Toronto’s PsychOUT Conference In The Press

The PsychOUT conference taking place in Toronto was covered by the Canadian National Observer recently, but nothing about the article on the conference could be said to be balanced and even handed. Peeved academics and mental health professions, chagrined that the conference is taking place in the first place, get all together too much attention in the article entitled, ironically enough, Mind Control.

In his [Molyn Leszcz, chief psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital and a U of T professor] practice, he is “respectful of suspicion and concern and mistrust,” especially the justifiable fear of corporate influence on medicine, but he feared this conference would “isolate and shame people, and block people from care.” After all, if psychiatry is a corporate conspiracy to drug people into passivity, a patient who goes willingly is a pathetic dupe.

The article stated the dilemma succinctly enough, in some cases the patient is a pathetic dupe.

The organizers of the conference taking place at the University of Toronto are getting a lot of bad mouth from certain people who have nothing to do with this conference beyond not wanting it to take place.

Psychiatry historian Edward Shorter has more than his share of a say on the subject.

“They’ve had a toxic influence on public health by convincing many patients and their loved ones that psychiatric care is a bad idea, that it’s some kind of power grab, or an effort to incorrectly influence their minds and burn their brains, and they would do best to stay in the world of alternative care, which is terrible advice,” he said. “It’s curious to see this anti-psychiatry movement flicker back into life in Toronto at a time when it really has lost credibility everywhere else in Western society.”

As a member of that movement who lives elsewhere in Western society, I’m offended that Dr. Shorter should make such an unthinking sweeping statement. Those of us in the know, know that his arguments are just one more example among many of the concerted efforts being made by organized biological psychiatry proponents to legitimize psychiatry as a branch of the medical sciences, and to silence its critics.

Warehousing people in psychiatric prisons, and calling those prisons ‘mental hospitals’, is not good treatment. All sort of un and under reported human rights abuses take place in these psychiatric prisons. Using the term “care providers” as a euphemism for the warders of these psychiatric prisons would present an impression that is just far removed from the facts. If alternative methods allow any sort of semblance of a truly compassionate approach to therapy, vive la difference!

Ms. M. Ann Phillips, a woman who has developed a shamanistic approach to treatment, after her breakdown in 2002, was featured as one of the presenters at this conference.

Her theory is that mentally ill people are in fact spirit guides to alternative realities, and that a psychotic episode “is an indication of a traditional medicine or shamanic calling … [They] do not need to be medicated, but need the assistance and guidance of a trained shaman to bring them back from realms unknown and to teach them to use and control the gifts that their breakdown/ breakthrough has revealed.

Why not? It sure beats the incompetence, ill health, and brain damage that results from years and years of paternalistic ‘care’, institutionalization, and drug maintenance.

Talk about pulling out all punches, the piece ends with a conference bashing by Michael Kirby, the Mental Health Commissioner of Canada. When it comes to this celebration of difference, he equates such difference with destructive and self-destructive behaviors, and turns a blind eye to the destructive tendencies of the mental health establishment and the federal government. Well, being Canada’s Mental Health Commissioner he would, wouldn’t he?

I’ve got news for these critics of the critics. Our movement is not going away. Our movement is not dying out. How could it when the numbers of people labeled ‘mentally ill’ has doubled in the last two decades due to the efforts of the drug companies to sell drugs, and the psychiatric industry to treat people?! We’re sticking around, and our numbers are growing. You can spread your lies far and wide. We’re going to root them out and expose them. You will be hearing more from us in the years to come.

Update: May 16, 2010

As a matter of contrast, a much less biased account of the same PsychOUT Conference, referred to in the post about a National Post article above, can be found in the Digital Journal article, Anti-psychiatry conference aims to bring about the end of psychiatry.