Sunday, April 5, 2020

Comments by meremortal

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  • Smart article.

    My real beef with “neurodiversity” is the “neuro-” prefix. There is absoliutely no reason to believe that there is anything “neuro” going on, that is, something in the brain. Same as psychiatric issues. There is no reason to believe that anything “neuro” or in the brain is going on with someone who hears voices or has visions, wants to die, or whatever. This is a BIG problem for neurodiversity advocates who want to create a worldview in which some of us “have” “special/different” brains or neurology, and some don’t. It’s not tenable. It’s not real.

  • Having a problem caring for oneself or holding down a job is an extremely contingent and regionally-, time-, and culturally-specific (read, random!) thing. It can’t serve as an objective measure of any sort. What it takes to hold down a job is changing rapidly, even in one place, time and culture. So someone meeting or not meeting this bar can’t be used to “prove” anything about the “real” presence of a “real” disorder.

  • There’s something *ick* about this that I can’t put my finger on, yet I also admire the ambition this post displays. Funny to feel both at the same time.

    Perhaps part of the ick-factor is the idea of treating the anti-psychiatry and survivor movements like a startup or product. As an anti-capitalist, I believe that the logic and values underlying “entrepreneurship” (aka “innovation” in a capitalist mode) are poisonous. For me, questioning them is a key part of psychological health and must be a cornerstone of any movement to abolish psychiatry. Neoliberal values will never lead us to a good place. TED talk guru style discourse about “disruption,” “scalability,” and how apps/the internet will somehow save us is just yet another manifestation of very neoliberal values.

    However, it is nice to see that someone still believes we can achieve the goals of creating alternatives, getting people out of the harmful existing institutions/programs/meds, and enjoy large-scale cultural shifts in regards to attitudes to normal human difficulties with normal human emotion.

  • This is super scary and, yes, we should most definitely organize both hacktivists who want to hack this BS and those who are being forced to take it. This is so Orwellian its not even funny.

    RightsRNotWrong, do you have an contact info you would be willing to share for people or groups organizing resistance to AOT? I am involved in efforts here in the Pacific NW. Would love to make contacts. I don’t think we can direct message here on MIA… you can email me if you like at [email protected]

  • The problem with studies like these is that capitalism is held as a constant. It’s assumed that people should be forced to sell their labor on a market in order to survive. I don’t happen to agree with that premise at all, and to me evidence such as this looks like great additional proof that abolishing capitalism has to be part of our goal as mental health activists / anti-psychiatric campaigners. Even Whitaker et al sort of got to this point without realizing it—they reached the “end” of these “fixes,” lifestyle and self-management fixes, essentially, when they called for us to look at corruption as the next step. Well, to me it’s not about corruption, but the move to larger structures IS the right move… capitalism IS NOT SUSTAINABLE, either for the Earth, or for humans, who simply are not meant to bear these stresses of wage labor, hyper-individualism, and industrialized food, art, & culture.

  • another thing is that, to avoid being drugged and pathologized by “normal” therapists, if one wants therapy one must search for an “alternative” therapist. Well, ok, we do know that this one wont drug us but she’s also trained in a school of psychology that grew out of positive psychology, the human potential movement, or a new age orientation. And Im sorry but these orientations tend to be polyanna-ish as fuck. They cant take it when you try to explain how you can’t get a better job, afford to go back to school, or just in general pay your rent or whatever… exist in a service industry job where you’re treated like crap by a boss who’s a jerk and your nerves are shot. They cant take it and get all “maybe you dont want to succeed, maybe success is what you’re really afraid of”… or “if it’s meant to be that you’ll go back to school, the money will work itself out.” Like… um… yeah , no. Things in my world, where I am living in poverty, don’t really work like that. SORRY.

  • no matter how many new “gender identifications” have sprung up lately, there still exists an epidemic of male violence against women and girls. Funnily enough “gender” language games have had no effect on this. What if futzing around with the language is just a surface measure that can’t change the underlying reality? I dont think this terminology issue is about “choosing the right words.” It’s more about avoidin the wrong ones, the ones which are actually promoting lies. In my book, “mental illness” definitely promotes a lie. However, we should not seek to institute any specific “replacement” word. We should strive to use normal, non-jargon language freely to describe what the eff we are talking about, just like we do with most things in life that aren’t lies or items of interest to dogma.

  • put “attitudes to capitalism” and “attitudes to hierarchy” at the center of that analysis and you will see how conservatives are not at all like leftists.

    That said, these endless labels can sometimes become cumbersome and obfuscate important connections between different groups. One connection I suspect you are getting at is that mainstream culture in the US right now has become very “identitarian” , a phenomenon which does show up in liberal culture as well as conservative culture…

  • (would have replied to your later comment, but I guess the nesting comments have reached their limit)

    Sera, Thanks for that clarification about the “Blood is At Your Doorstep” comment. You’re right about that and I take back what I said on that point.

    I do think that overall I understood your piece, but we have different focuses and different orientations. I think my main issue is that you sort of want this to simultaneusly be “political” and not to be political at all. That’s tough to swallow.

    I think it’s tough for both sides because liberals DID have a vendetta out for Roseanne from way before this incident, namely because they believe that she is Trump supporting conservative, and they can’t stand that. Roseanne is actually a complicated figure (who I dont pretend to understand) who was a left radical for much of her life, a professed socialist and feminist. I dont understand how she got where she is today. But liberals did hate her because she dared show that sane people (on the show, I’m not including Roseanne herself in real life in that lol) can disagree about politics.

  • I think it may say more about you than about Starbucks that you think the sole reason anyone sell or buys that product is as a status symbol. I’m not saying the coffee is cheap (it isn’t, & the average Starbucks customer is upper middle class or richer), but it’s far, far from the upper echelons of coffee snobbery. It’s more the Target or WalMart of coffee snobbery. Where I live, which is a place with a big coffee industry, the idea that Starbucks is the “snobby” coffee is laughable—most people with any idea of using coffee as a status symbol would be slightly bashful if you caught them with Starbucks in hand.

    In the past few decades the coffee industry has gone through a lot of changes, which means that treating it less like a commodity and more like a craft product is “the new normal”—it’s no more or less a status symbol than drinking a pint of beer brewed anywhere outside of Milwaukie, Wisconsin.

    On the other side of the counter…40% of Starbucks employees are POC and they make an average of $9.43 an hour.

  • It’s not fair of you, Sera, to accuse oldhead of making this article/comments section into “a ground for strange political arguments” when the entire articles is written from a very specific and overtly political P.O.V.—yours. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that you clearly think that your personal politics are objectively correct, while everyone else’s are “strange” and inappropriate.

    You say that one of your points “is that racism is *systemic* and Roseanne’s comment is merely illuminating that fact” but focussing on one individual woman’s personal racial attitudes is literally *the exact opposite* of talking about systemic racism. Systemic racism is institutional racism.

    Liberals constantly make the mistake of thinking that racism is about the personal attitudes & likes/dislikes of individuals. Those things are part of the landscape of living in a profoundly racist society, but they aren’t what systemic and instituonal racism is.

    Those with political views further to the left than yours have identified this misplaced focus on changing individuals’ personal views and attitudes. We call it “idealism.” Larger structures than individuals create, shape, and reinforce racist attitudes in individuals as they go about their primary objective: to build and maintain a system that extracts material resources from some (POC) and directs them to others (whites). Trying to change this root problem, which is material, by going nuts over the attitudes and random twatter that comes out of individuals’ mouths is simply an exercise in futility.

    It’s okay to be a liberal idealist, but please understand that not everyone else with a dog in this fight is one—a lesson white liberals desperately need to learn right now is that not everyone with great intentions and deeply-held values about equality and anti-racism shares their political views. There is diversity and complexity here, among people who are all staunchly anti-racist.

