Critical of Western practices of psychiatrization? You may be a bully 06/06/2012Posted by ALT in Patient Rights and Advocacy.
Tags: anti-psychiatry, bully, Dr. Allen Frances, mental health activism, Occupy the APA, psychiatry
What does the term “bully” mean?
If you’d asked me that question 10 or even 5 years ago, I probably would’ve answered that a bully is:
- A young person (almost always male)
- In school
- Who uses muscles and aggression to terrorize and manipulate his peers and (more so) his inferiors.
But it doesn’t seem to mean that anymore.
Exhibit A, from my hometown:
Homeless people requesting money, food, or aid on the street (of which I see an increasing number in my city) are apparently bullies, manipulating innocent passers-by into giving them money instead of the city-wide coalition for the homeless [which will, of course, distribute funds in a fair and equitable manner, or so we are told on the other side of The Box]. So we should put our donations in “The Box” and say “NO” to bullies.
[My significant other and I always joke about dumping a big pot of soup in The Box. How long does it take 5 full time, fully educated/certified employees – supported by Box donations – to distribute 5 cups of soup? And will the soup be any good by the time they get around to doing it?]
I myself have been told that what I do with my writing here on ALT_mentalities is akin to “cyber bullying.” Funny. I thought I was critiquing erroneous articles and bad “scientific studies,” and perhaps doing a little musing here and there. I was not aware of the “hurtful nature” of my writing.
It seems that one of the main effects of the bullying public awareness campaign that began more or less a year ago has been to vastly expand the boundaries of the term. The word bully now carries a dizzying array of new connotations – hater, criminal, maybe even dissident, protestor, reformer — we’re at the point now where any person who disagrees with a dominant paradigm can be labeled a “bully,” and promptly booted from the discussion. Or, as in my first example, forced to find a new mode of survival in a field of ever diminishing options. Forced, most likely, to become dependent on that lovely city-wide coalition staffed by certified people who, out of sheer goodness, would help even the despised bullies of the city.
To every critical thinker, every person engaged in the search for mental balance, every activist fighting for mental rights and freedoms, and every soul participating in a healthy critique of the industry that calls itself “psychiatry,” searching for a more human and human alternative:
You’re in danger of being called bully. And it’s total bull.
What does the term “anti-psychiatry” mean?
On the surface, it seems pretty simple. “Anti-psychiatry” = Against psychiatry. “Psychiatry” seems to refers to the Western practice of psychiatrization, including (but not limited to) a biopsychiatric model of mental illness as brain disease, “scientific” diagnosis with the DSM, psychotropic medication as first line treatment, chronicity and decreased lifespan an assumed, prophetic outcome of “treatment.”
That probably describes a lot of folks, myself unabashedly included.
But we must remember the true meanings of the language of mental health. Go to the Greek, and you find that to be “anti-psychiatry” is to be “against soul healing.” Well that’s no good! The major critique of psychiatry [and, again, by psychiatry we mean the Western practice of psychiatrization here] is its complete lack of respect for, failure to even acknowledge the existence of, the soul.
Recently, psychiatrists have been talking amongst themselves, most notably in their trade journal Psychiatric Times, about the “rise” of virulent anti-psychiatry.
Sometimes I wonder if hatred of psychiatrists is one of the few remaining forms of acceptable bigotry. If the vitriol on many anti-psychiatry Web sites is any indication, the answer may be yes.
- Ronald Pies, “Moving Beyond Hatred of Psychiatry: A Brave Voice Speaks Out,” in Psychiatric Times
Those who try to help people with psychological problems also become stigmatized…
Unfortunately, sometimes in a society, those discriminated against will fight internally or compete against one another. So it is in the US at times, especially with gang conflicts. A psychoanalytic explanation for this phenomenon could be “identification with the aggressor.”
Now we may be seeing more and more of that in our field as the antipsychiatry movement of Scientologists seems to be expanding to former patients and their families who felt they were hurt by psychiatry. While some anger and criticism is surely warranted, the vitriol and call for the end of psychiatrists seems to border on hate speech.
