Comments by Jason Renaud

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  • The alternatives-to-psychiatry racket was up and running long before psychiatry. There have always been quacks of various sorts willing to deal with difficult people. For the longest time the method was persecution, exile, starvation and death. More recently it’s been incarceration, harassment and poisoning. The constant has been the authorities make money, the identified patient gets screwed.

    That constant is unlikely to change.

    A housekeeping task of consumer-led mental health leadership is to demarcate the complete quacks from the at-least-not-so-very-dangerous racketeers. Out here in Oregon there’s a popular Catholic priest who performs exorcisms, usually on children with psychosis. I’ve seen addictionologists prescribe benzodiazepines for alcoholic patients, methadone for opiate addicted patients, and medical marijuana for pot addicted patients. I’ve met $400-an-hour psychoanalytic M.D.’s who discuss dreams and favorite film scenes with the worried well. I know a psychologist who puts a diode in the rectum of prisoners, shows them porn loops and sprays the scent of feces when they get an erection. I’ve known people who died of old age in our state hospital.

    So yes it’s hard to draw the line. Experience helps.

    There’s an intellectual development period in social justice movements where these lines are hotly debated. Who is us, who is not us. Eventually, by consensus, the lines get defined. The definition leads direction, purpose, resources. It’s the beginning of a foundation for the next generation to move forward. Nothing moves forward without them.

    And yes, ad hominem arguments are simple, effective, frustrating. What defeats them is a common clear understanding of direction, purpose and resources, which comes after the “who is us, who is not us” period.

    Participating effectively in that debate takes critical reasoning skills, curiosity of the human condition, a deep understanding and respect for points of view you don’t share, effective communication tools, and a firm loyalty to the common good. This debate is disorganized, unfair, full of lies and tricksters and gossip, terrifying, tearful and often hilarious, and an absolute prerequisite to progress.

    If drawing a line is difficult, there is a simple solution – step aside from leadership.

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