    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.

    And, yes, EVERY white person raised in this society has some racist thoughts in their head. Most (those who “are not racists”) do not identify with those thoughts or “want” to have them, or “believe” them. But if you lower people’s inhibitions and their CNS control, this shit *can* pop out BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A RACIST SOCIETY.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Noel. I agree that it is crucial for people to talk about “why” people suffer , instead of just putting it down to content-less “mental illness.” I think it could have been written a little more carefully so as not to imply that dwarfism was what caused Troyer’s emotional suffering / death. However it is a good mission, to always try to get folks thinking about the real, social causes of suffering. So thanks for your response & your work.

  • It MAY have stemmed from his unusual physique, just as it “may” have stemmed from deep guilt over being a white male… but there is no specific reason to think that either of those possible reasons WERE in fact what it stemmed from. The man was an alcoholic, and struggled with depression which he likely believed was a content-less chemical imabalance.

    Do you not see how rude it is to assume that just beause he was a little person, that is what killed him?

  • Wow, I’m in awe of how simply and bluntly you wrote about your experience. You captured the reality for many women in a clear and forceful way. And I’m sorry that you were sexually harrassed by men. I think your experience is important for people to understand because so many women live with these issues, and so many men perpetrate them.

  • Not to be the Debbie Downer here, but assuming that Troyer’s suicide had to do with his dwarfism—even though, as far as I know, there is no evidence of this—ALSO shows “prejudice” of a sort. Sure, many little people are bullied and it is good to talk about that fact. But, like all people, little people are complex humans with complex lives. Verne Troyer was a real person with a complex inner life, and assuming (with no evidence) that his suicide boils down to dwarfism seems really disrespectful, actually.

    if I died and suddenly my death was ASSUMED to be because of my skin color, for instance, I would be rolling over in my grave. Racism is real, racism has no doubt affected me throughout my life, yet at the same time I do not think I would want my suicide to be interpreted as solely or even mostly about that without some evidence. If I wrote a suicide note talking about racism, okay, go ahead. But what if I killed myself out of grief over the sudden death of a loved one, a career-ending mistake, or simply existential angst of some kind? A psychotic episode? Self esteem issues? Revenge? Would I want all of that, which would be the real content of my suicide, to be ignored and someone to publicly assume that my suicide was really about the vast burden that is my skin color? No, I wouldn’t. I don’t view my skin color as a burden. I don’t view racism as the defining factor in every move I make in my life.

    This article is well intentioned but really upsettingly tokenizing in a way.

  • Wow. You sure have a hatred for this word, which is not a “nonsensical” word at all. It has a very real history in the western philosophical tradition. Some of the most famous philosophers I can think of discussed, debated, and used the term “scientism.” Habermas, Adorno, and Horkheimer all wrote about “scientism”—if it’s good enough for them, surely it’s good enough for us to use in our movement.

    You made me chuckle when you said that Mr.Timmimi gave “no valid justification” for using the term “scientism.” Speaking as if a writer using a word is a matter that can be “validated” or “invalidated” by science, is precisely the sort of silly action that the word “scientism” describes: the attempt to apply science to domains in which it is not relevant or appropriate!! ha!

    Again, just to repeat: not knowing when science applies and when it does not is absolutely textbook “scientism.”

    Is the reason you don’t like “scientism” because it includes a value-judgment? Because, yes, “scientism” is understood to mean *excessive,* *inappropriate*, or *unfounded* faith in or application of science.

    …Or is it because you’ve heard some conservative people use it?

    Please stop using all caps excessively… it is the equivalent of yelling at everyone.

  • Okay, having read this response and the response you gave below to uprising, I see now where you’re coming from more. I guess it becomes a matter of semantics to try to decide what term—”therapy,” “support,” “counseling,” etc.— leaves space inside its conceptual purview for what we are all trying to talk about. We are all trying to talk about ethical, realistic, and efficacious support for people as we try to simultaneously move from this cultural and economic situation to, hopefully, a healthier & more just one.

    In the context of an oppressive and highly stressful, atomized, and individualistic society like this one, any term we can bring… it will be possible to read any term (“therapy”/”counseling”/etc.) as reinforcing that system and its norms and assumptions. On the other hand, if we want to move from here to there, we need to be able to speak, using words that exist from “here,” about what we are trying to do to get to “there.” Nothing is pure. “Therapy,” support, peer support, community support, whatever we want to call it will not be pure. That doesnt mean that no one can give support without either pretending falsely to be Revolutionary or without alleging, on some level, that the people who need support are somehow the “problem”. What Khan-Cullours specifically was saying, I don’t care to debate now, and like you I am not especially impressed with BLM, which I vew as a fairly reformist and theoretically unsophisticated group.

    oldhead, I feel like we agree about quite a lot despite the fact that we seem to disagree about a lot of details. I am also in favor of revoltionary left approaches to this “mental health” issue—and MANY other societal problems. I am also quite suspicious of the “intersectional” talk that has become so popular as of late with progressives, which seems to just be that: a lot of talk with, as you said, “no comprehesions of what ‘the system’ actually is.” I’m increasingly skeptical of the progressive/left, despite viewing myself as withn the left tradition.

    After all that, though, I still believe that some humans can provide other humans, who may or may not be in their same social circles, with support specifically for reasons related to difficult emotional experiences, extreme states, stress, and overwhelm. I do not think it has to imply in any way that this support will “solve” structural problems like racism, poverty, or the increased stress of being a member of an historically subordinated & exploited class.

    As to where these “revolutionary service-providers” are going to come from– I don’t happen to believe that in order not to harm people, you have to have Correct Revolutionary Politics or Allegiances. I have a revolutionary perspective, so I might need a therapist/person who can-listen-and-not-harm-me with a revolutionary perspective. But studies show that talk therapy works at roughly equivalent effectiveness no matter the “modality” or approach brought by the therapist.

    Sure, the research isn’t conducted with “revolutionary” values or orientation, so it’s not 100%. Sure, I would like to see research that focuses less on “symptom-reduction” and “ability to return to work/previous functioning” and more on “whether the person is meeting their own goals for their lfe.” I would like to see therapists trained in critical thinking, especially sex therapists, gender therapists, and… basically all therapists. I would like to see therapists un-brainwashed about the idea of “disorders,” period. Yes to all that.

    But nonetheless I feel that the research does tell us that what is most important is the relationship & alliance between the two people involved, not really the abstract ideas behind it. I dont mean to be reductive, but I don’t think that this practice is rocket science: sitting face-to-face with another human who listens to you attentively and with concern/empathy is a powerful thing.

    It can go awry, but this is a powerful place to begin that has deep roots in our humanity and our cultural histories. Throwing it out seems like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    As someone who feels they have benefitted tremendously from “therapy”, while also being someone who has been harmed by it, I think I have some insight into both sides of this. No one is saying it’s a magical fix-it solution. No one is saying what, specifically, it has to look like or what assumptions it has to operate under. If community-members came together to talk about what they want it to look like, and what assumptions they want it to operate under, within their communities, that would be a great start. For example: do service-providers need to be black in order not to reinforce racism within the therapy? Maybe. Do invididual black communities know more about that question than anyone else, with regards to their specific communitie? Of course. There is not going to be a one-size-fits all solution. And I dont think that people have be trained in universities—either in attentive listening skills or in political awareness—to be able to help others.

  • “therapy” can mean so many different things. I don’t believe that it has to be oppressive, pathologizing, or “a white person thing.” It would be a great thing if Black therapists / counselors / service providers could come together with the Black community at large and pool knowledge about how the therapy profession can best serve the Black community.

