 Thank you for the reminder to give it a go.

    -Sera

  • Hi epthe,

    Thanks so much for sharing some of your experience. The involuntary outpatient commitment stuff is *so* short-sighted… So limited. So harmful. I’m glad you had the support you needed to find a way out… I wish more people have access to what you did to help push for more options!

    -Sera

  • Thanks, CCHR. Unfortunately, I worry your posting here under that name and promoting that website will suggest to people that this article is somehow related to Scientology, given that CCHR does seem to be linked. I do, at least, want to be clear that what I’ve shared here in this article is actually independent of any CCHR research, and includes sources like Mother Jones, New York Times, and even some very conservative sources like Pete Earley and DJ Jaffe. I don’t mean to suggest, either, that CCHR doesn’t include some valid and independently findable research, as well… But I do worry about the motives that are at the roots.

  • Michael,

    Unfortunately, part of NAMI’s gig is to suck up all the air so no other ‘gas station’ is able to grow. It’s not as if they just benignly offer supports that people can take or leave… They are a part of a machine that conveys *one* way of thinking about such distress (intertwined with capitalistic interests), that lobbies for force and money to be taken *away* from alternatives and put into more ‘clinical treatments’ (that’s, after all, part of what the Murphy Bill aims to do…), etc. etc. etc.

    -S

  • Thanks, Catnight, for all your thoughts.

    You mentioned a church you thought was progressive… I think one of the things we’re up against, is that people who are generally ‘progressive’ see ‘reducing stigma’ and increasing ‘treatment accessibility’ *as* the progressive things to do, without ever really stopping to understand that all the ideas that underlie those things are decidedly *not* progressive at all. It’s a huge part of the struggle.

    Sometimes theater pieces help, and there’s been the occasional good media piece (this for example! http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/496/an-open-mind), but *so much* that is geared toward making people think is just going out to the same audience as always.. So, part of the challenge is not just how to construct those pieces, but to find a way to expose people beyond our own bubble to them and *then* have those dialogues. Such a complex web to sort out…

    -Sera

  • Carrieb, I am definitely no expert when it comes to search optimization, but I’d like to become one… I think it’d be good for our community to learn far more about that. As far as Mad in America goes, in the background they are paying attention to ‘SEO’ ratings which help articles rank higher… I always make sure my SEO rating is ‘green’ (good to go!) before I submit it for consideration, and I know there are Mad in America staff that will help with that if the author isn’t familiar with the process. And yet, that’s certainly not nearly enough to compete with NAMI just yet!

  • Pat,

    I spent some time trying to figure out what you mean about ‘Split’, since I never actually refer to anyone as a “good boy”…I think you must mean this passage:

    First you have the goodhearted soul loved by all (or at least most), but who inevitably slips up every now and again, falls off their drug regimen and gets at least a tad out of control… Perhaps all in effort to provide a sort of ‘Public Service Announcement’ about just how bad it can get when one is so ‘non-compliant.’

    Maybe not? I’m not sure. I guess, if you mean that passage, I think you may be misinterpreting the point. The point wasn’t to put down people who actually have that experience, which is valid, but to put down the use of that experience as a boiled down stereotype used to scare everyone else into never trying to withdraw from their psychiatric drugs.

    I feel like there are a lot of times when you are misunderstanding what is being said, or reading a lot more into it… Not just here – where admittedly my sarcasm and ‘snark’ are turned on high a lot of the time – but in other settings and with documents and conversations that aren’t mine. I think you have a lot to offer from both your own experiences and your work, but I’m left wondering why there’s such a barrier to simply understanding what’s being said…

  • Steve,

    Fair enough. This whole science conversation is an interesting one… How easy it is to discredit actual science as anti-science when it simply doesn’t fit with the power structures and dominant beliefs…And how hard it is to get people to listen to the *actual* holes in the ‘science’ that supports them.

    Sera

  • Thanks, Truth. I don’t blame you for wanting to make change from within, and if it were merely a matter of opening people’s eyes to different information (rather than getting powerful entities to give up a lot of power), I might be more hopeful about it. I hope your alternative efforts are successful!

    Sera

  • Steve,

    I agree with your comment.. .AND, I would add a point which I also tried to make in this blog (as well as – perhaps more strongly – in my Autism Speaks blog): While local chapters may sometimes be miles better than the national NAMI, at least part of what that accomplishes is to give national NAMI an opportunity to say ‘see, we’re not so bad!’ and distract people from a very serious problem. In other words, it’s great when local NAMIs are better… great for those local people… but still, in some ways, potentially harmful to the bigger picture.

  • Hi BillDare,

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. Yes, there’s lots of articles and fear circulating with Elinore, with the potential new appointments to the NAMI national board, and with so much else. Not too sure where it means we’re headed, or what conversations we might be having in a year, or two, or five as a result…

    -Sera

  • Hi Christopherj,

    I really appreciate your sharing your experience! What you say makes a lot of sense… about individuals verses groups. It’s frightening in its way, but if we look at history (of all sorts of things, not just NAMI), it makes all the sense in the world.

    -Sera

  • Michael,

    NAMI has never pushed drugs? Hmmm… Aren’t they essentially doing that by pushing the Murphy Bill and Involuntary Outpatient Commitment?

    They have also pushed ideas like that psych diagnoses are unquestionably brain diseases, chemical imbalances, and/or ‘just like diabetes’…

    And, if you disagree, well, they’ve got that great little ‘anosognosia’ section on their website..

    These are all pushing drugs in one way or another… In fact, they’re much more effective ways of pushing drugs, then if they literally pushed drugs in the ways you seem to be imagining we mean…

    -Sera

  • Hi Michael,

    So, I can appreciate you have felt helped by NAMI, and won’t attempt to take that away from you. However, when you say this:

    “aside from helping me come to terms with an illness and encouraging that I listen to recommendations by a psychiatrist, NAMI has done nothing to sell me or feed me drug information.”

    I say THAT is exactly what I – and the pharmaceutical rep I quoted above – am talking about. NAMI *does* engage in overall advocate and lobbying that help drug companies directly, but more notably they push people into the paradigm that *leads* them to take the drugs…

    The pharma rep’s point above was exactly that. That direct pushes toward specific drugs are NOT the most helpful approach. But that the more indirect approach of just convincing people they *need* drugs via advocacy to regard one’s self in a particular way… that’s proven quite effective.

    So, I’m not surprised what you say… in fact, it fits well within what I’d expect.

  • Thanks for your post and thoughts. 🙂 I fear that we have a longgggg way to go before we can really say that it’s mainly just the politicians/1% that are pushing in the psych drug direction…. BUT I do think there’s nonetheless validity in what you say, and we should definitely be paying attention. It makes sense that it would be that way when we think of the ways in which systemic oppression works.

  • Steve,

    Yes, I think you’re on track and are understanding what I’m getting at very well. I *would* ditch the world ‘client’ (as you seemed to realize during your post) as I’ve seen too many people internalize that they are ‘client’ into their identity and that *alone* can keep them stuck in a system that often isn’t truly helping them. But the rest of what you say is great.

    Kurt, I don’t think anyone here (myself included) are trying to say that you are ‘bad’, but I am saying that you haven’t hit the mark yet… You and co-workers may be miles better than the average clinician who hasn’t considered some of the things you have… But you *and* your co-workers and students still seem to be missing a huge piece of the puzzle.

    If, as you indicate below and Steve says above, you’re only here because you care about Bob’s work and the problems with the pharma industry, you’re missing how deep some of the system’s problems run. I don’t mean the occasional time when it got so big that you were able to see it again (as you’ve named a few exceptional examples above), but when it just stayed at that sort of day-to-day level of bad and power-ridden and oppressive so that it was mostly invisible to those who weren’t looking for it.

    This is the nature of most systemic oppression. The big and obvious examples are able to seen by *most*. But the system actually runs on the more insidious, harder to see stuff… Harder to see because you’re on the power end of it, and so it just looks like business as usual to you. And by you, I don’t mean *you*, but really anyone who is living on the privilege end of the stick (so, also you).

    It’s the *same* phenomenon that means the average white person *can* easily see the really egregious examples of racism, but has a much harder time pulling out the conditions or microagressions that are truly what sets up the environment for those bigger things to happen… Same with sexism… and homophobia… and all of it.

    I hope you’ll spend some more time trying to see.

    -Sera

  • Yes, I misapplied *one* statement (about people being ultimately happy to be in hospital). Everything else has been a response to you. Nothing I said in my last comment – and only one bit of my first comment – had anything to do with what I misapplied.

    Kurt, You’ve come here to this site for the first time… a site full of people who’ve lived these things (though that’s certainly not representative of all bloggers here or the site’s full point), but you don’t seem to have a lot of respect for that. Or, at least, that’s how you come across to me.

    No, I don’t know who you are. But, I do know that what you’re conveying – as I believe someone else said – comes across as feeling tone deaf to me. You’re talking about what you believe to work in the world of ‘suicide prevention’ (a problematic concept at its very roots), but you are speaking in some of the least human-sounding language about what is the most human of matters: life and death.

    I don’t think you can fully see it, which is why I brought up privilege. I hope something makes it all more visible to you at some point.

    Sera

  • Okay. I was trying to be reasonably polite. This might be somewhat less so.

    Your response – and much of your blog – comes across as pretty pretentious and … well, I’ll leave it at that.

    In fairness to you, I did mix up some of my notes and was attributing some of what Dickson said above to you…So, apologies for that much.

    However, the rest is for you. Your overly academic way of speaking, assumptions about what people (including myself) do and don’t know, and globalized way of speaking about *all* of your students and virtually *all* of your co-workers as somehow different and more special than almost every other clinical worker in the country is extremely off putting.

    And sure, you can’t vouch for an entire website of tools… The problem is, if you’re going to blindly direct people to such a thing, you might want to offer *some* information about just how much drek they might have to sort through. It’s not just that some will work better culturally for some groups than others, and vice versa. Some of it is actually dangerous. Some of it is primarily a marketing tool to get kids into ‘treatment’.

    It’s interesting that you defaulted to your whiteness and maleness when referencing my comment about privilege. It is true, you are privileged in that way, and I share the privilege of whiteness with you. However, what I was specifically referring to is your privilege of power in your role. You’ve never been – at least as far as I can tell – on the opposite end of the ‘suicide prevention’ stick. I have. Almost everyone I work with has. The privilege of not having ever been there – and not living on that cusp now – is big, and I do not think that you recognize it.

    You’re all theory and acronyms. I’m familiar with CAMS (and if I wasn’t, I luckily say through the aforementioned extraordinarily painful and offensive suicide training on Tuesday where it was reviewed). I’m also familiar with the BS that is ‘Zero Suicide’, I’m intensively trained in DBT by Charlie Swenson and Cindy Sanderson. Blah blah blah. I *know* what you’re talking about.

    And I disagree with most of it.

  • Kurt,

    I have admittedly only read through your blog and then skimmed the comments, so I may be missing something already said in the subsequent dialogue, but I would like to point out that you have linked to a ‘suicide prevention’ resource that promotes products that are – in some cases – pharmaceutically funded. For example, it includes the SOS program about which I wrote a blog (https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/01/middle-school-invasion-when-the-pharmaceutical-companies-come-to-town/) when they tried to peddle it to my son at his middle school.

    While I understand what you’re getting at with some of what you write, I found myself reacting with concern to a number of points. For example, this emphasis on restriction of means… It reminds me of a suicide and self-injury training I attended earlier this week.. One (of many of) the most disturbing moments was when the trainer said that – after a particular suicide – he restricted anyone receiving services at the org where he worked from living in an apartment that was any higher than the second floor. Great. (Not really.)

    I’m also having trouble getting past your statements about people basically being happy to be locked up and become powerless… I mean, sure, some people experience an *element* of that, but if that’s your main takeaway on most occasions, I fear for what you’re missing.

    On the whole, I hope you realize that when you live the privilege of as much power as you hold, it’s almost *inevitable* that you’ll be missing several elements of what it is like to live on the other side of that power split. I hope you’ll hold that in mind and consider it deeply as you move forward.

    Sera

  • Steve, I appreciate your comments here. I really don’t see autistic people telling other autistic people that they *must* be happy to be autistic, or that points of struggle that may somehow be connected to being autistic aren’t actually struggles… Same for people with various psychiatric diagnoses.

    What I *DO* see is people with those experiences saying ‘let me decide for myself what is ‘struggle’ and why, and stop trying to speak for me, or force your ideas on me based on your perspectives’…

    -Sera

  • Strandra,

    If you haven’t heard people say ‘I want it back’ or, more commonly, ‘I wouldn’t want to lose it’ in regards to some of the experiences that have led to their psychiatric diagnoses, than you surely haven’t been listening. I have heard *lots* of people say they wouldn’t want to lose their voices, especially once they’ve learned to navigate them. I’ve heard many people say they appreciate the benefits their various sensitivities bring, especially once they’ve learned to balance them and navigate the world. And so on and so forth

    As to polio and who was or wasn’t ‘born this way’… Many people certainly do have the experiencing of having been born autistic, or neruodivergent and coming to appreciate many of the benefits that have come with that for them.

    Your excuse that many people who are autistic have difficulty with communicate is immediately belied by hundreds of thousands of autistic voices, several of which are found in the links I have included in this blog. Sure, there are people who would choose otherwise… Many of us would choose something different than what we have, the intensity and variances of our why or why nots are based on many different variables. I’d not take away from someone their desire to be different… but you’re ignoring and discounting MANY people with your extremely simplistic response.

    Perhaps even more importantly, whether or not you think of autism as an example of born neurodiversity, there are many points in this blog that hold either way. And there are many voices that I include that you might benefit from hearing.

    -Sera

  • John,

    Sami is great. I’ve met and interviewed him for a film I’m working on.

    However, I don’t feel like it’s my place to argue against such a diagnosis, when people who are quite empowered and educated about their experiences say otherwise.

    What’s clear to me is that the approach of Autism Speaks and NAMI are abusive and damaging, and that can certainly drive a diagnostic process that is dehumanizing (such as the one that led to my own pscyh diagnoses, which I’ve since discarded). And, I’ve certainly heard from people who’ve been given autistic diagnoses that oppose or feel harmed by them.

    But, I don’t think it’s necessary to buy into a ‘autism diagnoses’ are inherently bad or wrong framework in order to see that was Autism Speaks has to offer is terrible!

    -Sera

  • Hmmm… Looking at the 990s for the overall orgs is interesting. Have you checked them out?

    Here’s what I find for Autism Speaks on the contributions/grants line:

    (2012) 53,245,999.
    (2013) 63,725,069.
    (2014) 57,552,851.
    (2015) 58,085,859.

    Unfortunately, that shows an overall upward trend, albeit gradual/small.

    For NAMI, I find:

    (2012) 8,375,875
    (2013) 8,605,802
    (2014) 11,226,125
    (2015) 7,934,069

    So, they each have a bump year where things were substantially higher and that seems not particularly reflective of the overall trend… NAMI seems less clearly going up, but not exactly consistently headed down either…

    And *holy crap*, I didn’t realize that Autism Speaks was that much bigger than NAMI overall.

    Interesting stuff.

  • The_Cat,

    I don’t know if there’s an easy way to truly measure that… When I personally just googled ‘NAMI criticisms’ two of the articles that popped up on the very first page were:

    https://www.cchrint.org/2009/12/15/nami-is-on-the-defensive/

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/07/nami-and-robert-whitaker/

    I myself have also written about NAMI on more than one occasion:

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/03/dear-nami-apologies-ive-unfair/

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/09/do-nami-and-mha-suffer-from-anosognosia/

    (Though I’m certainly not making the front page of any google searches)…

    And while I wouldn’t choose to promote anything from CCHR (being the Scientology front group that they are), all four of the above links note the NAMI/Pharma link.

    And, as I said at the top, I’m just not sure how to measure the success in fighting back. It doesn’t seem we’re too successful as of yet on either front. Hoping we can change that somehow!

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Feelingdiscoruaged.

    I should clarify that the woman’s org analogy was from an autistic blogger who goes by codeman38.

    I intentionally quoted and referenced a number of autistic people here, because I did not want to be just another non-autistic person speaking about autistic experiences, without actually including those voices. Though I recognize the risk in doing so under my name is still that their words could be attributed to me, so I want to be careful about clarifying that when I can, too.

    I really appreciate this point: “Normal people are allowed to be assertive, independent and have good self esteem. For the “mentally ill” these are no no’s.”

    I’m glad it feels like your voice and awareness are coming back.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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?

    -Sera

  • 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.

    Sera

  • 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…

    -Sera

  • 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…

    Sera

  • 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 🙂

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • “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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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. 🙂

    -Sera

  • 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!

    -Sera

  • 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!

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    Sera

  • 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!

    Sera

  • 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.’

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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!

    Sera

  • 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…

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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’!

    -Sera

  • 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!

    -Sera

  • 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!

    -Sera

  • 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. 🙂

    -Sera

  • 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. 🙂

    Sera

  • 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’.

    Sera

  • 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!

    Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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.

    -Sera

  • 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…

    -Sera

  • 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.

  • Matt,

    I think that you’re trying hard here to get your point across, and I don’t think you mean for your point to be harmful.

    Yet, I continue to find most of your posts to contain extremely problematic statements. Like the one above.

    You have essentially just suggest that the primary thing stopping more people of color from posting here is their *fear* of bad response.

