Callings Real And Hallucinated

I was once involved with a consumer advisory council associated with a community mental health agency that was resorting to what I think is another contemporary folly happening with more and more frequency these days. Members of this consumer advisory council had come up with a number of sound bites on ‘mental illness’ to be distributed and released over the radio. This effort was seen as some part of an overall campaign against stigma. Unfortunately for them, fortunately for the rest of us, the media didn’t take to the idea.

My view was that the community in this instance had less of a need for understanding ‘mental illness’ than these ‘consumers’ had a need for understanding ‘mental wellness’. You can spend your entire life in the system, talking about recovery, but that’s not recovering. Blaming community members is not the same as creating some kind of meaningful dialogue with actual members of the community. The only thing standing in between any of these council members and that kind of dialogue was an impediment in their way of thinking.

The mental illness rate has been climbing for years. It has been climbing because 1. the drugs used to treat the illness typically make folks sicker, and 2. mental health care is a business. Law enforcement officers and mental health professionals are now looking into the community imagining all these mentally ill people that are afraid to come forward and have some doctor slap a diagnosis on them. It is claimed that they are not stepping forward because of the stigma attached to ‘mental illness’. Yeah, right.

As I was saying, mental health care is a business. If that business declines, people are even less likely to spend money on it, and people in that business will lose their jobs. There is no danger of this business declining right now. Mental health care is booming actually, despite all reports to the contrary. Many more undiagnosed people have come forward to receive their diagnoses every year. A 40 fold rise in the number of bipolar cases reported certainly wouldn’t have occurred if the business hadn’t room to expand.

Throw into this mix advertisements for mental illness, and you have a concoction the doctor couldn’t have imagined if he had been dreaming. Are there enough masochists out there to fill the community mental health centers throughout this country? You betcha! This is America after all! Just go and take a peek inside your local mental health center sometime, and you can see them coalesing. Well, there comes a time for a hiatus from hiatus after awhile. Have you ever heard the expression, “I’d rather be surfing”? It sure beats therapy, doesn’t it? Hey, why don’t we hit the beaches, and catch a few waves? That would be fun I imagine, and we could even look into making a career of it.

5 Responses

  1. Consumers… Don’t get me started! About a year ago or so, there was some additional – to the normal – focus on the dangerous mentally ill, who’d increased in numbers due to a lack of hospital beds, according to the media, the “experts” and, yeah, consumers themselves. A guy in his early 20ies sold a pic of “psychotic” himself, taken with his cell phone, to a Danish mainstream TV channel… It was all over the place.

    Also about a year ago, I heard of an exhibition about hearing voices at a psych center here. They planned to tape-record people who could imitate their voices, and play the recordings for the interested public… Like in the good old days when you took your family to the loony bin for entertainment. The idea of course was to “educate” about and de-“stigmatize” hearing voices. But, uh, I don’t know… I think, I’ll go surfing instead. I can take a pic and sell it to the media. If they want it.

  2. Oh and, I forgot this yesterday, someone told me – I sometimes prefer to go surfing instead of exposing myself to stuff like that: discussion on TV about the “ethical” aspects of testing embryos for “schizophrenia”-chromosomes/genes. Participants: researchers, “experts” and a “schizophrenic” consumer. Everybody uttered some “ethical” doubts. Everybody but the consumer.

    • A psychiatric survivor is a person who has suffered human rights violations and abuses at the hands of the mental health system and survived. A consumer of mental health services is a person who receives mental health services of some sort or another. Although there may be some overlap between the two, the two are by no means synonymous.

      I’m trying to ally and work with some of these mental health consumers, and it can be challenging. Today, in fact, I had a major complication come up in my relationship with one of these local consumer leaders. One difference between the survivor and the consumer seems to be that the survivor holds human rights concerns as a top priority while the consumer is more interested in receiving treatment. That the consumer should have human rights concerns, too, is something that I’m trying to point out. That we might have human rights concerns in common, well, I’m working on that one, too. Surf, or no surf, at least, I can take a break from these matters when I need one as I may need to do just that very shortly.

      • “One difference between the survivor and the consumer seems to be that the survivor holds human rights concerns as a top priority while the consumer is more interested in receiving treatment.” Exactly.

        “That we might have human rights concerns in common, well, I’m working on that one, too.” I’ve been working on that one for the past three or four years. Just as I’ve offered to share my viewpoints/experience in various contexts, again and again. No success so far. Unless a “Oh, so very interesting! We’ll get back to you some time soon,” while you never hear from them again is a success… Am I radical? Yes. Am I too radical? I’d say, no more radical than a consumer who advocates screening embryos for “schizophrenia”-genes, and abortion in case anything “abnormal” is found.

        I may need a break from these matters very shortly, me too.

  3. Great points, Marian.

    Whatever radical might mean, in this instance, I don’t think it means extremist. Those who advocate forced treatment and mandatory harm are the extremists. It used to include lobotomies, insulin shock, and sterilization, now it’s psych drugs, and ECT, but it’s still extreme. Damaging minds and bodies is extreme and unnecessary in my book.

    I wouldn’t have had myself aborted anyway. Nor you for that matter. If the consumer can do without him or herself, we’d all probably be a lot better off, but…that’s extreme.

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