    Not all therapists can provide drugs. Those are the kind that are less likely to harm someone. People need support.

    Peer support is also an option. Peer respites. Community-building, micro-loans, and other economic interventions have also been shown to positively affect people’s mental health… as much or more so than therapy.

  • It’s not hypocrisy, because these two things have totally different moral/ethical statuses:

    (i) coming together as community members to abolishing a contingent human practice, which currently is a common practice in our communities and which we see causes harm. Read: “Organizing for change within our communities according to our values.”

    (ii) killing, murdering, exterminating, working-to-death, physically harming, or coersing actual people for our own ends—largely monetary gain—despite that fact that doing so harms them physically and mentally. This is what slavery did and what psychiatry does, in a way that is different in degree but not really kind. Read: “Physically harming people for profit.”

    Both employ the concept of “ending” something, but how can you not see that they are miles apart?? Ending someone’s grip around my neck is not “controlling them.” Ending someone’s life for profit is.

    By the way, slavery most definitely was abolished. It’s absurd to pretend otherwise. Racism and white supremacy were not abolished, but antebellum racial slavery—the economic engine that founded this country—most definitely was. That is not insignificant to me. It took a war that killed one out of every 10 men who were of military age to abolish it.

    Yes, other forms of slavery—e.g. human trafficking— still exist. They are also violent and for-profit, but they are not identical to antebellum racial slavery.

  • I like your general line of thoughts here, but my one quibble is that as long as capitalism remains intact, people will be operating in their lives under the pressures it puts on them: the need to make money to survive; the need to function on less sleep than is healthy; the need to work “flexible” or whatever hours your job demands; the need to pay attention to truly mind-numbingly boring or, contrariwise, mind-frazzlingly stressful tasks for long periods of time; the need to ensure above all that one can do whatever “work” demands because otherwise healthcare and housing go bye-bye and people are left to die or suffer. That is a reality.

    People seeking drugs from pychiatrists are often actually seeking those things, the material things that sustain a basic physical or emotional survival. The drugs just paste these people together long enough so that they can perform inhuman feats like staying up all night as a doctor/security guard/ whatever… or “focusing” on schoolwork for 13-20 years straight… or distracting oneself from the part inside that just wants to freaking CRY at work or grieve… we can’t do these things because work is survival, and that has to be our #1 priority.. above TRUE mental health.

    In other words, the pressures of the market itself are what promotes many people seeking a “quick fix” rather than a “deep fix.”

    The values of neoliberalism are totally opposite those of anti-psychiatry. Neoliberalism does not value intact community, human health and happiness, environmental justice, the human need for deeper meaning than making money, eldership, spiritualisty, or anything else we here all (presumably) care about as the foundations for our anti-psychiatry stances.

  • Sure, abolishing anything will “leave a vacuum that will end up being filled with the same exact thing with a different label on it,” but does that mean that abolition is not worthwhile? Not in my view.

    When people ponder whether the Civil War, in which slavery was abolished, was “worth it”–well, the only people who ponder that question are WHITE people. Black people don’t ask whether abolition was worth it, despite the fact that black scholars and black people know better than anyone that racism itself was not abolished. After the abolition of slavery there have been Jim Crow, lynching, redlining, assassination of Black leaders, mass incarceration, and many other forms of racism. But No One would say that taking an abolitionist stance about slavery is narrow or simplistic. No one would say, “i had bad experiences in wage labor, and bad experiences in slavery, so where does that leave me?” It’s absurd to suggest such a thing.

    Sure, change can happen through “evolution” or “small, incremental” change… but sometimes it happens through faster and intentionally planned means. I’m not picking on you because I thought your post was insightful, but for many I suspect that there’s a certain brand of wet-noodle-ism at play in people who refuse to countenance STANDING UP for something.

    Why is it so wrong to stand up proudly and say, yes, we should speak seriously about abolishing psychiatry-as-we-know-it, which is abusive, illegal, and suppresses the other cultural resources we have (or once had) to deal with difficult emotions.

    Ethically, saying all that is the same as standing up proudly and saying, yes, we should abolish slavery, because it is abusive, because enslaving people is contrary to the stated values of a democracy, and morally abhorrent.

    Just because there is corruption in other branches of medicine … so what? It has nothing to do with encountering “goodp people” with “good intentions” or “evil people” with “evil intentions.” This stuff is institutionalized, not personal. Actual medicine has a totally different philosophical, economic, and logical relationship to reality than psychiatry.

  • not to mention that right now it is en vogue to treat drug addiction with drugs. Makes no sense, but tell that to the doctors prescribing suboxone, methadone, and other drugs, many of which are addictive themselves and there is no clear path off of for many. Methadone is an insane “treatment” for drug addictions. It’s just baseline crazy to me to treat drug addiction with more drug dependency.

  • true informed consent would include telling the parents of that child that there is no physical evidence that their child “has” ADD, in fact, the entire idea that their child is in any way mentally ill is an UNFALSIFIABLE THEORY.

    In other words, it is unscientific because there is no way to test for ADD which could prove that someone doesn’t have it (unlike, say, many real diseases for which a blood test or scan or something can rule it out).

    That level of honesty is required for true informed consent, in my view.

  • true enough, but if people slowly moved en masse away from psychiatric treatments and narratives because the culture was undergoing a massive shift in consciousness about these issues, it WOULD have an effect on Big Pharma’s bottom line.

    There are legal angles, which you seem focused on. There are social and cultural angles, which a lot of us here are engaged in within our communities (I would wager). There are alternatives angles, which a lot of us are also working on.

    You’re the big PhD & MIA author, not to mention a wealthy white man in the global North, so let’s return the question to you. What are those of YOU with insitutional power, who are critical of psychiatry, going to do to lead the charge? Why aren’t you offering to collaborate with us on making a difference, putting a plan into action, and moving ahead, instead of raining on everyone’s parade and saying how hard it will be? We all know it will be hard. We all want to fight it nonetheless.

  • i think it’s a little strange to say that stopping direct-to-consumer advertizing would do little. It may seem little, but no one is suggesting that it be the only tactic that will alone stop Big Pharma & biopsych. What we are saying is that it would make a significant difference in a certain area, and that it should be considered. It would also be (relatively) simple to do.

    Like all people in power, psychiatry does depend on a large amount of coerced “consent” and misinformed consent from the general public. You are focusing on people who are forced to take drugs, and those people are suffering, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the massive amount of everyday people who agree to go on psych meds because they swallowed the biopsych marketing line, largely via direct-to-consumer Big Pharma marketing.

  • But “crime” is relative, it’s not an absolute thing. Being a “criminal” doesn’t mean the same thing in France in 2014 as it did in the USSR in 1936. You seem to be suggesting that there is some baseline, perhaps “natural,” but definitely ewuivalent level of crime in all countries, regardless of their laws, cultures, and contexts. I can’t see why this would be unless you think that crime is “natural,” just as some researchers use arguments about a “consistent across time and cultures” rate of “schizophrenia” to suggest that it is just “natural,” and therefore biological.

    What defines crime isn’t some essence of “wrongdoing,” crime is only what the people who managed to have the most power and influence have decided to label and prosecute as crime.

    A country that has laws like the “Three Strikes” laws, and is thus happy to send people to prison for stealing a sandwich when starving, or that has sit-lie laws that criminalize homeless people merely existing in public, or that has very strict parole violation penalties, which basically makes associating with people you know illegal, you have a country that is producing criminals at a higher rate than a country that does not criminalize those things. And all that’s not even bringing into it the War on Drugs issue, which is so huge.

    Why are you so concerned to suggest that the USA doesn’t differ at all from other countries in the amount of crime it has, anyway?