    Well, gosh. One of my co-authors is a black man, and this is his first blog post here… I wonder how you think he might feel about the mess that constitutes the ‘response’ in this comments section?

    Did you see my post from last night where I pointed out some of the Facebook comments I’m seeing from people of color who don’t want to come here *not* because of their fear of how people *might* respond, but because they’ve seen how people *have* responded and how white this community is and they simply do not want to do it.

    You can disagree with the blog all you want, but part of what we were getting at is how to create environments that feel even remotely welcoming and safe and open to sharing space with people of color… A bunch of white men fighting back on those suggestions, or a white man saying ‘we’ve invited them, and they chose not to come’ do nothing to create environments where that is even vaguely likely to happen.

  • No, Oldhead, I’m not quite saying that if you ‘quote a black survivor who disagrees with Iden or [Earl] that [you’re] being racist.’ It’s not *quite* that simple.

    What I’m saying is that – in these sorts of conversations – many people have a tendency to use the ‘going out and finding the disagreeing representative(s) of a group’ as a tactic to avoid self-examination. And that *that* does often have an awful lot to do with keeping the dominant paradigm or belief system intact, and commonly avoids also looking at some of the reasons it might be easy for one to find what they seek.

    More importantly, I’m also saying that *of course* there’s disagreement within large groups of *individuals*. And that *still* doesn’t negate the fact that – when you’re hearing from someone of color on issues related specifically to the experience of people of color or the undoing of racism, etc…. that the voice of any person of color will reflect more experience on these issues than any white person could ever have…

    That doesn’t mean that each black person is equally well informed or had equal opportunity to think through the implications of all that has transpired around them or what might be required to address it or that (even if they have) that they’ll always come to the same conclusion, but one black person still can’t give you what you need to negate the experience of another black person… because *you* are still white.

    Ultimately, it’s the *drive* to hold on to one’s own views in the face of several realities (that there are people who are being hurt by it, that Mad in America and so many other arenas in which psychiatric oppression is discussed, fought, etc. are so white), etc. that ends up looking like its playing into the perpetuation of a culture where white needs and voice are the priority.

  • AA,

    I think there has been a great deal of good in what you’ve said. I’m sorry that I haven’t recognized that.

    It’s not so much that I see it as an ‘either/or’ situation… As in, either you’re totally racist or you’re totally not (if that’s what you mean?)… Rather, I think it’s important to *assume* that we’ve *all* been impacted by racism the prioritization of white people’s needs, beliefs, image, etc… And that it does require a lot of attention and openness to see all the ways that that shows up in ourselves and others around us. And that being ‘good’ on one issue, doesn’t negate the possibility (the inevitably, really), that there are still other issues that need more dialogue and more openness for us to uncover…

  • Richard,

    Yes, there is *absolutely* an attempt here to get people who are white and who have no heritage that includes slavery such as it has existed n this country… to stop using that term. To call that ‘silencing’ – although technically accurate – sounds an awful lot like an attempt to keep white concerns centered and some how equate the generalized desire for free speech and to use whatever word one wants to use with the impact of racism and our country’s history of enslaving black people.

    No one – and I mean no one – attached to this blog or comments section (at least that I’m aware) is suggesting that laws be changed to make any words we’ve noted here illegal. Thus, this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has to do with respect, basic social justice principles, and efforts to undo racism.

    Which brings me to my second point. Yes, there is *absolutely* an attempt to attach the persistent use of this term in the face of all that to perpetuating a racist culture. It’s not so much that reasonable arguments can’t be made for why the term makes some sense… But that white people have historically had control over the way language and environments are shaped, and have been able to do so without having to consider the feelings or beliefs of non-white people, and that the insistence to use this term basically ‘no matter what’ is a perpetuation of the centering of white priorities. Interpret that how you will.

    As to your question about ‘wage slavery’… I’m not going to argue that there isn’t some sense I can make of what you have detailed about Marx’s use of the term. BUT, I am going to repeat what I’ve said when people have attempted to use Szasz to defend the term ‘psychiatric slavery.’ I would not expect dead white men to be sensitive to why such terminology is problematic. And while their statements may have some value (or even great value), I am *not* going to look to them to guide my current day language choices.

  • No one has *ever* pretended that one voice, two voices, three voices, four… represent a whole group, oldhead. But, there are a few basic things you and others seem to be missing here…

    1. In addressing issues related to racism and white privilege in this country (I focus on this country only because I feel much less well versed in what it looks like in others, although I do believe and see that it is similar in many places), a few voices should be enough to *at the very least* listen hard, because they will *ALWAYS* know more what it is like to experience racism in this world than you… What it looks like, the overt and covert ways it takes form, what it *feels* like… Always. Even in places where one believes that internalized racism may be playing a part that is easier to see from the outside then within, there is still truth in that.

    2. The *absence* of other black voices is extremely significant. It says more – perhaps – that the voices of black people who are here ever could, and certainly supports the messages we’ve heard thus far in this blog and from people of color directly. So, these are not just a random ‘two voices’ speaking within a group that is equally equipped to have an opinion all set within a neutral environment.

  • Absolutely, John. (I’ve really appreciated your comments here, btw.) The image we pulled re: veganism was kind of to that point. We pulled that image from an article written by a woman who’s in Scotland.

    The point certainly isn’t that this movement is the only one that has this issue.. It’s more that we aren’t at all immune to this issue. There are signs of racism and white privilege all over our movement, and we *should* and need to be better, especially if we want to access our full power as a movement.

  • Sooooooo… I took tonight off from this blog’s comment section… I’ll come back to it tomorrow.

    In the mean time, I just want to share this:

    The absolute most telling thing I’ve seen in the last 48 or so hours since this blog was released was looking at the page of someone of color on Facebook where they posted this blog, tagged many people of color, and asked them if they’d consider coming to read the comments section here and speaking up with their own thoughts and reactions. (In doing so, btw, that person did not otherwise express an opinion or ask them to say anything in particular.)

    One of them said – without (as far as I can tell) looking at the blog itself – that they’d pretty much never come to a white-led, self-absorbed (not quite the words they used, but that was the general gist) place like Mad in America, and to never ask them to do so again.

    The other person that I saw comment thus far said that they came here, started looking through the comments, and had to give up long before they got to the point of commenting because it was just too upsetting.

    Just two more voices… But, ya know. I thought it was pretty damn telling.

    See you tomorrow.

  • AA,

    Sorry for misapplying my response to another person… However, I don’t think it’s useful to refer to ‘color blindness’ or ‘not seeing color’ in *any* context that I can reasonably think of at the moment.

    Seeing color does *not* mean treating people differently, or not being present for their struggles, fights, hurts, etc. in the same way… It doesn’t mean color has to be the focus or topic of conversation just because you’re seeing it…

    But, is there ever really a time when it’s a *positive* to disregard or ‘not see’ an aspect of who someone is? When is it not a positive to see the whole person? It just doesn’t make sense to me…

    -Sera

  • Richard,

    Surely you can’t be suggesting that white men (and others) are being unfairly silenced because black men (and others) have said that psychiatric slavery is an unacceptable, hurtful, and disrespectful appropriation of their experience that constitutes a perpetuation of the disregard and marginalization of the feelings and needs of people of color in favor of the feelings and needs of white people as is consistent in a racist/white supremacist culture…

    That feels really bizarre to me, and if you aren’t able to see that… I at least hope others can.

    Still interested to know why this term is so important to the white people in the room that it’s worth the continued marginalization and hurt of others.. That they feel it’s ‘true’ or a ‘valid’ comparison (or however on earth you want to frame it) isn’t an answer. LOTS of things are true that we don’t push, cling to and argue for in the way that people are arguing for this… There’s something more, here.

    -Sera

  • Richard,

    I have read and re-read your comment at this point. I see how you are defining ‘identity politics’, but no matter what you explain on or how it does or doesn’t agree with other people’s definitions of that term, your frame ultimately comes across as a dismissal. It comes across very similarly to how people’s attempt to discredit the discussion by making accusations of ‘political correctness’ comes across.

    The other thing I find strange about your definition of ‘identity politics’ is that this is a movement of people working against psychiatric oppression who very commonly say, ‘Hey, I get to make meaning of my story.’ In fact, it tends to be one of this movement’s most fundamental underpinnings.

    Yet, you seem to completely contradict that when you say: “Identity politics” promotes a view that only if you identify with a certain group (race, sexual identity etc.) then, and only then, can you speak with authority (or with some aspect of the truth) on this issue or political struggle.

    Sure. There are complexities to all this, and nothing is 100% black and white (as noted in the blog in, for example, the ‘internalized racism’ section)… But, you’re not going to get very far with me – someone who absolutely doesn’t want someone who’s not been forcibly locked up speaking with authority about what precisely that’s like, and who absolutely has looked to black people and others of color to tell me what living black or brown is like in this nation – if you’re trying to convince me that people who’ve ‘been there’ shouldn’t primarily be the ones saying what it’s like.

    Yet, with your ‘identity politics’ attempt to discredit… you not only seem to be saying that people who’ve ‘been there’ aren’t the holders of the truth, but that they apparently have approximately equal say or room to decide what that truth is as you do… Someone who’s white, not (as far as I know) been locked up against your will, etc.

    As I said in my first response, I know you to be a good and genuine person. But, I believe it is you who’s missing the mark here… And, btw, we didn’t make ‘psychiatric slavery’ the proof or ‘PRIME’ example of problems within the movement. It was one of *several*.

    In all this, I’m still wondering if you have read my comment below that begins with: “So, there’s only so long I can keep up this back and forth with some of you.. I’m going to go back and respond more specifically to some comments, but not all. Iden or Earl may choose to do differently. I just know I’m hitting both a time and energy limit here.”

    It asks some questions I’d be curious to hear your answer to… Some questions that only grow for me as I see Iden getting dismissed left and right here by white people telling him how wrong he is about being black in this world and how he should feel about what… And how – as more people join the conversation – they appear to continue to be white men.

    (And being a white man isn’t a terrible thing, btw… Unless we’re talking about racism, and your voice is just about the only one getting heard… and you’re using it to drown out what’s being said by the only person of color in the room…)

  • humanbeing,

    All that’s being asked of you is *precisely* to ‘listen and learn’ as you put it.. No one’s expecting you to ‘get it right’ without making any mistakes. But this blog exists because when people have spoken up, historically they are *not* listened to in this movement. Or because environments have been constructed in ways that never really gave access for them to speak up in the first place.

    Most people having these conversations (at least that I’ve heard) aren’t getting mad because people didn’t know some of these things by osmosis… They’re getting (justifiably) angry because when they’ve offered their voice, concerns, hurts… they’re getting ignored. Or they’re getting responses like so many people on this blog are offering that are basically discounting everything said…

    There’s plenty of room for not knowing. You just have to know that you don’t know and be willing to own it (including, yes, with pronouns which should be hugely important to us as a movement given the abuse of trans* people in the mental health system and beyond, and the super high suicide rates that have been documented).

    -S

  • Matt,

    Did you look at Iden’s link about ‘Whitesplaining’? Because I can tell you that everyone who has contacted me privately about this blog has had something to say specifically about *your* posts, and the ‘whitesplaining’ tone present in them… If you didn’t follow Iden’s link, I really hope you will.

    That you call his references to your whitesplaining a ‘straw man’ argument suggests if you did look, then you didn’t understand…

  • Oldhead,

    Iden’s response is much more important than mine, but I do want to at least draw you back to an excerpt of the blog… Perhaps you missed it in your first go:

    “And beware the urge to go in search of another non-white person to contradict the first (generally done in effort to somehow vindicate one’s self). Certainly, there are many times when people of color will disagree on such points. There are many groups, after all, that fit within the term ‘people of color,’ and even if you narrow it down to just one – Black, for example – there is no obligation to be any less varied or diverse than any other group in what individuals within those groups think, feel or say. However, our time would be far better spent examining our own motives and why it feels so important to hang on to something if we’ve been told so clearly that it’s hurting a fellow human being, especially when that fellow human comes from a group that has already lived a lifetime of being silenced and devalued.”

  • I haven’t backed myself into any corner, oldhead. No matter how nasty and loud you get, or how much you stomp your feet, you don’t get any more right.

    We shouldn’t talk about psychiatry as if it were like the Jewish Holocaust because it *hurts* people. Because it divides us. And because there are different ways we can speak to make our point that wouldn’t hurt people. Oh, and because it *hurts* people. (Yes, I know I said that twice.)

  • Human Being,

    Your comment confuses me. I haven’t seen *anyone* ask *anyone* to deny or play ‘who has the worst oppression story’ games… *No one* would ever expect or suggest that you would tell your friend that her pain or fight was any less real or important because it has to do with psychiatric oppression.

    Honestly, when I read those sorts of things, it feels like an effort (even if totally unintentional) to distract from the issue of racism. No one wants to *take* anything away from people who’ve experienced psychiatric oppression. We’re simply asking them to be more self-aware, and to *give* respect to people who – often in *addition* to psychiatric oppression – have also lived through a great deal of racism.

  • Thank you, squirrel. It’s so nice to come across a few supportive and thoughtful responses in this particular sea right now. 😉

    I agree with you that when the threat goes up, so does the defensiveness… It’s hard to watch or know what to do.

    -Sera

  • Richard,

    I think you are a very kind human being who does his best to operate with a great deal of integrity. I have watched you grapple with a number of issues in the time I’ve known you related to the work in which you’ve been engaged at times.

    I recognize you put a great deal of time into your response. However, I am not going to respond to it point by point. Perhaps Iden, Earl or someone else will.

    What I will say is this:

    Identity politics is defined as: “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”

    That strikes me as a strange way to attempt to discredit this blog, given much of the *point* is to draw to the surface the *problem* with this movement not making space for people of color with its manner of speaking and the environments it creates.

    It seems absurd to me that asking people for basic respect, and to truly *hear* the voices of black people and others of color in this movement… To let go of some of their own attachments because they are *getting in the way* of making that space… To hear and take for truth some of the ways people have felt marginalized and not welcomed here.

    Responses to this blog have ranged from short and swear-filled to ‘whitesplaining’ like you wouldn’t believe (well, hopefully you would, ’cause it’s there for all to see…) to your response which comes across as a heavily intellectualized way of essentially doing the exact same thing: Dismissing and denouncing other voices – many of whom already feel unwelcomed here – and defending your own perspective to the death.

    I’d refer you to the post I made just below this one… The one where I ask what you and others think a black person might think if they walked into this room and saw so many white men fighting to hang on to some of these pieces… I hope you will continuing to think about this all.

  • So, there’s only so long I can keep up this back and forth with some of you.. I’m going to go back and respond more specifically to some comments, but not all. Iden or Earl may choose to do differently. I just know I’m hitting both a time and energy limit here.

    But, several things before that…:

    1. The commenters above who are responding *negatively* are (mostly) older, (mostly… maybe all?) white, (mostly) men… Some of them have said they don’t have much time for this discussion, and then proceeded to invest an *enormous* amount of time in this discussion.

    2. The commenters above (and in my Facebook and personal world) who are responding *positively* are (mostly) women and/or queer and/or people of color… Do I think that *all* people from each of those groups will respond the same? Absolutely not. In fact, we wrote that reality right into the blog above. But… at the same time… It seems awful notable to me.

    3. I wonder what this incredible mess of a comments section would look like to a black person who just randomly wandered in here. Earl and Iden have chosen to be here in their way, and all three of us *knew* the comments section would be rough. (In fact, we did talk with the Mad in America crew before the article was published about whether or not it wouldn’t be a good idea to have *all* comments automatically set to moderate because we *all* knew it would be rough.) I *do know* that the last time I engaged in a conversation of this nature in a comments section, a black person did speak up and voice that they felt alienated by the idea of psychiatric slavery. Their concerns were basically ignored or dismissed. Haven’t seen that commenter round these parts any time recently, I don’t think.

    So, yeah, if a black person wandered in here and saw a bunch of mostly older white men feeling *so invested* in terms like ‘psychiatric slavery’ and disagreeing so vehemently (and often nastily) with the people who challenged that, and said it was not okay…

    Well, this is not to say that every black person would react or think the same about it, but is it any wonder why this movement is so damn white?

    Before you post another response about how you should get to say whatever you want, or how the black (and white) people in the room who are challenging you have no idea what they’re talking about… Just take a look around at *WHO* is posting. Especially who is posting over, and over, and over.

    Who are they? And who aren’t they making space for?

    No. No. Wait! Seriously. Give it a minute before you tell me I’m playing ‘identity politics’ or just dividing us up further. LOOK around. Who’s taking up all the space? Who are you so invested in shouting down? And who isn’t talking at all?

    -Sera

  • This is just silly, Oldhead.

    *No one* is denying the history. In fact, we’ve quite well acknowledged at various points, including in this comments section, that psychiatry has been used as a tool of oppression with any number of groups including black people (during the era of slavery and beyond), Jewish people (certainly, yes, during the Holocaust, etc.), women, etc.

    I also wouldn’t deny (and have acknowledged) that systemic oppression itself has many common components that we can point to, and then identify within the experiences of groups who’ve experienced oppression. (One example [of many] is that a common component is that it’s a common component of systemic oppression that – at least at some points – the dominant group is willing to accept members of a marginalized group as their entertainment, provided they aren’t being asked to seriously give them a legitimate voice and spot at the same table where they sit… I think of this every time groups of providers are excited to hear me share some part of my story, and enjoy how ‘powerful’ it is, while not actually giving a damn about the implications in my story about how *they* should change or wanting to hear much out of me beyond that point.)

