Saturday, July 2, 2022

Comments by Sean Gunderson

Showing 25 of 25 comments.

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment on my article. That can be a lengthy response to your question. In short, I build my life around a motto, “The greatest act of rebellion is to be genuinely happy”. This is clearly easier said than done. However, I tried to treat my detention like a monk would treat a monastery. I devoted myself to meditation and yoga with the intention of quieting my mind. That process takes years, but I was given the time to do this. I encourage you to read my article next month in which I explain “how I survived” a 20-year nightmare and it is a far more in-depth explanation than what I gave you today.

  • I am certainly interested in more personal feedback if you would like to give it. I suggest reaching out to the editors at MIA for my contact info.

    As for your final question, this is ironic. My original charge was aggravated battery and carried a max term of 7 years. My trial was stipulated to give me the NGRI. Had my attorney at the time been paying attention, he could have struck a plea deal whereby I could have plead guilty to the original charge and been released soon after the trial in 2005. I got flack for saying these things while in the forensic system as they expect inmates to mindlessly assert that the NGRI was the best thing to ever happen to them. I testified under oath that I would have rather “plead guilty and paid my debt to society than go the NGRI route and still be stuck in the system.” The authorities did not like this. However, we know that this story has a (mostly) happy ending. Thanks for reading my articles!

  • Excellent perspective! This is an important article. You see clearly that information is becoming a major theme of control and human conflict in this era. As realistic as your article is; however, I want to invite you to see the same situation from a slightly different perspective. While information, misinformation, and disinformation are coming to the forefront of our social conversation, it is imperative to never forget that our mental health system, ideologically informed by psychiatry, is itself the promoter of disinformation. Furthermore, major names in the field have publicly acknowledged that they mislead their clients and the public. That is, they have acknowledged that they are the source of the disinformation!

    Add to this the “Jerry Springer”-like controversy that characterizes the professional conversation in the broad field of mental health and this is a social powder keg waited to burst. Society loves controversy and the professional “debate” in the field of mental health is likely one of the most controversial debates in our modern world. What could be more controversial than, “You all torture and abuse people, including children!” “No not us, we don’t do that, we just treat them” At some point, one of these sides will win the ongoing argument as that argument is far from over. If the public could truly appreciate this internal controversy, they would have a never ending source of drama to talk about.

    The real challenge is to get the wider public to take the time to really watch this controversy and to recognize medical disinformation when its sources tell them to their face! I agree that as simple as this sounds, it is not an easy task. However, it represents the optimistic perspective on the same situation which you have described in your article. Thank you for sharing your important perspective!

  • This is an excellent article Bob! I appreciate your gift to be able to break down the scientific research and demonstrate that it is relatively hollow. Indeed, we live in an age where “science” has become a rather meaningless statement. Science can be an amazing investigative tool. However, it can also be used as a sort of “smoke screen” to deflect the attention of the public away from the malfeasance of certain stakeholders.

    There is science and then there is “scientism” Science is the investigative tool and it is without question one of the most valuable tools we have. Scientism is the dominant secularized global religion. It uses the legitimacy of the tool of science to acquire power. I believe that Scientism is an achievement of modern civilization. It is probably the largest and most powerful religion that has ever existed on the face of the Earth. However this is not a good thing as it obstructs the valuable tool that is science from doing what it was originally intended to do: discover reality while minimizing inherent human bias so that the findings are as objective as possible.

    I refer to Scientism as a religion for the fact that too many research studies, in any field but especially mental health, can be deconstructed like what you did here. This shows that a significant amount of faith and belief is required in order to accept shoddy research as “scientific fact.” Faith and belief is the domain of religion, not science.