  • Have you not been listening (reading) very closely? Because many people have given suggestions as to what to do. E.g. end direct-to-consumer marketing, get rid of the DSM, get rid of the entire idea that mental illnesses are “medical diseases,” give social and economic support and aim at social and economic self-determination for people, give therapeutic support a la open dialogue, hearing voices meeetings, etc. Address the prison-industrial complex, capitalism, racism, patriarchy, and enfold egalitarian values into our day-to-day practices in treating other people and their distress.

    As for your question about how alternatives for the alleviation of human distress will actually emerge, you make it sound as if none have. They have already. Pscyhiatric survivors,various communities around the globe, and critically-minded mental health service workers have already developed them, we have seen them work… we aren’t dealing with a lack of ideas or alternatives, we are dealing witih a lack of societal and economic support for those ideas and alternatives.

    We are dealing with, in fact, a system of entrenched powers that will punish you for even attempting them. So, yeah, it’s not our failure, it’s theirs. We aren’t afraid to name the perpetrators.

    How does mainstream psychiatry die in less than another two generations? Just like “mentally ill” patients have died throughout its long history– from lack of resources, lack of attention, lack of prestige, lack of trust, and lack of power. Cut them off. Cut their resources off. Cut off their funding, their social prestige, their legal power, and their ability to produce research anyone takes seriously (although they’ve sort of already done the latter to themsleves, or at least begun the process).

    I think you’ve sorely mischaracterized most people here by saying that it’s a “my way or the highway” attitude, and that we are only after totally “pure” or “total” or “definitive” changes that put our supposedly anti-psychiatric-fascist views into action. Look at the history of our consumer/survivor/ex-patient movements and tell me that we are unwilling to work with the reality of where we as a society are at, or where people are at, or unwilling to work within the system. Look at the peer movement, the recovery movement, so many of our efforts were within or at least collaborating with the existing system, for reform. Soteria was NIH funded, but they pulled the plug and turned their back on the huge success that it saw with treating its community-members. So tell me, how well has that reformist strategy worked out for us?

    Everyone here is morally outraged because we have experienced moral violence by this system. That doesn’t mean that we only want whatever utopias we have imagined and nothing else., but how can you pretend that it is somehow unwarranted for us to be angry and morally outraged when we have been victimized for profit? How?!

  • I don’t understand how Frances can just not ever seem to address the fact that made Robert Whitaker famous, which is that the science itself proves that psychiatric medications are dangerous, and actually make things worse for people long term.

    As someone above me said, without their drugs psychiatrists are nothing… without that, we do not need them, as we already have healthcare and social workers, talk/behavioral therapists, and families, friends, and political activists. What does Frances think psychiatrists are offering us that we need so badly? We don’t need you, Allen Frances and the APA. WE. DON’T. NEED. YOU.

    (You only need us, so you can make money off of us)

  • I think they DO know how the average citizen sees them, or why else become a psychiatrist in the first place? Many people might enter it out of a desire to help people, but many just want a high-prestige (and high-paying) job.

    It’s the same reason the APA ever tried to use a disease model for mental illness in the first place– they wanted the society and everyone in it to “respect” them, they wanted to seem more “scientific” and like a “real” medical specialty.

    And, btw, in a culture like ours (hierarchical/authoritarian, with huge power imbalances) respect generally does mean “fear, reverence, fascination, distate, helpless fury” and all the rest of it. that’s just a fact.

  • Would you say the same thing if what these men were debating was something history had already publicly acknowledge was bad/evil/harmful instead of something it doesn’t yet want to admit to? Would you want to be or follow a “collaborationist” in Nazi-occupied Germany? Would you look up to someone who wanted to collaborate with the KKK ? What about someone who thought that Jim Crow laws were a great “collaborative” middle ground between slavery and freedom?

    I think Robert Whitaker is so well-spoken and dead-on in this debate so far. His points about the entire discourse we have been hearing in the mainstream about the “tragedy of the mentally ill in jail/prison” were so great. It’s just a trojan horse, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees that!

    Whitaker has actual values. Frances… well, maybe he does, but I will never trust that guy. He’s too deep in it. It made him. Whitaker came from the outside and that allows him to see more clearly and with less clouded ethical/moral vision.

  • Get admitted under the presumption that you will be full time, then force them to allow you to go part time. They can’t kick you out just for going part time, and if they try to you can fight it.

    Here’s the real problem: you are in graduate school and not on a stipend. Why don’t you get paid for the teaching you do (I assume you’re being used as a TA while doing your studies, as this is the normal course of things for non-cash-cow graduate programs)? Why aren’t you getting scholarships or grants? Why aren’t you receiving financial help? If no one else in the program doesn’t have to work, how are they managing? Do they get paid? If so, why aren’t you?

  • Ted, you never answered my question about how you can call this specialized language “pretentious” when the technical languages of other disciplines seem to be getting a free pass. Are atrophysicists’ specialized languages “pretentious,” too? Biologists’? Statisticians?

    Surely you would not speak the way an astrophysicist writes, because no one really speaks the way technical discourses are written.

    I hope the tone of this comment doesn’t seem cruel– I genuinely want to know why you think the language style of the CFP (or of the social sciences / humanities in general?) is pretentious and useless.

  • The attitude that all discourse should be immediately understandable to all people is so tired. No one walks into astrophysicists’ calls for papers and cries about how pretentious they are being for not using language or concepts or even a style that everyone is familiar with. I totally get that sometimes it is intimidating, frustrating, even to a degree alienating or shame-producing, to encounter a world of words and concepts that seem impenetrable. But, barring willful obfuscation, there is a value to specialist languages. They are specialist tool-sets. Surgeons need specialized tools to do their work, tools that are not found in everyone’s kitchen drawers. Similarly, literary theorists and philosophers need special conceptual tools to do their work.
    To ever learn anything, to ever really *travel* in the world of ideas, one needs to at times read outside of one’s comfort zone. And just because you cant or dont want to engage with something doesn’t make it pretentious.

    I dont want to sound like I’m fully defending academic language, I’m certainly not suggesting that it is the “best” language, or that everyone should learn it or use it. However, to go out of one’s way to say that it is useless is equally as unfair.

    I for one am a psychiatric survivor who doesn’t find this call for papers alienating or annoying– in fact it really excited me to see that. We are being invited to participate in a knowledge-production process that is an alternative to psychiatric knowledge-production. I find that really exciting.

    Just because we are psychiatric survivors doesn’t mean that we are all the same, nor does it mean that we are all similarly disposed to philosophy, scholarship, or whatever. I respect your right to be uninterested in such things, but I also wanted to leave this comment so that people could see that not all of us are uninterested. I find it exciting and welcoming– and being or feeling welcomed is not necessarily something I have experienced much in my life. It is something I would like to experience more, and to turn one’s alienation via psychiatric diagnosis into participation in a community of scholars seems worthwhile to me, if anyone would choose to do that.

  • you’re “awesome?” Was Adam Lanza “awesome,” too? James Holmes and Alexis were just really “awesome” dudes, too?

    I don’t get what you’re trying to communicate with this, but if it is that you believe that you are so superior in intelligence / personal charisma to the rest of humanity that the FBI just had to have you, I’m really not inclined to find that persuasive.

    I do believe that you were approached by who you say you were. I’m not trying to discredit your story or the possibility that some people are harassed by the FBI. I’m simply saying that we need ways to evaluate the proposition, in any SPECIFIC case, that a SPECIFIC person was harassed by the FBI. motive is part of that.

  • Thanks for your reply.

    I agree that the article in question isn’t itself anti-semitic, but it is most certainly part of a conspiracy theory. Now, certainly conspiracies exist so we can’t dismiss something based merely on the fact that it is one. but not all conspiracy theories are worth our time or have any truth value (or, perhaps, distort what grains of truth they do have in a way that is so gross as to be tantamount to having no truth).