    This is all so fundamentally different than saying x is like x (e.g., psychiatry is like slavery), or x is x (e.g., psychiatry is slavery). So, so, SO different. And that you are so vehemently tied to not hearing that is concerning to me. That both here and on my Facebook page, the dominant group of people who are objecting to this concept – and who are objecting most strongly to this blog – are older white presenting men *is* significant to me. That they feel like their life experience and vantage point qualifies them to trample the experiences and voice of people who’ve actually directly lived through racism *is* a problem.

    We’re not fighting here to decide which systemic oppression we should pay attention to. We’re not fighting here to say psychiatric oppression should now be ignored. So, ya know, maybe people could take a breath and… just stop.

  • Oh, Oldhead. I was going to go to bed without responding to you, but I just couldn’t quite make myself do it…

    Frankly, I’ve grown weary of this whole ‘what movement are you talking about’ line. I mean, I’ve recognized in many a blog that there are different movements or at least different fragments of movements associated with one another and psychiatric oppression in some way… And we attempted to give a nod to that throughout this blog by saying things like movement(s)… But, it surely feels a bit disingenuous in the end to suggest there is *no* ‘movement’… I mean, this site plays home base to any number of ‘usual suspects’ at this point… And we all can think of who is likely to show up to speak at various conferences… Or whose writing we follow… Or some of the historical documents and publications that have been produced… Many of us who’ve been around here long enough could name more people fighting some aspect of psychiatric oppression than we have fingers or toes… So, yeah, there’s a movement. It’s a mess of a movement.. One that’s become seriously inhibited by the ‘peer’ industry and all sorts of other things, but it seems silly to pretend it doesn’t exist at the same time you’re participating in it.

    In any case, I was certainly anticipating a negative response from you… But I do think it’s interesting that you suggest such a straight forward piece is manipulative. But never mind… As you and I have discussed before, it’s entirely different to say that psychiatry has been used as a *tool* of many different sorts of oppression then to use the term ‘psychiatric slavery.’ If you can continue to relentlessly use such a term, and think it’s just fine to explain to a host of black people why *they* are wrong to be upset by it – or historically ignorant (that feels particularly painful to me, honestly) – then you’re a part of the problem. No matter how good you might be on other aspects of this topic in the present or past, dismissing the experiences, feelings, and asks of people who’ve experienced racism directly *is* a part of the problem.

    To date, *no one* has given me a satisfactory answer to *why* is use of this term more important than working against racism and creating a movement that is welcoming to more than mostly just why people? The closest I’ve seen to a good answer has mostly amounted to, “Cause psychiatric oppression hurt *me* more, so if I have to hurt someone else with the language I use to make that point, oh well.” And, really, that kind of sucks as an answer… Because, psychiatric oppression is horrible, but it’s not slavery and hurting people who’ve been hurt by racism isn’t necessary in order to talk about just how horrible psychiatric oppression is…

    As to the Murphy Bill… I’ve printed out notices about it and urged people to call. This blog need not detract from that. However, I was struck by a Facebook post I saw from Sharon Cretsinger in the last day or so that basically said, “Uh, yeah… let’s put out another ‘call to action’ to call our representatives… because that’s really worked for us before.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) I mean, I’m not suggesting people do nothing or that people not call.. But she kind of has a point. Clearly, what we *are* doing isn’t even close to effective, and yet asking people to keep doing it is draining energy and morale.

    I wonder how we might re-evaluate all that. But, you know, meanwhile *this blog* is about racism. There is totally enough room in the world and on Mad in America for these dialogues on racism without stepping on the Murphy Bill Opposition’s toes…

    BUT, there really isn’t room in this comments section for the Murphy Bill talk. Because this blog is about racism.

    Thanks. 🙂

  • Wow… You, like, just… basically defined systemic racism… A system designed with white people’s needs and wants in mind – often to the detriment or exclusion of others, and where they have the power to keep themselves at the front of the priority line. Well, actually, technically, that may more precisely be the definition of white supremacy, but ya know, they’re pretty closely tied.

    I guess, really, the only ‘benefit’ to following some of our suggestions would be to… you know… work toward undoing racism. But, you’re totally right… White people lack incentive to change all that… (See! We can agree on something!)

    Because, well, that’s kind of the fundamental underpinning of what keeps systemic racism intact.

  • Matt,

    I have three pages of blogs. Maybe four of them focus on race, including this blog that I’ve co-written with two other people who – like me – spend a great deal of our time focusing on psychiatric oppression.

    However, when we write about racism, it should stay about racism, and not become some bizarre competition or diversion onto other topics. Although, that is extremely common – that people are uncomfortable talking about rape and so simply try to change the subject.

    It’s quite self evident to me why you and some others are hanging on to the phrase ‘psychiatric slavery.’ You are prioritizing your own needs and beliefs over people who have experienced a kind of oppression that you have not… You are operating in a mostly white movement, and you don’t have a life experience that allows you to understand why this is a problem… Some commenters have even explicitly said that they think that *that* is not a problem.

    We went into this knowing people would be making terrible comments, and be really invested in remaining unmoved. This comments section has been painful, but it has also done a wonderful job of illustrating why this blog exists, and why we need to keep pushing.

    Thank you for that.

  • Matt,

    You seem *super* invested in proving that there are other kinds of slavery in existence. No one has denied that at any point. This blog simply states that using such arguments as a way to justify the use of the term ‘psychiatric slavery’ in a whitesplaining sort of way, even in the face of black people saying it’s not okay… Is… not okay.

  • Sure, many spaces (on-line and in person) are voluntary and anyone could participate in them if they so choose. AND in a society and a movement that is guided largely by white people, are those spaces always talking about issues that are relevant to everyone? Will people see faces like their own if they go? Will they have to navigate people saying subtle (or overtly) racist things? Will they be spoken over or treated differently? Will they be able to have faith that that won’t be an issue, if the room is mostly white?

    In other words, it’s just more complicated than whether or not someone could reasonably just show up and leaving it all to who does…

  • I’m about to leave the space where I am, so I’m going to take a break from the blog altogether for a little bit.

    Buttttt… Take a look at the faces you see writing for Mad in America. Then take a look at the faces you see representing or speaking for any other movement-related blog or website you can find. Then visit a variety of peer-to-peer or other movement related organizations across the country and see who you see. Then go to movement related events and conferences and see who you see. Then join on-line committees and Facebook groups related to the movement and see who you see. Then look at the leadership of many of the national organizations that do work within this movement and see who you see (Hearing Voices USA, most of the technical assistance centers, etc. etc. etc.)

    If you can’t do all or any of these things, then talk to people who have and ask what they have seen.

    Then get back to me about this point.

  • No one has said there needs to be exactly x number of people of x color or background. But, the representation is very clearly skewed, and not in accordance with the actual make up of the community who are or have been stuck in the psychiatric system.

    This blog is not about dismissing the systemic oppression experienced by people in the psychiatric system (who are white or have any other quality). It is about not playing out the same systemic issues around racism in our own movement as happens everywhere else… It’s about our being stronger in fighting psychiatric oppression if we make space for everyone. It’s about being self-aware of our ‘default settings’ and listening for what we can’t see because it’s not our experience. It’s about not falling into the trap of fighting one oppression while perpetuating another.

    It’s about doing the right thing.

  • Eh, it seems to me that we’re missing the point if we get stuck on this particular debate. My overall point is that our movement may not intend to hurt, but it has absolutely failed at becoming self-aware enough to adequately address (and avoid perpetuating) systemic racism and even begin to share power, space, and voice.

  • I’m not seeing this blog as shutting down dialogue. In fact, several people have had something to say about it between here and Facebook… nasty and nice.

    But we may be defining ‘shutting down’ differently, as well. I think it’s absolutely okay (and even necessary) to be very clear about what is and isn’t okay in some circumstances. I do not think that all matters are matter of opinion, and the idea that opinions of white people on things they haven’t experienced being equal to those of black people on systemic oppressions they have lived doesn’t make a lot of sense. (Not saying YOU are precisely saying that, but it does seem to be a theme from at least some people who are upset with this blog.)

    I think there can be *lots* of dialogue about that.. or how to shift the balance of space and power in this movement… or so many things… but I don’t think there needs to be room for white people to keep telling black people they’re wrong about what is and isn’t racist.

    So, anyway, it seems like you feel bad about this blog and our conversation. So, I’m going to give a rest to responding, and give you some space to decide whether or not you really want to be engaged in this back and forth.

  • What I’ve been attempting to convey is that I do not believe it is the place of people who’ve experienced the privilege side of a particular type of oppression to challenge people who’ve experience the oppression side.

    I’m white. I’m not comfortable with the term psychiatric slavery, and that was what rose up for me the moment I first heard it. BUT, that’s not what I think makes it a topic that white people need to drop. It was hearing from black people (including my co-authors) that it is an offensive and alienating term is what I am suggesting – what the blog is suggesting – makes it just not the place of white people to question… EVEN if they find other black people who are okay with it.

    It is knowing that the principles of social justice teach us to listen to those who have the first hand experience of oppression to learn what it is like and what we can’t ‘see’ or understand for not having experienced it ourselves. Because doing so perpetuates the silencing of those who have been oppressed in favor of those who are already in the dominant group.

    That’s what I have meant.

  • I’m not sure how we could even know how our experiences, wants, needs and even ways of making meaning of some of our experiences differ entirely because white people are the ones who take up most of the air space in places like Mad in America, at movement-related conferences, in many peer-to-peer communities, etc…

    I’m honestly not sure quite how to proceed when I reach the line where you say, “I don’t see why this movement being majority white is such a problem in and of itself.”

    How could it *not* be a problem? Even if psychiatry treated white and non-white people equally, how could it not be a problem that there’s such unequal representation and holding of power within this movement? And, given that psychiatry does NOT treat people equally… given that psychiatry has long been used as a *tool* of oppression against people of color (and women, and Jewish people, and queer people, trans* people, etc. etc. etc.)… Given that black people are more likely to be subjected to orders of force, restraints, injuries in the mental health system… HOW could it NOT be a problem that there’s such unequal representation of voices?

    -Sera

  • I simply said that I hope that whatever you find that you like better challenges you to think about these issues. Like I want to be challenged to think about these issues. Like I want *everyone* to be challenged to think about these issues.

    That I think our community needs to be challenged to think about these issues is why I co-wrote this blog.

  • Well, admittedly (as I did say above), I’ve had difficulty trying to understand what some of your points have been. I’m sorry that you’re not feeling heard, and I’m sorry that you don’t connect with the blog.

    But, I only say that from a place of ‘Oh, I wish everyone liked me and everything I was a part of producing, and I was a part of co-writing this, so I wish everyone liked it…’

    But, then, Earl, Iden and I all knew that everyone wasn’t going to like this… But it sure still felt important to say. I feel good about it, and I feel good about the fact that so much of its content has been written by, approved of, contributed to, etc., by people of color who’ve attempted to be a part of this movement and/or have first-hand experience of what this blog speaks about.

    I hope you find something you like better… But I hope that it still challenges you to think more about these issues.

  • Alex,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not entirely sure I get where you’re aiming your later comments, but sometimes I do worry that people accuse someone of coming across as too angry or ‘whacking’ them or ‘shaming’ them as a way to avoid conversation on a topic altogether… And that, in truth, many people feel similar amounts of shame n o matter how nicely something is said… but accusing someone else of not saying it nicely enough is a good way to just shut it down.

    Again, I’m not sure I quite know if I’m agreeing or disagreeing with you. You certainly have experiences with types of oppression that I do not, and so I’m certainly not going to argue with you on any of those points!

    -Sera

  • That all seem so strange to me, Kayla. Because you don’t like the tone of people speaking up, it at least *sounds* like you’re equating that with the oppression they’ve experienced?

    When I hear that, I think of so many clinicians and psychiatrists and others in the mental health system who expect us to always be nice, calm, friendly, and do our best to make them comfortable when we state what is wrong. *That* feels like a common component of all sorts of systemic oppressions. This idea that we can ask for change as long as we don’t make people too uncomfortable along the way… It feels bad to me when I hear that from people in the mental health system, and I’m very aware that I’ve heard that that feels bad to many black people and others of color when they hear that from white people. (I’m not saying as a whole group, but it is a common theme that I have heard, nonetheless, and it makes a lot of sense to me.)

    I suppose if you don’t like the conversation you certainly aren’t required to stick around for it… But I want to challenge the idea that every push back or talk about racism has to come from a place of not wanting to ruffle any feathers.

  • Kayla,

    Okay, still not so clear on what you mean at the top there… Do you have an example?

    But regardless, what I am saying is that people who hold one sort of privilege aren’t in a place to fully understand the systemic oppression that corresponds to the other side of that privilege.

    So, as the blog says, Suman is not someone we should go to to understand psychiatric oppression, because he holds the *privilege* end of that particular stick. But he *does* know what it’s like to live black in this world, and has made his career around trying to share, educate, and understand that within the psychiatric system, as well.

    *I* am on the privilege end of the stick when it comes to race in this country, as are (as best as I can tell) *most* of the people speaking up on this thread. So, I defer to him and many others of color, and work hard consistently to be aware of my impact on this movement as a white person who doesn’t want this movement to stay so white or feel alienating or not relevant to black people and other non-white people. I would expect him to defer to me when it comes to the topic of psychiatric oppression. By (hopefully) respecting each other’s experiences of systemic oppression and trying to make what is invisible to each one of us for not having experienced it first hand by *listening* to the other and accepting what they say largely as the truth.. THAT is how we come together.

    As a side note: I reached out to Suman in particular because in a previous conversation about ‘psychiatric slavery’ on these Mad in America boards, someone attempted to cite Suman’s work as evidence in *favor* of use of the term. So, I e-mailed him and asked him. That is what I got back.

    -Sera

  • Kayla,

    I generally don’t understand what you mean either at the start or the end of your comment.

    Can you say more? How am I not saying what I mean? How is quoting Suman related to what we are saying is a problem in the movement?

    Sera

  • Bingram,

    I wonder what you (and others) hear when we talk about racism? I wonder how you or others might explain how white this movement has always tended to be?

    What we are talking about is – frankly – represented by a lot of the comments here. Much of what we’re talking about are *environments* where the tacitly agreed upon ‘default’ is based on the needs, ideas, vision, and voices of white people. And because that’s true and because so many people aren’t aware of that or the privilege they’re carrying or how inaccessible these environments are to others is what we’re talking about (at least in large part).

    There are – as we’ve all said – many different types of systemic oppression, and the closer you are to the white, male, Christian, educated, cis, heterosexual, non-diagnosed, able-bodied, person of (at least reasonable) means, the more these environments tend to be made with you in mind. The farther away from that, the less environments tend to be made with you in mind. This is similarly true in most environments within our movement, as it is beyond our movement.

    If we don’t get willing to take a look at that, we remain stuck.

  • Kayla,

    I’d just like to note once again that it would appear that the people who are saying that ‘psychiatric slavery’ is okay or not racist or that it’s okay that people have different opinions about it (and that those different opinions are essentially all equal) at least appear to be white. (I don’t know this for sure, but the people who I *do* know are certainly at least white presenting.)

    So, why are the opinions of white people equal to the opinions of black people on matters that are related so directly to our country’s history of slavery and racism? How strongly would we argue against the idea that a psychiatrist’s opinion should NOT be seen as equal to the opinion of someone who’s survived the system on matters of psychiatric oppression?

    I’m not worried about alienating people, Kayla. Discussions of racism almost always bring up defensiveness, push back, and poor responses especially by white people. I *am* admittedly a white person, but I also see it as my job to get very okay with this sort of ‘alienation’ you speak of.

    Over on the Mad in America Facebook page one of the things I said I will repeat here: When people push back against these conversations in this movement, the expectation seems to be that everyone stop ‘fighting,’ but that they do so in a way that is consistent with the ‘default’ … And the default is almost always the expectations that have been set by the dominant group. In this movement, that dominant group is (like in so many other realms) white people.

    The way *together* – as far as I can tell – is to stop expecting people be okay with the default, to speak honestly about these issues that are very real in this movement, to work *through* the feelings of alienation and defensiveness, and to work toward getting to a point where we *respect* each oppressed groups voice, value, and experience in real and intentional ways.

    I can’t imagine going in any other direction. In the end I just keep wondering why more people aren’t concerned about how white this movement is… why we keep coming back to this same place.

    -Sera

  • Thanks for your comment, Stephen. I always appreciate when you speak up. 🙂

    I have to admit myself feeling ignorant to what to call First Nations people (adopting your language here). I visited a reservation in Oregon in October and was directed to use the language of American Indian (for the most part) while there, and so I’ve largely adopted that.. But I haven’t felt at all confident in my knowledge.

    I really appreciate you sharing your experience here, including the complicated experience of passing and claiming identities.

    -Sera

  • I also just keep finding myself wondering this:

    Each and every time someone speaks out *against* a conversation like this by saying it’s an example of the movement turning on itself, I wonder why the default leaning generally seems to be toward people of color being asked to give up their feelings/wants/asks/etc. rather than white people?

    This relates back to my question above. Why does this rank high enough that white people feel so compelled to fight for it, even in the fact of the fractures and damages that it causes?

  • That seems a really strange place to land, kayla, given where you started your comment.

