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In the mental health system, 1984 is the NOW 04/30/2013

Posted by ALT in Activism, Patient Rights and Advocacy.
Tags: , , , , , ,


Too many Orwellian concepts have made the leap from fiction to disturbing reality in recent years.

The NEWSPEAK employed by pharmaceutical companies intent on selling ANY chemical they manage to patent to the largest population possible, in the process crafting a language where fundamental questions such as “Does this chemical have any therapeutic value whatsoever?” are impossible to ask. How does one question the effectiveness of a so-called “antipsychotic” medication’s ability to suppress psychotic symptoms?* The very word forbids such an impertinence. And when that same medication is later referred to as an “antidepressant,” doesn’t it seem as though it is an antidepressant, and it has ALWAYS been an antidepressant?

The DOUBLETHINK that proclaims we must fight stigma in mental health by promoting stigmatizing beliefs. Anti-stigma “activists” like Glen Close would have us preach the biological disease model (though it lacks credible scientific proof) far and wide, despite consistent research showing the disease model actually increases stigma, while a psychosocial model explanation slightly decreases it (and — incidentally — has quite a bit more scientific credibility).

The slogan emblazoned on the Ministry of Truth (IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH) in Orwell’s 1984 might as well be carved into the hearts of the many mental health professionals who maintain a death grip on their ignorance of the very unhelpful nature of their so-called “helping profession.” Unhelpful in the sense that:

1. The technical and impressive-sounding names of “diseases” passed down to them in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [DSM] — which are then applied cavalierly to any distressed individual that crosses their threshold — were literally voted into existence by committees of “experts,” a majority of whom receive large amounts of cash from pharmaceutical companies set to profit from the invention of new mental pathology. A far cry from the discrete, physical pathologies they’re proclaimed to be (“just like diabetes!” they say).
2. The pronouncements the helping profession often makes about the hopeless nature of so-called “mental illness” and the impossibility of recovery after assigning a diagnosis for life (once diagnosed, never undiagnosed) are USUALLY untrue.


   More on that HERE.

3. The chemicals they peddle — often as the first and ONLY possible treatment — are significantly more dangerous and addictive than advertised and much less effective (that’s putting it mildly). Examine the long-term outcomes and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single psychotropic drug that does not induce chronicity and worsen global functioning when compared to no medication.**

Yes, a willfully-maintained ignorance is key for many of the folks working in a mental health system who find strength in the sheer numbers of “professional” people who are willing to go on marching in lockstep to the beat of the drum of corporate, pharmaceutical profits — trampling many a distressed human being underfoot as they solider on. I saw it myself, in sickening detail, during my 2 years of employment with the Research Scientists who didn’t give a damn about data or truth, so bent were they on being mental health “experts,” winning more lucrative contracts to conduct research with predetermined outcomes, and (most important of all) curating the twin museum pieces of their innocence and self-respect.

Fragile artifacts from younger days, best kept under glass.

In the end…

In the grand, tragic finale of Orwell’s 1984, we witness the complete erasure of the final vestige of our protagonist’s personhood. Resistance was always futile, we learn; one way or another, the State would own him — body, mind, soul, and (above all) obedience.

This is the final domino, the last of the Orwellian metaphors in the process of being realized. Can you see it?

A passage through the mental health system is an assault on the fundamental personhood of an individual. With the advent of forced outpatient commitment, we’ve made it even more difficult for such travelers to resist the State’s attempt to fundamentally alter the ways they navigate their mental and emotional distress.

Our fellow citizens are exposed to the possibility of forced psychiatric drugging in their homes for what essentially amounts to thoughtcrime, and no place is a safe space to experience extreme thoughts and emotions (however dark they may be). 1984 is the NOW.

More still, when we as a society accept this possibility as just and right for those who “deserve” it (the homeless? the marginalized? the so-called “mentally ill”?), we demonstrate a love for Big Brother hitherto unknown in our society. We say, “yes, take it, own it, all of me – body, mind, soul, and obedience!”

1984 is the NOW, until the day that we say “ENOUGH!”