    The structure of a conspiracy theory is generally such that we– since we do not have direct access to the evidence regarding top secret military matters, etc.– have at some point to trust the authority and judgment of the person/people putting forward the theory. We have to trust their judgment on a number of levels, and in general it seems to me on the face of it to be unwise to trust the judgment of those whose worldviews are built on a belief in conspiracy theories that we KNOW (with as much certainty as anyone can know anything in this realm, I suppose) are false & who have a personal and class-based interest in supporting current structures of social and political domination (e.g. racism, reactionary populism). Perhaps with a different sort of theorizing or context of argumentation, such thing would be irrelevant (e.g. 2 + 2 = 4 whether the person arguing so is a racist conspiracy nut or not)… but the very structure of conspiracy theories guarantees that matters of JUDGMENT, worldview, and politics– and our need to put some degree of blind trust in the author(s)– will always be at play.

    I do agree with you that America is obsessed with surveillance and control, although from what I have gathered so far the common patterns in these “covert harassment and surveillance” narratives do not really follow a particularly Foucaultian pattern. In fact, if we are speaking of Foucaultian patterns, psychiatry would be a much more relevant story than convert harassment.

    As someone mentioned down-thread, there is a certain tension between these two accounts of power: the covert harrassment account actually contradicts a lot of what we know and have spent so much energy in the movement to articulate and research. That is a problem. It isn’t indissoluble, and if these two forms of power are indeed co-existing, that is fine. However, we need to beware the way that people’s knee jerk reaction to say without regard to specific evidence about that exact case that “there is nothing at all emotionally extreme going on with people who believe they are being covertly surveilled– they are right.” We don’t know that they are right and we have just, in a knee-jerk reaction, dismissed the possibility that they are undergoing an extreme emotional process. Do you see that?

    I admit that it is a logical as well as actual possibility that any given person accused of “paranoia” or any other form of emotional distress is in fact totally and utterly well adjusted, and is actually simply being disbelieved because the reality is so strange as to seem on the face of it “crazy.” But that is only ONE possibility. It is also possible that people can be “deluded” or “paranoid.” That isn’t an insult. It isn’t a psychiatric myth. Some times some people are truly out of touch with reality. And, as that same down-thread person said, we need to admit that this is likely the vast majority of cases.

    The one detail that makes this seem like it might not be one of the general majority of cases is that this person was in the military. I don’t know if that to me says that he was more or less likely to be targeted. It does seem, though, that it might suggest something out of the ordinary… compared with, say, your average 26 year old kid going off his head in college after a lifetime spent in a totally unremarkable, but probably abusive, family in middle america.

    Do I do really believe the official story about James Holmes(the Batman shooter) and Adam Lanza? I dont know. But I do know that motive is crucial to any argument about something like this. What motive would someone have had to surveill or harrass adam lanza or james holmes? I don’t know, but if you want me to believe that they were surveilled or harrassed by the FBI, I’m going to need an answer to that question.

  • Seth, do you actually endorse that article from Veterans Today? That publication has been criticized by civil rights organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League for being extremist and anti-semitic. Veterans Today is run (edited, chaired) by a dude who thinks that Jewish conspiracy was the cause of 9/11, Sandy Hook, Wikileaks, AND the Aurora and Tuscon shootings (etc). So basically anything bad ever is caused by a vast conspiracy of bad jewish people. He is also into Holocaust denial…. because, y’know, he’s a freakin’ anti-semite & conspiracy theorist.

    I’m not saying that I do not believe it is possible that Alexis was actually being targeted by someone trying to stalk/ torture him, but I read that article & it is sketchy at best.

    For example, the article says:
    “specific targets can be tracked continuously. For example, “if you want to cause a specific psychiatric illness, you would have an infrared device that followed the person and you would link it to a pencil thin microwave source, so the microwave beam would always target a specific gland or a specific part of the brain, or an eye or the heart.””

    But all of us here at MiA know that there is no specific part of the brain, nor any gland, that causes mental illness. The brain is so much more nuanced and subtle than that. You can’t just target “rays” or microwaves at a single area of the head and cause pre-determined complex, coordinated behaviors imbued with the idiosyncratic and specific meanings that always inhere in an individual person’s mind & behavior. …Duh?

    Seth I respect you but this is bunk & we dont need this crap to effectively call out the BS of the mainstream discourse on mental illness and gun control / mass shootings.

  • If I recall correctly, she did try to bring a lawsut, but due to the fact that those doing the “investigating” were biased towards the study/University, they were not found to be responsible. And then, just to be uber-assholes, they countersued Mary for her trouble.

  • This is so sad. I’ve always found Dan’s story particularly horrifying because it almost seems that the study directors went out of their way to not just deny responsibility but actually declare psychological warfare on his family.

    Carl, how can the readers of MiA help the Weiss family now that Mary has fallen ill?

  • “One patient acknowledged all of the downside and said that they felt that they still might want to try a SSRI. It would seem that nobody would ever take a SSRI if they had reasonable knowledge about their effects and side effects, but some patients still feel a potential upside is worth the risk.”

    Probably because they feel this is the only option other than endless talk therapy. What alternative treatments (non-drug) are described as other options for treatment to your patients? True informed consent involves the fact that there are other options that have higher success rates and less side-effects.

  • There are two answers I can think of:

    1. People only demand immediate relief when they believe that it is on offer and won’t injure them (e.g. give them brain damage, which is what “protracted withdrawal” is).

    2. Doctors and Pharma like to pretend that this is all about the freedom to choose, but they are actually very selective about the “immediate relief” that patients are allowed to choose: brain-damaging drugs, yes, by all means. Suicide? Self-harm? A big fat NO– and how dare any of us evil survivors suggest that people’s rights should not be taken away to justify preventing suicide or self-harm!

    It all seems very disingenuous to me when people talk about this as an issue of personal freedom.

    If people want immediate relief that IS harmful to their health and they are fully informed of that matter, let them take heroin– at least you can kick that after 10 or 20 years and still have a fully functioning brain or body. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but we have to STOP PRETENDING THAT PSYCH DRUGS ARE ANY DIFFERENT THAN RECREATIONAL DRUGS. There is no difference, moral or chemical.

    The only difference, in fact, is that doctors and pharma have control over the supply of and access to psych drugs. This means that we have to fork over money and power to them to get the “immediate relief” that some of us clamor for… even if just as much relief is available with FAR less devastating side-effects in an illegal drug.

    I do not promote any drug use; I do defend people’s right to alter their minds if they so choose, and without having to justify it with bogus “health” arguments. There is no valid “health” argument for the use of any drug with people who have mental distress. There are other valid arguments, but let’s not lie to ourselves and pretend that they are health arguments just so we can all feel good about people’s “choice.” Sometimes people choose things for reasons that don’t strike others as healthy, hopeful, or whatever. The only thing the recovery/peer/survivors movement is saying is that we should be up front about the facts while also respecting their choices.

    If people, when truly informed, still continue to seek out anti-depressant scripts, then fine. But informed consent should also include the fact that the theory that they have a “mental illness” is an UNFALSIFIABLE theory. That means it isn’t scientific. Many people might be consenting to drugs, even knowing they are potentially damaging, because physicians lie to them and tell them they have a mental illness.