    I wonder:

    1. Do you really see more people who don’t see psychiatry as a human rights issue coming around to understanding that point *because* of the use of the term ‘psychiatric slavery’? I.E., Is it effective?

    2. Do you really not believe there’s *any* alternate phrase that could instead be used toward that goal?

    3. Unless you believe 100% yes to #1 and 100% no to #2, why would use of that phrase be worth the alienation and hurt to black people who feel harmed by this phrase (especially given this movement has demonstrated itself to be largely white already)?

  • You’re not answering my question, Frank.

    We already addressed in the blog the issue of ‘slavery’ meaning several different things…

    What I’m asking *you* is why the comparison is so important… So essential.. .That it’s worth hurting and alienating people in this country who are descendants of those of African descent who were enslaved… ?

  • Frank,

    I’m not surprised to see you here saying this, and I’m expecting Oldhead shortly. 🙂

    However, even if you believe – without a doubt – that psychiatry *is* slavery, I continue to be left wondering why it’s such an important concept to you that you’d be willing to alienate and hurt so many people of color just in order to hang on to it?

    -Sera

  • This ‘dialogue’ strikes me as pointless, so I’m going to bow out of it here. If I’m honest, I’m not even sure I follow some of your commentary. It seems very unfortunate that you’ve gotten to such a place where you seem to think that acknowledging, seeing, respecting and valuing people’s different ways of being in this world is a ‘sham’, though.

  • CatNight,

    Thanks for chiming in! 🙂 I’m not personally familiar with the Tom Hanks SNL skit. I’ll have to look it up! It can indeed be a hard call when to speak up and when not to, but, of course, if our whole culture started shifting to speaking up being the norm, the personal risks would start to (I’d hope!) go down…

    -Sera

  • Matt,

    You seem very invested in your perspective, even though it is hurtful and dismissive toward many people of color. I wonder why you feel your opinions on this matter – as a white presenting person – are equal to those who have lived black or brown in this world? I’m not speaking from a legal perspective… I’m speaking from a social justice, and a just ‘what’s right and decent’ one.

    Your thoughts?

    Sera

  • The_cat,

    You left this comment on Noel’s post, too. I responded there, but will offer something similar here.

    The suggestion that racism was ‘dying if not dead,’ seems strange and incredibly untrue to me. What you are speaking of is cultural appropriation… the ability to take what we like, without having had to live through any the terribleness that was a part of birthing the art.

    I do not know you, and do not know anything about the color of your skin or your ethnicity. But, when I read what you write – particularly at the end there – I just want to refer you back up to the ‘color blind’ piece in the blog.

  • The_cat,

    I guess the question is at whose feet should it most rest to make concessions for the sake of cooperation? The unspoken expectation in answer to that question – at least in this context – is most typically that people of color must be the ones to let some of this go.

    This blog, on the other hand, would suggest the reverse… Which feels most consistent with overall social justice principles in my eyes. Shouldn’t we almost always look to the group who has been most marginalized within the context of which we speak to teach us and tell us what is being asked? And shouldn’t we do our best to listen, even in advance of fully understanding?

    Sera

  • Nomadic,

    While I do think that many families have a role in what happens to their family members, I think it’s a vast over simplification to suggest that all bad things of this nature happen to people because their families are bad or abusive.

    Suggesting that people’s distress must either be rooted in biology or family is a false binary that doesn’t particularly do us all that much good in a world full of complexities.

    As to the rest, perhaps you should consider writing your own pieces? It seems you feel similarly about just about everything I put out there, and while it’s certainly you’re right to leave comments that are essentially the same from blog to blog and I’ve generally done my best to respond to them, I’m just not sure I have too much steam left in me for your interpretations of what I write.

    -Sera

  • oldhead,

    I raise that question myself when I say the following in my blog:

    (This begs the question of whether or not there’s even such thing as fixing what has never been ‘unbroke.’)

    However, lots of people create things with an intent, vision or plan that are never successfully brought to life for any number of reasons… So, while it’s an interesting philosophical question, I don’t believe it’s entirely accurate to say that something needs to be fully realized in order for it to ‘break,’ at least in the sense that we are speaking. It seems a bit too literal of an interpretation of ‘break’ and I’m not sure what good that is doing us in this particular conversation.

    In any case, the system is harming people it at least claims to want to help and – even if it is accurate to say that it was intended not to ‘help’ but as a social control right from the beginning – it seems to be a machine of social control that has nonetheless run a bit amok and is swallowing up people I’m not sure its originators would have necessarily seen among those ‘to be controlled,’ and missing those it surely would have wished to grab up.

    For my part, while I think it’s an important point to call out that in *what way* it is broken *does* depend on its original (and current) intent… it is hurting people in every direction at this point.

    -Sera

  • Lu,

    Thank you for sharing. The complaint process is SO frustrating, and most complaints – as I’m sure you know – never get filed at all either because it feels useless to do so or people are (justifiably) afraid to speak up.

    I’m glad that you did, no matter what the outcome, but I am curious to hear if you get any satisfaction out of it. Right now, DMH is proposing changes to its complaint and investigation process that have the potential to make it all even more ineffective.

    People have the opportunity to give feedback on the proposed changes until September 16.

    More about that is available here: https://madmimi.com/s/2f1498

    -Sera

  • Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Tara has mentioned you, I believe. : )

    I can only imagine what your experiences at Laurel Ridge must have looked like. I’m sorry you ended up there, though I imagine your experiences back then may help inform your contributions now.

    I hope your move goes smoothly! I imagine our paths will cross once you’re up here, so I’ll look forward to meeting you in person. Tara will be a good ‘partner in crime’ to show you around and opportunities to get involved. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Rachel,

    Eh, I agree it’s not as bad as the first two… *AND* it continues to use faked statistics, terribly dramatized stories designed to shock and scare, and seems to be supporting force and mocking Massachusetts for not ‘getting with the program.’

    I tried to be clear above that they make a valid point about loss of funds in the system… but beyond that I still think they fail to understand what that means, what should be done about it, and how they are *adding* to the hurt.

    Nonetheless, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. : )

    -Sera

  • Thank you, Surviving and Thriving.

    I sent the article link – as I always do – directly to the Spotlight team, so we shall see… but my hopes aren’t high.

    I’m happy to be able to provide some sort of counterpoint to the Globe’s mess, at least for others to take in and I also hope that it might reach some people outside of our own crowd here.

    -Sera

  • BPDTransformation,

    Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, I fear your message of ‘doom’ is correct unless people/the ‘system’ are really willing to change directions. And, unfortunately, I think we sometimes find ourselves pitted against those who believe all of what they’re told about psychiatric diagnosis because they’re often coming from a desperate place and need to believe that they’ll find the answer in something so concrete as the system appears to be…

    I, for one, am not interested in taking ways of making meaning away from people, but it’s hard to feel hope for a system that takes meaning away (or forces meaning on) so many people so much of the time.

    -Sera

  • Thanks for your impassioned reply, Stephen. I hope it was clear in what I wrote that I see the ‘slow death’ (to which both you and I referred) as quite commonplace… I know the job you hold to be a painful one, as I’ve found myself in a similar place at times (watching spirits be crushed). I share your fear that we’re not winning this battle, but I appreciate your willingness to stay in the fight.

    -Sera

  • s1w2f3,

    I agree with you that part of the problem is that people are starting from the wrong assumptions! For better or worse, there are a number of people out there who will say that the system saved their lives… But if we were able to explore the elements of internalized oppression involved in those feelings, and weed out people who are answering slanted questions (like ‘which would you have preferred… prison or hospital’…) those numbers reduce dramatically. More than anything, and regardless of whether or not the Globe can find people who credit psychiatry with their success, I wish they were open to the full volume of people who have been harmed (or at least, not helped)… Or even the people who went to the system in desperation and found some little piece helpful, but had to weed through lots of pain to get there.

    -Sera

  • Thanks for linking to that article, 5parts2ahorse.

    Suicide is such a complicated issue, and I wish hospitals would become more interested in what it is they’re doing (or not doing) that seems to make the time directly after hospitalization such a likely time for people to kill themselves.

    There truly is so much wrong, and so many people being lost in it.

    -Sera

  • Hey Iden,

    Just got a chance to read this. 🙂 Thanks for calling out the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community. We are *for sure* still trying to figure out how to ‘show up’ better, but I continue to feel baffled by people who seem to think these are all totally ‘separate’ issues that shouldn’t be addressed together. I remember the comments I got of that nature when I blogged here about Michael Brown, and Baltimore, etc. It’s so incredibly discouraging.

    Looking forward to working with you more in this direction 🙂

    -Sera

  • Hi Michael,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    I’m also stunned by how obvious it all seems, and how people bent on defending the conventional paradigm are so vehement and likely to accuse us of anti-science ‘crazy’ talk, in spite of so much science actually being on our side.

    There was just an article about the Western Mass RLC and Hearing Voices work published in the New York Times on Tuesday, and the comments section is as shocking in this way as it is not surprising, given it reflects the ‘normal’ response in society whenever this comes up.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Nomadic,

    I honestly grow weary of these posts that accuse me of asking people to identify as ‘mentally ill.’ I’m pretty sure my perspective is clear, and that if not as much in this one, than other blogs have surely made it evident that I do not think in that manner.

    When I speak of ‘us,’ I’m often speaking of those of us who the Globe and others *believe* they’re speaking for… Calling us ‘the mentally ill’ and accepting that paradigm on our behalf, is but one of their many affronts.

    -Sera

  • Chrisa,

    Sometimes I’m aware there aren’t easy answers and that is painful and I am sorry for that. And by saying this I do not mean to say that certain situations are hopeless or should be ignored… Simply that I’m aware that people are lost or in despair somewhere every minute of the day, and we have not yet found enough answers to go around.

    That said, your suggestion that anyone who gets classified among the ‘4%’ hasn’t found their way back out with the sorts of supports and perspectives offered on this site is just blatantly inaccurate. I know MANY people who’ve been diagnosed with what are seen as the 4%’ers diagnoses (schizophrenia, etc.) who are leading full lives specifically because they followed paths outside of the mainstream system. And I’ve seen many who would also be so classified who have died because they were trapped in the system.

    You do not know what would have saved any particular person or prevented them from doing something terrible, and the suggestion that you have such predictive powers seems dangerous… Especially since there is a growing body of evidence that some people who have done some of the terrible things to which you refer were driven there in part *because* of the psychiatric drugs they were taking.

    You and others keep speaking as if that group that makes up the 4% is somehow this alien body of people writing somewhere away from any of these conversations. I can only assume that your refusal to see and hear that some of ‘them’ are also some of us is based on a deeply entrenched belief that people who look ‘that bad’ could never again be capable of having voice in this way.

    But, as I say above, not all opinions are created equal. In truth, it is not simply opinion that people who you and others would group into that 4% are hear and speaking for themselves. It is fact, and you’re just not listening.

    -Sera

  • Hi oldhead,

    Thanks as always for popping in. 🙂 Murphy definitely remains a topic on the forefront out here, including at this protest… Though I’m losing optimism there, for sure.

    I know there is so much truth in this:

    “They’re polling the audience to see what they like to read and believe and pandering to that to stay in business. I remember journalism but it is rarely found in corporate outlets like the Globe. If they reported this accurately they’d be in trouble with their corporate pharmaceutical sponsors. Period.”

    And yet, I do keep hoping there’ll be another Whitaker or what have you among the bunch… They certainly did have to push back against the powers that be to write their piece on the church as they did…

    But in the end, regardless of what they do, this was something that energized a relatively large group of people and informed hopefully at least some of the public a little bit more!

    -Sera

  • rasselas,

    I feel confident that it is my responsibility – as, yes, a white woman – to speak to other white people such as yourself and say why ‘All Lives Matter’ *is* a problem. It is wrong to lay that responsibility solely (or even primarily) at the feet of people of color. That you don’t like hearing it from me does not particularly change that fact.

    ‘All Lives Matter’ is a problem… because it distracts from the issue of racism, silences people of color, and serves as a denial that – while yes, all lives do matter – some lives are not treated as such. It repositions white people in the conversation, and suggests that not only do their lives matter equally, but that white and black lives are currently valued the same. Perhaps that’s not what everyone means when they say it, but impact is often more important than intent, especially when intent is based in misunderstanding in the first place.

    I do not wish to over take Iden’s blog with a back and forth, but I do feel these points are important and again hope you will reconsider.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Speaking ‘for’ is a tricky concept, here. I have no interest in taking up space speaking where someone of color has something to say on this issue.

    AND

    I have no interest in staying silent and acting as if people of color should be the only one’s speaking, or as if race is just a black person’s issue and all the weight of it should rest on their shoulders.

    AND

    I have no interest in failing to recognize that much of racism is actually a *white person’s* issue, or at least that it is in our hands to take responsibility for and change many key pieces that support it, and to educate one another as fellow white people.

    As a white, middle class woman, I do not need to be speaking for, but I do see myself as having a responsibility to speak at times, nonetheless… And not because I seek to win acceptance, but even in the face of continued, justified anger.

    To be clear, I’m not calling *you* a ‘racist,’ but I am saying that you are using language that is generated by a racist system that sometimes seems to be willfully misunderstanding ‘Black Lives Matters’ and actively seeking to distract from it.

    I hope that you will take time to reconsider.

    -Sera

  • Circa,

    I’m sure Iden can speak for himself on this point, but as a white person trying to be an ally I want to speak up, too… I think there’s a substantial difference between recognizing parallels and intersections (or even how psychiatry has been used as a tool of social control within the realm of racism, and so on) and appropriating language and experiences.

    In general, I really do believe that it is problematic to take and use as our own the language of experiences we have not gone through… Or to recognize the similarities without also recognizing and respecting the differences.

    I do think it is upon us to find our own language for this movement and these struggles, and so I’d vote against using that title, for whatever you find that vote to be worth.

    Sera

  • ‘All Lives Matter’ has its roots in racism and privilege, rasselas. I know that people who say it don’t overtly, necessarily mean harm (although some of them do). But it is nonetheless a statement that distracts from the discussion of race and really misses the point of why we’re having the conversation at all.

    If you’re willing, check out a portion of our (Western Mass Recovery Learning Community) last newsletter that focuses particularly on this issue: https://madmimi.com/s/a4dc78

  • Sorry, Circa, but Inman is – as you say – aligned with Jaffee, Torrey, and so many others that are doing harm with their extreme force ridden views… Inman openly criticizes everything from the Hearing Voices movement to Open Dialogue, and seems just as stuck on a one-note portrayal of these experiences and what is needed to help people who are having them as the next worst person I wouldn’t want to run into in a dark blog alley…

    It’s certainly your choice to appreciate what she says, but I’m not interested in making friends with her.

    Sera

  • Thank you, knowledgeispower. I appreciate your recognition of the impact of the various societal ills on the emotional state of those most directly impacted. It is a part of what I find most painful about this work… Being told we’re to support people to move through emotional crises that supposedly come out of nowhere, when we have little to no control over (but all too much awareness of) so many of the environmental conditions that are often at the root.

    -Sera

  • Already been doing that, Circa… In fact, I’ve spent literal hours talking directly with various Globe staff… As did many people attempt to talk to Globe staff before the article I’m rebutting here was written…

    You seem to have landed here with a particular axe to grind that has little to do with what I’ve written. I wonder if you could take at least that part elsewhere?

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Sa!

    I hope they are reading on the one hand… Although, on the other hand, I’m in talks with them to get an op ed in their paper, and also hoping that this blog doesn’t put them off to wanting to include the op ed. 🙂 But, I figure they got to know me because of these blogs, so it wouldn’t make much sense if they stopped being willing to publish me because another one of them!

    -Sera

  • I’ve offered plenty of alternatives in the past as have others, and already explained that I am not opposing help, but simply the type of help that is given (and the way that both the need and the treatment are being portrayed by the Globe).

    From your remarks about self-harm, I can only assume that mik is correct and you are someone who is using a new name, but has been around before.

    Given your nastiness and refusal to hear what’s actually being said, I’m going to stop responding to you now.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Gosh, this all seems a little nonsensical to me, liberalminority.

    You say: “Are you going to talk to everyone who has or is experiencing past or present abuse, addiction, bad family relationships, unemployment, about your alternative? Are you going to pay their bills when they don’t have any income due to mental illness? Are you going to offer good suggestions to someone in a bad family relationship weekly? Are you going to help people detox from their addictions? Are you going to show love to people who experienced past abuse, and offer advise on how to deal with present abuse?”

    Why would I do any of these things, and what do they have to do with anything I have said?

    I mean, I’m not arguing against SSI or SSDI for people who are unable to work, although I would *very much* argue for a change of frame so that the reason doesn’t not need to be medically justified as I do not believe that psychiatric diagnosis, on the whole, is a medical issue. That’s very different than saying that someone’s suffering or inability to work at that point in their life isn’t real… But, research sure does seem to tell us that the US way of ‘helping’ at present is *increasing* long-term dependency on SSI/SSDI…

    I mean, I’m just not sure what else to say in response to you. You seem to be arguing in favor of a system without understanding the research that says it’s killing people and just overall not working…

    So, I’d suggest you take a look at some of that before criticizing me.

    -Sera

  • Liberalminority,

    It’ strikes me as really strange that I should need to be responsible for all the fixes, or otherwise need to remain silent about something so terrible. I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works in most cases.

