Working For Change Within The Mental Health System

The mental health system needs changing. Although I choose to work outside of that system to effect those changes, I have immense respect and admiration for those people who continue to work within that system for change. This same pride and admiration, let me make plain, I don’t hold for those mental health workers who would treat people as they have traditionally been treated in the conventional mental health system, which is to say, poorly.

Psychiatric drugs have done a great deal of harm to a great many people. Long term institutionalization has also wreaked its own share of havoc. Negativistic and pessimistic views have tended to produce negativistic and pessimistic results. There are other ways of doing business, effective ways. When the courageous mental health worker comes forward to suggest changes, and to take the leap into difference, I must applaud the efforts that person is making.

The rate of serious mental illness has gone up with the passage of time. This rate could easily go down. Where mental health workers are working to get people out of treatment, and back on their feet, I applaud them. Where mental health workers are working to increase the percentage of people in treatment, I cannot offer my support. Where mental health workers are working to make chronic invalids out of the people in their care, I must shake my head with disbelieving disapproval.

Employees can get fired for doing the right thing. I understand this. Still there are those brave few who are willing to speak out, and to take the necessary steps towards change that need to be taken. Steps that, when taken, may save a few more people from the damage that can be caused by a cruel and unthinking system. Such is the least that can be said for such people when such steps may actually save lives as well. I have to support those people, and the efforts they are making to bring this change about.

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2 Responses

  1. This is a tricky one. With all respect to people like Dan Fisher, Pat Deegan, etc. – they make a difference, I don’t deny that – each time you have to compromize, or just keep your mouth shut so as to not get sacked, you’re in a way supporting the system.

    I think, the only way true and lasting change can be brought about is by creating alternatives, and breaking the system’s monopoly in the field.

    • I agree with you, Marian, this is a tricky one. I’ve seen many people harmed, destroyed, and killed by conventional mental health treatment. When you have mental health professionals who support choice, then there is a chance of protecting and saving a few more people trapped within the system from this harm, destruction, and death.

      Another problem is that, given time, some of what were once thought of as alternatives to conventional psychiatry can come to resemble conventional mental health treatment facilities. I’ve seen it happen. This kind of inner corrosion, corruption maybe, and co-optation, are dangers our Mad Movement has to be constantly wary of, and vigilant about.

      I think it is also important to support people who work outside of, and in opposition to, the mental health system.

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