  • As anyone who has read Richard DeGrandpre’s book “The Cult of Pharmacology” knows, part of the reason certain drugs are successfully demonized, even when the narratives used to achieve that demonization are outrageous on their face and clearly hyperbolic, is that those are drugs that not many people are in contact with. It was easy to convince white america that crack was a demon drug you were hopelessly addicted to after one use because the vast majority of people in white america had never used crack and didn’t know anyone else who had. Similarly, there were periods in the US where marijuana was thought by the general public to make people crazy, especially Black men who might smoke pot and start raping women… it sounds so absurd to us now, but people really believed this. And, putting the obvious racial politics aside of all of that for now, part of the reason it was possible for people to swallow these beliefs about these drugs was because there was no evidence in their daily lives to the contrary.

    Similarly, most people in the US do not have any experience with what are called “psychotic” symptoms and most do not know someone with a schizophrenia diagnosis. Even those who do know someone with a schizophrenia diagnosis often have no clue about the realities of what that person has gone through / is going through because of the taboo around talking about these things. It’s easy to convince people that schizophrenics are crazy, prone to violence, uncontrollable, totally irrational, and in general boogeymen when there is no other alternative narrative to contradict it.

    Now consider depression or alcoholism. The vast majority of people know first hand what depression (i.e. sadness, deep grief or sadness) feels like. It’s not a mystery, and even if there are people who are nearly never deeply sad, they know people who are or have been. Same with addiction.

  • I’m with you, Jeanne. This is OUR movement, not their movement, and it is FOR us, not for them. Thus if we need to be angry we have not only every right to be, but that is in fact one proper function of our movement. Not the entire thing, but one real function– as an outlet for our rage which as a matter of course psychiatry denies and uses against us when it can. It actually is in my opinion a human right to have one’s voice heard, one’s emotions heard, even when those emotions are inconvenient for others– especially when those emotions are caused by abuse and victimization. Even more especially when our abuse and victimization was premised on an idea of us as fundamentally “less”– less sane, less human, less able to resist. It’s so fucked up. I won’t be told by anyone that OUR job in our own freakin’ movement is to please the psychiatrists and tell them what they want to hear.

    Did white people in the 1960s change because the Civil Rights movement finally found the magical combinations of words and rhetorical approaches that opened the hearts of whites? Nope. That is not how change happens. At best it is how reform happens; there is room in this movement for reformist and more revolutionary arms. We do need to tolerate each other and as the latter, I tolerate the former and ally with them, but I won’t be told that their approach is the way or let it limit my vision.

  • to me, although encouraging because it is not drug-based, this therapy seems like a dodge in a way– it avoids engaging directly with the voices! Why create an “avatar” and then have a doctor imitate the voice-hearing experience when we have real voices already in our heads talking to us! It makes no sense. They say that it will train you to stand up to the voices and expect them to back down, but this strikes me as so simplistic– just because a doctor imitated a voice backing down, does that mean my voices are going to? Voices don’t want to be dismissed, after all they are in my opinion whatever part of you was already on some level dismissed from your consciousness / identification with your own thoughts. So to suggest a second dismissal seems misguided. You can run but you can’t hide forever, as someone said in another thread here on MIA. Although it’s easy to see why people would want to just get rid of a voice that is aggressive, it seems like we need to encourage people to accept the voice as a player in their life and teach them to work with it, not expect it to go away and / or just “shut up.”

  • does anyone really believe that trauma is the only cause of psychosis? That’s just stupid, because it is eminently disprovable with any fairly strict definition of trauma (it is documented that many people undergo psychotic process who have not had what would traditionally be called trauma, e.g., assault or specific, discreet instances of abuse or terror), and fairly meaningless with any fairly expanded one (life itself and innumerable aspects of it could be seen as traumatic, like living under capitalism for example, which encompasses every moment of life and therefore doesn’t involve *discrete* instances of abuse or terror)…

    The fact that anyone who stays awake long enough will become psychotic demonstrates that this is a normal part of ALL human beings; whether a person undergoes psychosis in their lifetime or not, all humans are capable of it, whether they have been “traumatized” (in the traditional sense) or not. This says to me that looking for *a* cause or even multi-factor causation of psychosis is missing the point– psychosis can be caused by literally anything that for a particular person who, in the absence of support within consensus reality, finds it necessary to forge a creative solution. We need to stop trying to “prevent” psychosis by stamping it out, like we would smallpox or cancer, and accept that what we need to do is support human beings at all levels– socially, economically/materially, spiritually, artistically, physically and with regard to sleep and nutrition, too, of course. The trauma discourse I find extremely limiting in this connection.

  • “forced positivity approach”– you hit the nail on the head with that. I couldn’t put my finger on what bugged me about Jill’s position, but that it is. The “forced positivity perspective” is basically complicit with the abusers by suggesting that nothing is REALLY wrong with what happened, since the position is basically that with RIGHT THINKING it shouldn’t actually matter at all that you were raped. This is some bizarre new form of victim-blaming. And, unfortunately, this is the road that “self-help” thinking leads us down because it is individualizing– to the extreme, as Jill’s comment that we “create our own realities” makes clear. We don’t actually create our own realities, since human reality is not authored by any one person, it is a hugely complex, contingent, and multiplicitous event that is unfolding and changing at all times according to laws and tendencies that no one can fully account for.

    Another thing is that this runs into the same problems as the Cognitive-Behavioral approach, that is, it assumes that the person who is suffering is MISTAKEN and that the key to healing is instructing that person on reality and CORRECTING them. Unfortunately, I cannot stand by this, especially not as an a priori assumption. Victims are not automatically wrong, mistaken, or erring. Psychotherapists do not actually have a better hold on reality or a better position from which to obtain knowledge about our lives, our traumas, or reality in general– and thus no leg to stand on and claim that they are here to instruct us in it.

    The closest Jill’s article got to convicing me of anything was in saying that we should do what works. But what is “works”, anyone? For whom? Who gets to determine what that means? I can’t imagine a person who would find that a therapy that basically joined everyone else in this culture in denying their most powerful emotions– rage, trauma, devastation, ego disintegration– and demanding that they be further denied as the measure of recovery. We live in a culture of denial and on that point alone– this is an ethical point, not a point about what may make people “calmer,” experience less emotions, etc– I can never accept that more denial is called for to heal from the original denial that has so exacerbated our pain.

    Especially in the connection of rape and rage this is a fundamentally ANTI-feminist way of viewing women’s place in the world. And that I also cannot ever, on ethical and political grounds, stand by.

    yes, therapy CAN cause harm. Clearly.

  • Good article from an interesting perspective. I am interested in the law, though I am not trained in it, and yet even to me the idea of tackling the legal system seems overwhelming. I’m sure it’s not much different than what a prisoner might feel as he spends years alone in a prison library researching his own case, but how often does that end well despite the intelligence and dedication of the prisoner? I think it would be good to create legal support that can be mobilized on a grander, more slow-moving scale (like what your focus is, or what I am gathering it is) as well as quickly on a micro- scale. Maybe even try to facilitate coordination between local lawyers and local activists and journalists, because every time a person is forcibly treated is a golden opportunity for us to “raise awareness” in our local communities and tie that to a larger (philosophically deeper, and more international/global) context in which we need to act.

    I also really like your idea about using the International Day in Solidarity with Victims of Torture to promote the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Torture. That report is a huge deal that I think we need to leverage on as much as possible.

  • Of course you get to define yourself, Duane. I wasn’t suggesting that “anti-psychiatry” is how you “should” identify yourself, or that you need my thoughts to know how to “properly” identify yourself. I’m not trying to instruct you, in other words, and am sorry if I came off that way. I was merely trying to explore why it is that people shy away from that term and, since you were conveniently here and doing that, I asked you.