    If you look at some of my other blogs, you’ll see that I do sometimes also suggest alternatives… but in this instance what I am suggesting is that the Globe stop doing damage and talk with people to learn alternatives… both alternative understandings and alternative approaches to supporting people.

    Honestly, this seems like a really (to use your own word) ignorant and reductive statement:

    “How else do you expect to help these people if not by providing them with a therapist to talk about their problems too, a medical Doctor to prescribe them medications that will help them cope with their problems”

    I use neither of those things and know so many who have moved through their distress in similar ways to me…

    But more importantly, I know people who have died or lost years off of their lives because of the mainstream belief that those things are necessary and ‘the only way.’

    There is much to speak out against in what the Globe offers. The idea that any media is good media if it ‘starts a conversation’ is foolish. I hope you’ll take a closer look.

    -Sera

  • Hey The_Cat,

    I’m not totally sure I follow your comment, especially the first part, but I can certainly appreciate the sarcasm behind your ‘please protest our violence peacefully.’ It holds so much truth about the reality that people who experience so much oppression live under.

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Thanks for adding to the history, Eileen. Such interesting stuff!

    Whitaker’s story of how he shifted from traditional journalism and reporting on this topic to learning the truth and coming to be where he’s at now is such an interesting one. I’m hoping there might be someone with the same sort of openness on this Spotlight team…

    -Sera

  • Oldhead,

    Fair enough. On one level I quite agree with you. Except I think these news reporters are just another example of people caught up in a bad system. I don’t imagine they as individuals are invested in nothing but corporate greed and pharmaceutical interests, although I do think they are being used as a tool of that… But if Whitaker could shift, is it not reasonable to have hope that others might, too?

    -Sera

  • Yes, ‘all police aren’t bad…’ neither are all psychiatrists.

    They have to make really difficult decisions sometimes.

    And besides, at times ‘the mentally ill’ are doing some really crazy things. If they weren’t, the police wouldn’t have to react that way!

    I’ve heard it all before (as has everyone), and it all misses the boat on the fact that the *system* is the issue and good people in a bad system can still end up perpetuating terrible things.

    These sorts of comments derail important conversations, and need to be shut down as soon as they crop up.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, randall. Here is a post on that particular topic that I made yesterday to the Facebook group that has been set up by the Globe to address their article:

    Okay, Laura Amico and others, I’m *NO* math expert by *ANY* stretch of the imagination, but help me out here. What am I doing wrong?

    For one moment in time, I am going to *completely* radically accept the following:

    1. There is such a thing as ‘mental illness’ as it is being defined by the Globe and many others in this group. (Okay, I don’t really… but only just for this moment…)

    2. NAMI is correct in their statistics that, during any given year, 18.5% of the population will experience this thing that I’m accepting exists (for the moment) called ‘mental illness’

    3. The Globe is even close to right that about 10% of the murders in the state are attributable somehow (by magical arithmetic and amazing reporter sleuthing skills) to those so-called ‘mentally ill’ (never mind for now the weird and ominous assertion that there untold numbers more that they simply haven’t been able to identify)

    So, let’s say we have 1000 people. Assuming the above (that 18.5% are ‘mentally ill’), then that means 185 of the 1000 are so diagnosed, leaving 815 who are apparently just A-okay.

    Then we have 100 murders, and that 185 is responsible for 10% of them.

    Now, that would mean that 5.4% of the ‘mentally ill’ group are murderers, whilst 11% of the ‘non-mentally ill’ have also committed the same crime.

    Of course, this is assuming that each person only murders one person which is a silly assumption on both sides, but I’m not sure how else to approach this for the moment, so give me a bit of a pass if you would… (Side note: If I am to believe the media, all the mass killers are most likely to be ‘mentally ill,’ which would actually only serve to lower the percentage of that group that is violent in that way.)

    So… like… if all that’s true… if I haven’t somehow seriously screwed up the math (which *is* admittedly entirely possible), why are we even *having* this conversation or asking questions like the one above which implies that unchecked ‘mental illness’ is a serious public safety problem.

    *Is* it a serious public safety issue? Is it just the one that we feel we can somehow best control, even if it’s not the biggest or the baddest? Or is it just the easiest one to look at… the easiest group to blame?

    Yes, I realize this is an over simplification in some ways… And, no, I’m not saying that violence that happens at the hands of someone who is in a very altered state shouldn’t matter. But I am wondering why our attention is being diverted in this manner…

  • Bpd,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts… I certainly agree that apparent goal of most hospitalizations seems to be control in the moment, and that the impact is often more trauma and little long-term help. Agreed, as well, that so many who get diagnosed have simply been through terribly difficult things in life. I think profit is a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole thing… So much scapegoating and control and denial of other issues is also involved, I believe!

    -Sera

  • Anonymous2016,

    Your comments are all welcome, and I appreciate and agree with particularly your comments about the problem with using diagnosis as a measure (given its moving target and ability to be applied as makes sense to those in power), and the strange storytelling element to the article.

    Thank you also for your plan to write the Globe. It’s so important that they continue to hear these critical voices!

    -Sera

  • Thanks, knowledgeispower! It sounds like you know Massachusetts (and all its acronyms!) well. 🙂 I do just want to add that voices and visions that tells one what to do (what you referred to as ‘command hallucinations’) do NOT mean that someone is particularly likely to act out violently. I’m not going to say that never happens, but I just want to be clear that that sort of experience is much more common than people realize and not at all impossible to resist (just like it’s not impossible to resist the various ridiculous ideas that float through all of our heads on most days)…

    I had visions telling me to hurt my daughter for the first two years of her life… Although I’m not much of a support group goer, I attended a training for Hearing Voices groups and in the mock group I had enough space to think of what was happening for me in a different way, and I realized what that experience meant and the visions dissipated. I know of many people who have had similar experiences to that…

    Anyway, I know you didn’t intend for your comment to suggest that that experience is something terrible and always dangerous, but I just felt I should elaborate. 🙂

    Thank you for taking the time to read and speak up!

    -Sera

  • sarahhrh,

    I think we have a *lot* to learn from Open Dialogue and Soteria models where psychiatric drugs and so much else is concerned. Are you familiar with either of those? If not, it might be worth checking into them…

    I don’t think that either one provides the *whole* answer, but if we could implement truly informed consent, and fully fund alternatives like Soteria, peer respites, Open Dialogue, etc. that’d be a good start!

    -Sera

  • Hi Frank,

    Thanks as always for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, I know the Globe is far, far, far from the only problem. It’s the whole power structure of the media in general (which is part of what I was getting at with the opening piece of the blog), and so very frustrating all around. Hoping we can find a way to make a dent in the alternative media where we do at least have some voice!

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Greg,

    In all honesty, I guess I have two reactions to what you have to say:

    1. You’re right. It does give people permission of a sort to ignore me, or write me off, and had I pulled some of that out, they’d at least have a less obvious excuse. And, perhaps, they’d even have heard some of it a little more clearly.

    2. Eh. There’s plenty of people writing more mild responses out there, and frankly, even when I have written extremely diplomatic pieces on these sorts of topics (in other realms… I don’t tend toward super diplomatic here 😉 ), I’ve still been discredited for… challenging much of anything. Because people are *super* protective of this paradigm, and I simply haven’t seen ‘nice’ go very far. Sure, the conversations are more pleasant in a way, but they usually lead to a pat on the head. I also just am not sure that it’s fair to expect people who’ve experienced a particular type of oppression to always be ‘polite.’ I know how I’ve approached this will make some people uncomfortable. I also know it will give some others more confidence to speak out for themselves. I’m honestly more concerned with the latter.

    So, in the end… I suppose I agree with you to some extent, but I’m not sure I agree enough to change. 😉

    Either way, I appreciate your reading and offering the feedback.

    -Sera

  • littlemissperfect,

    If done honestly (accounting for other voluntary supports someone is receiving, willingness to take a hard look at the truth about psych drugs, etc.), that would indeed be interesting.

    I know that the outcomes for ‘mental health courts’ where psych drugs are often required are *not* so great.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, jenlight! And thanks so much for taking the time to write to the Globe. At present, they seem to be claiming that the vast majority of e-mailed feedback they’ve been receiving has been positive! I find that super hard to believe, but either way, I hope everyone will take the time to e-mail them. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • dsd,

    I’m glad there are some things it appears we agree upon. However:

    1. Good to hear that you have some of your own experience upon which you rest your voice. I wonder what you see as being a ‘good way’ to speak for other groups? And why you think they can’t speak for themselves? Now, I’m totally all for ‘allyship’ which can sometimes include speaking with or in support of others, but *always* guided by them… Not by your own perceptions.

    I also appreciate your consideration of how you may be impacted by now working within the system. I don’t think that people who work in the system are inherently bad, but I do believe it requires an *incredible* amount of intentionality and checking in on one’s self (and with the help of others, to keep one honest) to make sure you do not lose sight of where you meant to be heading.

    2. *So* interesting. Especially since you seem to be painting the people who have psychiatric histories as being the ones who do *not* have the kids, the jobs, etc. As someone with a psychiatric history (including forced hospitalization and several of the types of diagnoses you mention in that paragraph) who also has a job (more than one, actually), a house, and kids… I wonder why that is?

    3. Why are you combining people who are struggling with substance use and people with psychiatric diagnoses? We already know the research supports increased risk of violence for the former, but not the latter. It seems a bit of a misdirection to conflate them.

    I also wonder about lumping together ‘risk to self’ and ‘risk to others.’ Are you aware that there are *many* people who feel quite insulted when their existential crises and considerations of ending their lives are tossed in the same pot with those who are threatening to harm others?

    Finally, I won’t argue (as I note in my original piece) that there aren’t people who are experiencing emotional distress of some sort who become a threat to society. That seems a little silly, since it seems obvious that many people who are violent are off balance in some way… but how does that equate to psychiatric diagnosis, specifically? Or relate to the *treatments* of the system that are violence and throwing people off balance themselves? How do you separate all that out and decide that it really just is some sort of internal ‘dis-ease’ that’s the root?

    This article is not leading to dialogue. It’s opening the doors for things like the Murphy Bill, silencing so many of us who have been harmed by the status quo system, and giving misinformed people more to wave around as their ‘proof’ when arguing for further oppression.

    Even if that starts a *few* conversations, it’s not the sort of ‘conversation starter’ that we need…

    -Sera

  • markps2,

    Thank you for again highlighting the issue of psychiatric drugs and whether or not they are helping or hurting. I’m not one to ever tell someone who says they are helping them that they are wrong (I know that bugs some around these parts, but I think people have had enough of being told that they are wrong about themselves)… But it seems incredibly clear (and yet so ignored) that psychiatric drugs are *hurting* many people in many ways.

    -Sera

  • dsd,

    I find *absolutely no* benefit in an article that focuses on a ‘marginalized and downtrodden’ population only to tread on them further. Where is the benefit in speaking to an oppressed group only to further *oppress* them by a) speaking for them and b) scapegoating them and c) suggesting that even more of the same terribleness befall them?

    I am under no obligation to find the good in something so terrible (and I’m really not sure it’s there to be found).

    As to your other point, the world is a stressful place and we are all under the tremendous pressure of joblessness, racism, homelessness, poverty, overcoming past traumas, violence all around us, war, etc. etc. etc… Could you please let me know why you suppose people who have been given some sort of diagnosis are automatically more prone to the difficulties you describe than others who are nonetheless facing such massive turmoil around them?

    Now, I do think that violence happens in the system, and that people who are locked up against their will, restrained, institutionalized, drugged with drugs that are shown to sometimes increase violence, etc., may be more prone to violence… But does that mean that they were more prone to violence because of some subjective diagnosis, or because of the *violence* done unto them (that so conveniently is not generally called violence)??

    I can tell you what *I* think. You?

    -Sera

  • Hi Boans,

    I don’t follow them too much myself (in spite of living in the same state!), although I’m told that they are usually ‘better than this.’

    I remember that headline (Ike/Tina!) And love the Marx quote 🙂 It often does seem that people are willing to deny what’s right before them… because it’s easier.

    Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    -Sera

  • Thanks, AA! 🙂

    I also looked up the e-mails for all the people listed on the article as writers or contributors and sent it to them 😉

    Here are those addresses if anyone else is interested:

    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

    I think it’d be great if people sent them all as many e-mails as possible (as well as to the [email protected] e-mail), even if it is just additional copies to this or other relevant responses! 🙂

    -Sera

  • givemeyourking,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and post. I wonder if you *actually* read the whole article, though?

    What I am suggesting, at least in part, is that some of the violence that *does* exist as committed by those who have been diagnosed is the *result* of the system and the way it is set up… Violence (force, etc.) begets violence. Psychiatric drugs – certainly the way they are currently prescribed – seem to lead to violence in many situations.

    And yet, the Globe appears only to want to perpetuate the misguided, Treatment-Advocacy-Center-driven notion that more of the *same* is what is needed to prevent all the terrible things happening… And not even *all* the terrible things happening, just a faction of them… Because it’s more sensational and to dramatically demonize the so-called ‘mentally ill’ than to look at the bigger picture and the other 90%… Or all the ways we could likely make this society *less* violent by taking more compassionate and *less violent* measures to help people who need support.

    I wonder if you might do what the Globe reporters chose not to, and look at all the facts?

    -Sera

  • Jackdaniels,

    If you can’t see that your perspectives on self-injury are insulting, condescending and completely off-base, well… to quote one of your own statements to me: “I am sorry that someone who is responsible for your care has not explained that to you properly.”

    I realize that this is the nature of comments sections, but I find it truly unfortunate that you have chosen to post some of the things you have here that re-enforce so much harm done to others. In effect, you have said that I am ‘incompetent,’ and should be silenced. This is the perspective of some of the most harmful ‘mental health professionals’ that have intersected with my life – the ones who locked me up against my will precisely largely *because* I self-harmed.

    If you have any care in the world about what you are encouraging in this society, I hope you will one day reconsider that perspective – or at least the voicing of it in public forums.

    -Sera

  • Thanks Jasna… (And if this is the Jasna I suspect it might be, then good to hear from you!)… I like that paragraph, too…

    And actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about my concession on the point of ‘violence…’ On the one hand, I agree that it’s a circular argument (he committed violence because he was violent), but on the other hand it’s also true that one of the greatest *actual* predictors of future violence is past violence, and so I think it’s meaningful on some level, all the same.

    In any case, thanks for reading and overcoming your reluctance to comment. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Ragnarok,

    It’s complicated, eh? I would hesitate to say there’s *any* yes and no when it comes to ‘mental illness,’ because … well, what is that after all. Surely, anyone who is responsible for a mass shooting is in an emotional space that I would consider to be highly off balance in some way, but this idea that there is membership to this club called ‘mentally ill,’ and that people who participate in mass shootings may somehow be a part of it is… well… just as manufactured of an idea as anything else to do with psychiatric diagnosis.

    The rest, well, yes, again… It’s complicated. What is the ’cause’ is complicated, and even asking that question in that manner suggests there is a clear cause that we can point to in some instances… and that often just confuses the matter more. Access to guns is certainly a *part* of it for me, but not even close to the whole. What the person said they heard is meaningful, but I’m not necessarily sure that what someone says in the midst of conducting a mass shooting will offer the full picture, either.

    But you’re right… And you’re bringing up an angle that’s not getting much attention at all. It’s easy for us to say ‘terrorism’ and act completely innocent, failing to look at the way the United States has participated in this ‘War on Terror,’ and what responsibility our country has for how its military has behaved… Both what we’ve ignored, and what we’ve invaded.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    -Sera

  • achris,

    Thank you for your comment. On the whole, I agree with you that any one ‘it was because of x’ answer is an over simplification that feeds the fire (one fire or another).

    On the other hand, I don’t feel comfortable dismissing homophobic elements of this, particularly for this reason: How people are attempting to classify this person and his motives is based on guesses, assumptions. conjecture, latching on to one piece of the story, and so on.

    However, there is no getting around the fact that his target was a gay club and that all the people he killed were at a gay club and a part of the LGBTQ* community. I feel as if it would be a real act of disrespect to so many people who died, their families, and anyone else connected to the LGBTQ* community to ignore or diminish that fact in any way. It’s real, and it *is* political when put into the larger context of a society that has been so hateful toward people who are something other than heterosexual (including all of those who have come forward since this happened saying terrible things about them having gotten what they deserved).

    Honestly, as much as I agree with what your saying in some ways (particularly around needing to be able to see the complexity of any one picture which was one of the underlying points of my blog), I’m not sure how any of this can be depoliticized.

    -Sera

  • As aforementioned, the ‘he’ through much of this article refers to the many ‘he’s who have committed these violent acts and not any specific one.

    However, to your point specifically: This particular person made all sorts of different references to different terrorist groups, as best I can tell… Not one consistently.

    And what *is* ‘mental illness’ precisely? There is no test for ‘mental illness’… There is the observation that some people are struggling, in distress, in altered states, suffering in some way (all varies with the person), and that is what earns them the label… But what does it REALLY mean? Someone may earn such a label for being suicidal, but the underlying issue is homelessness (for example), and not a brain disease. Others may be labeled as ‘mentally ill’ simply because someone in power doesn’t like or is uncomfortable with how they are living their life (e.g., diagnoses that have existed in reference to trans people, individuals who are something other than heterosexual, or enslaved people who tried to escape, etc.).