  • So-called mental illness is entirely too complicated to be adequately understood. However, what often happens, such as with Ms. Inman is that a convenient story of “progress” and “success” is promoted that oversimplifies the situation. This fiction is easy to digest and fits well with sound bites and quotes that the media needs. However, this story of “progress” toward understanding mental illness is the same story that my parents were told by mental health professionals. It is the same story said professionals told my grandparents, my great grandparents, my great-great grandparents, and so on since the dawn of medicalized interpretations of so-called mental illness (which incidentally is about as long as the concept of race has been around).
    The simple wisdom of history should serve as a guide for people like Inman and Fuller and that is, “If we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.” For hundreds of years doctors have told patients and their loved ones that they have specialized knowledge about what is wrong with the afflicted individual. They have also subjected them to various methods of so-called treatment which at best result in mediocre outcomes and may come with severe iatrogenic damage.
    From our historical vantage point, we can see how fictional these convenient medicalized stories were; however, the challenge of our current generation will be to recognize this easily identifiable historical pattern and change it in a meaningful manner. Fuller and Inman seem to cling to the convenience of this fiction. However, it takes real courage to confront a phenomenon about which we know almost nothing. It takes so much courage that we may have to learn to stop imposing our ideologies upon those afflicted with so-called mental illness and instead help them learn to give meaning to their unique subjective experiences.

    Really, if the United Nations makes an official declaration that the standard of care in the western world amounts to human rights abuses and torture and that the foundation of such egregious abuses is the medical model of so-called mental illness, then it is our responsibility to respond appropriately. If we do not respond responsibly, then we can expect this fiction and its corollarial abuses to continue.

  • Thanks for your comment. In one of my upcoming essays (perhaps in May) you will see how I am able to handle the negative emotions associated with long-term detention.
    Am I looking for a publisher? Yes, but not right now. I am finishing my final semester to earn my bachelor’s degree and perhaps after May, I will be in a position to devote myself more fully to writing a full-length book. There is a certain emotional catharsis that comes along with writing these essays and while this is a generally positive thing, I like to give myself adequate personal space to process all the related emotions. Once I graduate, I will have more personal space to write (and process) more intensely. Indeed, this is a healing process for me as I finally am able to tell my story in my own words. Thank you for sharing this process with me.

  • Rachel,
    Thank you so much for sharing this essay. It requires courage to discuss sexual abuse openly, so I am glad to see that you have healed enough to be able to talk about it in a public forum. I am not sure that I am even there yet, even though I can write about everything else regarding my experiences in psychiatric confinement!

    I spent nearly 20 years in a psychiatric detention center (DC) as I like to call it. As I pointed out in my recent essays published on MIA, the entire experience in a DC centers around an artificial class construction separating those who can leave from those who cannot (See https://www.madinamerica.com/2021/12/inside-forensic-psych-survive/). In order to maintain this class division, there is a strong emphasis on power as it is power that “constructs” this class division. I know power very well as I had to master its application in order to survive my ordeal. I also recognize based on my experiences in the DC that sexual abuse is integral to the application of power, especially by the staff who seek to maintain this artificial class division. Put simply, sexual abuse is inseparable from any DC, whether a psych ward, an institution for children, a prison, etc. It is inevitable that some staff will recognize the power of sex to control the inmates and they will exploit it. I have seen more than enough sexual abuse in lengthy confinement; I have also experienced my fair share of it. It is something that too many people do not discuss. I applaud you because your openness is inspiring and I recognize that so long as people do not talk about the inherent sexual abuse in these institutions, then staff in these places will be free to continue to sexual abuse inmates.

    I still cannot wrap my mind around how any mental health professional can, in good conscience, advocate for detaining anyone in a psych ward or other institution for any other purpose than to punish them. Putting a vulnerable person in the throes of their so-called mental illness into an environment where sexual abuse (and thus sexual trauma) is inherent in order to “help” them only helps those who adopt the belief that their victim is “getting the help that they need.” Nevertheless, I recognize that there are well-intended professionals who still do this. Perhaps they can continue to do this because the inherent sexual abuse of these institutions remains obscured. It is essays like yours that help to shed light on this terrible aspect of our “treatment” institutions.

    Perhaps if well-intended mental health professionals who continue to believe that “treatment” facilities “help those in need” were to use different language to describe this process, they may wake up. I suggest that the next time a well-intended mental health professional thinks that their client “needs” psychiatric “hospitalization” then they can frame it like this: “I think that Jane needs to be sexually abused at this time because her voices are overwhelming her.” If you are a well-intended mental health professional reading this and you still do not make the obvious connection, I invite you to examine how your self-image of being “well-intended” conflicts with reality. You cannot send a human being into one of these institutions without the very real possibility and likelihood that they will experience sexual abuse and leave that “hospital” with very real sexual trauma.