  • point taken– and very eloquently put. but why is there a special feeling for you about (not) saying “anti-x” when the “x” in question is “psychiatry”? After all, in the above comment you seem quite happy to fold into a description your position “anti-psychology,” “anti-recovery,” “anti-capitalist,” etc. No one thinks (at least no one I know, but correct me if this is rampant where you are) that one can only be “anti-” one thing at a time and therefore any description of one’s position must strive to capture every facet of one’s overall analysis at once. In that case, yes, to describe your (or my) position as “anti-psychiatry” would be leaving out too much. But I don’t think that is the context in which the term comes up 99% of the time.

    I really think that the fear of/retreating from / preference to move away from the term “anti-psychiatry” has much, much more to do with historical factors than that it is a theoretically inadequate term. I would guess that people who don’t want to use it basically do not want to be associated with Szasz, Laing, or maybe the 1960’s in general, or $cientology. All understandable reasons. But I just wish people would be more up front about why this term has fallen out of favor for them. If it has more to do with the fact that people who use an appellation with “anti” in it are too threatening and/or frightening to “normal” people, that in my opinion is something that needs to be considered carefully. Do we want to grind down our point in order not to prick such people? maybe we do, maybe we don’t. (related questions: who do we want to reach? who is it most necessary to reach? what are we willing to compromise on? What do we confront that others on the anti-capitalist left, say, don’t? etc.) It’s a debate and discussion worth having but it can’t be had if no one owns up to why we are all constantly denying that anyone is “anti-psychiatry.”

  • but, it seems to me that we have plenty against psychiatry. We are against the mass drugging, the forced drugging/treatment, the labeling, the stigmatizing, the lying, them taking advantage of power differentials to control and overpower people, them taking advantage of our emotional distress to make money, them giving people brain damage and diabetes (and then selling the drugs to treat it, natch!)– etc. How can you say that we have nothing against psychiatry?!

  • yeah, why are people so scared to say this? I am anti-psychiatry, both in practice and in theory. I am of course not against bringing help and support to those in emotional crisis, but that is NOT synonymous with psychiatry at all. Psychiatry as we now contend with it– biological/medical model– is clearly complete bunk, but it was also failing people in many ways before that was the dominant model. Anyone who has read Jonathan Metzl’s fascinating books can recognize how it is that the same goals and conceptual approaches were actually transmitted across psychiatry, from the psychotherapy era to the drugs-aid-psychotherapy era, to the present brains-and-drugs-are-the-end-all-be-all era. I am anti-psychiatry; I’m not sure why most people on this website shy away from saying that. If it is because of the cult of $cientology, I think we need to worry about them far less than that.

  • [I can't reply to you below your last comment, Paris (I'm not sure why,) so I'm doing it here, below my initial comment.]

    Well, not to be nit-picky, but I never used the phrase “radical action.” I did use the phrase “the right direction,” which is admittedly and purposely vague (it was a bit too much at that moment, I think, to specify what “sub-genre” of radical vision I may have since the main distinction I was trying to focus on was radical vs. liberal not between sub-genres of radical or sub-genres of liberal).

    You said, “if we want to work towards a more sustainable strategy of meeting needs, then I believe we must first connect with a broader vision and the values we feel are an important part of this vision.” I totally agree, but I guess my point is that we cannot assume that everyone who opposes psychiatry or reads MIA is automatically also politically radical, just as not all feminists are radical, revolutionary, or anarcha feminists. It is my opinion that “the right direction” is a radical one, that is, one that seeks to fundamentally alter the very bases of the political, economic, and social organization of our current society. This is in contrast to a liberal or reformist direction, which many within the recovery/anti-psychiatry/survivor/mad pride (etc!) movement clearly are focused on. I’m not attempting to be divisive just for the sake of it, but rather because I believe in the necessity for a radical vision which will guide our approaches to problems in the short-term, to tactical decisions, and even to how we think about and discuss and (hopefully) agree upon shared values.

    You said: “If we resort to action, even “radical action” without first taking the time to connect with a set of guiding values and an overarching vision, then I believe we’re still really only acting from a stance of wanting instant gratification, and if you want to see where that’s gotten us, just look around.” I totally agree, although I also recognize that not every action can be fully planned, coordinated, or subsumed under some grand goal or controlled by a coordinating body; I do understand (and in select cases affirm) the rebellious and insurrectionary actions of those who are oppressed, as well as their anger, their fury, and their refusal, at times, to explain their actions in the terms of the dominant culture or in liberal terms, rather than in their own terms.

    You seem to believe that my main point was to criticize theorizing without action, but I didn’t even touch on that in my comment. I didn’t say anything like “arriving at values without the willingness to take action is unlikely to result in much change” in my comment, so I’m not sure where you got the impression that I did.

    My main concern in my comment was that the values espoused by groups like the one you linked to tend to be fundamentally liberal and reformist rather than radical. As I said above, “personal choice,” “compassion,” and “courage” strike me as not just vague, but very much in retreat from taking a positive, politically radical stance. I am all for inviting people into the fold and making connections across groups and movements, but being blindly ecumenical for its own sake or because it is warm and fuzzy is dangerous in my book.

    The list of values that you listed strike me as much less liberal and vague, and I do believe that we (you and I) have much in common. My main point was that I believe that it is necessary to actively strive to think outside of the taken-for-granted-as-good values of our current neoliberal, capitalist, racist, sexist (etc.!) milieu. Many people are opposed to psychiatry full-stop & want to reform it; I am opposed to psychiatry for myriad, complex reasons that all have directly or indirectly to do with capitalism, sexism, racism, and values like individualism, “freedom,” masculinity, etc., which are values of the dominant culture. I’m not suggesting we harangue or “kick out” those in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient(etc) movement who don’t meet some holier-than-thou standard of “radicalness.” I am suggesting that those of us who have a radical vision attempt to inject it whenever possible into the larger culture/movement and do so unashamedly and with rigorous argumentation that will hopefully spark interest in others and blow some minds.

  • One thing that comes to mind for me is that these labels or, rather, the attraction we all have in this time and place to labels that will somehow “capture” us once and for all, the true us, and communicate it to the world… such a thing is only necessary I think when we feel the need to project ourselves out to a mass audience, perhaps even a global audience. In any case, this impulse would largely disappear I think if we were to re-orient ourselves to the communities in which we actually reside and with which we actually interact on a daily, “in real life” basis. I feel no particular need to mobilize “schizophrenic” or “psychotic” to describe my experience to my best friend, because he knows me and he understands me in a way that makes labels like that just seem silly / superfluous / useless. On the other hand, with strangers or people on the internet I sometimes find myself feeling “forced” (by the situation) to use such words because I have no actual social, material bond with them…

    I don’t know if I”m making sense. I’m not suggesting that we can will ourselves out of this globalized, highly technologically-intertwined social and material reality we live in just by eschewing labels. But I am saying that perhaps we need to re-orient ourselves within that context in order to resist certain of the ways of thinking, being, and conceptualizing ourselves that it promotes.

  • I’m not sure if you understood what I meant when I said above that it would make sense to describe ourselves as psychiatric surivors RATHER THAN to describe ourselves with labels– like “neurotypical” or “schizophrenic”– that DO make the pretense of defining us wholly or at some “core” level.

    My entire point was that it makes sense to describe ourselves– for the purposes of describing why we all belong in this movement against psychiatry together without recourse to diagnostic labels that we all know are bunk– as psychiatric survivors precisely because such a label makes NO pretense of defining us “wholly” or at some “core” level. No, instead it is very clear how and at what level it identifies us: it identifies us insofar as we have, as a matter of historical fact, been abused by psychiatry. This is a contingent fact, which means that it doesn’t pretend to get at some “core” of us. It merely reports on the facts of what happens to have been the case– we encountered psychiatry and were abused by it, and subsequently took it upon ourselves to oppose it.