    We can certainly say that people who do these things are ‘unwell’ on many levels, but suggesting they are ‘mentally ill’ suggests that they are of a specific group that is clearly definable and not subject to interpretation… It suggests that we *know* what ‘constitutes’ mental illness and thus leads us to the (erroneous) belief that we can identify such people in the future and prevent them from doing such things (a belief that leads society to hurt many people)…

    In some ways the terrorist designation is similar… It can be applied by people in power in ways that make sense to them, but can be based on wildly disparate characteristics… Is this guy a terrorist because he called himself one at some point? Eh, maybe. But what does that really mean?

    THAT is the point of this article… That these things are ALWAYS more complicated… That these labels people feel free to apply with such confidence do not have very clear definitions, and their application leads to two great harms: The abuse of and discrimination toward all people who are apart of the same group or possess characteristics that associate them with that group in some way… And the unspoken permission given to society to ignore some of the societal ills that are really to blame …

    -Sera

  • Lenora,

    I am concerned that the article to which you link – at least at a quick skim – comes across as quite Islamaphobic… I am not personally comfortable saying that this tragedy was about radical Islam.

    Honestly, my own article was about steering clear of pat answers that are so often filtered through skewed lenses and that avoid taking a hard look at society…

    The article also wasn’t about trying to play the ‘whose fault was it’ game at all… If I’m honest, I wish people could just be allowed the space to be present and grieve and not be having all these side arguments and competitions to place or avoid blame. I wrote this article because it felt important to respond right away that scapegoating people called ‘mentally ill’ is a serious problem… I wish that hadn’t been necessary.

    -Sera

  • Thanks, Lark.

    I do feel compelled to add that I always find the term ‘the mentally ill’ to be a disturbing one, and used it in my blog (in quotes) only to reflect on a problem in society. I worry that – even if they were some clear group of people – any term that starts off with ‘the’ like that serves to distance one group from the rest of the population more than it serves any other purpose.

    But perhaps why I wanted to say something more than anything else is that speaking of ‘the mentally ill’ as if they’re truly some specific group with clear membership is a substantial part of the problem I’m referencing above… It’s easy to keep up the scapegoating if you forever hold the power to define someone as ‘mentally ill’ after they’ve done something you don’t like… Or even if they simply – at some point – got a diagnosis in the past. It’s also easy to steer people away from the often much more complex reasons someone may have been so angry or distressed or what have you, many of which point the finger at society’s various constructs and failings.

    I think there’s an element of that you’re representing above when you refer to how different cultures regard what we call ‘schizophrenia,’ but I just wanted to make mention of it as there have been several posts in this thread now that are using that phrase.

    Thank you for taking the time to post at such length. 🙂

    -Sera

  • It’s always hard to tell in these forums, but I feel a bit like you might be trolling here, so I’m going to let this sit other than to say the shift I speak of in Finland has nothing to do with changing labels. It has to do with people being supported in ways that they often move through extreme experiences and on with their lives in ways that is far less common in other areas *because* (it would appear) of the way they are supported…. Which puts a bit of a big hole in the whole ‘schizophrenia’ is a clear thing/brain disease assertion.

    -Sera

  • I don’t believe that anyone is suggesting people’s communities ignore violence or violent talk, etc. It would be great if people would take that much more seriously, and really take the time with their co-workers, family, friends, etc. to explore what is meant and hold people accountable for what they say and do.

    However, that is a far cry from blaming so-called ‘mental illness’ for violence.

    I also wonder what you consider ‘schizophrenia’ to be? In societies where they seem to have a much more attentive, holistic model (like Open Dialogue in Northern Finland) the diagnosis of schizophrenia has miraculously dropped… Which suggests that it has so much more to do with society’s responses and perceptions than anything that is internal.

    I’m not sure what to say about your personal experience and what you report has happened to you as a result. But I stand by what I say in this blog about the application of psychiatric diagnosis and the conflation of diagnosis and violence.

    Nonetheless, than you for reading and commenting.

    Sera

  • Truecelt,

    I am in absolutely *no* position to tell you why you have experienced the things you have experienced… but I just want to make certain that you are aware that many people experience disruptions when they first go on or off psychiatric drugs… And that those disruptions commonly have far more to do with the chemical changes related to the drug than anything to do with the individual themselves… Even though it’s very commonly used as proof of need of those drugs, which is quite unfortunate.

    Again, no idea what that means for *your* situation, and I make no recommendations about what you should do… But just wanted to put that out there.

    -Sera

  • jackdaniels,

    I’m honestly having a really hard time with your responses, and so having to think before I ‘type’ to not come across too harshly.

    I genuinely do *not* need anyone else to explain to me what self harm means. When I do ‘self harm,’ it is mostly burning myself, and I’m pretty okay with that. I don’t need anyone’s pity. I don’t need anyone to define what it means for me. And I don’t really feel the need to stop it. Anyone who approaches me with a focus on stopping it loses my interest and trust pretty quickly. If you’re interested any further in my thoughts on this, I suggest you read my blog on the topic which can be found here: https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/11/p-s-sometimes-still-hurt-p-p-s/

    Similarly, I have a blog on ‘stigma’ that you may want to check out here: https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/04/false-arguments-part-2-anti-anti-stigma/

    And I do not identify as ‘mentally ill,’ and I wonder you feel empowered to identify me in that way, or what it means to you when you say those words?

    -Sera

  • I find your assertions about self-harm fairly insulting. No one is ‘responsible for my care.’ And even if I decided to go back to the system for support (fat chance of that, but let’s say I did), it *still* wouldn’t be the case that someone else would be in a position to explain meaning to me.

    Just about everyone ‘self harms’ in some way… Too much food, too little sleep, too much work, too much exercise, drugs, alcohol, etc… Tattoos and piercings are also often (certainly not always) used as a method of self-harm. Those who hurt themselves in ways that are socially accepted or valued get excused or even rewarded. Those who self harm in ways that scare others or that are less socially acceptable get ostracized or even pegged as ‘sick.’

    And yes, there is an issue with people demonizing outward shows of distress and rewarding inward ones. But there are both highly valid and problematic sides to that. The problematic side is this: Pain is pain and disregarding that pain because someone is containing it to their own detriment and then demonizing healthy anger causes problems. However, on the other hand (and this is very important): Stopping someone from harming others represents a PROTECTION OF FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS (of others). Applying (misguided) definitions and preventing self-harm often represents a VIOLATION OF FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS (of the self). That’s a pretty enormous difference.

    I would appreciate if, in the future, you would not suggest that others are somehow ‘responsible’ for me and ‘my care.’ It feels very condescending and invalidating.

    I do not look at stigma, which often amounts to a painfully misguided campaign to ‘stop ostracizing those mentally ill people so they can get on with accepting their illnesses and getting treatment.’ It completely ignores the harms of treatment and of the disease model itself. Instead of ‘stigma,’ I look at discrimination and oppression.

    I stand by what I say in this article and all the past ones I’ve written.

    -Sera

  • jackdaniels,

    If you took anything I said to mean that those who are being treated are less violent, then you’re absolutely misunderstanding what I’m saying. I actually see *many* examples of treatment *leading* to violence… because people are acting in self defense in situations where ‘treatment’ is being forced on them… because psych drugs can sometimes *lead* to violence… and because oppression in general leads to the sort of alienation that I think can also potentially feed into despair, anger, and isolation that could be contributing factors.

    What do you even mean when you say ‘He was mentally ill?’ How do you know this, and what specifically do you mean? The idea that ‘the mentally ill’ are even a finite, definable group is misguided and part of the problem all on its own. As we’ve seen historically, who is ‘the mentally ill’ is a moving target based on societal norms of the moment, who is in control, who we want to control, and so on.

    There’s so much more to say in response to what you’ve offered, but most of it has been said before. I’m just left struck by how you’re even defining ‘mental illness’ and particularly what you think you’re accomplishing for all of us who have been so diagnosed and had ‘treatment’ forced on us for precisely the mentality you’re expressing here… I stand by my point that scapegoating people who’ve been giving psychiatric diagnoses and increasing force and ‘treatment’ against people’s wills will lead to *more* violence and tragedy, not less.

    I also really object to your lumping in self-harm to this broader conversation about violence. As someone who still periodically self-harms as a way of coping, I don’t want anyone trying to ‘treat’ or stop me at all, or associating me in any way with people who would go out and murder or hurt others.

    Nonetheless, thanks for reading and posting.

    Sera

  • Hmmm… I asked:

    “Could you point me to the scenario where someone arrives with the intent to gun down as many people as possible, and some citizen who was legally carrying a firearm while out on the town stops them?”

    What you offered doesn’t really counter that…

    I don’t know that I really have the energy for a full on gun debate. Honestly, I wish people could just have the space to grieve all that’s happened without needing to have any arguments at all… But it seemed necessary to put something out there to counter the scapegoating.

    All I know is that the stats from this country verses other countries just doesn’t seem to hold up the arguments you’re offering, and in order to change the direction in which we seem to be heading, *multiple* things need to change…

    -Sera

  • truecelt,

    I’m in no position to tell you that your story and experiences aren’t real. Thank you for sharing them.

    However, I don’t think that changes the fact that what gets labeled as ‘mental illness’ isn’t really a finite *thing* that can be said to be the cause of anything in particular, and that it’s always more complicated than that. We don’t really know what brings people to the point that you describe having experienced or that there’s really any one clear reason. We do know, though, that violence driven by altered states is really rare and (when it happens) often not driven by those states alone, and that psych drugs often don’t help, don’t help enough, or can make things worse…

    Most importantly, the blog really is more about the reality that it is all most often way more complicated than pegging some simplistic cause, that we need to stop ignoring our societal ills and biases in how we identify what is ‘wrong,’ and that scapegoating a group in the way that is so common when bad things happen is not only misguided and harmful.

    Thank you again, though, for being willing to share so much of your own story.

    -Sera

  • Cat,

    Do I think guns are the whole issue? No. Do I think they are a part of the problem in many of these scenarios? Absolutely.

    I hear this argument about our need to have guns so as to not be helpless and be able to defend ourselves… But, could you point me to the scenario where someone arrives with the intent to gun down as many people as possible, and some citizen who was legally carrying a firearm while out on the town stops them?

    Again, I find this comedy routine to be a useful reference:

    https://youtu.be/0rR9IaXH1M0

    -Sera

    And, could you explain to me why the land with so many legal firearms is also the land with so many of these sorts of shootings?

  • Becky,

    Thank you, and the trouble with all this is that I do best when the energy builds so that I feel like I just *have* to write something to get it out of my head. And other topics have felt more pressing than going back to that one, so I’m just kind of waiting to be re-inspired to return for Part 2. 😉 Hopefully you’ve found some value in the other blogs I’ve posted. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • I have to disagree, oldhead.

    Comments on Facebook (such as the only I attached to this blog) mention it… Articles from the ex-wife mentioned it, and even a diagnosis has been named… It’s not been as bad as it could be, but it’s circulating.

    Also, I’m not sure how it could not be about guns? People have been murdered without guns, but not generally at the volume as those incidents where there are guns (yes, I know there are exceptions to this, e.g., the planes on 9/11, but it’s a rarity)…

    I appreciate what this Australia comedian has to say on the topic:

    https://youtu.be/0rR9IaXH1M0

    Well… I like his second-half less as he goes down the ‘crazy’ path in the second half and some other offensive bits… But worth a watch where guns are concerned.

    The only thing I can agree with you on is that we will never be able to predict and stop all violence, and frankly our efforts to do so (much like the suicide prevention industry’s efforts where suicide is concerned) cause more harm than good in so many instances…

    However, I absolutely do think that there are things we can look at that are societal influences that may have impact… For example, would this guy have done this if he didn’t live in a society that was so conflicted and violent toward people who identify as something other than heterosexual/cisgender, etc? Maybe… Maybe not, but it seems worth our energy to move toward a less hateful society and it seems inevitable that doing so would at least reduce violence.

    -Sera

  • BPD,

    Fair enough. I more or less agree with you on the ‘violent’ part… That sentence was more about *access to guns* then being violent/why he was violent. That’s how I meant it, anyway. (I.E., As a statement about access to guns.)

    I also agree that there’s much more that can be said about why someone becomes violent in terms of their upbringing… I’ve written about that before, and just made a decision here to focus more on the what it’s NOT about then write at length about what it *is*… The isolation, alienation, and hate in heart pieces are meant to allude to much of what you write about more expansively here.

    Thanks for expanding upon it!

    -Sera

  • Hi Boans,

    Some of the more heated discussion (which really isn’t so much about the blog but the comments in the comment section that took things in a different direction) has been confusing to me, too. You are right, I’m certainly not attempting in any way to deny your experiences or trauma or that rape and rape culture are a part of the systemic oppression of women in this culture… Nor am I trying to deny that men can also experience and be impacted by rape.

    I think I’ll be coming back to the issue of slavery/psychiatry in another blog, so we shall see how that goes. 🙂

    Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.

    -Sera

  • Frank,

    Okay, I think I follow what you’re saying… Although, I’m not sure I agree that it’s all that straight forward. I was over in the UK working on a film project a couple of weeks ago, and someone we interviewed had this to say: Psychiatrists are trained to diagnose… And when they are faced with people who are fighting against psychiatry they don’t quite know what to do with them, and so they diagnose them, too, and often that diagnosis is ‘anti-psychiatry.’ Then they feel like they know what to do with them, and that is (basically) to ignore them. (I’m paraphrasing.. These weren’t his exact words, but the general gist.) He said a bit more on the topic, but that was the part I remember best.

    In any case, I can see some truth in what you say, but also in what was said in that interview.

    -Sera

  • Hi Steve,

    I appreciate what you’re saying, but I guess I just want to offer this:

    If we were talking about *other* language preferences and bickering over semantics I might agree with you… although I’m relatively well known around these parts for seeing the deeper importance of word choices in many instances.

    And, I agree with you that – no matter how we cut this conversation – all of these things represent oppression and damaging (often deadly) systems.

    However, in this particular instance, I do think it’s a mistake to call this a semantic difference and say that it’s okay for each of us to just go our separate ways. The appropriation of the word ‘slavery’ by white people, particularly in instances where they are being told by people of color that it is offensive and yet they still feel empowered to take ownership of it, represents a continuation of practices that are a part of systemic racism (taking ownership of certain aspects of someone else’s culture while still denigrating others, taking power to define the meaning of those elements even over objection of those from whose culture they are being drawn, etc.).

    So, if it weren’t a matter of systemic racism and accessibility of this space for people of color, I’d agree with you… But given those points, I have to come at this from a different direction.

    Although, I will say this (which is consistent with what you say): I am puzzled by the insistence I see on the part of people who want to claim the term ‘slavery,’ when that argument surely does nothing to forward what our goals are in fighting oppression (and also clearly alienates a part of the community that we’d be strongest if we stood beside)…

    -Sera

  • Oldhead, I’m not moving anything. The *entirety* of the argument here has been about the problem with saying psychiatry is slavery, referring to ‘psychiatric slavery,’ or saying psychiatry is ‘like’ or ‘equal to’ psychiatry.

    I do not believe anyone I know would take issue with saying that psychiatry has been used as a tool of oppression within systemic racism (or slavery), or that psychiatry was used as a tool of oppression during the Holocaust. Those are factual statements about the relationship between two separate things, how they intersect, and so on.

    It is *completely* different than appropriating the language of slavery and applying it to psychiatry.

    -Sera

  • Oldhead,

    I hadn’t intended to continue to reply to this thread, but your referencing Suman pulled me back in.

    As it turns out, I spent several hours with Suman Fernando a couple of weeks ago. I’ve shared with him the basic argument that is ensuing here, and that one of his articles has been used as a reference point in defense of ‘psychiatry as slavery’ arguments. I’ve asked him if he has a moment to comment or share his thoughts, so I’ll let you know if he does.

    In the meantime, I will say that this same argument has also been taking place on my Facebook page, and the only people of color who have chosen to participate (both people who are also activists with histories in the psychiatric system) have been very clear that saying that psychiatry is slavery (as either analogy or proposed factual statement) is not okay and is received as offensive.

    Now, I realize that two people do not represent all people of color, but it is also my experience that the only person who identified themselves as a person of color the last time this conversation took place in the comments section of one of my blogs also stated that they felt alienated by it.

    All of this is consistent with my experiences and conversation elsewhere, as well.

    Meanwhile, when I skim through Suman’s article that you posted, I still am only seeing him speak about the ties, intersections and relationship between racism and psychiatry which, again, is quite different than saying psychiatry is slavery.

    I hope this does not continue to throw this blog off track, but I just couldn’t quite resist responding. I’ll let you know if Suman has something to share.

    -Sera

  • Talking about the intersections of racism and psychiatry, or racism and homophobia, etc.. or talking about psychiatry’s use as a tool of social control are all substantively different than suggesting that psychiatry is slavery.

    It is truly unfortunate that this thread has taken over a blog about something else entirely that I feel is valid and important.

    Sera

  • Steve,

    That’s a great quote from the kid you mentioned above (particular as someone who is currently working on a film about the chemical imbalance myth)!

    In any case, thank you for taking the time to respond, and also to share your own experiences working in the foster system. So many terrible and often overlapping systems. 🙁 It’s hard not to feel a little hopeless about it all much of the time.

