At the end of my talk at the American Psychiatric Association Institute on Psychiatric Services , a psychiatrist in the crowded lecture room put his hand up and posed a surprising challenge: Why was I so concerned about reforming psychiatry and ending iatrogenic harm from medications, diagnosis, and forced treatment when there are so many other issues in society to worry about?
We live in a culture bombarded by media and sped up by rapid-fire social interactions. It's definitely useful to grab hold of a simple, short, sound-bite term, to quickly describe what we are feeling or suffering. "Depression" is such a word - it evokes and encapsulates, conjures the images of that ugly pit of despair that can drive so many to madness and suicide. Yet at the same time the words we use, strangely, become like those pens deposited in medical offices and waiting rooms around the world: ready at hand, easily found, familiar -- and tied to associations, marketing and meanings we were only dimly aware were shaping how we think.
In many respects it is difficult to fault the report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, recently published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP)[i]; indeed, as recent posts on Mad in America have observed, there is much to admire in it. Whilst not overtly attacking biomedical interpretations of psychosis, it rightly draws attention to the limitations and problems of this model, and points instead to the importance of contexts of adversity, oppression and abuse in understanding psychosis. But the report makes only scant, fleeting references to the role of cultural differences and the complex relationships that are apparent between such differences and individual experiences of psychosis.
The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 14. I won’t go into the indignity of being involuntarily locked up, time after time, until I satisfactorily convinced the staff that I wouldn’t harm myself or attempt suicide again. (I was lying.) The system taught me to lie, to hide my suicidal feelings in order to escape yet another round of dehumanizing lock-ups and “treatments.”
If we believe that emotional problems are primarily disorders of the brain, then perhaps taking a “fill-in-the-blank” medical history is sufficient. However, if we believe that emotional crises and dis-ease are problems that exist between people, in our sticky or not-so-sticky web of relationships, then whether families, survivors and those in crisis can heal together is a much more relevant, if still complicated, question. Perhaps the most honest answer to this question is: “It depends..."
How is it that we allow the agendas of others to occupy our childrens’ minds? Is it possible that a stranger can know our child better than we do? Is there anything a baby needs to learn that can’t be taught by being held in a parent’s arms? Because my children’s eyes and ears and thoughts are on me every day, they are key players in my ongoing efforts to live a right life. I count on their eyes and ears and thoughts to shore me up during times of temptation. They always lead me home.
We poison ever growing numbers of children with chemicals known to cause aggression and suicidality. We routinely drug children with these so they’ll sit still and be quiet in classrooms. Now, we drug babies for crying and 3 year olds for acting frightened while locked away from their families in day care centers. Those unsuccessful in school environments are incarcerated. It 's a well-worn path.
It looks like a great event: The Hearing Voices Network 25 Years On: Learning from the PAST, Practicing in the PRESENT, Visioning the FUTURE. ...