Not my body.

Not my mind.

Not my soul.

And certainly NOT my obedience.

* Or the universal desirability of such an effect, for that matter?

** See also: Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic

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1. Tell - 04/30/2013

Amazingly well written and oh so true!

2. Jim Gottstein - 04/30/2013

1984 by Spirit YouTube Video (“1984 – knockin’ on your door”)

3. R2DTew - 05/01/2013

You do realize of course that what you are objecting to here is an entirely predictable consequence of how people in this part of the world have decided (if decision is the right word) to live together, namely to institutionalize and lionize competition and more specifically a market-based framework for the whole of society. Even institutions that might be thought of as counterbalances to this framework have themselves been usurped by it. Both medicine and spirituality have to some degree yielded to these foundational influences. As a result, big Pharma exists and so far has had “open season” on the citizenry, promoting their latest blockbuster substance on prime time TV to a naïve audience. As a result people who know nothing else come to think of these products as a solution, and often as the only solution. Truth in advertising laws barely change how these modern-day barkers lure their marks. And these fairly-labeled-as predators live well sheltered in our existing economic and legal framework. Their only historical virtue, apart from an occasional scientific success, will be found in their hastening of humanity’s awareness that love is a higher value than profits. But this will take a while — a few generations at least — to become apparent.

As for your efforts to remind everyone that psychosocial models of mental health have a traction not available to the stark biological disease model: this certainly does help everyone to remember that we are not just isolated bio-mechanisms but exist in a cultural and psychosocial milieu that deeply influences how we develop and understand ourselves and the world. But I think you do no service to anyone with mental health problems to suggest that biology has no relevance. If anything studies of mental health — even with the inherent biases due to funding and other influences — have helped us to recognize just how much our brain’s health and function gets expressed in how we live our lives and understand ourselves and others. Seems to me it’s not an either/or situation, but both. And to your credit there is a lot of evidence to suggest that interventions based at least as much on psychosocial framing as on biological understandings provide a way to ameliorate if not heal mental health problems. The main hindrance to increasing such interventions is their considerable expense in manpower and skillfulness. We as a culture simply lack skilled psychosocial resources and no one has yet been able to demonstrate ways of lessening that deficit to any significant degree. As a result, biochemical approaches are on the ascendant and those pharmaceutical companies get a pass for their predations.

I have to say that working in a psychiatric research setting it’s like standing in the mouth of the monster and tends to color if not traumatize one’s thinking. However it certainly also shows just how manipulative and manipulated are research studies that are driven by monied interests. This problem exists throughout the entire healthcare system now, not just in the realm of psychiatry and mental health, and can fairly be blamed for much of the dysfunction that characterizes healthcare in the United States. Prying those monied interests out of healthcare (and out of psychiatric care of course) is no small task. They know they cannot survive the light of day and so will do every dirty trick they know to keep themselves entrenched in the money flow.

Your voice among those standing outside the fortress gates of big Pharma will eventually have to be answered. The clamor outside the gates of big Medicine is growing and can help those who feel exploited by psychiatry as it is currently practiced. But the issue of stigma may be larger than both these influences in that it has its roots deep in our past when mental difference was seen as demonic or unhuman. Healing all this requires nothing short of a transformation of human consciousness. That seems certain to come eventually if only at a glacial pace.

I continue to find your focus on personhood uplifting. Such a delicate petal. Such a tough creation. Perhaps someday we’ll even know ourselves enough to know what a person is.

Incidentally, as useful as the recovery model is, I think it is ultimately flawed. Perhaps a more useful model is that of mastery. Does that not speak more closely to your concerns about subjugation and obedience?

Kind regards.

4. dru8274 - 05/10/2013

I have long harboured such subversive thoughts as these. But yet too afraid to voice them out aloud, lest I am overheard by The System, and summarily diagnosed with delusional paranoia. Like an immune system, The System seeks to neutralize threats to its existence thru mandatory diagnosis and treatment. Dear Lord give us strength!

5. In the mental health system, 1984 is the NOW - 05/19/2013

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