    The sexual trauma that is so commonplace in these institutions is reason enough to act in accordance with the United Nation’s recommendation to repeal all laws allowing for forced treatment.

  • Sadly, psychiatric drugs have become a tranquilizing agent for incarcerated people. I know well how difficult long-term detention really is and I am not surprised that staff in these places turn to psych drugs to tranquilize their population. Generally, inmates in a prison or detention center have one thing on their mind and that is freedom. Of course, if freedom is not a realistic possibility at the time, this internal conflict can be distressing. The outward manifestations of this distress occur on a spectrum and are influenced by the individual’s personality. Some sleep all day, while others may become rebellious toward staff. In either situation, staff can use the vague label of “mental illness” to justify drugging the inmate into behaving as they want them to. Strangely enough, I have seen that staff, especially in psychiatric DCs to believe that the DC is a happy place for healing and they will use psych drugs to elicit acquiescence to this narrative. Even more sadly, some inmates are so overwhelmed by the nightmare of detention that they acquiesce to unecessary drugs despite long term adverse effects.

  • I love your description as an “underbelly” of the world. Indeed, too many people do not know the very real horrors that are a part of daily life for some of those still subject to imposed (and in some cases voluntary) mental health treatment. In my experience giving people a vaguely-defined label allows them to apply it to any behavior they want. It could be a dissident’s opposition to the Soviet government; a woman who is too emotional for the men in her life; or a person who hears voices and frees France as a teenage girl (AKA Joan of Arc).

  • Thanks for your comment. Indeed, it can be quite scary to deal with someone who has total control over your life and who overtly displays malicious intent. I feel that I was able to successfully navigate that environment as I re-conceptualized my own so-called mental illness as a transformational growth process. When I did this, I saw that, in general, all altered states have a powerful potential for personal growth, to varying degrees. I can assure you that nearly 2 decades of detention is a more potent “drug” than chemical you can ingest. Having understood my own “psychosis” as an altered state, it was a logical next step to conceptualize the psychological effects of long-term detention as an altered state as well. I thus was confident to be able to navigate the altered state of detention, and I believe that my success in being unconditionally discharged in April 2021 validates what I am saying.

  • I really appreciated both your articles. I have experienced my fair share of mental health treatment (see https://www.madinamerica.com/inside-forensic-psychiatry-unit/). I can say that one perspective that I strongly identify with, and that is outside the mainstream disability framework is that of using altered states of consciousness as tools for growth. In my nearly 2 decades confined in a psychiatric detention center, I came to a deep appreciation of the powerful potential for altered states of consciousness, which is what long-term detention is. An altered state of consciousness is neither inherently positive nor negative. However, the interpretation of the individual experiencing them determines how they are ultimately understood. Quite obviously, if we exist in a society that pushes upon us a narrative that automatically interprets altered states of consciousness like “psychosis” “depression” “mania” etc. as pathological, then what chance do most people have to see them as anything else? Furthermore, once one understands the power of altered states, especially “pervasive” altered states like “depression” or long-term detention, then it is apparent how challenging it is to change one’s interpretation in the midst of the altered state. Indeed, training for altered states should occur prior to entry into the altered state. Thus, our problem reveals an added dimension: not only are we conditioned to use the readily available narrative of pathology to interpret the altered states (which in some cases can stay with individuals for life, no matter how unsupported by research it is), but also we believe that addressing them occurs after the fact, not before entering into them. Considering that we will all experience some sort of altered state of consciousness at some point in our lives (which include but are not limited to: grief, drugs, psychosis, depression, sex, joy and love), isn’t it wiser to begin preparing people from an early age to navigate them? Ideally, but that would mean that adults would have to understand how to teach this to youth, and in general that is not realistic with our current cultural attitudes toward altered states.

    If altered states are re-conceptualized as potentially powerful transformational growth tools, then we may very well see a world where “the disability framework” is not overthrown, but falls to the wayside out of a consensus that it is just no longer useful. Indeed, in my experience it is absolutely useless for helping one to successfully navigate an altered state as a transformational growth tool. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue.