    -Sera

  • yeah_I_survived…

    Is this a reply about the slavery comparison in the comments above? It’s not attached to that, but it seems like it might be…

    In any case, I am still very firmly opposed to that comparison, but there are still terrible, traumatizing, oppressive and abusive things that happen in the psychiatric system and I’m sorry that you are among those who have had to know that first hand.

    -Sera

  • Dkjamil,

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond, and I can appreciate what you’re getting at. But, I think you and I have talked about this to some extent before.

    I find it this comparison really problematic. I believe that force and oppression in psychiatry is terrible enough without us needing to appropriate other experiences.

    I wonder if the comparison is truly worth alienating and diminishing the histories and experiences of so many people of color?

    I have to believe there is a better way to make these points.

    Thanks

    Sera

  • Hi Julie,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It seems like you’ve seen a ton that can give us insight into the state of our society and the way we treat one another (as well as how privilege can play out and push out people with less). 🙁

    Obviously, what you describe goes way beyond the issue of housing… but still captures so much of our basic human needs, including the ability to *communicate* with others, and basic human kindness.

    Thanks again,

    Sera

  • Oldhead,

    Overall I tend to agree with you which is why we (RLC) dropped the term ‘peer’ from any job title and use the term relatively minimally in relational sorts of ways.

    I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment, but have you read my ‘Cheers for Peers’ blog? It probably best describes what I mean about the term ‘peer’ as a way of relating rather than as an identity. When anyone refers to me as ‘a peer,’ I basically want to kick them. 😉

    -Sera

  • Oldhead,

    Yes, actually I’m in Europe right now working on a film about the Chemical Imbalance Myth and interviewing several people, and the person we interviewed yesterday morning had some great things to say about the rise of the disease model as it relates to the rise of economic systems such as we currently have now.. so I’m glad you mentioned that.

    As to ‘peers’ I typically try not to use the term ‘peer’ to refer to *people*. If you’ve read some of my earliest blogs on here (eg ‘cheers for peers’), I imagine you’ll already know that. I see ‘peer support’ as much more of a way of relating and connecting with people than about some bizarre identity some individual person might take on. There are so many things that have made ‘peer support’ problematic in our culture… more than I have time to name here. However, briefly, part of it is the phenomenon of people who have been so oppressed by the psychiatric system now being paid directly by that system, and the reality that becoming dependent on that system tends to ‘soften’ (read: erase) any motivation to fight that oppression (and avoid assimilation) for having become dependent on the paycheck and wrapped up in the industry of it all. Another part is the weird identity of ‘peer’ that so many people take on, and how it can hold them in some strange ‘mental health system defined’ bubble… and so on.

    Again, we ( me and the place that I work) define it as a way of working with one another and a type of connection (as absent of power imbalances as possible, etc) we might develop, and that is what I speak of here. I’ve seen people do tremendous good coming at it from that direction, but frankly, it is much rarer than the standard way of things where ‘peer’ is concerned right now.

    Sera

  • Hi Bpd,

    Hmm… i’ll check on the link, and see about getting it fixed.

    You make an important point about not just poverty, but inequality, btw. Indeed, the impacts of poverty seem greatest in places where there is also significant *inequality*. (In other words, not where most people are living under the same impoverished conditions, but where people are living in poverty alongside those who clearly have great financial resources.)

    Thank you for that reminder, and for taking the time to read and comment, as always!

    -Sera

  • Thanks so much, Madmom! That’s a lot of information and resources you provided, and I look forward to reading about each of them. I love the ‘respectexistence’ website domain name! 🙂

    I also really appreciate your success and sharing about intersectionality of issues and successful collaboration. It’s so frustrating to me how so many different groups experience and focus on similar issues related to oppression, but miss so many opportunities to band together and make their voices louder.

    I’m glad that your community is an example of doing things differently in that way!

    -Sera

  • Hi Nomadic,

    Thank you for taking the time to share so many different thoughts. Interesting that you say Daniel (a friend of mine, actually) doesn’t go far enough with his ideas around parenting. Many are actual critical of him for taking such firm and strong opinions on the matter… But that’s an aside…

    I guess more importantly, I agree with you (if I’m understanding your correctly) that the concept of ‘recovery’ can be victim blaming at times, in that it still seems to be based in a framework that sees the problem having originated within the person… I haven’t thought about this within the context of the ‘original sin’ (religion is not really my world), but it’s an important point overall.

    Thank you again for taking the time! 🙂

    -Sera

  • Julie,
    Not only did they really not talk about struggles with food at the level to which you’re speaking, but they really didn’t acknowledge the importance of people getting their basic needs (shelter, food, sleep, etc.) met at all… I brought the point up, including how lack of basic needs being met can impact one’s emotional state.. which they didn’t deny, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a conscious concern of the course itself.

    -Sera

  • Lauren,

    Oy, I don’t know what I would have done with myself if they were promoting ECT in this class… Having no real frame of reference to what it used to be, I can’t really say much about how it’s changed or what it may have integrated in an effort to cover up it’s terrible… but overall… it’s for sure still terrible!!

    Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    -Sera

  • Belinda,

    Wow, Mental Health First Aid in Australia does indeed sound worse than I went through!

    And yes, the instructors of my course mentioned at least once that it was an ‘evidence based’ course, and I did want to ask (though ended up forgetting to do so)… But I was kind of suspecting that it probably meant that people were more likely to go into ‘treatment’ or what have you…

    Here’s the link to the USA ‘evidence’ page, which seems to mostly be citing Australian studies and does seem to largely be about being more able to identify diagnoses and places to send people off to…

    http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/about/research/

    And more from several places around the world here:

    http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/MHFA-Research-Summary-UPDATED.pdf

    I guess it’s easy enough to prove you are successful when you get to define what ‘success’ is in the first place…

    -Sera

  • Dan,

    Yes, I actually mentioned eCPR several times to the trainers or whenever I heard people justifying the whole of Mental First Aid for the sake of the ‘compassion’ it claims to be trying to teach….

    That said, I’m also concerned with how eCPR has come to be marketed (beyond as a basic tool for first responders, general public and as a counter to Mental Health First Aid)… But you’re right that it is certainly successful at teaching people to seek to connect and present with people who are struggling without all the counterproductive and damaging crap that comes with MHFA!

    Sera

  • For those of you who make it down this far in the comments section, there’s so much I could have included in this blog that I didn’t… Here’s one additional ‘tidbit’… In one of the packets we were given, there’s a ‘Who Am I’ game with substances… Here’s my favorite (I think it will be yours, too):

    Who am I? ___________ I am a stimulant and i come in many forms: power, tablets, capsules, crystals, or liquid. I am known on the street as ‘crystal,’ ‘speed,’ ‘base,’ ‘ice’ or ‘shabu.’ I can cause ‘speed psychosis,’ which involves symptoms similar to schizophrenia. The only proper use for me is for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), under the direction of a physician.

    Oy.

  • Hello again Oldhead,

    1. Basically it seems to come down to whether or not you’re seeing any ‘signs or symptoms’ of various diagnoses, which they do spend a fair amount of time reviewing via slides and their fab book of which I now have my very own copy…

    2. Yep, there are even comments in some of the films about how it’s critical to get help as *soon* as possible, though they’re not too clear on what doom befalls one who does not… But lots of emphasis on ‘professional help’ for sure…

    3. Well, yeah, there’s lots to be said about the acronym and the mascot… Oy. The whole thing started in Australia, so that’s where it comes from but beyond that I don’t know what to say about it other than ugh!

    -Sera

  • BPD,

    Well, I definitely said on multiple occasions that psychiatric diagnoses are not founded in science, pointed out the research on people being most likely to kill themselves after forced hospitalization, and that psych drugs can contribute to many problems… Gave details about the Open Dialogue system, along with encourgement to go watch Mackler’s film on Youtube… Spoke specifically to my concerns about the threatening nature of the video about the man referenced above… And lamented out loud the lack of ‘risk factors’ that were environmental (like discrimination and failure to meet basic needs)… I also gave a lengthy description of an alternative way I may have supported the man in the video that included asking him about his sleep and food, *entering* his home rather than luring him out, engaging in conversation to explore his fears and voices, etc…

    In truth, I was actually making a conscious effort to not throw the whole thing off too far because – while I often do go places just to heckle and counter their material… in this instance, I really just wanted to know what the deal with this whole MHFA thing was…

  • Let’s see… Here’s a few more:

    1. You’re at home watching a favorite movie whe n your ex calls sounding really upset and making statements about wanting to kill him/herself.

    Do you:
    a) End the call quickly, this is not your problem. People who threaten suicide rarely go through with it. Your Ex can take care of him/erself, and you are no longer together.

    b) Ask your Ex if s/he has a plan or has made any prior suicide attempts and consider if s/he has the resources to attempt suicide now. Discuss ways s/he can stay safe, such as calling a suicide hotline, a mental health crisis team, or 911.

    c) Ask how s/he intends to kill him/herself. If your Ex doesn’t hav e plan s/he’s probably not serious and so you can go back to your movie without worry.

    I answered d) And said something like ‘None of the above. I’d talk, ask what’s happening, what they’re feeling, if there’s anyone they trust they might want to be around, etc…’

    2. You notice that a family friend who is a college sophomore has been functioning less well as the school year progresses. At the beginning of the semester, she was vibrant and seemed to enjoy her classes. Now she has clearly lost weight, seems depressed, has a hard time paying attention, expresses odd ideas sometimes when you talk with her, and seems to have lost her motivation.

    Do you:
    a) Tell her she needs substance abuse treatment and you are sorry she succumbed to the drinking and drugs that are all too common at most colleges.
    b) Suggeste that she get academic counseling or tutoring to help her get back on track.
    c) Express your concern and offer to help her get an appointment at the college counseling center or other service.

    I don’t remember quite what I said, but it was another ‘D) None of the above’ response…

    There were others, but I didn’t do as good a job as I might have of capturing them all with pics on my phone!

    The two worst ones were the ones I included in the blog above, but as you can see – there is a trend toward assess and push into ‘professional services’…

    -Sera

  • Hi Nomadic,

    Thanks for reading and commenting… Technically, Mental Health First Aid isn’t about psychotherapy either… Rather, it seems largely about pushing people into drugs, therapy, and so on…

    But I do agree with you that the fact that so many people start from a point of not believing that what people say has meaning (including those trained by Mental Health First Aid) is a serious (and ‘crazy’-making) issue!

    -Sera

  • I’m certainly aware of Kevin, but don’t know much about what he has to say… And, admittedly, I worry that the media seems to give voice to people who make suicide attempts that seem more sensational (e.g., jumping off the bridge), sometimes to the exclusion of those whose actions were quieter and less ‘exciting’ to hear about, but who have a ton of wisdom to share… I’m sure I’ll get a chance to hear his message soon enough.

    -Srea

  • Hi Rooster,

    Thanks for takign the time to read and comment… I completely agree that it is all very sad, and yes, that sometimes just leaving people alone would be better than dragging them into a system that is prepared to do little more than cause harm.

    I tried to have a bit of that conversation with another participant in the training who was defending the threat of calling the cops if the man in the video didn’t agree to meet with crisis… I asked him how he would feel if someone lured him out of his home when he was posing no threat to anyone and then threatened him with police or hospital… Momentarily acknowledgement *seemed* to flicker across his face, but then I think he settled back into ‘well, that wouldn’t happen to be because I’m not like THAT guy.’ (He didn’t say anything of those things… It’s just what appeared to be happening based on his facial expression, and other things he said…)

    -Sera

  • amnesia,

    Good luck on convincing them of that one. 😉 Though, in truth, I’d vote for taking some things *out* before I’d necessarily vote for putting other things in… In my experience, adding a few good things in amidst a bunch of terribleness usually still means that people only hear the terribleness (if for no other reason than it sends a message that already fits with what the person believes or has heard before)…

    -Sera

  • Jayasree,

    Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment! It was fascinating (and frightening) how much ‘double speak’ there seemed to be in the Mental Health First Aid training. For example, they do say multiple times that as a ‘non-professional’ it is not your job to ‘diagnose,’ and yet so much of the training is spent ‘training’ people to recognize which ‘mental health problem’ is at hand.

    Similarly to the links being made between psychiatric diagnosis and terrorism, I’ve even begun to see links be made by some between psychiatric diagnosis and extreme racism. It is indeed truly terrifying.

    -Sera

  • Bpd, Oldhead, Frank, etc…

    This is going to be my last post on this topic, I think…

    I’m finding it upsetting, but also just think I’m about out of time for this one right now.

    Bpd: I certainly don’t know the race or skin color of many commenters. However, some who have been a part of making this analogy have pictures next to their names or are people I know in ‘real life.’ They are white. That certainly doesn’t preclude others being of color, which is why I’ve said ‘most’ and ‘to the best of my knowledge.’

    What I *have* noticed, though is the *one* person who has clearly identified themselves as a person of color is someone who said that they found the analogy upsetting (which has appeared to go completely unrecognized by others engaged in this conversation).

    Oldhead, I’d also agree with you that ‘black people,’ ‘white people,’ and so on do not and should not be expected to think as ‘one,’ and that expecting them to is an issue. HOWEVER, what I *do* know is this:

    1. Many people of color do find it to be an upsetting analogy, just like many people of Jewish heritage object to the many Holocaust references that get made.

    2. While there may be other people of color who do *not* object to such comparisons, it is *not* my place as a white person (nor is it the place of any white person or group of mostly white people) to decide it is okay, even in the face of substantial objections.

    3. As should be true of any oppressed group, we should look to those who do have that direct experience to make the judgment call on these sorts of issues, and should respect those calls that get made.

    4. We need to accept that even if some people of color decide that it’s okay *for them* to make a slavery analogy, that doesn’t then necessarily make it okay for others to follow suit (much like the use of the ‘n’ word by people of color, or the use of terms like ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’ by people who have experience psychiatric oppression, and so on).

    While there may be *some* value in the analogy between slavery and oppression, I can’t fathom that that value outweighs the value of showing respect for people of color by *not* using that analogy.

    We can still speak to some of the overlaps, and common ways that oppression plays out across different groups… And there are enough analogies to go around.

    -Sera

  • oldhead,

    Eh, three points:

    1) I think we (I) can say that ‘mental illness’ absolutely does NOT exist as people have purported it to exist, and *still* leave room for what we do not know about the potential of any sort of biological component for *some* people… It feels silly to me to claim that *I* would ever be able to know what is leading to the distress of every single person on the planet…

    2) The medical model of mental illness is (or at least usually is/has been) an absolutist approach that says *everything* is ‘mental illness,’ and doesn’t leave space for anything else. I can say, without doubt or hesitation, that THAT is wrong.

    3) But perhaps most importantly, my stance is largely about a lack of investment in controlling what people believe. In other words, even if I vehemently do not believe in the medical model of mental illness, I simply *have to* let go of forcing others to believe similarly to me or else I perpetuate certain aspects of the system that I very much want no part in. Sure, I think it’s *essential* that many of us are out there arguing #1, #2, and so many other critical points about which people are so misinformed (and that prevents them from being able to make any sort of legitimate choice about anything), b ut in the end… I have to let go of what they believe from that point on.

    -Sera

  • BPDTransformation, Frank, Oldhead, and others commenting on this piece:

    While I continue to understand what you all are getting at with the slave analogy and do think there are some important overlapping concepts, I also continue to see this comparison as potentially problematic.

    While – yes – many people of color are now subjected to oppression within the psychiatric system, and yes there is the substantial issue of how our prison functions, and so on…

    I’d also like to point out that the vast majority of writers on Mad in America are white, as are (I think) the vast majority of commenters on this topic.

    And when I’ve seen comparisons come up (to slavery, to the holocaust, etc.) in other forums where there are people of color, people who had ancestors that died/survived the holocaust, etc… I’ve often seen reactions that are not terribly favorable to these sorts of links.

    I am *all for* learning about the different components of oppression and how they’ve played out for different groups. I think that is so important (as I noted above). And yet, I wonder what we may unintentionally perpetuate when we start claiming close associations to slavery? Are we continuing to make this space one that is unwelcoming to people of color? Are we distracting from issues of racism and turning them back to those issues that are more personal to us?

    I hope you can hear my concerns and my points, and separate them out from the fact that I otherwise agree with all of you about the oppressive nature of the psychiatric system, and how it takes power away from so many people, etc.

    I do not think suggesting that we may want to take care in comparing one to the other needs to, in any way, lead to the denial of the very real exploitation and damage of the psychiatric system.

    -Sera

  • Zagoorey,

    In truth, I’ve had multiple experiences with sexual abuse, and while I’ve named some of this to psychiatrists they honestly just haven’t asked me for the details of what/where/when/how. Others in other roles have to some extent, but always as something separate from my ‘mental health’ issues – at least that’s how it came across. For what it’s worth, my experiences with rape and sexual abuse have always been with people I know to varying degrees.

    -Sera

  • Hi dkjamil,

    I feel really cautious about making comparisons between psychiatrist and patient and slave/slave owner. I don’t want to do *anything* to downgrade or distract from the terribleness of slavery.

    I do, however, understand what you mean and yes, this world does seem to re-define and shift around *how* people are oppressed without ever fully coming to terms with the components of systemic oppression and how to really undo it on a broader scale.