    I never suggested that we “identify ourselves primarily” (your words) as psychiatric survivors, if by “primarily” you mean in a way that assumes that it describes our identities, the core of us, the “primary” facts about us as humans. Not at all. My entire thing was to avoid any label that tries to do that because they are doomed.

  • Not to be a downer, but it is all worryingly vague… I believe that any movement I would wholeheartedly work with (any movement that is going in what is to my lights “the right direction”) must be politically radical. Promoting a specific tactic (nonviolence), or liberal values like “personal choice,” “compassion,” “courage,” strikes me as not just vague, but very much in retreat from taking a positive, radical stance. Those things aren’t bad values to have, necessarily, but there is a certain flimsiness to them. They do not point to economic issues, globalization, neoliberalism, capitalism, patriarchy, etc. Still, I believe such people have their hearts in the right places; but that isn’t enough, unfortunately.

  • some exist already! For instance, this (zine, i.e. self-published booklet) exists:

    In fact there was a strong history of resistance to psychiatry in second wave feminism, so there is a rich history and tradition there if people are willing to tap into it. I think many radical feminists are open to this, it makes intuitive sense to them and is part of the tradition; liberal feminists are still a bit caught up in the biopsych model.

    Another thing is, we need to get more people in our movements that focus on resisting psychiatry to re-attune themselves to and align themselves with feminism! It goes both ways!

  • also, I think we need to realize that it isn’t “trauma affected me” or “nothing affected me but my genes / internal stuff”…. trauma suggests something more “acute” (like an attack, or even attacks that go on over a long period of time but are nonetheless recognizable as distinct events) but I think it is very possible to be “traumatized” but in a more global way by our sick culture(s). And that needs to be recognized more.

  • I know that for you “neurodivergent” or anything involving “neuro-” just doesn’t strike you the same way as it does many of us who are opposed to it. I accept that, but I still don’t fully understand how, since “neuro-” is (I would guess to 99.9% of people) basically the same as directly invoking “neurology.” And we are fighting the biopsych approach. The two are very closely linked, obviously. It just seems to confirm everything we don’t want to confirm, with one little prefix.

    I think the basic question for me in this is the one I gestured at with the clown/engineer example. That question isn’t whether there is some role played by the brain but what justifies an an approach to mental illness that attends specifically to the brain? I don’t think that psychiatry, neurology, sociobiology can satisfactory answer that question (where x is the brain in all three cases). After a century of brain-focused approaches, what do we have to show for it? This approach can’t be justified. I would suggest that, on the other hand, something like Open Dialogue would be able to justify itself. It can justify an approach to “mental illness” that attends specifically to the social network of an individual (over-simplifying here for the sake of brevity), the justification is that it works (it leads to recovery, we do find it useful to understand the content of psychotic crises), is ethical (non-hierarchical, not by force, free, ongoing, involves informed consent), and causes no iatrogenic harm.

    You asked, “If we don’t orient to the norm, define ourselves in relation to it, how do we define ourselves?” It is a good question. I’m not actually convinced that we need to identify ourselves as something any more related to the most stable core part of ourselves (to whatever degree one exists!) than “psychiatric survivors.” I think that this difference from “normal” people can logically be maintained because it is historical fact. We were abused by psychiatry, and that does in fact distinguish us from those who weren’t. On the other hand, I don’t think that there is anything “inside us,” i.e. that is not a matter of the vagaries of happenstance and contingent facts, that reliably distinguishes us from normal people. In other words, I’m not convinced that we need a word for “those more sensitive being thrown into extreme states of emotional distress by the problems of living.” Why not? Simply because there is no reliable or “valid” way to distinguish “those more sensitive.” The fact is that psychosis is a human thing, not something special to us who happen to have found the right set of circumstances to trigger ours. Any human will become psychotic given the right triggers/stressors/environment.

    You said: “I think there is something about sovereignty somewhere in there or some question about whether we need to define ourselves at all, or who has the power to define us.” It seems like you and I are thinking along the same track here, based on us both suspecting that we don’t need to define ourselves at all. Also, I believe that sovereignty is part of the ideological apparatus that has made “normal” mean “not in need of SPECIAL help”… it is a definition for normality that already assumes a definition of normality, if that makes sense.

    thanks to you also. It’s good to have a productive dialogue with people who truly do take into consideration what you are saying. You’re going above and beyond with your in-depth responses to comments… I’m not sure I’d have the fortitude to keep up on the comments as well as you have with this piece!

  • …aaand, looking below I can see that I should’ve read farther down before making this comment. Although it is unfortunate when things get truly nasty, I think overall my comment above stands. Of course there are exceptions, but it is also thanks to people at MIA who are dedicating their time and effort that we have good moderation here to limit how far any conversation can sink.

  • It’s ok if you don’t feel comfortable here because your arguments will be subjected to rigorous analysis and questioning, but let’s not take the idea of a “safe space” too far– in this instance, “safe” is a metaphoric use that basically means “comfortable” (i’m assuming no one on MIA has actually threatened to do you bodily harm). And it is not anyone’s obligation to make everyone present comfortable or rather to avoid making anyone present uncomfortable. I sympathize with anyone who feels upset or sensitive to what goes on on the internet– I certainly do. I definitely can experience worry and upset when I get into it with people on the internet. But it isn’t fair to call MIA “toxic” because this happens to you. I don’t find it to be an especially antagonistic or rude environment at all, especially compared to the rest of the internet. I’m not saying we should allow the depressingly low (intellectually, emotionally, basically in every way) quality of, say, YouTube comments to set the standard and make anything less bad ok. But come on… I’ve read more heated (read: ruder, more explicitly antagonistic) book reviews in academic journals (not exaggerating, I used to collect them!). I think MIA is doing fine.

  • The problem is that an analogy between autism and the major “mental illnesses” is misleading at worst and limited at best, since autism can– at least in theory if not in practice– be fairly reliably distinguished from (statistical) normality and therefore diagnosed in a scientifically valid way. None of this is true for “mental illnesses,” obviously. That is the entire problem with the DSM.

    And if autistic people and science want to accept that autism has a biological substrate and that it is neurological, then fine. But this cannot be assumed to also be true of mental illnesses, just because we (autistic people and people with psychiatric labels) are different from “normal” in some way, and because we all have brains! I’m not trying to be rude, but that seems to be your line of reasoning here.

    Engineers and circus clowns also have brains, and one could obviously not say that those brains do not “effect their subjective experiences,” nor shape their life choices, personalities, etc. But would anyone assert that the brain or some “neuro-“approach is appropriate to understanding whatever it is that distinguishes engineers from circus clowns? I think not.

    There is something else problematic about the term “neurodiversity,” which is that it has given rise to the term “neurodiverse” as a descriptor of individual humans. Unfortunately this reduces it to merely a matter of identity, which actually reinstates something it thinks it is challenging: the notion that “normal” people should be or are the standard against which everyone else can be judged. A population can be diverse, a group of any kind can be diverse, not a single human or single anything. That’s just how English works. At least it was until we decided to label individuals who actually, as a group, would be an equal part of the diversity of that group, as the the location at which difference takes place. That just, again, reinstates what it claims to be attempting to displace: the centrality and presumed paradigmatic quality of “normal”, whatever we take normal to be.

  • great article. Is there not terminology in English to distinguish a treatment that treats underlying pathology from a treatment that causes a new disease? It would seem to be a susbet of iatrogenesis, but not the exact same as iatrogenesis since, for example, so-called “side-effects” are iatrogenic as well as things that are considered “therapeutic effects.”

    This is terminology we need if it doesn’t exist. Half the battle is just getting people to conceptually grasp WHAT psychiatric drugs are and WHAT they do. A lack of proper terminology (as well as the deliberate introduction of false theories, misleading metaphors, and outright lies by Big Pharma) is definitely part of the problem.