  • One of the best articles that I have read recently. In my long journey through the mental hell system, I have come to appreciate the role of altered states of consciousness. I also recognize that this is something that our modern western society is almost entirely divorced from. Altered states of consciousness are powerful, yet they are not inherently good or bad. The individual experiencing them has the responsibility to successfully navigate them. Ideally, there are members of the community (elders, perhaps) who are familiar with a wide range of altered states of human consciousness and can guide others through them. Unfortunately, in our society, which expects and even demands comfort at every moment, the power of the altered state is lost in a paradigm that seeks to pathologize them. Having just a simple understanding of altered states, one can see that they conform to our views about them. Thus, if grief is seen as unwanted, negative and pathological, then so it is. However, such a view point does little to help the individual navigate it because grief can just as easily be reframed (with a certain proficiency and experience in navigating altered states) as something conditionally positive. that is, the positivity of the grief is a potential that rests within it and if the individual knows how to access that positivity, then they can use the altered state of grief (or another altered state) for their own personal (including spiritual) growth.

    Our modern American society is probably bankrupt when it comes to understanding and appreciating altered states. Perhaps this is due in part to the pervasiveness of the scientific paradigm in our modern world. Everything must be framed in the language of science. If we cannot do so effectively, then it is dismissed by large segments of the population. While science is an amazing achievement of modern civilization, and a profound investigative tool, it has great difficulty penetrating subjectivity, which is exactly where the altered state is interpreted to be positive or negative. Perhaps it is this same difficulty in penetrating subjectivity that prevents psychiatry from from being a meaningful and pervasive force for helping people. that is, helping people in such a way as to make nearly all those helped feel truly helped, instead of helping a tiny percentage and coercing the rest into feeling and talking as if they were helped.

    After spending nearly 2 decades in a psychiatric detention center (see my series here on MIA https://www.madinamerica.com/inside-forensic-psychiatry-unit/) I have come to be quite adept at appreciating altered states and successfully navigating them. Detention, especially long term, is a major altered state that requires skill to be able to convert into something positive. I wish that our society would begin to appreciate altered states and their inherent value for human evolution. However, if the best we can muster is to tell our youth to “say no to drugs” and “abstain from sex” then not only have we overlooked a universe of altered states and reduced them to two (drugs and sex), but also we have not even prepared our youth for navigating altered states. Maybe beginning to teach our youth the significance of grief as you have outlined is a good first step. Not only does it not involve taboo drugs or sex, but it is something that touches all of us at some point, including young children. Perhaps if we can get our youth to appreciate the power of altered states beginning first with one that is normally seen as negative, then we can begin to shift broader cultural attitudes toward a deeper appreciation of the powerful potential of altered states. Ideally, I envision a world where people are prepared to meet the altered states of so-called mental illness with the skills necessary to successfully navigate them and covert them into the powerfully positive transformational growth experiences that they can be. Thank you again for writing this article, I hope to see more from you and your unique perspective.

  • Yes, exactly. The predominant narrative of so-called mental illness and the mainstream drug treatment has little if any place to recognize the very real harms caused by the drugs themselves. In reflection, it is no surprise that no one along my journey in the orthodox system entertained the possibility that the drugs caused or at least substantially contributed to the offense. I find myself using the term “medications” less and less and the word “drugs” more and more. Medications carries with it connotations of “safe and effective” treatments that are designed to treat a known biological pathology, as in the rest of medicine, generally. However, “drugs” are just chemicals that alter consciousness and/or physiology to some degree.

  • Thank you for your support. Yes, I prefer to interact with people where there is no power imbalance. When that power imbalance is present, if the other person does not like what I say, they can always default to, “But you have a mental illness.” That narrative protects others from having to confront the egregious harms caused to people in the name of “helping” them.

  • Yes, unfortunately due to the dominance of the current paradigm, these terms sometimes serve as the best way to communicate to others who may be unaware of the internal controversy in the field of “mental health.” While it provides a platform to talk about certain issues, it also applies a restrictive and unsubstantiated narrative. As I like to say, “All things have advantages and disadvantages.”