    -Sera

  • Sana,

    No, I’m definitely NOT saying that all psychiatric diagnosis or related distress is the result of trauma. I’m really not a fan of stepping out of one box (it’s all brain diseae/medical model) *only* to step into another (it’s all trauma)… (I actually was a part of making a film ‘Beyond the Medical Model’ that makes this point precisely…)

    Moreso, my point is that our culture currently conveys that there is only one way, and they do so to such an extent that they often don’t even TALK about the ‘other ways’ and that that has been damaging on so many different levels to our culture as a whole and to people individually.

    In the end, I think there’s so many different reasons people have these experiences from trauma, to nutrition, to spiritual emergency, to a whole host of other possible explanations… Some of which make more sense to me personally than others. But in the end, I don’t think they need to all make sense to *me*… What’s important is that people have choices, opportunity to make their own meaning, and a chance to see how the meaning they’re making is actually impacting their life…

    -Sera

  • jackdaniels,

    Sometimes that’s a bit of a trap, though, isn’t it? Part of my point – as you must realize – is that I’m speaking to ‘liberals’ here precisely *because* they SHOULD be allies for so many of their other beliefs and actions… And yet, largely, they’re not.

    It’s ridiculous that one should need to take psychiatric drugs in order to access benefits like housing, job benefits, social security disability, and so on… But that’s exactly what some of these programs require (varies somewhat from area to area on how much is required).

    Sure the programs are good in many ways for many people.. Yet, NONE of that addresses what I speak to in this blog. And, surely, if you’ve read through my blog and comments, it should also be clear that I’m not suggesting that medical model options be taken from those who truly want them, either…

    Ultimately, it all just brings me back to my earlier point about well meaning people bring about the worst kind of tyrranies…

    -S

  • Rooster,

    It seems very common to me that people who hold power and privilege are offended when that is called out… Because they have trouble seeing it (such is the nature of privilege), because they hear it as their being a bad person individually (rather than a part of a bad system), and so on…

    It’s also very common for the response to be to demand that those in the role of ‘the oppressed’ are asked to be more ‘polite’ or to stop calling things what they are because it’s ‘too harsh.’

    And yet, I haven’t seen much come out of not calling things for what they are, either… Except for a reduction of tensions… that is often accompanied by an increase in internalized oppression.

    So, yeah, I’m not entirely sure that calling it something else and asking people to water down the truth is right, or even fair to ask?

    -Sera

  • jackdaniels,

    “You’re making a false equivalency with systemic oppression in the mental health system with other forms of systemic oppression. This is a system designed to help people, by definition it can’t be ‘oppressive’.”

    That just seems so incredibly naive and misguided to me. And, it’s just flatly not true… But I’m not sure I have the energy or time to lay out the why of it right now… So, I’ll hope someone else might step in and do that, while I just leave you with the following quote:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    C. S. Lewis

  • Frank,

    I don’t disagree with you here, and that is why I fear that psych drugs could never be used responsibly within this society…

    However, I also see people use marijuana, psych drugs, various foods, exercise, herbs, and so many other things to impact the biologic and chemical make up of their minds and bodies, and if they do so knowingly, I’m not terribly inclined to stop them…

    And perhaps more importantly, I really do think there’s something important about separating out the tools from the perspectives … The medical model suggests that psych drugs are targeted chemicals treating specific chemical imbalances. That’s a dangerous and untrue theory. Being able to say – hey, even if you think this chemical is helping you somehow – it doesn’t mean the perspective itself is accurate is an important step in breaking down its power. Otherwise, every time someone says ‘hey this drug works for me,’ people continue to think ‘drug works’ = medical model proven true.

    -Sera

  • Oldhead,

    I guess my point is that I *could* say – hey, I realize that x experience is totally (or nearly so) connected to this trauma I experienced, but the reality is that when I take x drug, it helps me feel better and I like the effect… So, while I have a non-medical model perspective on why I’m experiencing distress, I want to use a medical model tool… because chemicals have an effect on our bodies, regardless of why our bodies are the way they are and the medical model’s ever-perpetuated myth that the psych drugs work because they somehow are targeting ‘what’s wrong’ on a physical level is bs, but also doesn’t need to be true in order for those drugs to still have some impact…

    I’m not making an argument for mass drugging, or intending to ignore the substantial dangers of these drugs (and I question if our culture could ever really use them responsibly on the whole), but I do think it’s important to at least think about separating out the various ‘tools’ from such embedded model relationships and myths…

    Sera

  • You simply canNOT equate the perspective of seeing a psychiatric diagnosis as emotional distress/trauma with ‘chemical imbalance’… One is a perspective and the other is a thoroughly debunked piece of misinformation. If you want to leave space for some people to see some diagnoses as biologically based (in part or whole) verses trauma based, etc, that’s one thing but perpetuating the chemical imbalance myth is just misinformation.

    Additionally, you seem to misunderstand the concept of systemic oppression. Systemic oppression exists regardless of what people believe at an individual level, and in spite of some people feeling they’ve had good experiences in that system.

    Take sexism for example… Even if I were a woman who felt I hadn’t been held back one bit by male privilege or systemic issues that favor men in power over women, that would do absolutely nothing to change that that systemic issue exists and impacts many, many people.

    An example from the psychiatric system: Even if I personally had the best psychiatrist on the planet who shared full information on all the perspectives, didn’t try to convince me that ‘mental illness’ was the only way and that I needed psychiatric drugs for life, and always prioritized my voice and listened to what I wanted to do… It would do NOTHING to change the fact that there is a *systemic* issue of promoting ‘mental illness’ as the only way of seeing things, that kind of the status quo is to talk about people without them and often make decisions for them, and so on.

    So, yeah, arguing that some people appreciate the medical model or have had good experiences in the mental health system (and never mind the added complexity and reality of internalized oppression in some of those instances) isn’t really connected to the idea of systemic oppression at all… The two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I’m pretty sure there have *always* been people saying ‘hey, my experience has been good! this isn’t an issue!’ in just about every civil rights movement for every marginalized group ever…

    -Sera

  • Nomadic,

    In fairness, I may want to keep a little alcohol 😉 Thank you for reading and commenting… I wish more people would see the environmental/social justice issues as primary, rather than – at best – a secondary issue that can sometimes serve to inflame someone’s biological problems. Sounds like you’ve got quite the track record with various forums… Glad you’ve stuck it out here! 🙂

    -Sera

  • jackdaniels,

    You’re applying things to me that I did not say. This particular blog isn’t about psychiatric drugs, so much as it is about systemic oppression and the absence of recognition of systemic oppression within the psychiatric system by those who generally seem to see themselves about most enlightened and aware of these sorts of things. It’s about our needing allies, their being what would seem to be relatively obvious candidates, and the ongoing blindness that keeps them from fulfilling that role.

    For what it’s worth – while I do not take psychiatric drugs and have enormous issues with how they are used and forced in this world – I also do not believe that there is a straight line or necessarily a direct association between the use (or lack of use) of psychotropics and a belief in the medical model.

    Let me briefly explain: The vast majority of us use drugs of one sort or another. One example I’ve used in the past is caffeine. I don’t personally drink coffee (and only rarely drink soda or anything else that has caffeine in it), but many people love it… And, the fact that they love the impact of caffeine on their bodies bears absolutely no relationship whatsoever to whether or not they suffer from a ‘caffeine deficiency.’ If they like the impact (or at least like the positives more than they dislike the negatives) and are aware of the risks, more power to them.

    Similarly… One doesn’t need to accept that they have a chemical imbalance or any sort of inherent biological issue to enjoy the affect of certain psychiatric drugs… And so if someone finds it helpful and chooses that path in an informed manner, okay. (Although, while I say this on an individual level, I seriously question our culture’s ability to make real space for people to actually do that, and so still can’t help but question whether or not these chemicals do more harm than good in the broader scheme of things…)

    In any case, overall, my point is that our culture’s approach is oppressive. We don’t actually need to take *away* choices or tools in order to make it less so.

    -Sera

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response, SA. You offer a number of good points. I also find that even many of those who recognize that *a hospital* treated their loved one badly are still caught up in the idea that that’s just an example of someone doing a *bad job* of *the right thing.* In other words, they hang on to the idea that the hospital and general approach is right, and someone is just doing it in the wrong way…

    -Sera

  • SaraTonen,

    There’s so much to respond to in your post. I don’t think I could possibly respond to it all…

    First, thank you for reading and writing such an extensive response…

    Now some points I do want to clarify:

    1. I’m less arguing the ‘rightness’ of a particular political (liberal, in this case) perspective than I am pointing out the incongruities. People in this group really *should* be our quickest allies, but they just aren’t. It’s incredibly frustrating and baffling (though I’m not without the ability to come up with reasons).

    2. I really worry when you say that there is no discrimination in the mental health system. There’s actually a ton. People of color (for example) are more likely to be given the more ‘severe’ psychiatric diagnoses… they’re more likely to be put in restraints, restrained for longer, or end up injured (or dead) once in restraints. They are more commonly committed to ‘forced’ treatment… etc. etc. It’s fairly well documented. People who are trans*, gay, etc. also experience discrimination in the system. It’s actually quite profouned.

    3. I’m actually someone who *does* believe in people being held responsible for what they do. I find it incredibly frustrating – for example – that if someone in the mental health system hits someone else, the immediate reaction is to ‘section’ (force hospitalize) them, rather than to report them to the police for an assault. While there are nuances and contexts to be considered, in general, I think this is a terrible trend. HOWEVER, to suggest that the criminal justice system isn’t incredibly corrupt and biased is extremely problematic to me. For example, just look at the penalties for drugs common in communities of color verses white communities. Or look at how often people of color are killed by the police. Or look at sentencing practices. Or look at police profiling practices… or… so many other things. There’s SO much more to this, but if I continue down this path I’ll be writing a whole ‘nother blog in the comments section. Ultimately, I just want to say that a) I do not intend to suggest (at ALL) that people shouldn’t be held responsible for criminal behavior and b) so much of who/what/how people are held responsible IS based in an incredibly discriminatory system (that is also influenced by other discriminatory systems). It seems impossible to me to deny that.

    I also worry about the references to ‘reverse racism,’ which really can’t exist given that racism is not simply prejudice, but prejudice PLUS (systemic) power, and I have yet to see people of color have the kind of power in this culture (again, not talking about individual verse individual but whole systems) to make that even remotely possible… But again, I don’t want to go too far down this path.. And yet i couldn’t go without commenting at least briefly.

    In any case, thank you again for responding. I’m glad that we at least seem on the same page that the lack of allyship and understanding about psychiatric oppression is a real issue!

    -Sera

  • bcharris,

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment… I’d argue that the most complicated of all is to diagnose the *societal* ills behind psychiatric diagnosis, and that that certainly dissuades some from taking part… Though, again, when talking about people who are *all about* identifying the societal ills, their blindness to this issue remains a frustration.

    -Sera

  • BPD,

    I feel reluctant to write this all off as an issue of intelligence. Some of it is certainly an issue of access, and how all sorts of oppressions play out and impact people and whether or not they’re supported to question or not question, conform or not conform, and so on… And then there’s also the reality that many people who are very highly educated and clearly able to entertain complex thought are some of the most invested in this system remaining as it is… for reasons of power… for reasons of ego… and so on. So, yeah, I guess I’m sticking with my ‘it’s about systemic oppression’ rather than intelligence argument… 🙂

    But, either way, in this particular article, I’m also talking especially about people who commonly tend to see themselves as among the ‘better educated’ and more ‘thoughtful’ on these topics, anyway… Specifically, this blog is about wondering how on earth those who see themselves as so well-informed can possibly maintain such a disconnect or blindness when it comes to the psychiatric system…

    Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts, regardless of whether or not we land on the same page. 🙂

    -Sera

  • Bradford,

    Just about anything is possible. Much of my point when I write these sorts of things is that everyone gets so fixated on knowing ‘why’ that they end up just making assumptions and speaking of them as ‘the truth’ in order to soothe (frankly) themselves.

    We’d all be so much better off if we could accept that we don’t know, and that even in knowing for one person, we do not know for anyone else.

    -Sera

  • Richard,

    Thanks for signing. I do ultimately agree (as I noted above to oldhead) that everyone deserves to be heard, and that many people don’t speak up because of what’s been done to them, etc. etc. *AND* as also mentioned above, I also feel like I’ve seen so many people choose silence (or even blindness) because of where they work, and so on…

    Here’s the full scope of what I said to oldhead above:

    I certainly would *never* say that people who’ve been beaten down by the system, or who are just standing on their own, or who have been abused, or who haven’t yet found their voice, or who don’t have the dollars and reach and privilege to be able to organize, or who are still too drugged to even begin to think about all this, or who have to worry about where they’re going to eat or live, etc. don’t deserve to be heard. They do. Without a doubt.

    *AND* I think there’s a huge number of people who are just choosing to look away because it’s easier, or because they now have jobs that depend on system dollars or not ‘stirring the pot’ too much, or who don’t want to spend time thinking about why it’s important, etc. It’s to that group I am mostly speaking…

    We’ve lost a lot of our fight to industry and so on… It’s very, very frustrating.

  • Hah, Thanks for the amusing review, oldhead.

    I do think the whole channel deserves protest, and my original blog on the matter was focused on the whole channel (https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/11/the-mental-health-channel-beyond-what-does-it-really-mean-to-present-a-well-rounded-point-of-view/), but again… I’m going for a real concrete little chunk to focus on, and this film is just so blatant it’s baffling to me why anyone fails to see the racism, sexism, and psychiatric oppression that it represents…

    I should add that the filmmaker is also black (the filmmaker… or the writer of the story, or whatever her official credit may be) is actually the woman who plays Sirah and this whole mess is supposed to be a ‘gift’ to her real-life brother. To be clear, I don’t think that makes the film’s stereotypes or impact any less racist, but I do struggle a bit with being a white woman critiquing a black woman for creating a film with such racial issues! Oy.

    -Sera

  • Someone Else, Thanks for trying to sign! (What happened when you did try?) Also, I’m not sure I followed your disagreement with the second point? I was saying that Jay saving Deji at the end WAS totally feeding into racism and stereotypes, and I think that’s what you’re saying, too? So, just wanted to try and understand?

    You can also definitely e-mail your comments to [email protected]!

    Thanks,

    Sera

  • Oldhead, Oh, of course it’s due to much more than our negative assumptions about our own power… But I see that play a role all the time.. And when I speak of apathy as a problem, I don’t mean it in the sense that I believe people don’t care. But I *do* believe that apathy comes with many layers, and there are certainly many people in our world who aren’t taking action of any kind because they feel it’s just pointless… not because they don’t care at the root of it all. I guess you could say that the cause of that is ‘frustration’ rather than ‘apathy’… but either way, the end result is undercutting our own power.

    As to my statement on ‘not deserving to be heard’, I know that a number of people are finding that challenging, and here’s the thing… I agree both with what you (and others) are saying on that point… AND I still agree with what I said, too.

    I certainly would *never* say that people who’ve been beaten down by the system, or who are just standing on their own, or who have been abused, or who haven’t yet found their voice, or who don’t have the dollars and reach and privilege to be able to organize, or who are still too drugged to even begin to think about all this, or who have to worry about where they’re going to eat or live, etc. don’t deserve to be heard. They do. Without a doubt.

    *AND* I think there’s a huge number of people who are just choosing to look away because it’s easier, or because they now have jobs that depend on system dollars or not ‘stirring the pot’ too much, or who don’t want to spend time thinking about why it’s important, etc. It’s to that group I am mostly speaking…

    We’ve lost a lot of our fight to industry and so on… It’s very, very frustrating.

    And yes, in the grand scheme of things, this film and the Mental Health Channel itself are just a drop in the bucket… Yet, it’s something tangible and concrete, unlike so many of the other much more important battles (changing the overall paradigm, getting people to stop medicalizing our every experience, etc.). And, I guess I think that trying to accomplish something truly tangible and concrete – that also happens to be super easy and requires very little energy to take part in – would be a HUGE step in the right direction.

    In any case, thank you for your reading and commenting, as always, Oldhead. 🙂

    -Sera

  • While I can appreciate what you’re getting at, it feels misplaced here. This is not a story that is being told by someone who’s been through the experience themselves. It’s being told by his sister.

    And it’s not being told simply as a personal story, but within the frame of truth for everyone (as is the habit of those who so strongly support the medical model). Not only are there ‘facts’ about ‘schizophrenia’ in broad frame at the end of the film, but Italome makes statements like, “Just like with schizophrenia, this story can’t have a happy ending”… on her website.

    Moreover, I wonder if it totally makes sense to excuse racism, sexism and dangerous stereotyping because it happens around the centerpiece of someone’s story? At what point *do* we get to call someone on those points? Does even Tim Murphy just get to say, ‘Hey, this is my experience’ and be excused and being reproach for that while he attempts to force his oppressive laws on us? Where’s the line?

    And, once again, ultimately this isn’t about telling Italome she can’t make the film… It’s about telling the Mental Health Channel that they’re doing damage by promoting it. Isn’t there a difference there?

    -S

  • Alex,

    I honestly am at a loss for what else to say to you and others who are speaking up in defense of this film… I hope you and others will understand that it is not just the existence of this film, but the elevation of it that is a part of the problem.

    The messages come from a perspective that is riddled with racism, sexism, and psychiatric oppression. Excusing those things with good intentions (even in the form of compassion, understanding, and love) seems to me to be what has gotten this system in so much trouble in the first place.

    What if the film ended with a lobotomy? Or a forced marriage? Or something else that was easier for people to ‘see’? Would those other things still seem like they mattered as much?

    -Sera