- H. Steven Moffic, “Psychism: Defining Discrimination of Psychiatry,” in Psychiatric Times; emphasis added
Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Anti-psychiatrists are “aggressors.” They engage in “hate speech.” And the beliefs they espouse, the critiques they publish, their every critical thought about psychiatry likely has its roots in Scientology, whose virulent anti-psychiatry beliefs have “spread” to some non-scientologist psychiatric survivors and their families.
Maybe even a few former professionals, too. Like Alice Keys, a recused psychiatrist who blogs at Mad In America about what reading Robert Whitaker’s books has done and continues to do to her perspective on the Western practice of psychiatrization.
What Moffic is essentially saying is that anyone he describes as “anti-psychiatry” is a bully [remember – aggressive hate speech] and as such should be not be engaged with – not by psychiatrists or any other mental health professionals – because doing so would only instigate a Stockholm Syndrome-like effect where professionals would “identify with the aggressors.”
By which I think he means mental health professionals might actually start to agree with the critique of psychiatrization or at least consider its many salient points.
Presumably this is Alice Keys’ diagnosis.
We’ve got their attention!
I found Moffic’s article about anti-psychiatry especially interesting because almost 5 months ago, he published a Psychiatric Times blog where he claimed that:
Thankfully, the anti-psychiatry movement has died down. In an unexpected way, there’s more of a pro-psychiatry movement becoming embedded in our systems. These are our patient consumers and peer specialists.
- H. Steven Moffic in January Psychiatric Times blog
A lot has changed in 5 months! Moffic and the psychiatric community at large have noticed that they’re under intense public scrutiny. Protestors are coming out to events like the APA conference, inconveniently lifting their voices, sharing their message with an increasingly receptive public. And as much as Allen Frances and his ilk would like to confine scrutiny to the development of the DSM alone – they can’t. Like an ocean wave, critical thought about many of Western psychiatrization’s dehumanizing practices is pushing inexorably towards the shore of the general public’s consciousness.
To my fellow critical thinkers, those who question Western psychiatrization but wholeheartedly support “soul healing,” … I say again, we’ve got their attention!
Now here’s how we keep the positive momentum going, here’s how we sidestep their name-calling, here’s how we rip off the label of anti-psychiatry/bully so that more and more people can hear our message:
1. First, let’s honestly consider psychiatry’s critique. Are we bullies? Are we aggressors? When we tell our stories about what we’ve seen of psychiatry, when we recount scientific studies, research by folks like Robert Whitaker and Loren Mosher, philosophical ideas about the causes and purposes of so-called “mental illness” from John Perry, RD Laing, and Carl Jung, are we engaging in “hate speech”? Are we distorting the truth?
My friends, to the best of my knowledge, we are not.
We are telling the truth as best we can, we are building up a body of experiential, anecdotal, as well as scientific, knowledge as we go, we are engaging in honest and sincere dialogue with anyone who cares to join us, whether they “belong” to our “movement” or not. We want to find balance. We want to find real “soul healers.”
Psychiatry’s label does not describe us.
2. If we’re not bullies, let’s not act like bullies! What I mean by this is: no violence. Let it be, as MindFreedom International’s slogan states, “a united, non-violent revolution to rethink psychiatry.” Psychiatrists, social workers, mental health professionals at large are welcome to be a part of this re-thinking, assuming, of course, that they, too, agree to be non-violent in their engagement with fellow human beings.
PLEASE NOTE: This does not mean that survivor stories containing violence should not be told, that voices speaking with passion or strong emotion should be silenced, that only certain material is now considered legitimate (“non-violent”), a part of this dialogue. It would be foolish address the label of “bully” and “anti-psychiatry” by allowing only politically correct voices of sugary sweetness to be heard!
Rather, let’s follow the basic rules of productive conversation – we stick to the facts. We do not libel anyone. We call a spade a spade, certainly, but we don’t use name-calling for its own sake.