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Forced Treatment Advocate Bashes Alternatives Conference

DJ Jaffe should go to an Alternatives Conference. DJ Jaffe just issued a Huffington Post blog entry about the latest Alternatives Conference that shows he has absolutely no real idea as to what he is writing about. That DJ Jaffe is so content with his total ignorance is disturbing.

The Alternatives 2010 conference is a gathering of “consumers and survivors of mental health services.” They use that language, because many in the leadership believe mental illness doesn’t exist and is merely a label society uses to control them. By failing to include “people with mental illness” in the list of ‘consumers’ and ‘survivors’ who are invited, they are sending a not-so-subtle message: mentally ill not welcome. The term “mental illness” isn’t even allowed in the program.

They use that language because they are a large heterogenous body of people with diverse attitudes and beliefs. “Consumers”, in this case, usually means “consumers” of mental health services, and many of these “consumers” do identify themselves as having a “serious mental illness”. Psychiatric survivors, on the other hand, are people who feel they have suffered human rights violations at the hands of the mental health system. Nobody was sending out a message that says people who identify themselves as “mentally ill” were unwelcome to this event.

People like my sister-in-law, who suffers from the most devastating and debilitating mental illness: schizophrenia. Will you see people like her in MIAW public service announcements or being welcomed at the Alternatives Conference? How about the homeless or those actively hallucinating and experiencing psychosis? The mere existence of very symptomatic people is inconsistent with the MIAW and Alternatives narrative that people with mental illness are just like you and me.

I have gone to an Alternatives Conference, and I have met people there who had been given diagnoses of “schizophrenic” from trained psychiatrists. I have also met people at the same conference who had known the homeless experience firsthand. Many of the people who go to these Alternatives conferences have been “very symptomatic”. Many of them take psychiatric drugs to control their “symptoms”. I don’t know that receiving a diagnostic label would automatically expell anyone of them from the human race. I’m not sure what we should do with this invariably false dichotomy of “people with mental illness” versus “you and me” that Mr. Jaffe imagines to exist. “We” share a species identity, “we” are all homo sapiens, and “they”, people who have encountered difficulties in their lives, “they” aren’t even a subspecies. “They” are members of the same species as “we” are.

The Alternatives Conference doesn’t have anything to do with Laura’s Law, nor does it have anything to do with Mr. Jaffe’s personal endorcement of Laura’s Law. There were people at the Alternatives conference who opposed Laura’s Law, surely. There were also probably people at the Alternatives Conference who thought Laura’s Law was a good idea.

In California, these groups are fighting implementation of Laura’s Law. Laura’s Law allows courts to order certain historically violent mentally ill individuals to accept treatment as a condition for living in the community. A similar program in New York reduced homelessness 74%; suicide attempts, 55%; hospitalization, 77%; arrests, 83%; and incarceration, 87%. (A new independent study showing even more benefits will be released on Friday. Like with past studies, the Consumertocracy will attack it).

California is not New York. New York spends more money, more tax payer dollars, on mental health care than any other state in the union. California has not recovered from its own economic meltdown. California is going to have economic priorities that don’t include the enforcement of Laura’s Law. The enforcement of Laura’s Law would prove unnecessarily burdensome, and that state simply doesn’t have the money to pay for it. I would question the reliability of any of Mr. Jaffe’s statistics, and I would definitely question the amount of independence any study would have that would get his mention.

Mr. Jaffe is described in his Huffington Post biography as a cofounder of the Treatment Advocacy Center. The Treatment Advocacy Center is a group that lobbies for more forced outpatient commitment laws in the USA. These outpatient commitment laws would force mental health treatment on people who don’t want that treatment. Maybe Mr. Jaffe’s relationship to, and passion for, these coercive treatment laws has something to do with his rant about the Alternatives Conference. Hmmm. What do you think?